CITY HALL — The City Council selected attorney Lael Rubin to fill a vacancy on the Airport Commission, sidestepping the desires of both anti-airport activists and the pilot community.
Rubin, who is not related to airport critic Martin Rubin, the director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, was a prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for over 30 years.
Rubin has been following news about the airport for a long time, she said Friday.
“I am interested in the two major issues, noise and environmental, as well as the issue with the city’s contract with the (Federal Aviation Administration),” Rubin said. “As a lawyer and somebody who has worked on major policy issues, I think I can bring an interesting perspective to the table.”
Mayor Richard Bloom nominated her for the spot, which was vacated in April when E. Richard Brown, a professor of health services and community health sciences at UCLA, died of a massive stroke.
“The bottom line is that Ms. Rubin is a highly-skilled attorney whose analytical and legal skills will be, increasingly, of great value to the commission,” Bloom wrote in an e-mail.
Another point in Rubin’s “plus” column is that she rises above the fray when it comes to the often-divisive issue of the Santa Monica Airport.
Unlike the other four commissioners, she does not live immediately adjacent to SMO. On the other side of the coin, she does not claim any pilot credentials or other flight experience.
“She is not vested in any particular outcome at the airport, and that was an important factor for me, too,” Bloom wrote.
Rubin won five of six available council votes to take the seat. Councilmember Kevin McKeown nominated Suzanne Paulson, a professor in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Councilman Terry O’Day was absent.
Paulson was a favorite amongst SMO’s disgruntled neighbors because she both lives in Sunset Park, which lies to the west of the airport, and conducted studies about the emissions coming out of SMO.
She had the backing of Friends of Sunset Park and Los Angeles residents who have also taken up the charge against SMO operations.
Martin Rubin called the appointment a “missed opportunity.”
“I believe that the communities of both Santa Monica and Los Angeles who backed Dr. Paulson are very disappointed,” Martin Rubin said. “It seems to me that the city is afraid of exposing the facts regarding how Santa Monica Airport operations affect the public health of the exposed nearby residential communities.”
Zina Josephs, of Friends of Sunset Park, said she found the appointment “puzzling” because Lael Rubin did not indicate any familiarity with the airport or its issues on her application.
The last appointment to the Airport Commission was David Goddard in March 2011. Goddard, a real estate executive, replaced Jean Gebman, who had worked for the RAND Corporation and was knowledgeable about aviation matters.
Goddard has since become one of the most outspoken of the five commissioners.
At the Aug. 27 commission meeting, he presented six items on everything from technology to make airplanes quieter to recommendations about what can be done in 2015 when City Hall believes it will get a greater measure of control over the SMO aviation property.
There are no pilots on the commission, although Friends of the Santa Monica Airport, an aviation association seeking to champion SMO, put forward Lauren McCollum for the post. Her application was not on City Hall’s website at the time of the nomination.