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Santa Monica City Council Postpones Flight School Plan  


By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

June 28, 2012 -- A plan to pay flight schools at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) to move their takeoff and landing practices to other airports hit a snag Tuesday when the City Council failed to produce enough votes.

The council postponed the decision to create a six-month test program in an attempt to reduce air traffic over SMO after Council member Bob Holbrook’s dissenting vote put it one vote shy of the five votes necessary to approve the $90,000 appropriation.

Council member Bobby Shriver and Mayor Richard Bloom were absent for the vote, which required a super-majority because it involves a transfer of money.

“To date, not one single person I’ve received an e-mail from or talked to including leadership of the different groups around the airport wants us to do this,” Holbrook said before casting the lone dissenting vote.

Holbrook added that he didn’t want to support a plan that even those it would benefit opposed.

But the rest of the council sided with Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis, who called the plan “an efficient way to cut down the number of flights in our city.”

According to City staff, about 40 percent of SMO traffic comes from local flights - - flights generally within five nautical miles of the airport.

“Many of these operations are repetitive takeoffs and landings being performed as part of pilot flight training,” staff said.

"The impact of the noise from these operations is more disruptive because it is a constant presence in the area, even though the volume fluctuates," staff wrote.

Davis said that the proposed program may not be a perfect solution but that it is one of many steps the City can take to “improve the situation in the skies above Santa Monica and Mar Vista and Venice.”

Council member O’Connor agreed, adding that she had no problem supporting the program because of its "limited duration.”

Council member Kevin McKeown thought the City should go through with the test program because it would help improve safety in the area, but not before engaging in some soul searching.

“I’d love not to give this $90,000 to the flight schools, essentially paying them to go away for a while,” he said. “I’d love to use this money for social services programs or something else in the city.
“But if I saved that money and gave it to something else and one of those flight school planes had a problem and landed on somebody’s home, that would be blood money,” he said.

Holbrook disagreed.

“I’m not sure there’s a safety issue,” he said.

Because Bloom and Shriver were not at the meeting, Holbrook’s “no” vote meant that the item would not pass. As a result, Davis made a motion to continue the item until July, which passed unanimously.

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