Oceanside Airport- An Insiders View of the Mess the City Council Has Made

By Ronald J. Cozad

As with every public endeavor including parks, roads, schools and freeways, all federally funded airports engender a predictable measure of opposition from local ?Not in My Back Yard? (NIMBY?s), political opportunists, and competing business interests. Although an airport sponsor may legally close its airport, doing so runs the grave risk of catastrophic federal sanctions for violating promises to the federal government, made by the sponsor when obtaining funds to acquire airport property, and to pay for its maintenance and improvements. That is why politicians intent on closing an airport like the current Council majority in Oceanside California never openly admit that fact, and typically adopt a strategy to insure an airport?s financial failure by subterfuge and economic manipulation. That strategy, which I now dub the ?Oceanside Manifesto?, consists of the following components:

1. Never admit you are closing the airport. Instead, claim you are studying the situation and you?ll reach some kind of conclusion after the next election;

2. Never do any thing that will increase the usefulness, appearance or profitability of the airport; instead, always point out the airport is obsolete, run down and a ?money pit?; When it goes into the red, jack up the fees until everyone leaves;

3. Never disclose that responsible private enterprise, local airport user groups, and even the County have offered to finance, build, manage and operate the airport ? all at no cost or risk to the city;

4. Never, under any circumstances, take even the slightest responsibility for the failure of the airport. Blame it on prior council members, your opponents, pilots, the FAA, ?rich white hobbyists,? or on the insurgents, but never take any responsibility for yourself;

5. Have your staffers attend City Council meetings, and, pursuant to a carefully scripted exchange led by the Manifesto?s sponsor, proclaim their incompetence to properly run the airport – but without violating Manifesto rule number 4;

6. Never disclose that you?ve been personally warned by the FAA, CalTans and your local Congressman that they?re onto your scheme; instead, wait until they?re safely out of town then mislead your constituents into thinking they support your ?concerns.?

7. Never, but never acknowledge that every other properly managed airport in the Western United States is prospering and deriving solid benefits for nearby residents and businesses, and, finally,

8. Never admit that to lose money on an airport, you have to really really try.

Last week, the Oceanside City Council majority voted rent increases up to 65% for tie downs and hangars that are literally falling down and wide open to the elements. After crippling the airport?s ability to make money by removing more than half their tie-downs and by refusing to build more hangars, the Council claimed it had no alternative but to make up the income deficiency through the dramatically increased fees. Many middle class owners of modest aircraft simply left the airport rather than stay and fight. As the death of a poisoning victim is not instantaneous, so to is the death of this airport. Both are premeditated and malicious.

Mr. Cozad is a resident of Bonsall and an attorney specializing in airport related businesses and issues. He practices before the Federal Aviation Administration and is General Counsel to the Oceanside Airport Association, Palomar Airport Association and a Director of the California Pilots Association. He is a regular speaker before the Oceanside City Council.

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