In Phase 2 of the , two notable themes have emerged, beyond opinions about what to do with airport itself.
For one, many area residents don't trust the city to do what the public wants with the site. In part, that's because they perceive the City Council as pro-development, more concerned with raising revenue than , which according to some, includes pollution and noise, and uncaring about residents outside the city limits.
And second, city staffers continue to warn that or severely curtail its flight operations will result in long, expensive, litigation that may end with no changes.
The feeling of distrust, along with myriad suggestions for changing the airport and its operations, emerged from the 32 focus group sessions of about a dozen people each that were organized by the consulting firm MIG.
Some participants thanked the city for creating the visioning process. But MIG's 97-page summary also says significant numbers questioned parts of the process.
One target was the economic report by the HR&A consulting firm in Phase 1 of the project, which concluded that airport-based businesses pump millions of dollars into the economy, more than offsetting the airport's operational deficit. The Airport Commission, an advisory body to the City Council, has also criticized the HR&A report for not differentiating between aviation-related and non-aviation businesses. The airport budget, too, lumps all businesses together in reporting airport-generated revenue.
Some group participants support having a permanent airport ombudsman who would address residents' concerns in a timely manner.
Distrust also has been voiced by those in the aviation community. Some believe the city is misleading anti-airport factions simply by allowing them to think the airport might close in 2015 or that it could be replaced, for example, by a park.
In response, the city staff's Phase 2 summary says its staff has already moved to improve transparency and "looks forward to doing more."
The summary says the staff "has met, repeatedly, with community groups and members... representatives of aviation groups, airport business owners and various groups within the Federal Aviation Administration to hear concerns and seek solutions.''
Additionally, staffers support holding two more public workshops during the third and final phase to report progress and to get further public input.
Staffers say some legal effort might result in reducing the airport's negative aspects. But they warn, as they have before, that efforts to close the facility would be long and costly—factors that would not affect the FAA. The report makes it clear the staff wants the city to find middle ground.
"In such a situation, where uncertainties loom large, it may be possible to reach a compromise in order to obtain... a mutually acceptable (if less than perfect) resolution or at least an extended period of peace," the report concludes.
The city staff summary and the MIG summary of the focus group themes will be presented May 8 to the City Council, formally ending Phase 2 of the visioning process.
Visit smovisioning.org and follow the prompts to read both the city and MIG summaries in full.