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Airport Supporters Raise Over $260,000 for Ballot Battle

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Michael Feinstein for Santa Monica City Council 2014Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

July 29, 2014 -- Supporters of a ballot measure that, if approved, would limit City Council control of the Santa Monica Airport have hit the ground running by raising more than a quarter of a million dollars for their campaign, according to a disclosure statement filed with the City Clerk's Office.

Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions has collected $265,365 from a combination of individuals and national aviation organizations since the beginning of the initiative process earlier this year.

Most of the money comes from the Washington D.C.-based National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), which has given $125,000 toward the cause. The NBAA serves and represents more than 8,000 companies that rely on general aviation aircraft.

The Baltimore-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) kicked in an additional $117,000. AOPA has come under fire from some Santa Monica residents and groups for initially being the sole sponsor of the pro-airport initiative when it gave $20,000 to the local group in April. As a result, the measure is often referred to as "The AOPA initiative."

"We're happy to support a citizen’s campaign that places the question of redeveloping 227 acres of Santa Monica public land in front of the voters, rather than leaving it to politicians and special interests," said Steve Hedges, AOPA's director of media relations.

Other financial contributors to the campaign in favor of the measure are Santa Monica Air Center Inc. and Santa Monica Airport Association Inc., with contributions of $10,000 apiece.

The proponents have spent $256,000, including $180,000 on hiring petition gatherers. One of the companies hired to collect signatures was Arno Political Consulting, a Carlsbad-based petition drive management firm that has been the subject of controversy ("Santa Monica Airport Referendum Steeped in Controversy," May 1, 2014).

Measure opponent John Fairweather, who heads the Committee for Local Control of Santa Monica Airport Land, said he expects a tough fight.

“We have not yet started serious fundraising, though we intend to soon,” Fairweather said. “But we have already raised enough from a number of individuals to hire an experienced campaign consultant.”

Fairweather said he was confident the measure will fail. He cited significant local support for the opposition campaign, including most of the city's neighborhood groups, slow-growth proponent Residocracy and Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (Opposition Mounts to Santa Monica Airport Ballot Initiative, May 19, 2014).

The ballot battle was sparked when the City Council unanimously voted on March 25 to take steps to shut down the airport when the City’s agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expires next year.

Two days later, supporters of the century-old airfield filed paperwork with the City Clerk's office to place a measure on the November ballot calling for all changes to the airport, including closure, requiring voter approval.

Proponents said they gathered more than 15,000 signatures from registered Santa Monica voters. County officials determined 9,800 were valid, and 9,541 were required to qualify the measure for the ballot ("Pro-Airport Initiative Qualifies, Sets up Ballot Measure Duel," July 18, 2014).

City Council members, who oppose the measure, voted last week to place a rival measure on the ballot that would “require voter approval for any significant change in the use of the land,” but “would protect the City Council’s discretion to manage the Airport.”

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