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My view: Involve public in airport decision

By Steve Harmsen

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Recent news articles about the Salt Lake City Council and mayor's efforts to mortgage whatever equity we citizens have managed to create by building a so called "Broadway style theatre" and a new energy efficient airport (oxymoron) require some comment.

This is a good example of why our economy is in such bad shape.

It seems as though every time a stream of money can be bonded for, our politicians fall all over themselves to spend it rather than bank it. This is probably done because they are afraid that the Legislature will probably take it away from them.

The Airport serves the entire state and provides unbelievable benefits to Salt Lake City's tax overhead. To mortgage this equity without statewide input and a full discussion of other uses for this stream of money is unwise. Has anyone said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?"

Remember what well meaning locals did to the Denver, the Oakland and the Ontario airports turning some of the very best airports into the absolute worst. This is not to say that improvement is not needed; however, giant overhauls sometimes become boondoggles.

Those who pay the bills will make the rules and govern the design and planning — that is going to be the airlines, the car rentals and the concessions (a known source of political patronage).

I plead with the city officials to remember that Utahns, including Salt Lake City residents, are the customers here. The traveling public's needs should come first and the process should be transparent.

The No. 1 priority should be to have a public design competition to select the best designers of the nation to compete in giving us the best ideas available instead of some friends of the politician. The public needs to know what they are getting and must be able to comment before the contracts for planning and construction are set for good.

We, Salt Lake City residents, are taking out a giant mortgage on our most prized possession. Let's remember who the real customers are and let them in on the process.

Steve Harmsen is the owner and president of Steve Regan Co. He is a former Salt Lake County Council Member and former Salt Lake City Commissioner, 1972-1976. During that time, the current Salt Lake City airport master plan was implemented through a design competition.

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