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 www.roar.netthis.com, 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
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