Solano County – Politics and the County Airport Land Use Commission

Thursday, January 17, 2008
Decision on airport chair delayed
By Danny Bernardini
The Vacaville (CA) Reporter

The county’s mayors Wednesday night postponed a decision on whether to remove John Foster, chairman of the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission. Four of the seven mayors on the Solano County City Selection Committee were concerned about making a decision without evidence of misconduct during a November meeting, as reported by Jane Day, Suisun City’s vice mayor. Thus, the mayors’ decision was postponed until February. During the committee’s meeting Wednesday night, a motion was made by Day to remove Foster. But that motion was recalled after Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and others said they were weary of making a decision based only on the accusations that Foster acted inappropriately at an ALUC meeting.

Day said, among other complaints, Foster did not allow Suisun City officials to speak at an ALUC meeting featuring a proposal for a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Suisun City.

“Mr. Foster’s conduct was completely irresponsible,” Day said. “He has earned the right to be dismissed on his actions and his actions alone.”

Dixon Mayor Mary Ann Courville said that because the meeting in question involved a controversial decision by the ALUC to vote against the Wal-Mart proposal, removing Foster may look suspicious. Editor’s Note: Do you think???

“To me, it looks too close to a Wal-Mart decision,” Courville said. “As much as you (Day) are telling me it isn’t retaliation, it’s perceived that way to the public.”

Some of those members of the public took to the parking lot of the Hungry Hunter restaurant, site of Wednesday’s meeting, with picket signs in favor of keeping Foster as chair.

The ALUC is a nine-person advisory board created by the county to provide orderly development of airports in Solano County, as well as areas surrounding airports, to prevent new noise and safety problems.

Five of those members are individually appointed by a county supervisor, the other four are appointed by four mayors in Solano County cities near airports. Because commissioners are appointed, rather than voted in, their positions can be taken away at any time.

Eddie Woodruff, mayor of Rio Vista, said that without knowing Foster or how he behaved at that meeting, it would be difficult for him to vote to remove him. Woodruff and others asked to receive a copy of the video of that meeting.

“I’m very uncomfortable with this,” Woodruff said. “I don’t know this gentleman, and to be fair, we have to weigh both sides.”

Osby Davis, mayor of Vallejo, asked Day, Fairfield Mayor Harry Price and Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine whether Foster had acted inappropriately in the past, or only at the Nov. 8 meeting.

Day said Foster often doesn’t accept the data presented to him. She said this wasn’t the first offense.

“We have seen him do this before,” she said. “I didn’t feel he had an open mind.”

Courville asked whether any other cities besides Suisun City had a problem with Foster’s actions. Price said the Fairfield City Council shared concern over Foster’s behavior.

Just before the decision regarding Foster was moved to the February meeting, Price stressed that whatever action is taken, it will come with great thought.

“Any decision this body makes should be taken seriously,” Price said. “Removal is serious business.”

Earlier in the day, ALUC vice chair John Kakacek said it would be a shame to get rid of Foster, and if it happened, there would be an additional vacancy.

“If that happens, it’s a miscarriage of justice,” Kakacek said. “If the politicians get rid of Foster, I’m going to resign. I don’t want to be part of a Mickey Mouse organization that is controlled by political outsiders because they don’t like our decisions.”

Kakacek, who said he has served on the commission for five years, is soured by the reasons given for Foster’s possible removal. He said Foster has been nothing but professional while acting as chair and is the hardest-working member of the commission. Kakacek also fears for the future of Travis Air Force Base if the ALUC loses the right to oppose projects.

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