AOPA tells Florida voters the truth about Witham Field

August 27, 2004

AOPA tells Florida voters the truth about Witham Field

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Voters in Florida's Martin County should remember their recent brush with Hurricane Charley and the valuable role general aviation plays in disaster relief before they cast their votes in next Tuesday's election. That's part of the message AOPA is putting out in a series of newspaper ads this weekend.

Three county commission candidates are running on an anti-airport platform, telling the taxpayers they can downsize Stuart's Witham Field. But AOPA is countering the rhetoric with the truth about the airport.

Take Kirk Sorenson, one of three anti-airport candidates for the county commission, who promises in a recent political ad to stop taking FAA funds, downsize the airport, and return money to homeowners.

The problem is, he can't.

Since 1985, the federal government has invested $3.9 million in the airport. And with these grant funds comes a commitment to run the airport as an airport for 20 years. Witham's last grant was in 2002, resetting the 20-year clock. It takes an act of Congress to forgive grant obligations.

"I will never fudge my positions to suit my audience, and I will never mislead you by clever language designed to mean different things to different people," Sorenson says in his ad.

AOPA began countering the inaccurate claims with its own newspaper ads that started running last Sunday. In an open letter to voters, AOPA President Phil Boyer reminds Martin County residents that the airport is not a threat and is responsible for much of the area's growth and desirability, not to mention the airport's important role in disaster relief.

That was graphically illustrated by AOPA member Rob Coble. He owns a Mooney based at Witham and is the district manager for Lowe's Home Improvement Centers. The day after Hurricane Charley ravaged central Florida, Coble flew himself and other company representatives out of Witham and into Kissimmee Gateway Airport in Orlando. Using a GA aircraft and airports, they were able to coordinate the delivery of trucks carrying water and generators to affected areas.

August 27, 2004