Runway extension is not an 'upgrade'
Editor's note: This letter was written in response to John Upchurch's letter in the Nov. 11 edition of the Observer.
You can place me in the “vocal reactionary element” and contributor to “background noise” categories that John Upchurch alleged deter “upgrades to the community." Mr. Upchurch and I differ considerably on what amounts to “upgrades to the community." As an almost two-decade member of the Ormond Beach tax-paying community, I have endured noisy low-flying flight school planes over our home with less than silent acceptance. Contrary to what Mr. Upchurch asserts, members of the Ormond Beach community who express rejection and dissatisfaction with the flight school planes offer legitimate feedback to city officials rather than “background noise." Using language to paper over legitimate complaint seems a favorite tactic of an economic elite attempting to relegate those who speak out to the category of illegitimate contributors to community concerns.
Mr. Upchurch alleges that “civic unrest, protests and rhetorical excess” replaces rational discourse, but neglects to acknowledge citizens’ rights to object to that which diminishes their quality of life. Those of us who object to the expansion of Ormond Beach airport runways and other changes to the airport allowing even more flight school planes and increased numbers of jet planes with louder take-offs and jet fuel atmosphere pollution simply exercise our constitutional rights. Using pejorative language to attack legitimate protest smacks of a desire to prohibit free speech. That is the act of a “would-be dictator." Surely Mr. Upchurch does not want to restrict free speech. If he does, let him find the courage to admit his real goal.
As a member of Citizens Against Runway Extension, I suggest Ormond Beach elected officials pay more attention to the vast majority of citizens who object to runway expansion and less attention to those who contribute to their campaign funds. The massive citizen turn-out in 2004 against runway expansion established legitimate public rejection of runway expansion. Public rejection has not diminished. It remains strong, if not stronger against runway expansion.
City Commissioners should listen
Residents asked for a tree advisory board, reinstatement of the city’s wetland rules, a beachside emergency room, preservation of a historic church and retention of our beloved River Bend golf course. All these requests were denied by the City Commission. Instead, our elected officials voted "yes" on items we did not ask for: Airport expansion and runway extensions, $2 million for a floating boat dock and bait house, $2 million for cosmetic improvements for downtown sidewalks, $1 million to buy a church and turn it into a parking lot, and relocation of our 20-year-old police station to a $35 million building for "emergency services."
During the last elections, the campaign literature of incumbent commissioners claimed they “would not defund the police.” Police funding was never an issue in any city race. The clear, false implication was challengers to the incumbents supported defunding police. OBPD currently has 10 vacancies: 4 retirements, 3 leaving the profession, and 3 moving out of the area. A pay scale that is less than average for our area is only part of the problem; the city’s inadequate retirement plan discourages new hires and retention of old hires. Instead, the current commission intends to move the downtown police station to that new $35 million building, to free up downtown commercial space for one of their developer friends, no doubt. Let’s pay our police what they deserve and stop using our tax dollars for fancy sidewalks, buildings and docks we don’t need. How about the City Commission listen to their constituents for a change instead of their developers?
Editor's note: The City Commission has not approved the relocation of the police station. It commissioned a feasibility study for the project in 2019, but the study has remained in its draft format.