The essence of any great city is a great park. Take a stroll through Central Park in NYC and immerse yourself in the community of natives, tourists, visitors. Go to Munich and walk in the English gardens to know what a great park is — all 900-plus acres of it — and what a great city can be when it offers a great park to its people. Tokyo has such an abundance of parks combined with temples that their square mileage dwarf entire small cities. Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is of relativity recent vintage, but a great addition to a great, world-class city. Stanley Park in Vancouver conveys not just a sense of lush abundance that is so much the essence of the great Northwest, but also delivers a feel for the heritage of the first peoples. Like great literature, a great park reflects the sensibilities of its time and all time.
And then we come to Santa Monica, and the spurious lies being foisted upon its residents by an association of outside interests led by an association of airline interests and their compatriots, who would make us think that because there are a few, paltry oases of green strewn about the ever-burgeoning concrete facade of the city, and that the beach spans several miles, we do not need a great park. In a petition drive that ostensibly seeks to “save the airport,” they address the issue of park space, and do so disingenuously.
They suggest that we have enough park space in Santa Monica. One must ask, for what, or, more specifically, “can there ever be enough park space?” And the honest answer, of course, is no. But the answer the airline interests would give you is,” yes, enough— there’s already plenty!” But what they really mean is, “Yes, enough, because we, the airline interests, want to keep the polluting, dangerous, noisy, foul airport as is, forever and ever, despite the wants and needs of the vast majority of the residents and visitors of Santa Monica.”
What they really mean is, “Yes, enough, because who needs a park replacing our beloved airport?” Beloved of pilots and their clients, perhaps, but not many others.
They cry “enough,” despite the obvious need for a great park that will keep Santa Monica from becoming a further-fouled and gridlocked mess in the future. “Enough,” because the needs of the wealthy few must trump those of the less-wealthy many. “Enough,” because the airport that could be the great park that Santa Monica so desperately needs, must be kept operating in perpetuity so that rich folk can fly in and out on their Lears and Gulfstreams, ferried to and from the airport in their noisy, disgusting helicopters, and to hell with the children and elderly and infirm who have to breathe the air ruined by the exhaust of those jets, and those whose sleep and peace will be disturbed by the hovering whirlybirds.
And how have those airline interests gone about making their argument in favor of fewer parks and more pollution? By a petition drive constructed of a consortium of deception and lies, culminating in outright theft of Twitter feeds. Their association has created a host of signature gatherers who seek to implement a referendum — they are paid workers, not volunteers — to “save the airport.”
But they are not content to argue honestly and forthrightly for maintaining the status quo — they know the vast majority of Santa Monicans want the airport closed. Instead, they indulge in deception, as when some have said they are seeking signatures for a petition sponsored by the city of Santa Monica itself. They have lied, when telling potential signers that they are not paid for gathering signatures (a criminal misdemeanor, if I read the statute correctly). They try to convince the potential signers that they are seeking to keep the airport space safe from developers, and cry out that SM already has plenty of park space. But their real goal is to keep the airport safe from closing, which is a goal the City Council and the majority of Santa Monicans desire.
Their falsehoods, in themselves, are despicable. But when coupled with the horrendous effect the airport is and will continue to have on the many residents of Santa Monica who continue to suffer the effects of noise and air pollution, not to mention the potential for death and destruction, these lies and deceptions are particularly egregious.
The city itself has taken steps to curtail their activities, and a network of citizen-residents has fanned out to spread the truth about this petition drive backed by big money and aviation interests. Hopefully, it will be enough.
So, when you see a person waiving a clipboard at you about the airport, ask yourself, and him or her, “Are you a volunteer, or are you being paid?” And if paid, by whom? And what exactly do you mean, “Save the airport?” Do you mean, “Save it so that millionaires and billionaires continue to have their convenient ingress and egress, at the loss of health and quiet of many, many others?”
And then ask yourself what the citizen/residents who are adamantly opposed to the petition drive want, and why they are out there day after day, handing out leaflets that tell the truth, as citizen activists who are not and never have been paid — volunteers in the true sense of the word. The answer is, “They want a great park, less pollution, less noise, more safety, for a great city.”
Don’t sign any petition foisted upon you by airport interests, that is, unless you want the opposite of a great park, and a great city.
Bill Fordes is a resident of Santa Monica.