The home page of the website for AirFair, the group working to improve
your quality of life by trying to limit passenger levels at John Wayne Airport,
features this quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of
thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only
thing that ever has.”
A quick label for Melinda Seely, AirFair president, and Jean Watt, a
board member, would be “activists,” but that would be taking the easy way out.
Call them “advocates.”
Besides, when one thinks of activists, the perception is often of people
who have chained themselves to bulldozers or are living in a tree for a couple
years in order to make a point.
I met recently with Seely and Watt to discuss the status of the airport,
and it is safe to say that no one should be concerned about whether they plan
to take over the control tower at JWA. A revolution is not their goal.
Seely and Watt have more effective methods.
The first method is persistence. AirFair has no paid staff members, yet
the group has been meeting a couple of times a month for about eight years, and
through its wins and losses, AirFair is still pounding away at any resource
that could help limit airport capacity.
Seely and Watt, and no doubt the rest of the organization, fully
understand that JWA is not going to go away. Not now, not ever. So the best
they can do is to push hard to limit expansion.
The difference here, though, is a thorough understanding of the
maneuvering it takes to navigate the treacherous waters of competing ideas and
hidden agendas, whether they are business, political or personal.
“We’re trying to scale the business interests with the quality of life
to ensure that balance is maintained,” Seely said.
The goal of preserving or improving the quality of life is reflected in
their mission statement: “Stop expansion of John Wayne Airport,” and in their
goal: “To deliberately raise the level of discourse about permanent curfew, as
well as flight and passenger caps, at JWA in order to accomplish political
The next method is vigilance. Seely and Watt have been watching the
airport decision-makers, business interests and politicians long enough to know
that the word “permanent” is not in their vocabulary.