Thursday, July 09, 2009

They're Closing the Airport

So, it is official. City Council voted to progressively close the Municipal Airport yesterday. This issue has been on my mind since I visited the Alberta Aviation Museum a few days ago (pictures are here), which is very close in proximity to the airport. The museum will not be affected, as it is a protected historic site. I wonder if the same could not have been done for the airport. Or, at the very least, a city-wide plebiscite vote should have been held. This doesn't have to do with "yay" or "nay" - when it comes to a decision of this magnitude, the entire city should have been involved.

Most of my activist comrades from whom I have heard voice an opinion on this matter have been in favour of closing the airport. The main reason is that one of the plans for the area is high-density, affordable housing in a green community. While I admit that this is a need in Edmonton's core, to my knowledge the plans at this stage are all talk. There is no proposed business plan or developer (other than the City itself). The only thing that can be counted on is the NAIT expansion (definitely worthy in its own right). We don't have any assurance that these affordable housing units will actually come to fruition. Some smooth-talking, high-rolling developers could come onto the scene and persuade things to go their way and ritzy condos could sprout up. Don't forget, it's going to be public money that will front most of whatever happens in that space. "Affordable housing" and "green" are buzzwords making closing the Muni attractive to progressive folks. My activist comrades, do we really take at face value the words of those in authority?

The Muni has the city's medevac service. I know someone personally who flies search and rescue out of there. The close proximity to the Royal Alex hospital has been essential. But according to Mayor Mandel, that really doesn't matter because, after all, health care is a Provincial, not Municipal concern, so we're not under any obligation to provide land for it. I hope he gets a chance to tell this to the critically injured person who will have to land at the International Airport and be transported to a hospital via ambulance.

In many ways it is a good thing the vote is finally over, so there is a place from where to work. But that in itself is not an excuse to rush or force a decision. I stand by what I said earlier that this should have been voted on my the people. Power to all the people -- not the 13 who sit in City Hall.

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