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ROAR gets unleased on Web

Will Rogers

ROAR is not just an acronym for Restore Our Airport Rights, the group

pushing an airport-related ballot measure. Some readers tell me that,

when they visit ROAR’s Web site at, they get a roar


in response. I confess to vicarious giggles reading the e-mail messages

copied to me as locals correspond with ROAR.

Unlike many presentations ROARers offer at council meetings, ROAR’s

claims in e-mail get rebuttals. And when ROAR’s agent responds with the


same demeanor unleashed on city officials, cyber-citizens don’t tolerate

it. They roar right back. ROARers finally face the same belligerence its

leaders inflict on others.

ROAR’s Web site does not promise to document or defend its claims. The

invitation to e-mail ROAR doesn’t include an offer to answer questions.

Browsers can read the proposed initiative and a letter that purports to

explain the need for a ballot measure. It charges the council makes the

airport decisions it does because officials “are more concerned with


their future political careers.” I’ve never understood how ROAR can

allege that and simultaneously insist the council is knowingly ignoring

the demands of most voters. But it’s not the only example of ROAR’s logic

operating on a plane unclear to mere mortals.

ROAR’s message ends, “Call, write, or e-mail us and pledge your

signature and support.” There’s nothing there about being welcomed to ask

questions, but some visitors apparently make the faulty assumption. In

exchanges I’ve seen, it seems one can usually get a response to a mild


query. If it prompts challenges, or if questions remain unanswered,

follow-ups are ignored. It’s a tradition for the leaders of ROAR and

other groups they’ve led -- the litmus test. Their statements must simply

be accepted. Ask questions or debate answers and you’re revealed as an

enemy of the cause, part of the conspiracy.


Burbank resident Steve Dunbar asked three questions. First he asked

ROAR to identify the group’s leaders, and why the Web site doesn’t list

those names. Howard Rothenbach, ROAR’s president, and Ted McConkey,

improbably enough the treasurer, do not hide their roles. They’re listed

as founders of the political action committee, and promote ROAR at

council meetings. But the Web site is anonymous.

McConkey apparently handles ROAR’s e-mail. He identified himself and

Rothenbach, but wouldn’t acknowledge other questions until Dunbar

identified himself. Dunbar’s e-mail address doesn’t reveal his identity.

Dunbar gave his name and address, but also fired back. He speculated

ROARers would shriek if City Hall or a candidate refused to answer

airport-related questions unless they first knew who was asking. Dunbar

said the policy implies some get different answers than others. After his

own harsh lecture, Dunbar repeated his original questions.


Dunbar again asked what meeting video tapes or materials would confirm

an accusation made at a then-recent council session. McConkey claimed

council members have changed their airport positions, and that in April

each was pledging never to allow a new airport terminal without the very

terms now demanded in ROAR’s ballot measure.

McConkey swapped insults and scolded Dunbar for asking ROAR to educate

him. McConkey said Dunbar’s research was “going about it the wrong way.”

Albeit rudely and impatiently, Dunbar went to the source and asked the

basis for a claim. It seemed like a sound approach to me.

McConkey suggested alternatives, “On the off chance you’re serious,

instead of just acting like a jerk.” Dunbar’s not held to the decorum of

city officials facing similar verbal assaults. He fired back that, if

it’s impossible to “be serious AND act like a jerk, I guess the last few

years of your life have been a ... practical joke.”

Refuting McConkey’s charge of ignorance on a major issue, Dunbar

insists he is informed. He said that’s why he disputes McConkey’s claim

about council members. But rather than accuse McConkey, the veteran of

political efforts ranging from Greenpeace initiatives to Reform Party

organizing instead asked McConkey to direct him to events or statements

he may have missed. But the author of the proposed ballot initiative

derided the implication it’s his duty or ROAR’s to educate people.

Dunbar’s question about why the Web site is anonymous was never



Another McConkey accusation prompted another message to ROAR. By

giving the airport permission to buy 41 acres of land once owned by

Lockheed, McConkey recently lectured the council, “You have managed to

implement the first step of the framework agreement (a proposal for

settling airport battles), and you have done it without holding one

public hearing. Not one.”

A skeptic who asked not to be named contacted ROAR because McConkey

wore a ROAR T-shirt when he spoke. The skeptic wrote, “There was a

hearing...And the man who accused the council of doing something without

a public hearing was AT that hearing, and he spoke (at the hearing.)”

The skeptic added that it appears newcomers join ROAR’s cause because

they believe McConkey’s charges. The inference is supported by those who

announce they’ve paid little attention to airport battles, but are now

activists because of outrage over claims promoted by ROAR. It does make

one long to hear what ROARers are telling people as they gather petition


McConkey answered that the session the writer referred to was only a

hearing on the land transaction’s escrow, not one on an airport

application, an approval right Burbank won in court. As for citizens

being duped, McConkey wrote, “Unless you are clairvoyant, why not just

stick to the facts.” This hilarity came from the mind reader who knows

how council members will vote months from now, who can tell us what

officials REALLY meant in the snippets of their quotes he cites, and who

somehow knows officials are motivated by wanting to help “their

out-of-town friends.”

The skeptic later sent McConkey a copy of the relevant council meeting

agenda, highlighting specifics of the hearing McConkey insists didn’t

happen, and effectively revealed the claim for the bunk it is. After a

wait of more than a week, it appears there will be no response from ROAR.

To tell ROARers you support them unconditionally, and will blindly

accept their characterizations of events and motives, contact the Web

site. All others can spare themselves the effort.

Will Rogers’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He can be

reached 24 hours a day at 241-4141 voice mail ext. 906, or by e-mail at