MAJOR ELECTION IMPACT: Strange Business Afoot at Aurora Airport

If you were about to expand an airport next to your neighbors would you be considerate and ask them if they care? One would think the answer is obvious.

But “no” is the answer if you are the Aurora Airport and Marion County commissioners, even though the facility is in your county but Clackamas County is just down the road a tad.

Airport officials, in cahoots with certain Republican legislators and the State Aviation Board, seek a major Aurora Airport expansion so bigger jets will fly right over the quiet, residential Charbonneau neighborhood next door.

This story goes back some months but is coming to a head with this election. On the side of the airport expansion are Republican legislators — State Rep. Richard Vial, who represents Wilsonville, and State Rep. Rick Lewis, of Silverton, who represents Aurora and the Marion County side of the question.

On the other side are the Charbonneau Homeowners Association; they are “mad as hell,” in the words of one resident, and other key Clackamas people: Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp, legislative candidate Barry Shapiro, the Democrat opposing Lewis, and Courtney Neron, the Democrat seeking to replace Vial. Simply put, if you want the expansion then vote for the Republicans. If you think it is a bad idea, vote for the Democrats.

Also opposing expansion are two Wilsonville City Council candidates: Charlotte Lehan, a longtime civic contributor seeking re-election, and David Davis, a newcomer who serves on the city’s Parks and Recreation commission. They are adamant. Their opponents, Ben West and John Budiao, are tactfully not taking a position (while getting campaign money from supporters).

Joining the “anti-“side are folks seeking seats on the Aurora City Council in Marion County. (Wilsonville and Charbonneau are in adjacent Clackamas County.)

Incumbents seem to favor the expansion. Marion County commissioner Kevin Cameron, who is also seeking re-election, is actively pursuing formal steps to allow the expansion. Joining them are two key players: The State Aviation Board and Ted Millar, of the South End Corporate Air Park, owners/operators of the airport. The state board has already authorized initial expansion planning steps.

Notably left out of the discussion are the three key neighbors — Charbonneau residents, the Wilsonville City Council, and Clackamas County commissioners. This despite their ongoing requests to be allowed into the fray. Clackamas Chair Jim Bernard has written a formal letter demanding inclusion.

Millar, on the board of directors of the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce, a patently pro-business Republican vehicle, is putting his money where his interests lie.

According to state documents, he has donated more than $15,000 to elected officials and wannabes who could influence the outcome of this activity, including $5,000 to Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler.

Also enjoying some of Millar’s largesse are Commissioner Cameron, $5,000; Marion Commission candidate Colm Willis, $2,500; with Wilsonville city candidates West and Budiao each getting $1,500 for their campaigns.

Friends of French Prairie is outspoken in its opposition. This is the second time the group has had to go to battle when a special interest group was thwarted at the local level so it tried an end run around land use laws with legislative shenanigans.

Based in Butteville with members owning agricultural land all around the airport, the Friends notes the expansion would encroach on “Exclusive Farm Use”-designated land. With more cargo coming into the airport, they also fear yet more trucks and traffic to the area’s already overburdened highways and byways.

Does your vote count? Ask the folks in Aurora, Wilsonville, Butteville, and all around the area. Does Wilsonville really need more air service (at the expense of other heavily used airports such as Hillsboro and Salem)? If so, you know how to cast your ballot.

If you think this is just another sorry exercise with the rich getting richer by manipulating government at the expense of the neighbors, then just say “no” by voting for Charlotte Lehan, David Davis, Barry Shapiro and Courtney Neron. And two more: Commissioner Cameron’s opponent is law professor Sheleswau Crier and Willis’ opponent is Bill Burgess. They also need your support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *