A counterproductive turf war is the exact opposite of what's best for Quad-City International Airport's long-term viability. But, true to form, petty squabbling among the Rock Island County Board replaced a legitimate push to reinforce the airport's finances in Springfield.
Things went south when Rock Island County Board recently re-appointed Jim Bohnsack as chairman of the airport's oversight body, the county's Metropolitan Airport Authority. After voting for Bohnsack's nomination, County Board member and mud slinger-in-residence Drue Mielke decided to challenge Bohnsack's appointment because he lives outside of the eight townships within the airport's taxing authority.
Per usual, Mielke's gripe was just another legally baseless waste of time, concluded State's Attorney John McGehee. Mielke's position is further eroded by that fact that it would be moot if legislation in Illinois Statehouse, which would expand the airport's taxing district throughout the county, can garner the political backing it deserves. Mielke just so happens to be a key architect for the the county board's absurd slow-walk of a proposal to demolish the old courthouse, too.
Mielke's default position of sticking his finger in someone's eye is neither productive nor politically empowering. While common sense might seemingly require Bohnsack's residency within one of the eight towns taxed by the airport, the law makes no mention of such a thing.
But there's a significantly wider problem with the senseless attacks on Bohnsack's position on the airport's oversight panel. It's timing couldn't have been worse. And Mielke's back-biting only served to undermine a right-minded movement toward the regional funding model the struggling airport desperately requires for its long-term viability. It's here that Rock Island County should be screaming with a unified voice, instead of squabbling over scraps.
Quad-City International is one of three regional airports in Illinois pushing legislation to do just that. Along with authorities in Rockford and Bloomington, Quad-City International is pushing a bill in Springfield that would permit county-wide taxing authority. It would be a boon for the airport and solidify a key component of the region's transportation network.
While Mielke and his ilk are trapped in parochial navel gazing, proponents of the legislation are appropriately looking outward.
The struggles at Quad-City International is objective truth. Year after year, the number of passengers decline. Other regional airports — some touting free parking — are sapping would-be passengers. And a damning recent report on "60 Minutes" about allegedly shoddy maintenance of aircraft operated by Allegiant Air, one of Quad-City International's primary carriers, can be only damaging, too.
Now, the legislation kicking around Springfield is in its fetal stages. As with so many things in Illinois, simple neglect could kill otherwise reasonable — even necessary — legislation. And, should it pass, the bill could be catalyst for a far heavier lift aimed at forming a Quad-Cities port authority, effectively unifying the Iowa and Illinois sides in ownership of and responsibility for transportation infrastructure. But any port authority would be a years-long effort requiring a unified regional support and congressional approval.
The Illinois legislation, however, is but a small first step. Yet it's an important one, too, which should requires a unified regional voice from chanting in unison at Springfield.
Tribal turf wars serve only to hinder Rock Island County's well-being.
Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Matt Christensen, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.