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Saturday, September 24, 2005

$150,000 Runway Party

The Minnesota Airports Commission is having a $150,000 party to celebrate the opening of the new runway:

Pioneer Press here:

Runway party invites censure

Officials say it rubs salt in noise-weary residents' wounds

On Thursday, three Democratic lawmakers criticized the Metropolitan Airports Commission for daring to throw a $150,000 party to inaugurate it.

"The fact that a party is being held is insensitive and wrong, and we think it ought to be canceled," said Rep. Dan Larson, DFL-Bloomington.

The runway has been under construction since 1999 and is needed "to provide adequate runway space,'' said MAC spokesman Pat Hogan. It developed out of the legislative battle in 1996 over whether to expand the airport or build a new one in Dakota County.

That's true. Most of the increased air traffic from this runway will be directed towards the burbs.

The lawmakers think having a party to celebrate the opening of a runway while residents near the airport are suffering from noise pollution is "tactless."

Making matters worse, lawmakers from districts near the airport said, the MAC isn't just holding a simple ribbon cutting ­ they're throwing a massive party Saturday and paying for most of it with public money. The $150,000 event, including three bands and a 5-kilometer run, will be paid for through $40,000 in corporate contributions and $110,000 in airport concession fees.

"By the MAC having a public event to celebrate this is essentially dancing on our grave," said Larson, shouting to make himself heard over the airplane noise in Richfield.

I can see a ribbon cutting party - but $150,000 is overspending it by quite a bit. The Airports commission defends themselves:

Hogan said the MAC does not plan to cancel the party, designed to let the public get their first ­ and perhaps only ­ chance to walk on the new runway's tarmac and celebrate the near completion of a $3.1 billion airport expansion.

"I think it is too bad that anybody would want to take a positive community event and use it for political gain," Hogan said.

This is definitely over the top. If folks want to go, the Pioneer Press provides details:

The Metropolitan Airports Commission will hold its free community runway event Saturday. It begins at 8 a.m. with registration for a 5K race and continues until 5 p.m. with bands, food, planes and other aviation equipment.

Free parking is available in lots on the airport's west side, along Longfellow Avenue (the street immediately east of Cedar Avenue and accessible from 66th Street and 24th Avenue) and on 82nd Street between 24th and 28th avenues near the Mall of America.

What are those Airport commissioners thinking?