To the Editor:
From the sudden and inexplicable reversal by Warwick’s City Council concerning a runway extension at T.F. Green Airport emerges one shining hero from a dark warren of frightened bunny rabbits. That hero is Raleigh Jenkins, who, in his March 8 letter to the editor (“Council ‘played’ to avoid federal disclosure over airport projects”), courageously emulates the lone boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by pointing out the obvious – that further development of the airport is not in the interests of the city. While vexing, politely, over what can only be seen as duplicity, intimidation, and cowardice in our city reps’ decision to abandon their compelling objections to a flawed Record of Decision, Mr. Jenkins offers a recap of the myriad reasons why their capitulation was unwise. One thousand short-lived construction jobs and fingers-crossed hopes for surges in air traffic and tourism hardly justify the increased air, soil, and water pollution, chaos, and disruption in our already compromised city.
But what has interested me most throughout this decade-long “battle” are the extreme human dynamics I’ve witnessed along the way. Bold-faced and ongoing lies, continuously shifting ever so slightly to counter facts – such as the indisputable fact that a lengthened runway is not needed to accommodate flights to the West Coast – never cease to amaze me. I’ve watched as the alleged requirements of hoary airplanes, planes that have truly been retired, are trotted out to justify a longer landing area, and as shaky airport bond ratings have been withheld or downplayed. I’ve sat through hours of faux commiseration as airport officials listened impassively to tearful testimony of bereaved city residents who live in airport cancer-cluster areas. That was probably the hardest – feeling their agonies while also knowing that few of the decision-makers really gave a hoot. The spectacle of innocents on the stand, tremblingly appealing to the humanity of their masters, has affected me deeply.
Watching the machinations of an environmental research agency, paid $10 million to come up with a foregone conclusion – that development will have no negative impact on the environment – evoked emotions of another, more aggressive kind.
One can only speculate as to why the City Council performed its collective 180, complete with obsequious gratitude and rhapsodic joy at promises of a brand-new ball field, and other puny concessions. In any case, within a day’s time, these one-time warriors were reduced to whimpering pussies. An improved résumé, one showing “progress” (and ensuring continuing princely salaries), may have motivated officers at R.I. Airport Corporation to forge ahead, but imagination fails as to what could have moved the once-resolute council members. Did peer pressure and Governor Chafee’s staunch support at an open meeting inspire in them an adolescent desire to secure a place in the in-crowd? Could it be true that, as one tipster put it, “Obama wants it,” or that the FAA has a weaker understanding of the situation than it should?
Not even The Shadow knows what lurks in the hearts of men (and women).