I’m embarrassed for my beloved city of Boca Raton.
More so than usual. That’s because the Boca Raton Airport Authority is taking these federal budget cuts in the worst way possible — by suing the federal government in hopes of maintaining federal dollars used to operate the local airport’s control tower.
Bad form, Boca.
After all, Boca Raton is where you go to make sweeping pronouncements that America is being ruined by too many people looking to the federal government to take care of them.
It’s the city where a Republican presidential candidate can assemble a crowd of admirers willing to cough up $50,000-a-plate to listen to a denunciation of the 47 percent of Americans who are hopelessly dependent on government to solve all their problems.
“My job is not to worry about those people,” Mitt Romney told his Boca audience last year, as he spoke in a local investment banker’s home. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
So now it’s time for Boca Raton to take responsibility and care for its own corporate jet traffic that relies on the airport’s tower. But it’s not going over so well.
I guess it’s a lot easier to whine about Washington’s spending problem in the abstract, especially when it involves spending on programs for other people. But in this case, the mandatory “sequestration” budget cuts have led to the Federal Aviation Authority to cut its support for Boca’s tower and 148 other towers at small airports across the country.
And Boca’s solution is apparently to act like the once-despised 47 percent by claiming total dependence on the federal support.
Relatively speaking, we’re not talking about a lot of money. The FAA pays for the six contracted air traffic controllers at the Boca airport at a cost of about $650,000 a year.
In Romney fundraiser terms, that’s what 13 Boca dinner companions — less than a tenth of the people who were there — threw away on that day last May to hear Mitt complain about government dependency.
The money thrown down the political drain at that one fundraiser could keep the Boca tower operational for years.
But there’s no need to pass the hat. Boca could just make the people who use the tower pay for it. The annual plane traffic at the airport is about 50,000 flights. So the controllers could be financed by an airport user fee, which would work out to about $13 a flight.
That’s less than the walking fee for playing nine holes at Boca’s Red Reef Golf Course and about what it costs two city residents to play tennis for an hour at The Boca Raton Tennis Center.
Or Boca can embrace some other free-market solution to this tower funding problem.
Maybe the GEO Group will want to buy naming rights to the tower. The private-prison company headquartered in Boca Raton was willing to spend $500,000 a year to put its name on Florida Atlantic University’s new football stadium.
Now that FAU has come to its senses and nixed its partnership with an incarceration-for-profit business, maybe GEO would be willing to advertise its name on the airport tower. Makes more sense. Airports and prisons are both known for their towers.
Or Boca could just go back to the days when it operated without a tower. The Palm Beach County Park Airport in Lantana operates without a tower, and it has more than double the flights that Boca does. And Lantana is closer to the air traffic at Palm Beach International Airport.
But suing the federal government to restore a government handout?
Bad form, Boca. Very bad form.