Money escalates debate over Paine Field

MUKILTEO — The two sides in the dispute over whether passenger flights should be allowed to use Paine Field are ramping up their efforts, and they’re doing it with money.

Fly Paine Field, a business-based group, is buying advertising on Seattle radio stations.

That money’s coming out of a $10,000 fund set aside for spending on such promotions, said Greg Tisdel, one of the leaders of the group.

Recently, the group paid $3,000 for an informal, online survey of opinions on the issue.

More spending is likely, Tisdel said.

“The bottom line is just to get the word out,” he said.

On the other side, the city of Mukilteo recently hired a California law firm to help the city fight proposals by two airlines to fly from the Snohomish County-managed airport.

Allegiant Air of Las Vegas and Horizon Air of Seattle have expressed interest to the county about operating regularly scheduled flights from Paine Field.

Last year, before either airline made its interest known, the city of Mukilteo set aside $250,000 to fight any proposal for commercial flights at Paine Field.

Shortly after Allegiant’s proposal in May, the city hired Strategies 360, a Seattle consulting firm, to do research and promote the opponents’ point of view.

Recently, Mukilteo hired Barbara Lichman of the firm Chevalier, Allen &Lichman, based in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Lichman, who lives in neighboring Newport Beach, parlayed her battles with Costa Mesa’s John Wayne Airport into a career in airport law.

“We’re simply assessing the rights of the airlines and the rights of the airport to allow them in and the rights of Mukilteo to object,” Lichman said.

Strategies 360 is looking into the possible use of landing fees as a way to discourage airlines from using the airport, said Al Aldrich, senior vice president for the company.

It’s also looking into how using the airport for passenger flights would affect Boeing operations, he said.

“Those planes all have to use the long runway, the same one Boeing does,” Aldrich said.

So far, Boeing has remained steadfastly neutral on the issue.

At Fly Paine Field, Tisdel won’t say how much the group has raised or plans to spend.

The group’s support is increasing, he said.

“The ability for us to go out and raise money gets easier every day,” he said.

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