The recent political season spawned more promises of ethics in government. The promises got me thinking. What do politicians tell their preachers about their work?
Living in a Dream World: A Politician’s Confession
Each faith has its own dogma. Catholics confess, express regret, and atone for sins committed. I suspect that politicians rarely confess their work sins to preachers. So preachers likely never hear the following.
- “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. I have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, and I have ignored the best interests of my constituents.
- My job requires me to act fairly on environmental documents. These documents determine how hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent. And the quality of life of my constituents. I have failed the public trust. Why?
- To help people, I must be reelected. Reelection requires money. Money comes from business. I do what business wants.
- My voters like free money. If the FAA will give me money, I’ll take it. I don’t care about the strings attached.
- Most environmental harm takes years to spot. By then, I’ll be out of office or in a new office.
- Voters are too busy with their lives to participate in government.
- Power is an aphrodisiac. I like the recognition I get when I push through a big project.
- I am busy. Too busy. I don’t need or want to read environmental documents.
- The environmental laws are silly. They simply waste time. At the end of the process, I do what I want anyway. So why bother?
- I don’t like confrontation. It is easy to fool the voters. I would rather fool them than face them.”
So, how do the politicians fool you in environmental documents? Today, we discuss just one trick: “piecemealing” also known as project splitting.
Recall the old Johnny Cash factory worker anthem: “One Piece at a Time.” The theme: steal a car from the Detroit assembly piecemeal.
“One day I devised myself a plan
That should be the envy of most any man
I'd sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my hand
Now gettin' caught meant gettin' fired
But I figured I'd have it all by the time I retired
I'd have me a car worth at least a hundred grand”
How does piecemealing work environmentally? Simple. Ignore the total project being built. Focus on incremental parts over a several year span. Each part may have a small environmental effect. Just as stealing one auto part will hardly be missed.
In the context of Palomar Airport, ignore the County’s goal of converting Palomar from a basic transport general aviation airport to an airport handling large, scheduled commercial passenger airlines. Assess projects incrementally. File a “categorical exemption” or “negative declaration” for each project. The exemption declares a project too small to assess. The negative declaration says an assessed project has environmental impacts too small to fret over.
Place Palomar airport parking off the terminal. Quadruple the passenger terminal size. Slip in a customs facility to encourage over the border flights. “Rehabilitate” the runway to serve larger planes. Expand airport tenant hangars to house more planes. Improve taxiways to make runway use more efficient. Increase aviation fuel storage capacity to handle more planes. Smooth a 1000-foot landfill area as a runway safety area. Seek FAA Part 139 certification to handle larger planes. Incentivize larger air carriers to increase flights. Soon, extend the runway from 4900 feet to 6000 feet.
And, all the foregoing – more than $150 million of projects over a 7-year span – with no project Environmental Impact report or Environmental Impact Statement being prepared.
Is there a preacher nearby?
Next Week’s Blog 8: Palomar Airport Expansion Issues: More Environmental-Preparer Tricks
Forgiveness not Permission