Jul 28, 2014

City Council Candidates Show No Love for SMO

Most want it closed or severely limited; others worry about what would replace it. Two incumbents caution against rush to litigation.

City Council Candidates Show No Love for SMO City Council Candidates Show No Love for SMO City Council Candidates Show No Love for SMO City Council Candidates Show No Love for SMO

Of 15 candidates for the Santa Monica City Council, nine are calling for the Santa Monica Airport to be shut down or to have its flight operations dramatically reduced not later than 2015.

Equally significant—not one of the 15, including two incumbents—is defending the airport, although one mentioned its possible use as a relief point after a natural disaster.

At a candidates forum Thursday night sponsored by Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, five of the most well-known airport opponents were Richard McKinnon and Ted Winterer, both city planning commissioners; peace advocate Jerry Rubin; former planning commissioner and local newspaper columnist Frank Gruber; and former council member Tony Vazquez.

The other four most outspoken were teacher Jon Mann; attorney Steve Duron and Bob Seldon; and civil/environmental engineer Armen Melkonians.

Somewhat more cautious were:

  • Terence Later, who wants open space and warns against the airport's 227 acres falling into the hands of developers.
  • Roberto Gomez, saying developers "are salivating," creating fertile ground for graft.
  • John C. Smith, who warned, "Don't trade one problem for another and get another Playa Vista."

Other cautions were voiced by incumbents Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day, concerned about rushing into a legal battle with the Federal Aviation Administration. Davis cited past defeats, such as the council's failed attempt to ban the fastest large jets at the airport.

"First [before 2015], we must negotiate [with the FAA]," she said, though she doubted the agency would be receptive. "Then we would consider litigation to close the airport." The key operating agreement for the airport between the city and FAA expires in 2015. The FAA says the true date is 2023.

Davis and O'Day defended city staffers, saying critics——don't have access to the City Council's closed legal sessions that are necessary for strategizing both negotiation and possible litigation with the FAA.

"We can't let them know exactly where we're going," said O'Day, a CRAAP member. "We must have all our options open."

Candidate Shari Davis, a longtime school and community activist, said she is undecided about the airport.

But closure advocates, including McKinnon, said the council needs strong new leadership so city staff will do what the council and community want.

"That won't happen if you elect the same old folks who say they'll do something and then won't," Vazquez said.

"This council has let the citizens down," Mann added. "Residents need a strong voice on the council."

"This is why so many of us are running," agreed Seldon. "If the staff is unresponsive, get rid of them," he said to applause.

Gruber said it was time for a new approach.

"This is a generational moment—we can't be weak-kneed," he said. "This is what our grandchildren... will thank us for."

Four of the council's seven seats are at stake in November, two of them with no incumbent.

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