Recently, Gaye McNeil voiced her thoughts about her involvement on the Airport Privatization Review Committee ("Airport committee deserved better," May 6, 10A). Had I not been a part of this process, I would be appalled at her experience. Luckily, I WAS part of the process; as a spectator, and most recently, as a member of the committee.
So I know "the rest of the story."
She states that the committee could have never come to a consensus. A "consensus" was not the charge given to this committee by the Board of Commissioners liaison, Lynette Howard. Once Howard was put in place, she made clear her goal was for the group to arrive at the "Top five to 10 recommendations for the airport to make it a world-class facility, whether Privatized, General Aviation, or added scheduled service, with input from ALL members."
On April 30, we as a committee walked into an exercise that we knew from the previous week we would be part of. It was a tool to do just as Howard had asked of us; to narrow down priorities. It involved brainstormed items from the previous week posted along a wall, each of us writing comments and/or concerns under every topic, and finally, placing one of five dots on the priority we felt most strongly about. Alas, we were accomplishing our goal in a methodical way.
What came next was insulting ... the discussion and vote of the opposition's report that had been sent to the committee at 10:38 that morning. A very well-written, very biased piece that three members had not even seen until they arrived at the meeting. McNeil wrote in her column: "I don't know about others, but I checked and rechecked my emails until I left to attend our meetings. It is disturbing to me that others did not do so."
Personally speaking, I checked at 10:30, just before leaving for an 11 a.m. PTA meeting that lasted more than two hours. It was while heading to another meeting that I learned of the email, had it printed, and read while driving. To imply that others did not care enough to constantly check their email is yet another attempt to mislead the public.
Once discussion began, the cloud of hypocrisy grew. It made zero difference that there had been no time to digest the contents of their report (which clearly six members DID have well in advance) or that Howard was not there. When I challenged a member that this report wasn't even our mission he quipped: "I didn't sign up for sticky notes or dots on a wall." Tabling this vote for one week would have been completely appropriate and the right thing to do to allow for an informed decision. Six members decided differently, hence the five abstaining votes.
McNeil also wrote; "Now it seems, led by Fly Gwinnett Forward and Propeller Investments, a few people are takings shots claiming that Delta Airlines wrote the final report." I cannot speak for Propeller, but as a member of Fly Gwinnett Forward, this absolutely is not true. We do not indulge in or promote rumors. Instead, we exist to provide factual information surrounding this debate to the general public.
This only begins to scratch the surface of how misleading the little untruths are in a decision that is so important to many, on both sides. We can agree to disagree, but do so civilly and based on facts, not emotion and misinformation.
Having been involved as a volunteer for many years in Gwinnett, I also have sacrificed time, money and missed my son's games, not just in the past six months. I have done all of this gladly as most issues worth involvement do not come easy and without sacrifice. I'm not cynical about the ability and potential that our great county has to offer. Indeed, the opposite.
At the end of the day, no matter the outcome of this debate, at least there is a heightened awareness of Briscoe Field and its untapped potential. For this, we all win.
Paula Hastings works in community relations and served as Planning Commissioner for five years.She lives in Lawrenceville with her husband of 18 years and their 14-year-old son.
This article originally appeared in the Gwinnett Daily Post on May 13, 2012