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Council Could Place Rival Airport Measure on November Ballot

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 23, 2014 -- City voters could be deciding on two competing measures regarding the Santa Monica Airport in the November election.

At its meeting Tuesday, council members will decide whether to put a measure on the ballot that would allow voters to decide if the airport should be closed, but would give City officials the power to take action on most other issues involving the facility.

This measure would compete with one proposed by airport advocates that calls for voter approval on most changes to the airport, including closure. It is not clear what would happen if both measures were to pass.

The airport advocates' measure also states without voter approval for closure, the City would be prohibited from “imposing on aviation service providers new restrictions that would inhibit the sale of fuel or the ‘full use’ of aviation facilities [at the airport].”

Airport advocates say they collected more than 15,000 signatures, and the County is determining if more than approximately 9,100 are valid, which would make the measure eligible for the November election.

City Attorney Marsha Moutrie wrote in a staff report for Tuesday’s meeting that the airport advocates’ proposal would tie the hands of the council.

“It is clear that the proposed initiative goes much farther than giving the voters the right to decide the airport's future,” Moutrie wrote.

She continued, “It attempts to also deprive the council of its power as land owner to regulate the use of leaseholds and of its police power to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and neighbors …”

John Jerabek from the pro-airport Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions told The Lookout that although there has been some exaggeration on what opponents say the proposal would do, he does not disagree with Moutrie that it would put limits on the council.

“The goal is to put the ultimate choice in the hands of the voters,” said Jerabek, whose group spearheaded the initiative. “The emphasis is on the voters deciding, instead of the City Council.”

As to whether he is OK with the council putting a rival measure on the ballot, Jerabek told The Lookout that “this is a democracy and they can do that … the voters will decide which measure gives residents the ultimate protection.”

Council members are expected to instruct staff to go forward with drafting the rival measure. The final wording will be presented to the council for approval in July.

In addition to the council, there are plenty of opponents to the airport advocates’ measure, with many people saying it is an attempt by aviation interests to pull a fast one on residents. They are particularly offended by the advocates saying closing the airport is a move to bring more development to the area.

A lawsuit has been filed against the airport advocates and the City to get the measure tossed.

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