Avstar Aircraft of Washington, Inc.

10415 172nd St. E., Hangar A1
Puyallup, WA  98374
office (253)770-9964
or (253)770-0120
email:  avstarair@att.net

Updates to "The county is running amok!", Part 1

What started off as a discussion of authority to install a 24-hour security area at Pierce County Airport/Thun field has turned into more.  Oh, so much more.

Click here for the initial issue, below are the updates from December 30, 2014 to February 16, 2015 as they have occurred.  Click here for the most recent activities.

We received a few of emails on the subject.

In the first one, Fred S. asks how he can help, with my response.

In this one, Lloyd D has directed his note to Joyce McDonald, Pierce County Councilmember.

Yesterday (12/29/14), the TFAC received the response from Council Chair Dan Roach to the letter the TFAC sent to him regarding the gate issue.  I find this very interesting, as that email was received by Mr. Carver two days before Mr. Carver told me Mr. Roach's visit was to be in February, and a week before he 'washed his hands of it'.  Remember how he stated:  "...This is your fight, and as I stated ... I do not have a dog in it.  I have fulfilled my role as chair by voicing disapproval for the 24 hour lockdown, brought the issue to a vote, and drafted the letter recommending the council act...", and Mr. Carver waited almost 2 full weeks to pass before he forwarded the information.

Yesterday also brought a phone call from Mr. Roach.  Among the issues we discussed were his scheduled January visit to the airport.  I emphasized to him that the airports are valuable assets to the county, and although this planned visit is good, they should be more regular.  I also asked if this was to be before or after the vote of January 13; he responded likely after the 13th, and asked what I was referring to.  I pointed out, that as I read Ordinance 2014-108, the council was looking to abdicate their authority to approve the airport rules and regulations in favor of the Airport Administrator's own rules.  He stated he would check into that.  Another takeaway from this call was that the council was informed, by Ms Wallace, at their security briefing of November 10, 2014, that most all of the airport users were 'on-board' or would be shortly, with the new security.  Stopping short of using the "L" word, I advised Mr. Roach he was grossly misinformed.

I feel it is our responsibility as taxpayers and airport users to apply and keep the pressure on the County Council at least through the 13th of January.  There is definitely some misinformation being spewed and to protect our liberties, we must be truthful and known.

(Above Updated information as of 8:30 am, December 30, 2014)

The saga continues.  John F., president of the Northwest Bonanza Society forwarded the press release to all members, one of which (Jim P.) is an AOPA member; Jim passed this information along to AOPA, and they are looking into the gate issue.  Of note, AOPA sent me a link to the latest TSA recommendations for General Aviation airports.  From my readings, the recommendations are just that, not required, and they are not a one-size-fits-all.  What may be practical at one airport just may not be possible at others.

Several other folks sent emails to their council members and other local pilot organizations; thank you!  Read Tom O.'s letter to the Fosdick Flyers here and Larry K.'s letter to his council rep here.

On January 5, 2015, Larry K. received this response from his letter.  Excellent!  for validation please  go to the county calendar and watch the video that appears when clicking the link for the Council Rules committee meeting of January 5:  http://online.co.pierce.wa.us/cfapps/internet/calendar.cfm?&department_id=31&calendar_type_cd=EVT

Apparently, this 'gate issue has blown up'.  On the morning of January 6, I received the following email from Joyce McDonald; this was in response to the Dec. 29th email I sent, explaining why we went to the news media and the general public.  Interestingly, she sent a 'similar' email to Dan Neil at Avionics Shop, TIW, in response to his email dated October 26, 2014.

Thanks to all of your help, it would appear we finally have the council's attention!

But, did you listen closely to 'Hugh' at approximately the 8:40 mark into the video?  As I suspected all along, the 'Director of Public Works' has already prepared the new rules and regulations for the airports, and 'Hugh' confirmed that the new set are larger.  Why does this self-perpetuating government machine seem to think that more rules are better?  That is not a rhetorical question!

Dan Neil, owner and operator of Avionics Shop, Inc, at Tacoma Narrows Airport, sent this letter to the Council.

With that apparently set aside for the additional information and review process, I turn partial attention back to where this all started.  The 24-hour security is bad for Pierce County Airports - that is plural, and does include both Thun Field and Tacoma Narrows Airport.  This issue was re-addressed in my response to Joyce McDonald's email from yesterday, although directed to her, it was sent to the entire council, as well as Director of Public Works & Utilities, and the Airport Administrator

So, we have assisted the County Council in deciding more information is needed on Ordinance 2014-108, and it has been sent back to committee; although that is listed on the docket, please note that 'Final Consideration' is still on the agenda for next Tuesday.  I surely hope that is an oversight, and not indicative of another end run in progress, and will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Late-breaking news:  This morning (Jan.7) at approx 9:20, I received a phone call from Tammi, Council member Roach's assistant.  The Council Tour is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, January 14, 2015; the actual agenda has not yet been set, but I did ask if I could be kept informed as I would like the opportunity to visit with the council members.  In that call, she also assured me the final consideration for 2014-108 has been removed from next Tuesday's agenda.

(Above Updated information as of 9:45 am, January 7, 2015)

As a reminder, the Council has sent this matter back to committee.  It is no longer on the agenda for January 13, 2015.  It is tentatively re-scheduled for January 27, 2015 during their Economic and Infrastructure Committee Meeting.

(Above Updated information as of 4:00 pm, January 12, 2015)

Prior to the Council's planned tour of Thun Field, I sent out this email on January 13, to give the Council members an idea of what to look at when they are here.  Included in the email are a photo of the airport entrance and a compilation photo of our gates.

On the afternoon of the 14th,  about half the council members, the airport administrator and her boss, the Director of Public Works and Utilities, all met up for the Thun Field tour.  I had a chance to speak with them; later I sent a follow-up email to them late this afternoon.

(Above Updated information as of 2:45 pm, January 15, 2015)

At 6:30 on the evening of January 15th, the TFAC (Thun Field Advisory Commission) met for our regularly scheduled meeting.  As this is nearing the end of my first year on the commission, I have to report that this was a typical meeting.  Nothing outstanding, when you consider it is yet another platform for the Airport Administrator to espouse her omnipotence, without challenge to debate.

When the call for agenda items went out last week, one of the officers for the TFAC put forth this request, and received this response.

At the beginning of the meeting, the usual packet of materials was handed out to commission members and guests; this includes agenda, prior meeting minutes, roster, budget, action items, and performance reports.  Additional items this time included the timeline for the hangar project, gate transaction information, Chapter 2.46 of the Pierce County Code (PCC) regarding the advisory commission purpose & function, Ordinance 2014-108, PCC Chapter 5.4 usage standards for Pierce County Airport as amended as Exhibit A to Ordinance 2014-108, Airport Rules and Regulations (AR&R) dated June, 2014, and a draft copy of the 2015 Airport Tenant Survey.  Yes, a fine job of turning trees into recyclable material!  Additionally, reference was made to the PCC regarding Thun Field, as well as the Tacoma Municipal Code concerning Tacoma Narrows Airport.

For the purposes of this dissertation, I will only report on items of interest as related to gates / security and the Proposed Ordinance 2014-108.

The TFAC composition and purpose was highlighted as it appears, with no changes inflected as read by Ms Wallace.

As mentioned above, the question of the TFAC's role in the new AR&Rs was placed; Ms Wallace stated that in 2013, two members of the TFAC, as well as two from the TNAAC (Tacoma Narrows Airport Advisory Commission), participated in the re-write of the AR&Rs, the result is the AR&R dated June 2014.  As part of this, the genesis was created that went into the proposed Ordinance 2014-108.  Let's look just a bit closer into this:

AR&R, dated June 2014.  The primary change, as I read it, is the implementation of the 24 hour gates.  Interestingly, the initial discussion of security comes on page 5 under the heading of security requirements:  "Tenants and pilots are responsible for the security of aircraft and other private property entrusted to their care on the Airport leased areas of responsibility", later going on to read:  "Persons who have been provided either a code or device for the purpose of obtaining access to the airport shall abide by the written agreement and procedures...".  Folks, that is truly the proverbial Catch-22, looking at the inherent problems the gate system includes  and the Administrator is oblivious to any of this.  (As a side note, I find it also to be pompous for the airport administrator to use the term "administrator" to describe herself, as this term has long been understood to depict the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration; now talk about a power trip!).  In all, I find the substantive changes to the AR&R, as previously stated to be in the form of added security.  If we, as pilots and tenants are responsible for security, why does the administrator immediately usurp that responsibility?  Folks, the police doesn't even do that!  As for the remainder of the  AR&Rs, it basically regurgitates previous AR&Rs.  This looks to be a complete waste of time for the volunteers involved, as well as a waste of our hard-earned taxes!  But maybe, just maybe there is more to this than meets the initial reading.  On the copy I received, as well as another that I quickly checked, there are no even numbered pages.  Why?

Proposed Ordinance 2014-108.  Ms Wallace stated that the committee referred to in Exhibit A section 5.40.090 (of the PCC) are the TFAC and TNAAC, although this is only implied.  Here is the conundrum:  5.40.090 states "AR&R shall be established by the Director (of Public Works and Utilities, the Airport Administrator's Supervisor) and may be revised... by the respective airport commission...and any updated...shall be filed with the Office of the Pierce County Council..."  Catch-22 seems to be the order of the day; please re-read 5.40.090.  Looks like the TFAC and TNAAC are given more than the advisory capacity than as defined in PCC 2.46.020:  "The TFAC shall serve in an advisory capacity...to the Hearing Examiner, Planning Commission, County Council and Executive... regarding Pierce County Airport/Thun Field.  The TFAC shall not perform any final, legislative or quasi-judicial decision making role...but rather shall provide formal advice..." Section 2.46.120 further defines the functions and duties of the TFAC, but still does not provide for any regulatory capacity.  And yet, no explanation of reconciliation was offered by Ms Wallace when specifically quested on the subject by Keith A., a long-time user of Thun Field and visitor to the TFAC meeting.  Remember, she had previously asserted "Absolutely we can do that...  I will also clarify that the Ordinance 2014-108 does not have any impact on the TFAC".  Why didn't she take advantage of the stage that was set, instead of crawling around the issue?

Ms Wallace continues to talk out of both sides of her mouth, depending on who she is speaking to at the time.  Another example of this was the timeline for the hangar project; 50 tenants are being evicted / relocated to perform repairs on the county owned T-hangars to meet the timeline, but on separate questioning, she is "leaving it up to the contractor" to determine who will be displaced when, likely not all at the same time.  However, that is a rather aggressive schedule if the rows are going to be re-worked one at a time.

As the meeting was coming to a close, one of the commission members who has asked anonymity for personal/business reasons at this time, gave his resignation to the commission.  This leaves one position from each side - airport user and community member - to be filled.  There has been quite a bit of turnover in these positions lately, and one of the constants I see is the double-talk of the airport administrator.  Although never publicly stated, I certainly believe this turnover is directly related to the power trip of said administrator.

After the meeting, I had opportunity to speak separately with two other individuals concerning the events of the meeting.  They both used the same phrase:  Ms Wallace may have gates, but certainly does not have security at Thun Field.  Very perceptive, Carey G. and John T.

Concerning the airports, the county council has two pending agenda items to deal with:  The gate policy and the proposed Ordinance 2014-108.  The only timeline on these items is the scheduled council committee meeting January 27th on 2014-108.  Obviously, if this ordinance gets another 'do-pass" recommendation from the committee, and the council does indeed pass this ordinance, it in itself will seal the gate issue in favor of the airport administrator.  However, we must complete the mission set forth previously:  Persuade the council the gate issue is separated from intended security and return to the previous 12-hour gate policy, and stop 2014-108 in its track to keep council oversight to the AR&Rs and Administrator, Ms Deb Wallace.

Keep your cards and letters going to your Council Representatives!  If you are not a resident of Pierce County, but a user of either Thun Field or Tacoma Narrows Airport, I believe that a note stating as such, including the value added to the county of your business at these airports, is also very important.  In my correspondence with the council, I generally address to all the council, and usually include the Director of Public Works, as well as the Airport Administrator on carbon-copy.

Pierce County Council Members

District 1:  Dan Roach, Council Chair
(253) 798-3635

District 2:  Joyce McDonald, Exec. Pro Tem
(253) 798-6694

District 3:  Jim McCune
(253) 798-626

District 4:  Connie Ladenburg
(253) 798-7590

District 5:  Rick Talbert
(253) 798-6653

District 6:  Douglas Richardson, Vice Chair
(253) 798-3308

District 7:  Derek Young
(253) 798-6654

Pierce County Public Works

Director:  Brian Ziegler, P.E.
(253) 798-7250

Airport and Ferry Administrator:  Deb Wallace
(253) 798-7109 Office
(253) 221-3897 Cell

Thank you again for your commitment.  Although this directly affects those of us who operate businesses as well as pilots and aircraft owners at these two airports, it indirectly affects all of us as taxpayers and users.  We must continue to apply the pressure as this is indeed, for all of us.

Also, in a 'my-bad' type of moment, I need to correct an assertion I made earlier.  The AR&R re-write and the genesis for the 2014-108 Ordinance did not come about after the fact, fact being the gates going 24-hour.  These were indeed in place, albeit hush-hush, but in place before August of 2014.

(Above updated information added as of 10:30 am, January 23, 2015. )

A little while later on the 23rd, I sent this email to the council members, again urging the Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee to reject the proposed Ordinance 2014-108.  First, came a phone call from Council Member McCune's office, we discussed in more detail my thoughts of 2014-108.  Then, I received an emailed response from Alice McDaniel that summed up the ways to get information to the council members, including affirming the attendance and a chance for comments at the meetings.  Much to my surprise, I received this email in response from Hugh Taylor, attached to it is Draft Amendment 1 to Proposed Ordinance 2014-108.  Although there are still a few key points to negotiate, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Once again, your assistance has moved the council!

Taken from the numbering system in the Draft, I would contend these points need refining:

3.  If they are referring to the AR&Rs dated June 2014 as presented to the TFAC on January 15, 2015, the following items need to be addressed.

a.  The document is missing the even numbered pages.  We don't need a local-level repeat of 'passing a bill to see what is in it'.

b.  This Amended Proposed Ordinance 2014-108 still cannot be passed until an equitable gate issue resolution is met.

5.  Agree with all but this line:  "If no action is taken by the Council within the 45 day period, the rules and regulations shall be deemed ratified".  Inaction may be caused by several types of delay, intentional or not, and inaction should never be construed to mean approval!  I submit the following to replace  the above quoted line:  "If no action is taken by the Council within the 45 day period, the rules and regulations shall be rejected and continue in effect as last ratified".

This morning, I have addressed these concerns in another email to the Council Members, and I also look forward to the EID Committee meeting on Tuesday.

(Above updated information added as of 10:00 am, January 26, 2015. )

On the morning of January 27, I met Dan Neil (of Avionics Shop, Inc., at TIW) in the council chambers in Tacoma about 9:15 a.m. in preparation of the EID committee meeting.  We briefly discussed our talking points and gathered additional information that was laid out for attendees and the committee members.  There were three agenda items before discussion was held on the Amendment to Ordinance 2014-108; that discussion started about 10 a.m.  The outline of changes set forth in the amendment was outlined by Hugh Taylor for the committee, then discussion and questions by the members.  At our opportunity, I tried to take the time to speak on the gates but was informed that issue would be separately discussed at an upcoming meeting, then before I realized, my three minutes had expired.  Perhaps I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was.  Mr. Neil then spoke about the section on ratification of future AR&R changes, opposing the ratification by inaction clause.  Shortly thereafter, the meeting was suspended for several minutes.  It was during this time I noticed the hand-out  - available to the attendees - once again only had odd-numbered pages of the AR&Rs.  I checked the stack available at the entrance, they were the same.  When the meeting came back to order, additional discussion by the committee members ensued, then I asked to speak again; I pointed out the AR&R's as presented were incomplete.  Upon review, the members copies were confirmed as missing pages also, never the less, the amendment was brought to a vote and passed.  Meeting was then adjourned with item continued to the next EID meeting on February 10.

On January 28, I exchanged these emails with Mr. Doug Richardson, Chair of the Economic and Infrastructure Committee of the County Council.

The airport users survey was supposed to come out in the form of an invitation to participate at the end of January.  Although we had 'heard through the grapevine' that it was available to be taken, neither Mr. Neil or myself received the invitation.  So, in a wait and see attitude, Dan decided to let the survey 'find him'; I agreed that was a good thing to do.  On the morning of February 4, there was a poster installed by the gates at both airports concerning the survey, and it being open to participate in until the 9th.  On February 6th, I gathered the forwarded invitation and sent it to the county executive, Council Members, and airport administration, then BCC'd to my customer list.  I led this with a letter from myself.  This in turn, provided a response from the County Executive; those can be read here

On the afternoon of the 6th, I received a phone call from Ms Wallace; she had her team look into the email distribution list and they found a computer 'glitch' that only sent the emails out to people with names starting A-M; they were working on correcting that for a re-send, and assured me this was by no means an intentional omission of anyone's email addresses.  Well, it's her story, she can tell it how she wants to.  Not knowing how the county stores or orders the email addresses (by first name, last name or actual email address) I count six combinations between myself and Dan Neil, and best 2 of 3 would have allowed each of us to receive on an A-M list.  Before the phone call ended, I asked Ms Wallace if she would like to get together and discuss the gate issues as Ms McCarthy had recently suggested;“I don’t know what you mean”.  Then, I suggested that was what Pat McCarthy was driving at in her email; once again:  “I can’t do that, it is out of my hands, you will need to discuss with Brian Ziegler or the council, I don’t answer to the TFAC”  I suggested I approached her outside of the TFAC and got shut down.  Of course, she said “never happened”.  

On Saturday, February 7, I sent this email to the Airport Administration, without any BCC's, just to see what fruit it may bear.

Late in the afternoon on the 9th, this email came from the Airport Administration.  Interesting explanation, or lack thereof, for extending the survey.

On the morning of February 10, the Council committee on Economic and Infrastructure Development met once again to continue the discussion on 2014-108.  As I expected it to only be a formal passing of the committee's recommendation of the amended version of 2014-108 to the full council, I chose to stay at work that day.  At lunch, I watched the video of the meeting, my expectations were correct.  The committee forwarded the  amended ordinance to the full council, by a vote of 4 to 0, with a do-pass recommendation.  So, if my math is correct, being as there are seven council members, even if the other three vote no at the full session, the measure would likely pass.  This being said, I still had the ratification concern, so I sent this email to the council members.  I received two responses, here.

Having not heard back from Airport Administration on my email of February 7, I sent this email to the County Executive and the Council Members on February 15.

(Above updated information added as of 1:25 pm, February 16, 2015. )

Click here to read the most recent activities.

Additional updated information will be added as it is received.