Tulsa City Hall: August 2006 Archives

Last week, on August 23, Ed Chambers of the Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Worth sent a letter to Jeff Mulder (500 KB PDF file), head of the Tulsa Airport Authority (TAA), regarding discrimination by the TAA in the treatment of Fixed-Base Operators (FBOs) at Jones Riverside Airport, the City's general aviation facility west of the Arkansas River. The TAA manages Tulsa's two city-owned airports.

FBOs typically provide aviation fuel, repair services for aircraft and avionics, and facilities for the use of crew and passengers. AirNav lists two FBOs at Jones Riverside Airport (KRVS): Roadhouse Aviation, owned by Kent Faith, a pilot with American Airlines, and Christiansen Aviation, owned by City Councilor Bill Christiansen. (Click those links and scroll down to read comments from pilots about the two FBOs.)

The letter reminds Mulder that federally-funded airports are required to be evenhanded in their treatment of FBOs, in accordance with the airport's grant assurances. The FAA letter quotes Assurance 22c:

Each fixed-base operator at the airport shall be subject to the same rates, fees, rentals, and other charges as are uniformly applicable to all other fixed-base operators making the same or similar uses of such airport and utilizing the same or similar facilities.

The FAA is investigating a "Part 16 complaint" that Roadhouse Aviation has filed against the Tulsa Airport Authority, and the FAA's findings, after several delays, are expected in October. Like the Part 16 complaint, this letter deals with the TAA showing favoritism toward one FBO over another, but the letter addresses a separate issue.

In 2002, Roadhouse Aviation sought to lease an empty lot from the TAA for a new facility. The TAA board, prompted by new board member Ron Turner, placed a condition on Roadhouse's lease: Because the new facility was near one of several sites identified in a study as a potential future tower location, a condition was placed on Roadhouse's lease. If the FAA chose that location for a tower, Roadhouse would be required to tear down its new facility at the company's own expense, restoring the site to its undeveloped condition.

As a result of Roadhouse's lawsuit against TAA, the condition was removed from the lease, but a memorandum of understanding making the same commitment was placed in the airport's lease file. The added requirement meant added expense and delays for Roadhouse in getting the new facility financed and built.

Fast forward to April 2006. Two new hangars are being built by airport tenants, one by Christiansen Aviation, the other by Ray Booker. Both new hangars are within the required 300 foot clear area of four of the potential tower locations identified in the study. Because these two new facilities are in the same situation as the Roadhouse facility, the FAA wrote that, "they also should have the same memorandum in the airport's ground lease file that calls for their removal should the FAA decide to proceed with tower construction on this site."

But they don't. These two other tenants have not been subjected to the same conditions and agreements as Roadhouse Aviation. The letter says:

In the interest of treating all similarly situated FBOs the same, the memorandum requiring removal of facilities and restoration of the lease area at lessee's cost should the FAA opt to construct a new tower should be in all three of the lease files or in none.

We ask the airport operator to examine the lease records and respond to the allegation of unfairly treating one FBO in favor of two other FBOs by September 11, 2006.

The TAA should respond in one of two ways: (1) by saying that they have placed the same memorandum in the files of all similarly situated tenants, or (2) by saying that they have removed the memorandum from Roadhouse's file. This is a simple and straightforward situation, and the TAA should acknowledge the problem and correct it.

What the TAA should not do is what has been done so far in response to the Part 16 complaint: Have the Florida lawyer that was hired by the city send a lawyerly response filled with rationalizations and self-justifications.

What course of action the City and the TAA will take is up to Mayor Kathy Taylor. As an ex officio TAA board member, she can join with two reformers on the TAA board to fix the problem that the FAA has identified.

It's not a good sign that she nominated Ron Turner for another term on the TAA, when he seems to have been the driving force behind the policies that have put Tulsa in hot water with the Feds.

We don't need a team or a plan. We need the Mayor and the TAA to say to the Feds, "You're right, that was wrong, and we've already put things right." That attitude would serve the City well in dealing with the broader Part 16 complaint, and might help us avoid financial penalties that would hurt commercial aviation passengers who fly from Tulsa International as well as the private pilots who use Riverside.

Jackson, Turner turned out

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I was pleased to hear this morning that Brandon Jackson and Ron Turner had withdrawn their names from reappointment to the TMAPC and the Tulsa Airport Authority, respectively. Both had drawn significant opposition based on their performance in office. Turner basically disqualified himself by saying that he would not appear before the Council for questioning, calling the Council a "kangaroo court."

That kind of contempt for the elected representatives of the citizens of Tulsa ought to be rewarded with a permanent ban from service on a board or commission. Future councils need to remember Turner's attitude.

Turner is a retired Brigadier General in the Air National Guard. Regarding Turner's contempt for the City Council, someone said that generals don't answer to privates. But generals do answer to the civilian authority of the President and the Congress. The reappointment process is the one opportunity the people of Tulsa have, through their elected representatives on the Council, to hold authority, board, and commission appointees accountable for their performance and judgment on these important boards.

Although they have withdrawn their names in writing, Turner's and Jackson's names still appear on tomorrow night's Council agenda, so it would be sensible for those in opposition to have a representative present, just in case. If they were to reverse themselves, the Council would have good cause to delay the hearing, since many opponents would have made other plans based on the news of their standing down.

In response to Turner's announcement, State Rep. Mark Liotta, whose district encompasses Tulsa International Airport, called on Mayor Kathy Taylor to appoint an airport neighbor to fill the seat on the Tulsa Airport Authority:

State Representative Mark Liotta called on Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor to appoint an airport area neighbor to the Board of Trustees of the Tulsa Airport Authority. "Mayor Taylor has an opportunity to appoint to the Board, someone who actually lives within the traffic and sound footprint of the airport." said Liotta. "This would be a great first step toward ensuring that all parts of Tulsa are given a voice."

"The board could only benefit from the perspective of an individual who understands the local effects of the airport on a daily basis." he said.

"Among the many active neighborhood leaders who are also airport area
residents, there should be no problem finding someone willing and uniquely able to serve their community."

The position became available when current member Brigadier General Ron Turner asked that his name be removed from consideration. General Turner had served on the board since 2002.

Liotta continued, "This individual would be keenly aware of the concerns of Tulsans who live within a mile radius of the airport, including neighborhood cohesion, street traffic patterns, industrial and commercial development, as well as airport noise abatement."

Rep. Liotta suggested that relations between the airport and its neighbors could be improved, "The best way to maintain good neighbors is by maintaining communication, and putting a neighbor on the board can certainly improve communication. This should have been a requirement for at least one of the board positions when the board was originally developed."

Representative Liotta's House district encompasses the entire Tulsa
International Airport and all the surrounding neighborhoods. Liotta has served in the House since 1996.

I can think of a number of excellent candidates, such as Carol Barrow and Laura Dowty of Layman Van Acres neighborhood (just south and east of the main runway) and David Schuttler, who has had to deal with all the problems in Cinnabar's management of the airport noise abatement program.

(I hope our new County Commissioners-to-be will take a similar step with regard to the Fairgrounds and put an Expo Square neighbor on the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority.)

A majority of the City Councilors deserve credit for standing firm and asserting their right to ask questions and hear the concerns of the public on these controversial nominees. They held the line against Jim Beach's nomination to the Board of Adjustment, too, resulting in that nomination's withdrawal. Overall, the Mayor has gotten her way on over 100 nominations, so you can't fault the Council for scrutinizing only three of the Mayor's nominees.

My Tulsa World blog has video of yesterday's Council Committee hearing on Ron Turner's reappointment to the Tulsa Airport Authority. Turner has been asked to appear before the full City Council meeting to answer questions and respond to citizen complaints of his conduct during his time as a chairman and member of the TAA.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from August 2006.

Tulsa City Hall: July 2006 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: September 2006 is the next archive.

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