Friday, May 11, 2007
Time to depoliticize Oceanside airport
By RONALD J. COZAD
The San Diego (CA) North County Times
The city of Oceanside understandably lacks the expertise to run a single airport in its spare time. This is painfully obvious. On the other hand, San Diego County operates an eight-airport system with a highly skilled director of airports and a staff of leasing agents, engineers and airport managers. The county has demonstrated it can effectively manage the needs of the airport users, local residents and the businesses that stand to thrive with access to a professionally run local airport. Within the county’s airport system are local advisory groups composed of community members, noise oversight representatives and people devoted to addressing the specialized issues airports present. For the price of a tank of gas, anyone can visit each of the county’s airports, including McClellan-Palomar, Gillespie Field, Fallbrook and Ramona, and see what a well-run airport can do to invigorate its host city and neighboring communities.
Unfortunately, the city of Oceanside has allowed its airport to become embroiled in local political infighting that has nothing to do with the airport. By contracting with the county, Oceanside can utilize the county’s extensive resources and remove the airport from battles among the local politicos and move on to the real business of cleaning up its spotty downtown, its gang problems, the Oceanside Boulevard corridor and dealing with the challenges presented by the negotiations with the Chargers. For a lot of reasons, Oceanside has fallen behind its coastal neighbors to the north and to the south — most of which don’t have airports. By depoliticizing its airport, Oceanside will be well on its way to modernization and supporting a local economy capable of paying for first-class police and fire service, supporting local tourism and earning the title of an earnest vacation and business destination.
A little vision and imagination is all that is required. Imagine a small Spanish-mission-style terminal with local art, a restaurant and a viewing deck. Visitors can bring their children to watch airplanes arrive from throughout Southern California carrying guests seeking an easy and fun beach getaway. Perhaps a carefully selected airplane ride vendor can be enticed to locate there. Because the airport is only steps from downtown hotels and the beach, visitors can rent bicycles and ride the trail to the sand and downtown business centers. The attraction and contribution to the city’s overall experience becomes clear. A well-designed and efficiently run airport, one where the current facility languishes, will redefine Oceanside in many positive ways — but only if the airport is depoliticized and fostered with care and conviction.
Bonsall resident Ronald J. Cozad is a Carlsbad-based attorney who specializes in airport-related businesses and issues, and is a member of the Oceanside Airport Association, (as well as a California Pilots Association Director-at-Large) a nonprofit group that promotes the airport.