We recently received a mailer from the opponents of county Measure D, the initiative that would prohibit new personal-use non-commercial heliports. What troubled us was the opponent’s rather sensationalistic assertion that Measure D would endanger people’s lives by prohibiting existing rescue and medical helicopter operations and flights. Yikes! Could this be true?

As evidence of this claim, the opponent’s mailer cited a footnote from an analysis of Measure D by an outside law firm. I thoroughly read the analysis, which is a long document with typical legal exposition of possible positive and negative legal implications of Measure D. In the footnote cited, the author speculates on the possibility that Measure D might be interpreted to apply retroactively to existing permitted medical helicopter operations, as personal non-commercial operations.

The use of this footnote to support opponent’s claims that Measure D presents a threat to pubic safety is highly misleading for three important reasons:

1. Helicopter rescues of stranded people are performed by the CHP and other public safety entities, not medical helicopters. CHP and other public safety helicopter operations are clearly exempt from the provisions of Measure D.

2. Measure D will not apply to medical helicopters, since these are neither personal nor non-commercial. I am afraid that the author of the cited footnote got this wrong. Having spent 40 years as an executive in the health care business, I know that most medical helicopter services in our area are owned and operated by commercial corporate enterprises. These firms charge handsomely for their lifesaving services with the intent of providing a financial return to their investors. Medical helicopters are neither “personal” nor “non-commercial”, so Measure D does not apply to them.

3. The footnote cited is used in a dishonestly misleading context: What the opponents of Measure D fail to mention is the conclusion in the body of the document, which states that even if someone attempted to interpret Measure D as retroactively prohibiting existing permitted medical helicopter uses, “ . . . existing County Code would require the County to interpret the initiative to prohibit only future authorization [emphasis added] by personal use air facilities in AV [agricultural] zones." In other words, even if someone claims that Measure D applies retroactively to medical helicopters, existing County Code would preclude this from happening.

Since we seem to be living in a “post factual” world right now, perhaps the opponents of Measure D think that they can attempt to mislead voters with impunity. As President Lincoln famously said: “. . .you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” So let’s not let the sensational, misleading, and self-serving messages from the opponents of Measure D fool us.

In 1968, the Napa County Board of Supervisors had the vision and courage to establish the Napa Valley Ag Preserve. Measure D is simply the logical and necessary extension of the Ag Preserve to prevent our beautiful Valley from being spoiled by the sound of helicopters operating from proliferating private non-commercial heliports.

And the really sad thing about all the time, money and effort spent on this controversy? Those who wish to use helicopters for personal non-commercial use have a ready and fully-compliant option: Fly from our existing airports. That is what they are there for.

Please vote Yes on Measure D.

John Ray


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