Congressional team pushes military to permit aviation show in Homestead
By Scott Blake
South Florida members of Congress are appealing to the US military’s top official in their quest for a Homestead aircraft show aimed at drawing related industries to Greater Miami.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, they argued that Homestead Air Reserve Base would get facility improvements, and suggested the military might benefit financially if Secretary Panetta were to give his permission so the base could be used for the proposed Miami International Aerospace Show.
The Air Force has turned down the proposal, citing concerns about potential costs to the Air Force, insurance liability issues and setting a precedent for allowing civilian groups to use federal property.
In response, a group of local officials traveled to Washington to address the concerns directly with Air Force officials, but they were ultimately unsuccessful.
Determined not to give up, five South Florida members of Congress have signed a letter to Secretary Panetta, asking him to reconsider the Air Force’s prior denials.
In response to repeated inquiries by Miami Today, Department of Defense representatives were checking on the status of the request, but no information about what Secretary Panetta might do was available. They said requests from members of Congress are typically circulated first through the department’s Legislative Affairs office.
“The secretary will, of course, respond to the letter,” a Defense Department spokeswoman said.
The letter requesting the review was signed by US Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Mario Diaz-Balart, Frederica S. Wilson and David Rivera.
“It is with great disappointment that we, the South Florida congressional delegation, learned that Air Force Secretary Michael Donley determined not to support” the proposed show, the letter states.
The show “would encourage private sector job creation and serve as a catalyst for economic recovery while providing the federal government with capital investment at and around a federal installation at no federal cost, without compromising or disrupting the missions at the facility,” it states.
“This project is of vital importance to South Florida and we are committed to its realization,” the letter continues.
“Yet more importantly, we are confident that if you reevaluate this partnership in light of the future of our armed forces, the infrastructure needs of [Homestead Air Reserve Base] and its fundamental relationship with its host community, you will see this project as heralding a new means of sustaining a strong and well equipped military in the face of uncertain federal budgets.”
The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development organization, has spearheaded the proposal for the air show. The council and other proponents have hoped to put on a scaled-down show, including aircraft exhibits, in November, followed by a larger show in 2014.
In addition to making the show one of South Florida’s larger community and tourist events, the idea was to generate private sector interest in the region, stemming from the many aviation and aerospace industry representatives expected to attend the show.
The appeal to Secretary Panetta states: “Pioneering this one-of-a-kind venture will take bold direction from leaders like you, committed to choosing the right path over the easy one.”
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