DOWNTOWN Despite taking on the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year over a ban on jet aircraft, four City Council incumbents running for reelection did not earn the endorsement from an advocacy organization that’s been one of the airport’s largest critics.
Instead, the Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) announced this week that it will throw its support behind Airport Commissioner Susan Hartley, environmentalist Linda Piera-Avila, Recreation and Parks Commissioner Ted Winterer and peace activist Jerry Rubin, who is also the brother of the organization’s director, Marty Rubin.
Both brothers said they don’t see the endorsement of Jerry Rubin as a conflict of interest since he did not seek the group’s stamp of approval.
“He earns it by his views and how he approaches problems,” Marty Rubin said.
The endorsements were based in part on a candidates forum that CRAAP hosted last Monday that was attended by 10 of the 13 candidates and three of the four incumbents. Councilmember Bobby Shriver was the lone candidate who missed the forum, which focused specifically on issues related to the Santa Monica Airport.
CRAAP, a coalition of Santa Monica and West L.A. neighbors who abut SMO, has long protested the pollution that comes from jet aircraft.
City Hall and the FAA are currently tied up in a legal battle over a ban on the fastest and largest jets from SMO. The council passed an ordinance earlier this year that banned categories C and D aircraft, which was subsequently challenged by the FAA. Runway safety has also been an issue at the airport where homes sit less than 300 feet of both runway ends.
The FAA has presented several safety options, all of which have been turned away by the council.
“This litigation that Santa Monica has now taken on with the FAA can and sounds like it will definitely drag on for several years,” Marty Rubin said. “It’s a very necessary challenge that they’re taking on, but the result — even if it goes through — will not bring air pollution even close to under control.
“There’s really no effort to make air pollution an issue by the present City Council.”
The topic of pollution and an air quality impact study inevitably came up during the forum. Several of the incumbents said that while they support a study, they would like to find out the costs of conducting an assessments before committing, adding that it would be smart to wait until related reports by other agencies are concluded. Those who did receive the CRAAP endorsement did all state at the forum that they support funding a study.
Jerry Rubin pointed out that some of the councilmembers lobbied more than two years ago against a legislative bill that would’ve required City Hall to record for one year the amount of time aircraft engines run at the airport. City Hall would’ve had to spend approximately $450,000 monitoring the idling times of aircraft if the measure had passed.
“The city of Santa Monica was concerned about the cost and made it a higher priority than the residents’ health,” Jerry Rubin said. “Health and safety issues go hand-in-hand.”
The fact that CRAAP decided to go with four challengers didn’t come as a surprise to some of the incumbents.
“I don’t think the people who they endorsed had to deal with the reality and discuss these issues with federal legislators that I and the other incumbents understand,” Councilmember Ken Genser said. “Herb (Katz) and Richard (Bloom) have gone to Washington to discuss the airport issue. I attend most of the Airport Commission meetings.
“They just haven’t had to deal with the reality of the environment in which we’re working.”
Bloom, who serves as mayor pro tem, said that he understands the frustration of residents on the issue, but that city officials are acting under significant constraints both on their practical and legal ability.
“Clearly there are some people on that organization who would like to see us do more and frankly, I think we would all like to do more,” Bloom said. “No one has worked harder to try and improve the situation for both residents in Santa Monica and on the west side of the runway or Los Angeles residents on the east side of the runway.”
Bloom pointed out that he has been endorsed by Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, an outspoken critic of the airport on pollution matters.
The endorsements were made by a subgroup of CRAAP members who attended the forum and analyzed the candidate’s responses to issues, Marty Rubin said. There are about 500 members in CRAAP, about 200 of which live in Santa Monica.
The organization selected the four challengers because they are the most likely to act in the best interest of voters, Rubin said.
“Their endorsement is consistent with my environmental values that I’m running on and I think it will go a long way toward promoting my credibility as an environmentalist,” Piera-Avila said.
Hartley, who has served on the commission since 2004, said the residents have had enough of being ignored by the council.
“Santa Monica Airport is a Love Canal in our midst,” she said in reference to the infamous controversy in the Niagara Falls area of Love Canal where more than 21,000 tons of toxic waste were discovered.
Winterer, who also serves as the president of the Ocean Park Association, said that the issue of air pollution is one in which there is great discontent and has festered for many years. While he finds it commendable that the council took on the FAA over the jet aircraft ban, many people feel that there is too much emphasis on process and not enough on aggressive action.
“I would like to see City Hall be more proactive like getting meaningful data on health risk,” Winterer said.
Piera-Avila said she feels the council has focused more on safety issues than air pollution.
“There is definitely more work to be done to focus specifically on air pollution issues and the health and well-being of residents,” Piera-Avila said.