The ranking member of Santa Monica's Airport Commission, Vice Chairman David Goddard, is sending the City Council a memo that he believes exposes the "legal fallacies" city staffers are citing to avoid taking immediate steps to reduce aircraft operations at SMO.
Although the commission endorsed the recommendations for action, which were sent to the council earlier this year, Goddard is acting alone in sending the new memo.
On Monday night, commissioners Stephen Mark, Ofer Grossman and Lael Rubin applauded Goddard's research, and expressed hope it would bring the city's discussion of the issues into the open, but objected to the tone of his draft memo. (Commissioner Peter Donald was absent from Monday's commission meeting).
Mark's view was typical, saying the commission's job was to find options and tell the council, "You can do this, you can do that," but arguing with city staffers or council about which strategy to use "is not really helpful."
Goddard said his high level of frustration is the result of the city discussing its legal options "behind closed doors, out of the sunshine of public scrutiny."
Goddard reminded the commissioners that the recommendations sent to the city were based on case law in which airports in New York City and Van Nuys successfully reduced certain flight operations, that the action was taken against the owners of the air operations and that the Federal Aviation Administration had taken no action against the airports.
He rejects the idea that public discussion of immediate options for trimming airport operations would give the FAA an advantage in any legal battle after the 2015 expiration of the 1984 operating agreement with the FAA.
"When somebody tells me they're concerned the other side's going to see my hand—well, the hand is already in the federal court record," Goddard said later.
Commissioner Rubin said she wants Goddard's memo to be the basis for commission discussions, but expressed relief when he agreed to be clear in its final version that it is his opinion only.
Goddard's anger in the draft memo was apparent.
"We have witnessed the city manager [Rod Gould] take political positions and attack the airport commission and community members who asked to participate in the [airport's] visioning process,'" Goddard wrote. He also accused Gould of advocating pro-aviation positions "contrary to the wishes of the community," adding there was no reason for any current negotiations with the FAA when the city's visioning process for the airport's future is still underway.
See also: City Council Candidates Show No Love for SMO
Such negotiations are the subject of one of Goddard's four targeted "fallacies," which states: "It is better to negotiate with the FAA than go to court."
Goddard argues that's untrue for two reasons:
- In addition to the successful legal actions regarding the New York and Van Nuys airports, Santa Monica itself has been successful in court in limiting SMO's noise and hours of operation.
- He cites the 1984 FAA agreement as a prime example of a negotiated settlement that has handcuffed the city for three decades.
Goddard did promise to tone down his draft memo to the council to make it "more positive and constructive."