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Mayor O'Neill Met At LB Airport With Powerful House Aviation Subcommittee Chair
8th Dist. Councilman Webb Says Mayor Didn't Tell Him, Candidates Gabelich & Jensen Incredulous At City Hall's Action
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(January 11, 2004, updated including audio coverage) -- During a January 10 Town Hall style public meeting at LB City Hall, 37th District LB area Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Long Beach-Carson) revealed that she and LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill met on Jan. 9 at LB Airport with the chairman of the House Aviation Sub-Committee John Mica (R, Florida).
Congresswoman Millender-McDonald indicated the Airport meeting included discussion of federal funding for items that included a "facelift" at LB Airport.
"No, I'm not expanding it [the Airport]," the Congresswoman said, "I'm only improving it. We must improve the Airport so that it can look like a fifth largest city of this state of California, state of the art Airport." She added that Aviation subcommittee chair Mica "was here for us to get a close look, and I tell you, he's ready to do business with us in Long Beach. He's ready to give us $4 million for the Airport."
[Jan. 15 update: Mayor O'Neill tells us that her conversation with Cong. Mica involved mainly runway pothole repair: see further follow-up at: Follow-Up On What Was Discussed, And By Whom, At LB Airport Meeting Involving Mayor & House Aviation Subcommittee Chair].
A recent House Aviation subcommittee press release boasts of approving legislation in 2003 "streamlining the process for approving airport capacity enhancement projects." Cong. Millender-McDonald serves as senior member on the Aviation subcommittee.
During the open mike portion of the Town Hall meeting, LBReport.com had an opportunity to follow-up briefly on the LB Airport meeting:
LBReport.com: ...Could you tell us exactly what [Aviation subcommittee chair John Mica] what he was here for, what the City of Long Beach asked him to come here for, and what the $4 million would pay for?
Congresswoman Millender-McDonald: Yes, we asked chairman Mica...to come out because I have gone to every airport, just about, I think San Francisco is one [to which] I have not gone but I sent staff, to look at all of the airports so that we can gear up for the population burst of this state. Chairman Mica was out here to look at Long Beach because your runways have potholes, and that alone will cause many traffic problems and accidents with the planes coming in, so we're getting money to improve upon that.
Secondarily, you have no EDS system [explosives detection system] here in Long Beach. Just taking over Long Beach this year, I've gone to look at those things that are critical to the critical to the improvement and the well-being of this city. You do not have an EDS machine that looks at all of the baggage that's going out and onto planes. It's all done manually. That is really unfortunate because you're holding up lines and people from getting on the planes going out of Long Beach. So we're talking about that.
We're talking about the face of the Airport. This is much too much of a great city to have really, the signage is just about fading away. So we want to do a facelift of the Airport in Long Beach. And he [chairman Mica] was here. He recognizes that it's, as the Mayor said who met us there, it's a boutique airport and so, but what we want it to be is world class in terms of looks and in terms of effectiveness in getting our people on the planes safely and out to their destinations.
LBReport.com; Did the City talk to you about expanding the size of the terminal?
Cong. Millender-McDonald: I did not talk with them. The city knows where I am in expansion. I am not for the expansion. [applause] There is a consent decree [means settlement, followed by ordinance]. We want to recognize that. If I do nothing else, I'm a person to my word and I've said before I'm not [for expansion] and I'm not for that. [applause].
But I did tell them, is that you have now Stage 4 aircrafts. I've looked at Stage 3. Stage 4 aircrafts are aircrafts that are very silent. They will not expand your airport. They will just bring more people on because it's a larger aircraft.
And so they can look at that if you have that kind of overage of people who cannot get on planes you might want to look at that. But that does not in any way interfere with that consent decree and I will honor that.
LB City Hall has publicly said its plans to expand the Airport's permanent terminal facilities are to provide minimal reasonable room to accommodate passengers from LB's noise budgeted 41 (over 75,000 pounds) + 25 (under 75,000 pound) flights per day. 4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll, also facing reelection in April, has publicly said City Hall's proposed Airport terminal expansion will help in efforts to keep LB Airport a "neighborhood airport."
News of an Airport "facelift" and the Mayor's Airport meeting stunned the Councilman for the Airport-impacted 8th district as well as two candidates seeking to replace him in April (details below).
8th district Councilman Rob Webb told LBReport.com, "I'm glad to hear the Congresswoman acknowledges she is opposed to Airport expansion. Some of the comments she's made in the past have concerned me. I'm looking forward to sitting down to meet with the Congresswoman and discuss all the concerns of residents regarding the Airport."
Councilman Webb said the Mayor had not informed him, either before or after the fact, of the meeting with House Aviation Subcommittee Chair Mica. He said the Mayor did ask if Webb could attend the evening Town Meeting (which Webb indicated he would be unable to do.)
8th district Council candidate Rae Gabelich, who founded the grassroots homeowner and Airport monitoring group LBHUSH2, blasted City Hall for seeking "more federal monies to 'enhance' an airport situated in the middle of homes, schools, churches and parks without telling the community that will be affected by it."
Ms. Gabelich was less than reassured by the Congresswoman's stated commitment on current flight limits, calling it "the same mantra we hear at our City Council meetings on a regular basis." She added that "elected officials ought to identify the desires of the people they were elected to represent, determine the consequences of their vision and actions and then grow the bigger picture."
8th district Council candidate Terry Jensen told LBReport.com, "It's my understanding that the Airport's runway improvement project has already been paid for with federal money" and some of the comments made by city officials about their Airport plans had previously struck him as disingenuous.
"Before they spend any money I'd like them to come clean with what they're planning on building before they start taking any money from anybody." Mr. Jensen added that he was "disgusted with how Long Beach has handled the whole process...I know they have the information...[and] they could be doing a lot better job than they're doing."
LBReport.com has invited comment from 4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll...and will post his comments when received.
The Mayor's political advisor, Diane Jacobus, responded to a Jan 11 morning inquiry from LBReport.com by indicating that she (Ms. Jacobus) was under the impression that the Mayor's LB Airport meeting was in the nature of a "meet and greet" not uncommon for visiting federal officials. Ms. Jacobus added that she believes the House Aviation Subcommittee chair was apparently also visiting other airports in the area.
LBReport.com has posted additional coverage of the Town Hall open mike session, click Public Pounds Port-Related Pollution At Congresswoman Millender-McDonald "Open Mike" Town Meeting.
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