By ERIC SEDER
Contrary to some recently published letters, there is most certainly a plan for the effective deployment of the 1 percent local-option tax for air funds. Air-service development is not a brand new initiative in our community; we are not starting something from scratch. The Fly Sun Valley Alliance has been working with Sun Valley Co. for many years to secure and retain the nonstop service we now enjoy at Friedman Memorial Airport. What the 1 percent LOT that we are asking voters to approve on Nov. 6 will provide is critical additional funding to allow our community to retain/expand our current service, secure new flights from new cities such as San Francisco and do more targeted marketing to get more passengers on those flights.
The Idaho attorney general has provided an opinion that the use of public funds for minimum revenue guarantees for contracted air service is legal and constitutional, and the top constitutional law firm in the state has also provided an extensive analysis that concurs with the attorney general’s opinion. The cities of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley created and approved the joint powers agreement that stipulates formation of the Sun Valley Air Service Board. This Board will ultimately determine how the 1 percent LOT for air funds will be spent within the very limited permitted uses specified in the ballot language. Anyone can read the joint powers agreement and the ballot language on the Yes to Air website (www.yestoair.com). Fly Sun Valley Alliance, based on past experience and well-researched future opportunities, has already formulated a proposed first-year budget, which has been presented to the public as part of the Yes to Air informational outreach and is available for anyone to see on www.yestoair.com.
The representatives to the Air Service Board to be created as stipulated by the joint powers agreement cannot be appointed until it is known which cities pass the LOT and will thusly be partners in the JPA. The JPA will provide the framework under which the Air Service Board will determine which organizations it contracts with to create and execute a strategic air service development plan for our area. Obviously, that cannot be done until the Air Service Board is created and its members seated. We know that because funds will not be available immediately, we will need to work within the 1 percent LOT cash-flow revenue stream in planning during the first year. However, if we wait another year to pass this measure, then our economy suffers for yet another year, and faces the threat of further reduced air service due to lack of available air service funding. Voting in favor of this measure is the one thing we can do now to improve economic conditions in Blaine County.
Our elected leaders clearly see air service as an important community economic issue, as do the hundreds of individuals and businesses that have publicly endorsed this effort. We are open to answer all questions and concerns from any voter or stakeholder and appreciate the opportunity to do so. (My phone number is 726-9592).
The decision before us is a decision about our community’s future. Do we continue to slide backward or do we make the investment in air service, which will bring more flights, more business, more jobs and higher property values to our community? On Nov. 6, please vote in favor of this measure and our future.
Eric Seder is president of Fly Sun Valley Alliance.