The small airport sector is in a national malaise. It is not the business sector one would hope our City to chose to take on. According to the expert, it is the first sector to decline, and the last to emerge. This is the sector the City will take on, involuntarily beginning perhaps as soon as 2012.
Even though the County has operated the airport, the city is obligated to take it over by 2017 if not earlier. The County has found it a loser, so now they will flip it back to the City of Palo Alto. Apparently, Palo Alto cannot say no.
The business plan shows a way to make money. But the money is in many respects a fantasy as there is no "payment" for the land to the city. The city puts in 110 acres of land - likely equivalent of $10,000,000 per year (using the rates they charge themselves at other facilities). Here we just push it in as an in-kind contribution. Beyond the free land, the airport is run down, needs sprucing up to compete, and it would likely be our funding to provide for it.
As a Palo Altan, I tolerate the airport, but I don't like it. I don't use it, I don't many that do. It stands against any slight symbol of sustainability. Its planes fly low (or someones do), and I don't like that noise. It has even caused it share of tragedy.
As a town, few know what a generous contribution we have made and an even greater we will be making - the gift of our land rent free. We will also be finding more scarce general funds going to enterprise. We will watch for new staff positions be created for an airport - you can't run an airport without staff.
I would have hoped to either allow the County to keep it, or to not have the City take it over. Apparently Palo Alto has no choice. I don't quite know what happens if you do say no, but there is a commitment to keep airports enforced by the FAA. Maybe we need a good lawyer. (I smile to think if we said lets close it if federal marshall would march into town)
Given we seem to have no choice, I will pick up my paint brush to help paint our new airport pig. They are nice folks, and do seem to enjoy flying. If we have an airport, let it be a green airport. The airport community seemed to see this as well.
Still I would invite our Council to give the FAA notice (20 years apparently) that we would like to have the right to shut it down. It has had a great history, but I don't see it in our future.