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Thursday, August 11, 2022
Editor’s NotebookEditor’s Notebook: The truth shall set ye free!

Editor’s Notebook: The truth shall set ye free!

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The Arlington government is kinda, sorta telling the public a fib. Fortunately, as often is the case, the Sun Gazette is on hand to keep the gub’mint honest and the public informed.

County officials last week put out a press release trumpeting that there was no increase in the tax rate for the coming year. (We’ll argue another day whether county leaders should have cut the tax rate, but I digress…)

Buried paragraphs deep was the acknowledgment that the overall tax rate, indeed, was going higher, because of an increase in a surcharge for watershed matters that all property owners have to pay.

Why not just be honest and admit the tax-rate rise up front? Oh, right – Arlington’s elected officials are touchy about any and every possible criticism. (Couple the tax-rate hike with higher assessments, and the average homeowner is getting a tax bill up 6 percent from a year ago. Will the last middle-class resident to be forced out please turn out the light?)

Nobody’s arguing that the county government shouldn’t be spending more on water-cum-sustainability issues, although some certainly don’t think the government is going about it the right way. But there’s no need to be so surreptitious in maintaining a fiction. Kind of like saying that, a decade ago, County Manager Michael Brown, ahem, resigned because of, ahem, the health of his wife. (You have to have been around a while to get that reference.)

At least Libby Garvey, as board chair, laid it out fair and square when this budget game was played last year. The county government, she said at one point, needed the money more than the public did. Rather crude to think of constituents as a non-stop ATM for government operations, and rather clueless to be so nakedly honest about it, but it certainly did not derail her re-election bid.

Speaking of elections, it does look like whichever Democrat (Takis Karantonis or Chanda Choun) emerges from the June 8 primary is going to have an interesting general-election race that could be populated by some hard-hitting opponents. That would probably not be good for the Democrats (although few think they are in danger of losing their monopoly on power), but a full and frank discussion of community issues will be good for Arlington.

ATLANTA’S AIRPORT IS DETHRONED (FOR THE MOMENT): Ah, pre-COVID memories: During a trip from D.C. to San Juan one February a few years back (San Juan in February is a great cure-all for the winter blahs), I in theory had more than an hour to get between gates at my transition point, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. (Any guesses which airline I was flying? Delta for the win!)

And yet … for some reason the flight from D.C. to Atlanta got held just short of the runway at Reagan National, eating up a good 25 minutes, then took its time winging down to Georgia, eating up another 25 minutes, so I was left with maybe 15 minutes from the moment I got off the one flight to get onto the other before the door closed.

And as any travelers through Atlanta know, if you’ve got hours to spare, your connecting flight will be one gate over; if you’re in a race against the clock, it’ll be five terminals down and will be so stressed you’ll ignore the people-move trams and just make a brisk beeline through the underground caverns reach to the correct terminal.

(Not that it matters, except to tidy up the tale, but I did make the flight. The poor couple in the same row thought they had an empty seat to stretch out on for the next 3.5 hours, until this lummox showed up at the very last minute. Sorry about that!)

Is there a point to any of this? Oh, wait, right – turns out that, after 22 years at the top, Hartsfield-Jackson was dethroned as the world’s busiest airport in 2020 by Guangzhou Baiyun International in China.

According to the Airports Council International trade group, Guangzhou saw 43.8 million passengers in 2020, down 40.4 percent from 73.4 million the year before, but Atlanta only totaled 42.9 million, down a whopping 61 percent from 110.5 million in 2019.

Of the top 10 airports for the year, only three were in the U.S. (counting Dallas Fort Worth and Denver) and the remainder were in China.

On the other hand, when counting aircraft movements (takeoffs and landings), Atlanta was still at the top (548,000, down 39 percent) for 2020 and was followed by six other American airports. Guangzhou was eighth at 373,000 movements.

— Scott McCaffrey

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