Friday, April 27, 2007

Those tricky cause-and-effect equations

The rule of cause and effect is tricky, especially when it comes to air service and education in the Wood River Valley.

The cause and effect equation creates consternation each time it's mentioned in the debate over a new air-port.

It goes like this. People who want to visit Sun Valley create demand for air service. Air service creates business. Business generates money to pay airline seat subsidies, called minimum revenue guarantees, or MRGs, as well as money for marketing to bring atten-tion to area attractions.

In short, people generate air service that generates business that generates money to support air service and marketing. It's a simple equation.

But the FAA and the Blaine County Airport Author-ity keep ignoring it.

It's not the job of the Federal Aviation Administra-tion, which is in charge of controlling airports, to pro-vide MRGs. Hailey and Blaine County, who control the Hailey airport, say it's not their job either. The gov-ernments agree: It's the job of business.

But if business—Sun Valley Co. and all the busi-nesses who contribute private money to today's MRGs—cannot meet what could be the higher demands of air carriers serving a new airport, it will affect both the viability of a new airport and businesses every-where in the valley.

And if businesses can't meet the challenge, the FAA, Hailey and Blaine County could be left with a white-elephant airport and a weak valley economy.

So, instead of dismissing the messengers, which happened again last week, the Blaine County Airport Authority needs to take MRGs seriously, powwow with businesses and find an acceptable solution—perhaps public and private funding.

Blaine County School District has a similar cause-and-effect problem. It proposes to build workforce housing with teachers and government workers hav-ing top priority for purchase.

Its cause and effect problem? Taxes paid by indi-viduals and businesses fund public education that sup-ports individuals and businesses that support public education etc.

Which raises the question: Why should employees of private businesses be lowest on the totem pole when it comes to allocating workforce housing—no matter which government agency happens to be building it?

Not only would this be unfair, it could severely dis-rupt the very equation on which the school district depends for its own financial survival.

The problems of air service and housing supply need broad solutions, not narrow ones that ignore the basic rule of cause and effect. Solving them will take brains and willingness to face issues head on to find fair and sensible solutions.

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