Santa Monica Lookout
|City Council Pushes for New Airport Initiative||
When one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.
By Daniel Larios
May 15, 2014 -- The Santa Monica City Council is preparing to combat the Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (AOPA)-backed ballot initiative drive with a ballot measure of its own.
Tuesday night, the Council voted to direct staff to prepare a possible ballot measure that would “require voter approval for any significant change in the use of the land but which would protect the City Council’s discretion to manage the Airport,” according to the council agenda item.
The measure would also protect the Council’s authority to “limit or terminate particular land uses and leases in order to protect community health and welfare and the environment.”
McKeown made the motion, which was seconded by Mayor Pam O’Connor, and passed with a unanimous 7 to 0 vote.
Before the vote, a few residents addressed the issue, as most in the audience left after the vote to repeal the Hines Development project. (“Council Repeals Approval of Controversial Development,” May 14, 2014)
“I think you have to realize that we’ve done you a favor by setting this one [current airport initiative petition] for a vote of the people,” said Bill Warden, who identified himself as representing operators of the airport.
Councilmember McKeown responded to the comment.
“Apparently they think they’ve done so much a favor that, I’ve been told, some of the people out circulating the petitions and going door to door are saying that the measure they’re circulating is one that the city wants on the ballot, which isn’t true,” Kevin McKeown said.
“So it sort of inspired us to think, what if we did put something on the ballot? And gosh if we put something on the ballot, it could be clear and transparent to give voters a true choice.”
Last April, Santa Monica’s most powerful political party, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), voted to “discourage” residents from signing the ballot initiative circulated by airport supporters.
“I think that the current petition drive is false and misleading,” SMRR Co-chairPatricia Hoffman told the Lookout. “An initiative is the best way for the Council to combat it.”
Other community leaders are coming out against the AOPA-backed airport referendum, stating that outside organizations are masking the petition drive as a grassroots movement to save the airport.
“The current initiative drive is disingenuous and pseudo grassroots, what is nationally known as astro turf politics,” said former mayor Mike Feinstein, a member of Airport2Park, which is hoping to convert the airport land into a public park.
“It’s bad for the city and bad for residents, who already own the airport land through their tax payer dollars,” he said. “And therefore it’s very proactive for residents that City staff and council are looking into ballot strategies as a way to combat the AOPA backed initiative.”
At its March 25 meeting, the Council voted to pursue a strategy that would lead to a partial closure of the airport by 2015, when its 1984 settlement agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expires.
As part of the vote, the Council also reiterated its commitment to keeping the land for low-density uses. (“City Council Moves Ahead with Plans to Close Santa Monica Airport,” March 27, 2014).
Two days later, supporters of the century-old airfield filed paperwork with the City Clerk's office to put an initiative on the November ballot. The proposed initiative would amend the City's Charter to require voter approval before the City can close any part of the airport.
The measure would require voters to approve any and all changes to the property. (“Ballot Initiative to Preserve Santa Monica Airport Moves Forward,” April 8, 2014)
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