Saturday, March 24, 2007
Airport panel hopes to amend bill
By Elizabeth Fitzsimons
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO – Members of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority board said yesterday they would work to amend proposed state legislation that, as it stands now, would change the board and take away some of its power. The board met with state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who last fall introduced Senate Bill 10, which would eliminate the board’s three highly paid executive positions and trim the board from nine to seven seats that would be held by elected officials. It also would return the responsibility of land-use planning to the San Diego Association of Governments. The senator and the board also heard testimony – from the League of Women Voters and an aviation expert – opposing the bill.
Nancy McCleary, president of the League of Women Voters of San Diego County, said a board of elected officials would have a conflict of interest between the airport and constituencies.
Rich Martindell, a retired Air Force flight safety officer and accident investigator and civilian pilot, said planning shouldn’t be returned to SANDAG because the agency handled land-use plans “miserably” in the past. He also said there should be board members with aviation expertise. (Editor’s Note: Now there is a concept. Place people with aviation experience on a Airport Authority Board).
The board earlier this month voted to oppose the legislation unless changes were made to it.
“We are engaged now in an effort to make SB 10 a vehicle to improve this authority,” said board Chairman Alan Bersin. Bersin, Robert Watkins and Charlene Zettel hold the three executive positions, which come with a salary of $150,696.
Kehoe said she expected to finish discussions over the bill by early May. If approved, the changes to the airport authority would take effect in 2008. “The purpose of the bill, SB 10, is to address concerns that came to me last year, before and after the November vote,” Kehoe said.
The board was criticized by the military, regional congressional delegates and others for a four-year study that concluded Miramar Marine Corps Air Station was the best site for a new airport. In November, 62 percent of voters opposed building an airport there.
Kehoe said it would be better to have elected officials serve on the board because they would be more in tune with the electorate.
“But, as I say, the function of discussion now is to get the Airport Authority and SANDAG and the mayor’s office and me to agree on which way is the best way to go forward,” Kehoe said.