Commentary by PAT MURPHY
Pull up a chair, students, for a discussion of the curious world of
The first lesson learned in the decision to cover losses of one daily
roundtrip flight by Horizon Air between Boise and Hailey during ski season involves tricks
of the lawyering trade.
When the city of Ketchum was asked to kick in $10,000 of a $100,000
subsidy for Horizon Air, the towns lawyer saidhorrors!funding a private
entity is illegal under state law.
But not so fast.
The lawyer for the neighboring city of Sun Valley, presumably schooled
in the same state statutes and working from the same code of ethics, said, shucks,
theres a legal subterfuge to get around state lawjust launder $20,000 of Sun
Valley tax funds through a middle man, the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce, to
Horizon Air to avoid the appearance of a direct, illegal city contribution.
This, students, is known in politics as treating taxpayers like chumps.
So, one lawyer says its illegal to provide a subsidy, another
lawyer says its perfectly legal by playing games with the law.
Now for the next lesson in this gambitjustice and fairness.
Remember aviation entrepreneur Leonard McIntosh, who took it on himself
to launch a modest little air service, Air Ketchum, between Hailey and Boise with two
roundtrip flights a day with an eight-passenger Beech KingAir turboprop?
Well, he covered losses out of his own pocket, thank you, hoping
business for the only Hailey-Boise air service would pick up without help from deep
pockets in the Wood River Valley.
But when the notion of a subsidy to cover air service was kicked
around, the local entrepreneur was snubbed by the towns deep pockets in favor of
Horizon Air, which has a 37-seat DeHavilland Dash 8 turboprop for Boise-Hailey service,
and is a subsidiary of the deep pockets of Alaska Air Group, which includes Alaska
So, the $100,000 in guaranteed subsidies for one daily roundtrip
between Dec. 18 and April 1 ($50,000 from the Sun Valley Company; $20,000 from the
chamber; $20,000 from the Sun Valley City Council and $10,000 from Elkhorn) will go to
profitable Horizon Air, instead of the unprofitable and struggling Air Ketchum.
The likelihood is that most of the Horizon Air passengers wont be
new seasonal business, but locals trekking to Boise on business or shopping.
The end of McIntoshs fledgling air service is inevitable, while
profitable Horizon Air is secure with the corporate equivalent of a welfare stipend to
cover any losses.
Come April 1, Horizon Air presumably will ditch the Boise-Hailey route.
Then, instead of possibly having one small air carrier (Air Ketchum) making runs to Boise,
therell probably be no service.
So much for the consequences of underwriting a profitable carrier to
drive an unprofitable air service out of business.