A new grassroots organization created in response to the addition of Toledo’s airport on a list of possible sites for a new Sea-Tac 2 meets tonight to develop a mission statement.
At 6 p.m., the Citizens for Responsible Aviation in Toledo will gather at Steamboat Landing to outline what it supports and opposes in regard to growth at the South Lewis County Regional Airport. The public is welcome to attend.
While I’m not opposed to organic growth at the Ed Carlson Memorial Field, such as adding a fixed-base operator and perhaps a restaurant or café, we didn’t settle outside of Toledo three decades ago to live next to a gigantic commercial airport.
When the state Commercial Aviation Coordinating Committee began exploring possible places for a new commercial airport to alleviate pressure on Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Lewis County commissioners submitted the 97-acre Toledo airport as an option. It is surrounded by farmland, which means it could acquire the 4,600 acres necessary for expansion.
Since then, both Commissioners Gary Stamper and Edna Fund have stated that Toledo has no chance of becoming a Sea-Tac 2, contending they simply wanted to boost the airport’s resume to draw investment and obtain federal grants for improvements such as fencing and hangars.
Stamper compared the chances of Toledo hosting a huge commercial airport with three 9,000-foot-long runways to winning the Powerball three times.
Toledo’s Wayne Jones in a letter to the editor noted that when residents in Pierce and Thurston counties opposed the idea of a large airport, their commissioners withdrew their sites from consideration. He asked why Lewis County commissioners haven’t done the same.
Pierce and Thurston counties had a good chance of landing the commercial airport, Stamper said, which is why their leaders withdrew county-owned sites for consideration when residents objected. He reiterated that Lewis County has zero chance, but commissioners want to keep Toledo in the hopper to qualify for grants. He said the 5,000-foot-runway isn’t large enough for cargo air freight or commercial airliners to land. He also said the county has no plans to increase the runways to accommodate those larger planes.
A few years ago, the county shifted responsibility for management of the Toledo and Packwood airports from the Department of Community Development to the Public Works Department. It now plans to create an Airport Division under Public Works.
While I don’t distrust the commissioners, I’ll plan to attend the CRAT meeting tonight and tune in at 8 a.m., Oct. 21 for the next virtual meeting of the CACC. An informed and organized citizenry has a better chance of curbing unwanted plans before they take off.
For most of the year, I’ve stayed close to home because of the coronavirus pandemic, so I looked forward late last month to learning more about the people challenging Lewis County Commissioners Edna Fund and Bobby Jackson in the election. They were scheduled to speak at a virtual meeting of the Lewis County Republican Club, but when I tuned in, only Lindsay Pollock and Fund were speaking. I’d met Pollock in the past, and I know she has attended commissioner meetings for more than a year to learn about the job.
But I knew little about Fund’s opponent, Sean Swope. Unfortunately, he bowed out of the virtual meeting because of a sore throat.
Funny thing is, though, that at the time of the meeting, Swope was filing a Public Disclosure Records Request with Lewis County for any and all paperwork since 2012 involving Fund. Fulfilling that request will take years and tons of employee time. Sounds like a great use of county resources, doesn’t it? Not. People can also simply ask Fund for information; I’ve always found her willing to answer questions.
Although I’m a friend of Fund’s, I haven’t always agreed with her rulings as county commissioner — especially the decision by all three commissioners to defund the senior centers as recommended by Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, who described the county’s financial support as “a gifting of public funds.” To me, the senior centers represented one of the county’s best investments by supporting thousands of taxpaying older residents at minimal cost. The $350,000 provided to senior centers annually is a fraction of what the county has spent on rehabilitating 212 drug-addicted criminals since 2005 through its drug court.
By the way, Meyer, who as prosecutor is the legal representative of Lewis County and its commissioners, filed a public disclosure request as a private citizen asking for Fund’s correspondence with any representatives of the media. He did that after Fund and Jackson opposed giving other elected county officials a 10 percent raise — more than $16,000 for Meyer — as recommended by a citizens’ salary commission. I think commissioners should remove politics from pay raises and tie them to Social Security cost-of-living increases. Doing so would have given most county elected officials a pay boost—except for the sheriff and Meyer. The prosecutor’s salary has nearly doubled since 2003.
Since I wanted to learn more about Swope, and I’ve stayed close to home, I was disappointed when he didn’t attend the Sept. 24 Zoom GOP meeting. Instead, I must learn about him from newspaper articles (which indicate he handed out campaign literature while delivering food to seniors as a Twin Transit employee) and his Facebook page, which shows him as a young man with a lovely family who has shared posts opposing vaccinations. People are entitled to oppose flu shots and other vaccinations, but I don’t know if I want an anti-vaxxer in charge of the Lewis County Health Department.
Swope’s campaign donations show he’s supported by Alicia Bull, director of the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce, and Centralia port officials—Commissioner Julie Shaffley, former Commissioner Dan Keahey, and Director Kyle Heaton. I much prefer the transparency of the Port of Chehalis to what I don’t see publicly posted by its counterpart in Centralia.
Fund isn’t accepting campaign donations so she’s not beholden to anyone in office. She also has devoted decades of volunteer time and money to nonprofits throughout Lewis County. She’s invested in the community. I’d support Swope in the future if he can demonstrate a similar dedication to Lewis County. He hasn’t done so yet.
Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at email@example.com.