(October 1, 2002) -- Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga has repeatedly shown she is not a potted plant, has a brain, knows how to use it and refuses to be quiet when she sees something wrong.
So we're not surprised she has broken City Hall's code of silence over what would be considered an embarrassment in a better run city: the City Council-created "Airport Advisory Commission."
Her action follows testimony at the August 27 Council meeting at which members of the public properly ridiculed the "Advisory Commission" as tilted toward aviation users and business interests. (The Advisory Commission's chair dutifully reported a Commission vote days earlier, rubberstamping a city staff desired expansion of so-called "temporary" Airport passenger facilities, drawing boos from the members of the public, including LBHUSH2).
We commend Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga for taking action, we presume partially in response.
Like overgrown high school Hall Monitors, the "Airport Advisory Commission" has no substantive legal power. It is a vestige of a past Council and old attitudes. Councilmembers created it to divert public attention from those who really do have the power to change Airport policy -- the Council -- hoping to consume or whittle down limited public energy into arguing with those who don't have that power.
The only thing useful at its monthly meetings -- although it is very useful -- is the monthly city staff briefing delivered by LB's capable Airport Manager, Chris Kunze and his very able staff. These reports belong in prime time, at the City Council, where they can be seen by mainstream audiences and discussed openly and honestly.
The Council can implement that reform immediately without any legal amendments. The Council can and should direct the new City Manager to have his Airport Manager deliver his monthly public briefings to the City Council. They're informative and the public deserves to hear them.
What becomes of the "Airport Advisory Commission" is of less importance to us...except that we believe damage needs to be aired and ended.
Mayoral and Council appointments have packed the Airport Advisory Commission with pilots, former pilots, aviation industry employees, consultants and businesspeople. They're not its only members, but that's not the point.
Only in LB would anyone seriously claim special interest ties create special qualifications. It's not illegal but we think it is beneath the level of major city. It has occurred because past Councils let the incumbent Mayor dump laundry lists of desired appointees (to this and other bodies) on the public without serious public explanation of why they deserve appointment or disclosure of ties that might affect what they say and do.
That's not the appointees' fault. It's the Council's fault.
Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga has politely targeted this, proposing to apply basic conflict of interest principles to the Airport Advisory Commission as a matter of city law. That some would consider her modest proposal revolutionary or an affront speaks volumes on how backward and out of touch their defenses are.
Whether or not her request is sent to a Committee for study is not important for us. Smart homeowners and activists know there is no benefit in arguing with the equivalent of Hall Monitors when there are bigger fish to fry.
As for the "Advisory Commissioners" themselves, out to sea as an Airport storm gathered and struck, they've amply demonstrated that even Hall Monitor duties befuddle them. At their last meeting, they had to re-elect their new officers because a few months earlier, they'd held an almost certainly illegal vote (probably violating the Brown Act open meetings law) by naming their new officers using a non-public secret ballot vote. Good grief! Enough already.
If Councilmembers are smart, they won't invite further embarrassments by maintaining the status quo or fighting over new appointees.
We urge the Council to direct the new City Manager to have his Airport Manager present his monthly reports to the City Council. The issue is too big to keep bottled up in some advisory backwater.
We believe it will be less embarrassing for the Council, and less contentious in the community, to avoid distractions over who now sits on a committee of overgrown Hall Monitors. Tell the "Airport Advisory Commissioners" they're free to speak as individuals at Council meetings as members of the public...and send the Airport Advisory Commission into the sunset.
It's counter-productive for City Hall to try and counter LB homeowners, taxpayers and activists who can fill Council Chambers on Airport issues and know how to hold Councilmembers responsible.
They don't even bother asking for a Hall Pass.