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Mr. Nelson Hernandez is the two hundred thousand dollar a year public relations coordinator hired by the City of Santa Monica to facilitate closing the Santa Monica Municipal Airport. He fired off his first salvo as quoted in this paper last week. He began by describing our new Part 16 complaint to the FAA as written in “beautiful legal prose,” as if that were somehow a mark against it and its content instead of a testament to the clarity and rigor with which it was written. It is a tactic he will likely use time and again, along with many others designed to obfuscate and confuse our citizens and appeal to emotion rather than common sense.

He asserts that the airport is for a “select group of people that can afford private jets solely for their convenience…” when, in fact, it is America’s businesses that use modern aviation to facilitate commerce. For America’s corporations aviation is much more than a convenience, it is a necessity if they are to be competitive nationwide and worldwide. And incidentally note that they bring more than a quarter billion dollars a year into town.

Mr. Hernandez asserts that the airport “belongs to the people of Santa Monica…” and suggests that the City can, therefore, do whatever they want with it. This, of course, is pure nonsense. LAX belongs to the people of Los Angeles and SFO belongs to the people of San Francisco. Yet these airports, and thousands more throughout the country, must abide by the laws and regulations and contracts that created and govern them. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners near LAX are impacted by its operations, but it is recognized as essential for transportation needs, including those of tens of thousands of Santa Monica residents who fly from there. Santa Monica Airport is no different. If Mr. Hernandez (and the current City Council) were right, these many airports could come and go at the whim of the current leaders of local governments like Santa Monica’s whose current City Council finds its airport somehow inconvenient.

Make no mistake: local control of the airport land is city shorthand for closing the airport and developing the land. Is that what anyone wants?

Mr. Hernandez goes on, “Our interest is to promote the well-being of tens of thousands of residents and control the land purchased by the taxpayers of Santa Monica.” The land for our airport was originally purchased in the 1920’s for the express purpose of having an airport for the city, but ultimate control of the land was ceded to the federal government in 1948 when the city agreed to accept a larger and much improved airport back after the war with the condition that the land be used for an airport “forever.”

Our Mayor, Mr. Vasquez, on the other hand, seems to have trouble understanding this new litigation despite its apparent beauty as cited by Mr. Hernandez. It was not filed by the National Business Aviation Association. It was filed by various threatened businesses and individuals right here at the airport based on their own research and investigation. Yes, we receive help from various national organizations that wish to protect a great national asset. Why shouldn’t we? Litigation is expensive and we’re up against a well-heeled city government (17th richest in the nation) that shows little compunction when it comes to spending millions of our taxpayer dollars on meritless litigation and losing time and again in the state and federal courts. Do you think we’re going to use Legal Zoom?

The fiction being promulgated by the City Council and the City Manager’s office is that our airport is only supported by out of town corporations that want to take land from the people for their own nefarious purposes. Horse feathers! The facts are these: the land is controlled by the federal government to make sure it remains available as part of America’s aviation infrastructure. Because of prior binding agreements it is not the City’s land to use or abuse as it pleases. The airport is used by the whole country, by local and regional business interests, and by individual pilots and based businesses. It is a vital local, regional, and national asset. Nothing will “promote the well-being” of the citizens of Santa Monica and the Los Angeles basin better than a great airport. It’s as American as apple pie.

If, as Mr. Hernandez alleges, “Our [city government] interest is the public interest”, then the path is clear: no law prevents the city from endeavoring to make SMO a showpiece for the state and for the nation- and an exemplar of enlightened government. That would be the very best way to promote the public interest, if that is the real objective.

– Bill Worden