Regarding the appointment of Ms. Lael Rubin to the Santa Monica Airport Commission (“New airport commissioner breaks mold,” Sept. 1-2), I find that, possibly for the first time in my life, I agree with Martin Rubin when he says that her appointment was a “missed opportunity.”
I believe, though, that the missed opportunity was the City Council’s failure to appoint someone to the commission who is a pilot or who is connected to aviation in some way. It’s almost beyond belief (except, perhaps, in Santa Monica) that an Airport Commission (of any city) would not have as a member a pilot or someone who is connected in some way to the aeronautical world. But, it’s unfortunately true that Santa Monica’s Airport Commission does not have any member who can provide that “flying” point of view. Santa Monica’s airport commission members are all party faithful appointed by other party faithful.
What is the City Council afraid of? Do they fear having a commission member who does not support the closing of the airport, or who holds a different, broader point of view? This is a rigged game.
The airport has a right to exist and it has a right to be represented on the Airport Commission. Santa Monica has over 96,000 inhabitants. The “airport closers” number only a few hundred and those are concentrated around the airport. A “closer” admitted to me that even in the communities right around the airport, the residents do not all agree with closing the airport. When he walks around his neighborhood trying to drum up support, many people disagree with him and others are supporters of the airport. The “closers” would love for you to believe that their voice is the voice of the people, but it is not, not even in the neighborhoods closest to the airport.
The airport’s local economic impact has been valued by consultants hired by the city (probably to their dismay) at $275.2 million dollars annually. On-SMO businesses number 177 and represent 30 industry groups; this is not just a matter of six flight schools. About 1,500 jobs and the families who depend on those jobs are dependent on the airport. Separate from that economic impact is the airport itself. Except for some money paid for capital improvements, the airport breaks even as an airport — no money from other things like education, police and fire has to be diverted to support the airport.
Santa Monicans need to be aware that the FAA has offered to buy the homes that the city has said are in “harms’ way,” but Santa Monica refused the offer. The FAA has also offered to pay for some additional safety features for the airport, but Santa Monica refused the offer. The “airport closers” don’t want you to know that!
We can only hope that Ms. Lael Rubin talks to some other people with differing views and does not confine her discussions only with the City Council and her other airport commissioners, who seem to have a vested interest in closing the airport. The views of the FAA, the pilots, the airport businesses and their employees and the many, many people here in Santa Monica who view the airport as a real asset need to be heard.