By Lookout Staff
Editor’s Note: The Lookout News sent several questions to the 10 candidates running for Santa Monica City Council. Eight responded. Each answer was limited to 150 words. The Lookout is publishing the candidates' answers over several days.
October 21, 2016 -- Today's question: How would you characterize Santa Monica's legal battles with the FAA over Santa Monica Airport? What would you consider to be a successful conclusion, and will it happen?
Terence Later, challenger
The legal battles with the FAA are a blatant waste of taxpayer money to sue the federal government over the airport when they have already said that they are not talking about it until 2027. The most successful conclusion would be to stop litigation immediately.
Gleam Davis, incumbent
The legal battles over the airport are frustrating. While we generally are making progress, the legal process takes a long time. I believe that a successful conclusion would be a final court decision that rules that Santa Monica controls the land on which the airport sits and that it may assert that control prior to 2023. This would make it possible to begin to create the great park that Santa Monicans want.
Tony Vazquez, incumbent
The legal battle with the FAA has been contentious to say the least. The City of Santa Monica has bent over backwards to work with the FAA to adopt a plan that would help close down flight operations and move them to outlying facilities. The only successful outcome would be to shut down the airport and convert the acreage into open park and recreational facilities. Although this will be dragged through the court system, I believe in the end the City will win the battle because the airport is built on Santa Monica-owned land.
Mende Smith, challenger
An example of waste, fraud and abuse. The FAA has ruled against closure before 2023. We can adopt new regulations on the activities of the airport and update the environmental restrictions as other cities have done. The airport has a function over its fashion and with climate emergencies on the horizon, sea level rise, and resilience planning still to come, I think there are many other local problems we can focus on between now and 2023.
Terry O’Day, incumbent
Our council is leading a multi-pronged strategy to 1) reduce impacts of the airport, 2) gain control of the airport land and 3) move toward a vision of parkland. First, we have reduced flight schools, eliminated master leases, increased landing fees, rewritten leases and made other operational improvements. Second, we have actively litigated in multiple venues to support our operational changes and assert our control as a landowner. Third, we passed a resolution to close the airport at the earliest opportunity and begin planning for parkland expansion. We have been working with our neighboring officials to negotiate with LAX, FAA and others to effectuate this strategy, and though the actions cannot always be public (like litigation strategy), I believe it has had a profound impact. It is unquestionably one of the biggest areas of lasting impact the council may act upon due to the expiration of our 1984 agreement.
Ted Winterer, incumbent
I'd characterize it as a David versus Goliath battle since the FAA and the Federal government have such greater resources and authority than our city. Nonetheless, I believe we will prevail, particularly on our constitutional claims to do what we desire with land we own. A successful conclusion would be to have the courts determine that the requirement of the 1948 Instrument of Transfer to operate SMO in perpetuity is unlawful so we can convert invaluable public property into a park which serves many more people than those who currently fly in and out of our airport.
Armen Melkonians, challenger
In the 2014 election, Measure LC made it clear that Santa Monica residents want to shut down the Airport. I want what the residents want. As Santa Monica pushes its proprietary rights over operations at the airport, the FAA will never willingly relinquish control and will continue to find reasons to initiate Part 16 hearings to keep Santa Monica Airport open and operational. Santa Monica will ultimately need to assert its ownership rights over the western parcel to shut down the airport to jet operations. A legal battle is certain to ensue. This is an acceptable cost and necessary to protect the residents' health and wellbeing. Asserting our ownership rights of the western parcel is the key to successfully shutting down the airport.
Jon Mann, challenger
Years ago I was the first candidate for city council to advocate closing SMO and making it a park, as intended by the original bond passed in 1926. I was ridiculed at the time, until a few elections ago Robert Holbrook realized how valuable that property was, and now the council is jumping on the bandwagon and are unanimously in favor of closing SMO, but only because of the residents taking on the issue and passing ballot initiatives. For years I have been advocating that the city adopt a more aggressive posture resisting the FAA, shortening runways, banning jets and lead content in fuel, closing flight schools with their stop and go landings, and raising fees. I have lost my endorsement from the Association of Flight Attendants because I put the residents first before the airline industry.