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Panel Disputes City Charge of Anti-Airport Bias

Santa Monica's Airport Commission was under fire this week after the city manager scolded the panel, accusing it of improperly taking local activists' side. The chairman of the commission insists, "We are fair."

Rick Brown, chairman of the city's Airport Commission, is disputing accusations that the group is improperly siding with activists  at the  limited or halted entirely.

The charges came this week from within , where the city manager said that the commission is inviting residents to take part in a biased survey and, possibly, operating at the behest of the neighborhood coalition—Community Against Santa Monica Airport—that’s distributing it.

“The title of the survey indicates that it is city-sanctioned and is a city document. It is neither,” City Manager Rod Gould wrote in a two-page letter dated Dec. 6. “It begs the question as to whether CASMAT is a covert arm of the Airport Commission or the Airport Commission is a vehicle of CASMAT. Either way the Commission loses legitimacy."

The city is in the midst of a “highly charged,” three-phase project , when its current operational agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration expires. (The FAA insists its control over SMO will continue after that date).

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for commissioning two studies at the core of the first phase of the "visioning" process that he said fell short of the community's expectations.

Brown said the consultants but said the city  should have asked that the studies be more comprehensive, such as asking for the specific costs and economic benefits of flight schools.

"There is a mounting body of evidence that the Airport Commission is not interested in understanding a full range of options" for the airport's future, said City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie.

But Brown told Patch on Friday that there is just one commission member “involved” with the survey and, more important, that’s it not being circulated by the commission itself.

“I can’t be responsible for what others do,” he said. “We have worked very hard to create opportunities for views to be heard on all sides of the issue.”

Specifically, he cited a commission workshop "that had never been done before" where representatives from the airport's flight schools were invited to speak about their operations. The flight schools account for a substantial portion of airport traffic, and neighborhood activists have targeted them in their anti-airport campaigns.

"I think everyone agreed it was a very productive conversation," Brown said.

City Manager Gould appeared in the letter to be equally chafed by a recent request from Brown to review material that will be presented by city staffers to community stakeholder groups in the coming months.

"Your request and comments imply that staff cannot be trusted," Gould wrote in his letter.

"Our request to review the guidance documents for the discussion groups was not to audit city staff as suggested in [Gould's] letter, but, really, to be able to confirm to the public that the document is impartial and useful ... we want to build confidence in the visioning process," Brown told Patch.

Gould concludes the letter by suggesting he discuss with the commission its "role and aims."

The two have set up a meeting to hash out the grievances, Brown said.

"My whole orientation is to create opportunities for members of the community to be heard, and then to process what they say and provide our advice to the [City] Council—that’s what we’re charged with doing," he said. "I think we’re doing that … I think we’re doing it fairly."

Richard B December 14, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Perhaps the City Council should build a massive retail mall where their new park is going in -right next to city hall? AND BUILD the NEW PARK at the Airport- Like Central Park or Hyde Park or Golden Gate Park- The airport is a perfect location for a beautiful city park !!
Richard B April 24, 2012 at 05:15 PM
The airport lease expires in 2015 according to the 1984 agreement. It is crystal clear that the city can takeover it's section and do as the please. Somehow the city keeps saying that the FAA has control and their hands are tied. Hog Wash. The city should be listening to the many residents who want the airport changed into a open park space to serve the entire community.
Anne Hawthorne April 26, 2012 at 06:40 AM
The airport commission under Richard Brown is the only arm of the city that is doing any legitimate visioning for the future of the airport. The city attorney and the city manager appear to be under the spell of the FAA, having set up the entire "visioning" process to carefully avoid a vision of reducing or eliminating air traffic -- a vision which a clear majority of SM residents and other constituents would support if they were given a chance. That commissioner David Goddard had to volunteer his time to analyze airport revenue and expenses on behalf of the public is outrageous. Monday night (April 23) was the first airport-related public meeting that offered any original ideas. Richard Brown deserves a lot of credit for devoting much of his very valuable time during the last years of his life to airport issues. He will be greatly missed. And many thanks are due to David Goddard and the other commissioners for stepping in at an extremely difficult moment to carry on his leadership.
Richard B May 21, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Perhaps we need to sue the city of Santa Monica -the City Council and the Attorney. These people are not working for the residents !

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