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Same fight, different town


The guy had worked himself into a near frenzy. Words like “arrogant,” “corporate welfare” and “greed” sounded like profanity when he spat them from between gnashed teeth. He’s against the proposed Metro West Airport in Dallas County and thinks if the big guns in the city want it, they should pay for it. The people in Dallas County ought to be able to vote on it, he shouted. So vehement was his vow to fight it that it called up images of farmers defending their land in a range war.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Same old Dallas County. Same old “reluctant suburb.” Same fight, different issue.

The anti-airport group is made up of some of the same people who stopped a gravel pit, tried to stop a highway expansion and scour the county budget every year looking for graft and corruption and, failing to find any, fix their sights on issues that might, someday, cost somebody something. They’ve gotten some favorable press, one of those mind tricks that gives them a false sense that their opinion is shared by the majority and their momentum is strengthening.

Every community has them – people who make up their minds on issues before they’ve heard all the facts. For a moment, I thought I was back in Fairfield, covering the contentious issue of airport expansion. Fairfield’s one of those lucky rural communities with lots of new businesses with a global reach, and it makes sense that some of the founders of those businesses would want to use their own corporate jets, rather than shuttle to Des Moines or Cedar Rapids to catch a commercial flight.

Their arguments against the airport were the same ones proffered in Dallas County. It takes farmland out of production, the economics are fuzzy, it benefits only a few and burdens all taxpayers. In Fairfield, there was a strong cultural bias against many of those backing the airport because they happened to practice Transcendental Meditation, and in Dallas County, there appears to be a strong sense that airport supporters “are one of ‘them’ and not one of ‘us.’”

In both cases, the words people used in opposition to the airports are subterfuge of a sort. What the opponents are really against is change to what they perceive to be an idyllic way of life under constant pressure from metropolitan influences. Scratch beneath the angry words and you’ll discover the real cause of the opposition.

“It” isn’t just an airport. “It” is a perceived threat to rural tranquility, a way of life that has endured for years at century farms and throughout the county. Never mind that change stopped knocking at Dallas County’s door years ago and has now firmly settled in. With rooftops stretching as far as the eye can see, it’s futile to lock the door now.

Just don’t ask these people to open it willingly, or to see a regional airport as anything but an intrusion. And don’t expect them not to try to fasten the bolt.

Beth Dalbey is editorial director for Business Publications Corp. E-mail her at bethdalbey@bpcdm.com.

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