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).
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."