MAIN LIBRARY— Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Santa Monica, addressed national issues and answered questions about the Santa Monica Airport at the Main Library Wednesday night.
Waxman spoke to the Santa Monica Democratic Club about the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare), Syria, and climate change for 30 minutes before taking questions from the audience.
He voiced his opinions about Santa Monica Airport, noting that local government would ultimately have to be involved with the decision on whether or not to continue allowing flights or to close it altogether.
“I asked the FAA to come here for a community meeting and hear what the community has to say,” Waxman said. “And they wrote back that they would not do that, because there could be lawsuits and they may have to be involved in lawsuits by interested parties. I’ve written back to them and said that’s not an acceptable answer. They don’t have to protect themselves from lawsuits. They have to hear what the community has to say.”
Waxman said he’s asked the FAA to make changes regarding safety and emissions reduction.
“The lease is coming up and I want my constituents to be involved in the process of what’s going to be there after that lease is up; whether there’s going to even be an airport,” he said.
City officials contend that an agreement to keep the airport open expires in 2015, however, federal officials argue that the contract lasts until 2023.
Residents for years have been demanding that SMO be closed or flights reduced significantly out of concerns for public safety. Homes are located within 300 feet of the runway, which lacks buffer zones. Others have complained about jet fumes.
A question about gang violence in Chicago led Waxman to address the Santa Monica College shooting.
“I don’t see any reason why anybody needs assault weapons, and California has a ban on assault weapons, but we had a shooting right here in Santa Monica,” Waxman said. “And the fellow who went out and shot a bunch of people developed his own assault weapon. So he was able to buy parts off the Internet and put together his own assault weapon.”
Waxman said the incident led him to introduce legislation that would stop the sale of assault weapon parts and fund research looking into the psyche of those responsible for mass shootings.
“We need more research in this area,” he said. “We need more services for mental health. We need a ban on assault weapons. And we need background checks.”
Bob Rosebrock brought up the ACLU lawsuit against the Veterans Administration for illegal real estate dealings and failing to provide housing for homeless veterans, and he applauded Waxman for urging the VA secretary, Eric K. Shinseki, not to appeal a recent court decision which found certain leases with private companies, including UCLA, invalid.
“It’s prime real estate,” Waxman said. “The problem is, one: the land was supposed to be only for veterans. Secondly: L.A. can’t sustain more traffic with high-rise buildings and commercialization. If we had an emergency, the people couldn’t even get from UCLA out to the freeway if they have more traffic than they already have surrounding the VA. I never thought the property ought to be used for anything but veterans.”
Resident Gene Oppenheim attended the meeting and said that overall he was happy with Waxman’s presentation.
“I think he has the right analysis for the key issues,” he said. “Some of the edgier questions he answers as a good politician, which doesn’t offend anybody because the respect he has for what he’s accomplished.”
Patricia Hoffman, co-chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, Santa Monica’s most influential political party, called Waxman “brilliant on healthcare” and noted that he has been helpful regarding the airport.
“He really does know the airport issue,” she said. “He doesn’t have a lot of authority, the FAA has a lot of the authority but … I’m convinced he’ll be on our side, whatever our side ends up being, and he’ll be really helpful.”