Selection of Livermore Airport Advisers Criticized

Monday, July 12, 2004
Selection of Livermore airport advisers criticized
By Sam Richards
The Contra Costa (CA) Times

Hollend Bishop wanted to learn more about the local airport and its expansion plans and pass that knowledge along to his neighbors. They all live near the Livermore Municipal Airport, and Bishop had applied to serve as an at-large member of the Airport Master Plan Update Advisory Committee, convened to help oversee airport expansion issues. One of 18 applicants for five Livermore at-large spots, he was not chosen.

He was disturbed that of the five who were selected, four were Livermore airport pilots.

“That’s certainly a perceived problem, if not an actual one,” said Bishop, saying other spurned at-large applicants were dismayed four of five committee slots went to pilots. “If you’re a user of the airport, you just have a different perspective of the airport (than most people).”

Livermore City Councilwoman Lorraine Dietrich, who helped select the at-large applicants from her city, said she didn’t pay particular attention to whether applicants were pilots.

“Rather, I looked at their attitudes toward the process. The five people we did recommend represent a variety of perspectives and thought patterns. I don’t see this as an issue.”

The master plan’s expansion proposal calls for lengthening the shorter of two runways from 2,700 feet to 4,000 feet, adding more hangars and leasing space to aviation-support businesses catering to a growing number of corporate-jet users.

Three other pilots are among the 21 members of this committee, which meets for the first time Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Livermore.

Kelli Wong of Pleasanton thinks that’s too many pilots, and she’s let Livermore and Pleasanton leaders know about it. She believes the pilots, and other committee members with airport-related businesses, will be looking out first and foremost for their own interests.

“Of course the pilots are going to want to expand (the airport), because it will mean more dollars for them,” said Wong, who lives in the flight path of the airport.

Livermore Councilman Mark Beeman said such blanket assumptions are wrong, adding that pilots are as capable of making sound decisions as anyone else.

“I was looking for people who sought a middle ground,” he said. “And we had to make decisions on (committee members) based on the way the people interviewed with us at our meetings.”

Other committee appointees include three members of Livermore’s West Side Pride citizens’ group, which Dietrich said provide non-pilot perspective to the committee, and to the community.

Bishop acknowledges that point but would prefer even more nonpilots giving their views. “The pilots aren’t really going to learn anything here, or provide the liaison I thought those spots were supposed to be,” he said.