To the Editor:
The purpose of this letter to the editor is to both correct some points and charges made by Richard Langseth, recent mayoral candidate, concerning airport projects, and specifically to disagree with his alarmist, attention-getting tactics, which detract from an activist’s true role.
At the outset, I strongly support groups that question airport growth and demand confirmation that growth is necessary for the best interest of the state and achieved in the least intrusive manner. Starting well over a decade ago my history was a very active member of Concerned Airport Neighbors (CAN) and, as such, was appointed to the Strategic Review Committee representing Ward 5 in Warwick. The Mayor appointed me as Warwick’s representative on the RIAC board not because of my CAN membership but because we seemed to communicate well together in several CAN/City Hall meetings. I joined the activist group at the encouragement of my pastor at the time, Duane Clinker, who was very concerned about the quality of life for those living around the airport, and I soon shared his concerns and I continue to share them today.
Mr. Langseth writes letters that have a shred of truth in them and he has a campaigner’s knack in writing intelligent sounding material that evokes “the sky is falling” hysteria. Further, many of his writings rely on distorted assumptions and make misleading conclusions. As just one example, he repeatedly attempts to alarm Rhode Islanders that they are going to be stuck with the costs of the airport’s projects. However, Mr. Langseth knows full well that RIAC does not receive one penny of support from the Rhode Island state budget or state taxes. Costs that RIAC must support are all funded from airline ticket sales and other airport revenues, and the large majority of the passenger traffic at T.F. Green Airport comes from out-of-state flyers. Please be assured that one of the RIAC Board’s main goals is to keep the charges to our customers in line with other airports even after all of the construction costs.
RIAC has evaluated whether or not to attempt to refute similar misstatements but has concluded that it would be far too time consuming and unproductive. However, as the EIS process winds down to a conclusion, Mr. Langseth has become more personal in his attacks and farther afield from fulfilling the role of a meaningful watchdog/activist. As such, I felt compelled to write this letter.
The two things that were so troubling about his letter published in the Sept.1st Beacon wasn’t even Mr. Langseth’s consistent twisting of numbers, but was the continued attacks on Kevin Dillon and the focus on how RIAC was trying to hide things from the public. The Board of Directors sets RIAC policy. Kevin Dillon is obliged to use his professional skills to fulfill the RIAC policies and goals. Kevin is not the enemy. The letters published in the Beacon make Kevin sound like a villain while all he is doing is striving to meet his goals set by the Board and be fair to the community and State. In my opinion he is the best executive director in the country, and many people would agree with me.
Similarly misguided was the letter’s thrust that RIAC was again trying to hide a meeting. RIAC and Kevin have done an outstanding job of having countless meetings in homes and with groups to give personal one-on-one discussions with neighbors and groups. With respect to the subject September 1st Public Hearing, an Editor’s Note to Mr. Langseth’s letter would have been appropriate. RIAC paid the Beacon to run a reminder announcement for this hearing on August 18, 2011. This, of course, was in addition to hearing announcements being posted on both the City’s and RIAC’s websites.
I personally believe in, and RIAC supports, the role of activists and people challenging assumptions put forth during this EIS process. However, alarmist tactics, self-serving posturing and spurious charges do not fulfill the activist’s role but, instead, merely cause a needless waste of resources and time, an erosion of the public’s willingness to participate, and a distraction from potentially legitimate concerns.
From one activist to another, mind your facts or run the risk of being the shepherd boy crying wolf.
Robert D. Sangster