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Candidates Grapple with Airport Issues:

Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (C.R.A.A.P.) brought its issue to bear in the City Council race on Thursday evening, October 5, at the Ken Edwards Center on 4th Street when it hosted a candidates forum in which all 10 contenders participated.

Listed as “supporters” of the forum were the Friends of Sunset Park and the North Westdale Neighborhood Assn., citizen groups generally representing Santa Monica and Los Angeles areas, respectively, in proximity to Santa Monica Airport (SMO). But the evening belonged to C.R.A.A.P. Director Martin Rubin, and that group’s purpose of “fighting the unconscionable growth of SMO,” in his words.

Since the 1984 agreement between Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which governs SMO operations, Rubin said, traffic at the airport has increased over 1,000 percent and the proportion of jet traffic has become much higher. That agreement runs through 2015.

Former Santa Monica Airport Commissioner Dr. Jean Gebman moderated an efficiently presented discussion of issues relating to SMO. With 10 candidates in the field, and a format successfully designed to give each the opportunity to be heard, dramatic face-offs were not expected and did not occur. But certain themes developed.

Jonathan Mann, a former teacher and parole agent who now works as a flight attendant and is in his eighth campaign for City Council, made very clear his desire that SMO be closed at the 2015 termination of the FAA contract. He has a plan, he said, to convert the property to parkland and low-income housing, and he believes that it is now time to prepare for closure.

Mayor Bob Holbrook reiterated his commitment of “two years ago” to get jets out of SMO, and he suggested that results of the AQMD study of airport pollution now underway might enable the City to achieve that result before 2015 by lobbying Congress or bringing suit if needed. “The future is between what it is today and closure,” he said, as he “hopes to keep weekend pilots, mercy flights and civil air patrol.”

Terry O’Day stressed his environmental credentials and his familiarity with studies and the science of pollution issues. He cautioned that suing can be dangerous, and, in saying that he would not agree with a Rubin proposal to put LA residents on the SM Board of Airport Commissioners, he pointed out that any LA appointees might not be the people Rubin had in mind.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown reviewed his record on SMO, favored shortening runways and thereby eliminating certain planes, and often referred to the power and jurisdiction of the federal authorities, stating that the City’s ability to just shut SMO down in 2015 is “rather sketchy.”

Gleam Davis said that aviation is a big part of Santa Monica history, but she did want to outlaw jets at SMO. Emphasizing her legal experience, she argued that land use regulation was the City’s best approach to gaining some control, and she favored including SMO in the Land Use and Circulation element of the city plan.

Councilmember Pam O’Connor, who joined the discussion underway because of another engagement, argued against including the airport in the Land Use and Circulation element on the grounds that SMO was a special case, thought that the question of closure was one that should be put to a public process and particularly warned of the need for vigilance to prevent the private plane airport from “morphing into commercial use.”

The remaining candidates had less to say that evening on the rather narrow “focus on Santa Monica Airport and its impact on surrounding communities,” as Martin Rubin had described it. They generally agreed that some scope of operations should continue at SMO, particularly in the area of medical and emergency access.

The themes of the discussion were developed first by a panel of questioners assembled by C.R.A.A.P. and its supporters, and later in the evening by questions and comments from the audience. The panel consisted of: Marcia Hanscom, Vice Chair of Conservation for the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter; Adrian Martinez, an air quality lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council; Cathy Larson, Chair of the Airport Committee of Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP); Ping Ho, Director of Educational Outreach at the UCLA Pediatric Pain Program, and a member of the FSOP Airport Committee; Virginia Ernst of Neighbors of Santa Monica Airport and C.R.A.A.P.; and Rubin.

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