It's a bird, it's a plane ...

The Greater Houston Partnership wanted to know how the five major mayoral candidates felt about the West Side Airport. We decided we did, too, so we asked each of them to tell us where they stood. Two took strong positions; the replies of the other three weren't, alas, all that instructive -- unless, that is, you're interested in how a politician can avoid an issue while seeming to address it. Here's what they had to say:

Rob Mosbacher: Mosbacher, who's supported by west side developer Ned Holmes, set the tone for most of the other mayoral candidates by cheerfully waffling on the issue. He did his best to come down on both sides, saying first he thinks that the city should back a major refuge in the Katy Prairie, and then adding that the city should take a wait-and-see approach to the airport site. "I'm no expert on this," says Mosbacher, "but I'm not convinced that these things [an airport and birds] can't coexist." Mosbacher cites the Philadelphia airport, which sits across the street from a bird sanctuary, as an example of how technology and nature can exist in harmony. Unfortunately, aviation experts cite Philadelphia as an airport where the problem of planes hitting birds is a very serious one.

Lee Brown: Brown, whose backers include airport advocate Billy Burge, responded to the question of where he stands with bureaucratic talk that, at bottom, fails to say anything about just where he stands. "As mayor I will examine all options on the West Side Airport," he wrote. "We need to work with the environmental and business communities on this subject. At this time, it is important to continue the upgrades to both George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby Airports as well as Ellington Field."

George Greanias: Greanias was in city government when the West Side Airport site was bought in 1986. As a member of City Council, he voted for the purchase. As a mayoral candidate, he gave us a copy of a position statement he'd prepared for the Houston Sierra Club. Greanias said he would use mediation techniques to solve the question of whether the site should be held indefinitely for airport use or be converted to a park. Translation: He, like Brown, will study the issue, but for the moment won't take a stand.

Helen Huey: Councilmember Huey told the Greater Houston Partnership that if it were up to her, the site would be held for airport use. "This site could be critical to future aviation needs," her response went, " it could not be easily replaced."

Gracie Saenz: Only Councilmember Saenz was willing to go on the record as being against the proponents of the West Side Airport site. "She's against it," says a Saenz spokesman. "We don't need it and she also believes the birds are an aviation hazard."

-- Michael Berryhill


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