Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – April 2, 2017 – I never was particularly enamored with the Triplicate’s content when Richard Wiens was the editor, and was even less so when Matt Durkee briefly held the reins, but the reign of King Fornoff is a lesson in extreme restraint, at least on my part. While I’m not particularly concerned that he no longer allows me to write in the Triplicate, banned by the King, it would be nice to see something, and I mean anything, that resembles news in the Triplicate. I suppose I shouldn’t be so critical of the Triplicate’s content, but I will.
During the course of just last week the Triplicate’s most important news in the Thursday and this Saturday’s issues were narratives on Glen’s Bakery to reopen, and a minor drug bust in Crescent City. Both stories that almost put you to sleep with the narrative quality to be found in their respective format. No real questions, and mostly mundane facts more appropriate for a group of gossipers collected at someone’s backyard fence. Of course Saturday’s narrative on Glen’s Bakery was fleshed out with the story of a sexual offender sentenced to 362 years, already reported on in this paper the CCTimes days ago, a lifeless story about the airport negotiating a land swap deal to clear trees near the landing strip, where are you Eileen Cooper when we really needed you to object irrationally, oh wait you were there and you approved, WOW, and finally a rather misinforming and misleading series of opinions from mostly local Democrats with the Party’s line,”oh what a catastrophe for the County!” if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.
The Thursday’s remaining narrative section was filled with a story detailing Assemblyman Wood’s objection to increasing the tax on Sea food landings, good luck with that one, a story on Dr. Duncan’s efforts to get Sutter Health to be more transparent, maybe a tall order, and finally a questionable story about the loss of Essential Air Service and some truly interesting “facts” offered up by the airport’s director, Matthew Leitner. Of course the reporter, Tony Reed, doesn’t appear to have an inquisitive bone in his body. Or maybe perhaps he wasn’t even present to ask questions about the dubious facts that Matthew Leitner put forth.
Now that we have put paid to the rather lackluster performance of the County’s only print source of news, it might just be instructive to see what real news that was begging to be reported and the Triplicate completely ignored. This is such a simple case of gross incompetence on display by the Triplicate that we aren’t going to have to go much further than the Board of Supervisor’s meeting, Tuesday March 28th. During the course of that one meeting an instance of the violation of a local woman’s First Amendment Rights of Free Speech, a violation of the Brown Act, a plea by local Democrats for the ACA to which nothing has happened, and finally some creative accounting, you are probably familiar with Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen’s third grade math by now, by our Airport Director Mathew Leitner.
You will no doubt be familiar with the reports of the first three from stories in the CCTimes which detail the transgressions of the Chairman of the Board Chris Howard, and Supervisor Hemmingsen as well as a piece by yours truly regarding the Democratic hysteria about the ACA’s impending demise whether by repeal or sheer economic weight. What has slipped through the cracks both in Tony Reed’s piece, “Board of Supervisors hear about possible loss of flight service to county”, April 1,2017, and reporting in the CCTimes is the very possible dire lack of passengers serviced by our carrier PenAir.
During the course of the Board Meeting Supervisor Gitlin, after reminding Director Leitner of his statement in another Board meeting the year previous that Essential Air Services would not go away, asked the director about the number of passengers that PenAir was currently servicing. Director Leitner gave a very questionable figure of nearly 20,000 for 2016. He went on to say that Crescent City is very impressive when it came to enplanements and proceeded to claim that PenAir serviced at least ten passengers per day.
Now I may not be up on Supervisor Hemmingsen’s third grade math, but ten passengers per day will only yield 3,650 passengers in a year. In order to reach Director Leitner’s claimed “nearly 20,000 passengers” the airport would have to be servicing a minimum of fifty passengers per day. Oops! and where is the question by our esteemed reporter, Tony Reed, who we are assured by our Triplicate editor, Robin Fornoff, of him being the consummate professional. Oh! I forgot, he wasn’t even there, must have made his report from the County’s video. Great way to be the consummate professional reporter whose job is to ask embarrassing questions. Just maybe if he would have actually been there or listened carefully to the video, he might just have had the most important story of this year so far. But, no the Triplicate chose to ignore the story and mismanage the one that they did print.
But, there is just a bit more to the airport story, yes I know, it pales in comparison to the First Amendment violation story and the Brown Act story, yet it is interesting in its own right. If you were an inquiring reporter, there is a very simple way to check up on Director Leitner’s claim of 20,000 passengers in 2016, and you would find that PenAir reported to the Department of Transportation a mere 2698 passengers for 2015 (only four months of service) and 8,529 for the 2016 calendar year, well below the 10,000 passenger threshold necessary to maintain EAS subsidies for that year. Curious don’t you think?
I think if I was a reporter, I would want to be able to ask some very pointed questions of both Director Leitner and PenAir about the phantom nearly 11,741 passengers that were supposed to be serviced in 2016 at least according to Director Leitner’s statement at the board meeting. It also calls into question whether or not Crescent City and it’s carrier PenAir are even entitled to continue to receive the EAS subsidy of more than $3,000,000. At the same time it seems to call into question whether or not the change in carriers with service to Portland was such a sound idea. It also calls into question the wisdom of not pushing for a longer landing strip in order to retain the previous carrier with service to San Francisco and Sacramento before plowing ahead with a new terminal that may shortly have no passengers to service and leaving a $2.8 million dollar hole in the County’s budget. Vote was 4 to 1 remember. Chairman Howard and Supervisor Hemmingsen being two of the four votes.
Finally, in my inquiry, I happened across PenAir’s latest application to the Department of Transportation to renew their subsidy for another two years thru 2019. Within that application was the statement that PenAir carried 17,698 passengers between September of 2015 and October 1st 2016 and 22,000 in the eighteen months of their operation in Crescent City. Department of Transportation records show a mere 9,198 during the first time period, not 17,698 and approximately 12,227 for the entire period of eighteen months not 22,000. So, Triplicate and consummate professional reporter, Tony Reed, is there a story here?