My Turn: Who will not benefit from airport expansion?

The town of Taos has just spent almost half a million bucks to kick-start a longer new crosswind runway at the airport.

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The town of Taos has just spent almost half a million bucks to kick-start a longer new crosswind runway at the airport. “Done deal,” I keep hearing but can’t help but wondering if it’s a bad deal. Who benefits? But more important, who doesn’t?

Louis Bacon, the new owner of TaosSkiValley, will benefit. He wants to bring in charter flights to our beefed-up airport, loaded with rich jet-setters who will be shuttled directly to the SkiValley where they can spend their money into his pockets. Judging by other towns downhill from ski resorts, Taos can expect little financial boost from the activity at TSV.

People who own planes will be only slightly less thwarted in their desire to take off whenever they please.

People owning property or businesses along highway 64 past the OBL either could have incentive to develop or could see an income uptick. Real estate brokers could benefit.

Contractors hired to build the runway and airport upgrades will benefit Big Time and might even create a number of jobs for the task, though the jobs would be temporary.

The US Air Force, already coveting northern New Mexico for low altitude training flights of the mighty C130 and the Osprey aircraft, will doubtless make more frequent use of the new runway. Ironically, the Town and County have both passed resolutions against this training program, now called LATA. The Osprey, a helicopter hybrid, needs no runway. Ospreys have been spotted circling over Arroyo Hondo and flying inside the Rio Grande Gorge, both north of the John Dunne Bridge and in the Wild Rivers area. The Osprey’s downdrafts and extreme noisy vibrations bouncing between gorge walls have loosened boulders which plunge downward toward the hiking trails. Since Las Vegas built its runway, military aircraft have gravitated there.

After the contract expires for the private parties now running the airport, the town could possibly take over and eke out a small gain selling jet fuel and avgas. Still, taxpayers would pay for the airport’s operating expenses. Municipal airports are not profitable.

More important, who will not benefit? The library, already choked of funding, will not benefit, as another million dollars will be spent by the town to complete its obligation to the airport. The Youth and FamilyCenter, already understaffed, will not benefit. The acequias won’t benefit; programs for the poor won’t benefit; programs for the abused won’t benefit; programs for youth won’t benefit; mental health won’t benefit; pothole-riddled roads won’t benefit.

The imperative to convert to renewable energy under the threat of global warming will definitely not benefit. A larger traffic of fuel-guzzling airplanes and jets will make their accelerating contribution to the climate change that has brought such severe drought to Taos and the fire-consumed Southwest. Multiplying aircraft will belch pollution and greenhouse gasses into the air.

The Río Grande, life-giving artery of New Mexico and Texas, lying in the direction these planes usually take off, will be in greater danger of pollution. Reportedly, jets that need to lighten their load during take-off are allowed to dump fuel on the world below.

People who don’t fly airplanes won’t benefit. People who come to Taos for peace and quiet will not benefit. Veterans with PTSD will not benefit. Livestock and wildlife freaked out by the noise of aircraft could be disrupted in their cycles of mating and birth, and they will not benefit. Migrating birds will not benefit. Endangered and threatened species will not benefit. Every living thing that the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument was established to preserve will not benefit.

And if the pipe dream of making Taos another magnet for the rich actually becomes reality, retired persons and others on fixed income will not benefit. For when the wealthy class moves in and takes over, property values shoot up, buying a home on modest income soars out of reach, property taxes balloon, rents become exorbitant, and the people who have always lived here won’t be able to afford the cost of living.

 Just as happened with Aspen and Vail, native Taoseños could very well have to move away. And the quiet, picturesque town of three cultures with its charming adobes and distinctive way of life will look and feel like any other vapid upscale energy-guzzling playground for the one percent.

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