Sunday, July 31, 2005

Planes, Property and Resolutions

The Dallas Morning News Saturday gave an editorial “miss” to American Airlines' effort to get smaller Texas cities to lobby in favor of retaining the Wright Amendment. Wright is a poorly hidden tax on Texas air travelers which forbids Southwest Airlines from flying coast to coast out of Love Field. It was an expensive protectionist measure designed to assure the profitability of DFW Airport when it was launched. DMN said of American's effort,”American swears it's not trying to threaten anyone. Would this at least qualify as intimidation?”

Let me put a personal face on the Wright Amendment. A few years ago, during a time when American Eagle was the only server at Mathis Field, I had to travel to Greensboro, N. C. Round trip, two weeks prior, one week stay. American was over $1,100 from Mathis. I checked around, got a flight out of Austin, no return restrictions, $349. Southwest out of Midland could have beaten that except I would have had to do the “Wright Amendment two-step” to finally get to Greensboro.

A writer in Sunday's Dallas paper points out that American followed the pattern at DFW when Delta's low fare competition vanished. American has not “been supportive” of San Angelo due to their love of our fair city. When they have a competitor, they match prices. When they don't, they rape us and any passenger with the time to do so drives to Midland.

I would prefer a resolution praising Continental for keeping these rascals honest. The Wright Amendment that Council has decided to support is an anti-competitive bit of specialized legislation creating a little monopoly just for DFW airport, with American being a subsidiary pig at the trough due to their position as largest carrier out of DFW. Nothing like it exists for any other area in the US, and it passed only due to Jim Wright's power in Congress at the time. Somehow the rest of the nation manages to maintain air service without such a law, nearly aways at lower prices.

So far San Angelo is the only smaller Texas city silly enough to bite American's bait. I called Congressman Conaway's office and let them know Council did not speak for me. This is economic blackmail, nothing less. If DFW cannot stand on its own two feet against mighty Love Field after 20 some years of Wright Amendment protection, turn it into the world's largest skate/bike park. Truth is, neither DFW or American is going to become an endangered species without Wright, they are scrapping for all they're worth to keep several hundred million in annual receipts they get under the Wright sanctioned monopoly. Cities all over America have two or more commercial airports which somehow coexist with each taking its own market niche.

If Council wants to get in the political lobbying game, as they have with the Wright Amendment, let me suggest an area Council has already opened, at least in discussion.

I wrote in an earlier piece about the Supreme Court US Kelo decision on eminent domain takings for economic development. Our own Scott Campbell co-sponsored with Frank Corte of San Antonio, HJR-19, for a Texas Constitutional Amendment prohibiting this in Texas. House and Senate could not agree on details in the limited time left last special session. There is overwhelming support in both houses for some form of HJR-19, but in a new session, Gov. Perry must again add it to the “call” before it can be considered, and he has not done so.

Council considered, spoke favorably of, and then tabled a resolution opposing such use of eminent domain until some legal technicalities were resolved. I fail to see such a resolution on an upcoming agenda. This is a no-brainer. Unlike the Wright Amendment, most voters grasp economic development takings and opposition polls at 70%+. People viscerally grasp the concept of having a three generation family home stolen from honest folk just because the local Donald Trump has use for the land. (No offense to Trump, I have no evidence he would ever be this crooked. It takes a lifetime of training in legal minutiae to honstly believe in so dishonest an interpretation of the Commerce Clause.)

To its credit, COSADC expressed its opposition to such takings, but nothing would prevent a different board ten years down the road from exercising such eminent domain absent a state Amendment. If Council wants to get in the political lobbying game, here is an issue with legs.

As an individual, you can, without waiting on Council, call the Governor's office at (512) 463-2000. Took me about ten minutes to get a real live, polite, if slightly harassed aide and have my opinion recorded. By the way, this past Tuesday yours truly was off for the day and I tuned in the Gordon Liddy radio show while waiting for the shuttle launch. Gordon opened with a monologue on Kelo, so just for fun I dialed up, not only got through, I was the first caller taken! Gave the run down of legislative efforts to do something here in Texas, got in plug for people to call in support and a nice attaboy from G-man. Never hurts to try. Call Perry, school finance is looking dubious, but maybe we can get something for our money this session. Be sure and insist on the Constitutional Amendment, not that watered down statute in SB62.

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