In her decision on May 21st, U.S. District Court Judge LaBuda sided with Mile-Hi Skydiving. At the root of Judge LaBuda’s decision was a total deference to FAA, the federal agency that manages aviation issues by letting operators do whatever they want … and the same federal agency that protects aviation from environmental accountability. A classic captured regulatory agency. This huge legal effort by Citizens for Quiet Skies (CQS) has always been aimed at correcting this problem, seeking to restore meaningful local control so airports will again serve not just pilots but the local community, too.
In June, Judge LaBuda awarded nearly $68,000 to Mile-Hi for supposedly “reasonable costs.” These costs included $40,000 for Mile-Hi’s noise expert, and costs incurred for defense counsel Anthony Leffert to fly to California and sit next to the noise expert during his deposition. Adding insult to injury, two months after the trial’s conclusion the Judge went further and granted another $48,000 in “attorney fees” to Mile-Hi Skydiving, opining that the lawsuit was ‘frivolous’ and agreeing that the plaintiffs should be punished for some of the claims that were dismissed prior to trial. The plaintiffs must now submit 125% of the awarded amount to the court until the appeal is concluded – $145,000 in total.
These are ordinary citizens who, as you can well imagine, will have to liquidate retirement accounts and make very difficult financial choices. Make no mistake, Judge LaBuda’s clearly punitive actions toward the plaintiffs are aimed at driving a stake right through the heart of citizen activism – not just at this airport, but at ALL U.S. airports.
Citizens for Quiet Skies is standing tall. Kimberly Gibbs wrote a great letter, No Ceiling for Noise, posted at FreeRangeLongmont.com on August 2nd. Kimberly also shares that the first payment to the legal team has been made, with CQS offering many thanks to the hundreds who have contributed to help cover legal expenses throughout the trial and now with the appeal. Funds are still needed to cover the expense to proceed with the appeal, so please consider making a generous donation to this effort – their work is on behalf of many skydiving victim communities across the country. It’s easy, just click the donate button on their website at: http://citizensforquietskies.org/
One reaction to Judge LaBuda’s decisions has been some fairly intense (and often very uncivil) commentary, particularly at the local Longmont newspaper (TimesCall.com) and the local Boulder newspaper (DailyCamera.com). A better collection of letters, with faster access, no ads, and more moderate and civil comments, is viewable at FreeRangeLongmont.com. It is clear that the community is very deeply split. Skydivers and other aviation-types (including airport officials) continue to make wild claims of how the airport boosts the economy, and the worst members of their ‘group’ continue to attack Ms. Gibbs and others; a growing number of neighbors have had enough, are rejecting the pro-aviation pitches and expressing outrage at what the court has done.
Here is a recent online comment by one of those neighbors:
Click on page two to view copies of more online comments supporting the need for mitigation of the Mile-Hi Skydiving noise impact.