Anti-airport hysteria didn't sell in Martin County, Florida. Yesterday, voters rejected all three of the county commission candidates running on a platform of downsizing Stuart, Florida's Witham Field. And it was a resounding defeat for the anti-airport three; none received more than 30 percent of the vote in the primary election.
AOPA had rushed to the defense of the airport after an anti-airport group of wealthy homeowners calling itself WAAM (Witham Airport Action Majority) polluted the community with a mishmash of misinformation and scare tactics designed to put their candidates on the county commission.
AOPA countered with a series of newspaper ads, carefully laying out the facts about the airport and the benefits that it provides to the community.
Even the pundits got fed up with the anti-airport racket. "Just lately, Team Anti-Airport has been ratcheting up the bad-neighbor-Witham propaganda. And election or no election, it's time to say enough," wrote editorial columnist Nancy Smith in the Stuart Times two days before the election. "Geographically, operationally, even aesthetically - Witham Field is one beautiful airport.... The airport is part of the glue that shapes the Martin County lifestyle."
Smith pointed out the positive economic impact on the community and answered much of the misinformation put out by the anti-airport crowd.
"I think this shows that voters are fed up with negativity and mud slinging," said Jeff Myers, AOPA executive vice president of Communications. "Presented with the facts about an airport in a clear, unemotional argument, the majority of the people will make the right decision."
The voters in Martin County supported the three incumbent county commissioners who all are in favor of continuing to take state and federal funds to improve and continue Witham Field operations.
"The current commission is rightly sensitive to noise issues from the airport, and they're going about solving the problem the right way," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. "They are pursing a Part 150 noise study, and they've worked with the FAA and the pilot community to implement voluntary measures to reduce the noise for the airport's neighbors."
September 1, 2004