I write this on March 29, “National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day.” I find significant irony that the City of Redlands’ Instagram page is promoting that fact. Here’s why:
Along with George and Eva Saliba, my wife Carol and I own Coyote Aviation. For twenty years, we’ve been the managers of a single-building hangar facility we constructed at Redlands Municipal Airport. For that management, we charge $4-$6 per hangar per month.
Carol and I are lifelong Redlands residents, both with careers in education. I taught 5th and 6th grade here for thirty-five years. As a teacher, my mantra to my students was “Do your homework.” It did not pertain to assignments. It meant, “Understand a problem thoroughly before you attempt to solve it. Do your research before making important decisions.” Coyote Aviation’s supporters, your constituents, believe your homework may not have been done, or perhaps it was done by someone else.
On March 18, 2021 Coyote Aviation received notification of the termination of our lease. This was accomplished without the City’s ever reaching out to us. One of the reasons cited for lease termination was that Coyote did not renegotiate a lease while in a month-to-month tenancy. The fact is that I did not receive any City notification regarding our lease status until August 31, 2020. It came in a phone call from Airport Supervisor Bruce Shaffer. Although section 25 of our land lease stipulates that notices (such as a change from long-term to month-to-month) be “served by deposit in the United States mail,” Coyote has never received such written confirmation of the “late” designation and change to month-to-month tenancy.
Tired of waiting for official confirmation after Mr. Shaffer’s phone call, I contacted City attorney Dan McHugh on September 21, asking simply the City accept our renewal request. It was after my e-mail that I finally received e-mail confirmation from him about our change in status. This was 31 weeks after February 13, the date the City contends our renewal request was due. Our simple request to continue our relationship, our first step in negotiations, was not seen by City Council until the October 20 meeting. To that request, we never received an answer. No dialogue between parties ever took place because of the City’s inaction. Apparently, the City’s counter-offer was the March 18, 2021 lease termination. So much for “negotiations.”
We disagree with the “late” designation, but that particular matter will be addressed through legal channels. This message is about the City of Redlands’ refusal to respond to our request of September 21 in a timely manner, nor to respond to any of our efforts to get answers. I must charitably assume that as council members, you may have not been aware of the facts or of our own efforts to achieve a resolution before your decision in March to terminate our lease.
You might not know, for instance, that between September 21 and October 23, I tried six times to begin negotiations, get an answer, or start a dialogue. On October 23, Chris Boatman told me to wait, that the City Council would not take up the matter until after the new year. Between January 5, 2021 and March 10, 2021, I made ten more attempts to get a response. In over a year, from Feb 13 (the date the City says our renewal request was due) until March 18, 2021, Coyote received no initial notification of late designation, no City Council response or requests, no counter offers, nor any invitations to have a dialogue as I requested many times. We were trying, but efforts apparently fell on deaf ears. (I have e-mail evidence to support all claims here.)
Coyote Aviation is a ‘good deal’ for Redlands. In 2000, when we signed our agreement with the City of Redlands, City Council members were thrilled to have a 1-acre parcel of vacant land finally produce revenue. Since then, the City has collected from tiny Coyote nearly $250,000 in construction fees and land lease payments, not including revenue from property taxes and municipal utilities. The current profit to the City is the highest per square foot of the three fixed base operators (FBO’s) by a wide margin. Coyote’s Consumer Price Index adjustment occurs every three years while the other FBO’s are adjusted every five years. Coyote has been an excellent tenant, never a violation, never behind on rent.
Your constituents and I might reasonably assume that you were unaware of these facts, that someone else did your homework for you. If you knew all this information, however, and you still decided to terminate Coyote’s lease for other reasons, an explanation to the public would be illuminating. There is, however, a big difference between a reason and an excuse. To anyone aware of the facts, the use of “late written renewal request” simply looks like an excuse to take the property of others who’ve worked to create and sustain it, especially when the City knew we were going to renew our lease as far back as January of 2020 (verified in e-mail exchanges.)
As a teacher, if ever I discovered a student had relied on someone else’s answers to complete homework, I’d say patiently, “Do it again, and this time do it yourself. You’ll learn far more that way.” Then I’d lower the grade on the submission as a consequence. I suspect someone else may have been doing your homework, representing Coyote’sinterests, but not to the benefit of Coyote. I imagine you are experiencing some consequences right now.
I respectfully ask the City Council members to reexamine Coyote Aviation’s position, and well as the council’s reasons, motives, and excuses for terminating Coyote Aviation’s lease. In doing so, then you can actually say “I did my homework.”