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    Charlie Brown, Lucy & the Football...Again

    "The two EIR information items we're bringing in on December 2. There were two motions made last week [Oct. 14] and approved. One was for a total health study [motion by Richardson] for the entire city, and the other one was for the airport [motion by Webb]. So they will be coming in December."

    Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill, Oct. 21, 2003 City Council meeting

    (Dec. 2, 2003) -- Like Charlie Brown expecting Lucy to hold the football even when history shows otherwise, those who trusted the Mayor's assurances are now being mocked by unwise actions of the City Council.

    The Council has helped turn the Mayor's words from truth to fiction in six weeks...and if some Council incumbents think that's good government, they shouldn't be Councilmembers.

    On May 14, 2002, just weeks before the Mayor's runoff election, Councilmembers Carroll, Webb, Colonna and Kell agendized a motion seeking a report on the Airport's effects on LB residents' health and home values. The 9-0 Council vote was backed by many in the voter-rich 4th and 8th Council districts. The Mayor's allies assured the public that City Hall was on the right track. She won a third term in a low turnout election. Within weeks, she watched Councilmembers vote to saddle taxpayers with ballooned pension obligations, then announced City Hall faces a massive deficit (which management publicly warned about months earlier.)

    The Airport report requested by the Council during the Mayoral election cycle was never produced. In August 2002, Councilman Carroll announced he'd interceded with city management to urge withholding the report until sensitive negotiations then-underway with the FAA were concluded. No Councilmembers publicly objected, effectively telling us that they quietly acquiesced in what Carroll did.

    In April 2003, the FAA matter concludes. LBHUSH2, a grassroots homeowner group opposed to expanding airport uses, continues pressing for the report.

    In October 14, 2003, Councilman Webb agendizes a request seeking the whereabouts of the report and a schedule for its delivery. City management doesn't produce the report, offering a memo listing environmental issues mainly related to plans to expand LB Airport's permanent terminal facilities. Management suggests the issues can be discussed on December 2...the same day the Council is supposed to vote on the scope of an Environmental Impact Report, a legalistic document that City Hall will use to justify expanding the Airport's permanent terminal facilities.

    Yes, there's a big difference between the Council-requested May 2002 report on the effects of Airport operations...and an EIR that will be used to justify expanding the Airport's permanent terminal facilities. Yes, the Council-requested May 2002 report was supposed to be separate from an EIR.

    Yes, we think Councilman Webb and his colleagues should have insisted on what the Council unanimously voted for in May 2002 -- a separate report not tied to an Airport terminal expansion EIR. Instead, the Council voted to ask the City Manager to return on Dec. 2 with suggestions for further health and economic analysis options, either to be included in the proposed scope of the EIR related to expansion of the Airport terminal facilities, or as a separate study.

    During this period, the public in large numbers attended EIR scoping meetings and called for inclusion of a health impact study in the EIR. The Council was supposed to vote on this on Dec 2...until Councilman Carroll agendized an item that we believe moved the football further in the wrong direction.

    On Oct.21, Carroll proposed creating a "blue ribbon committee" to deal with Airport terminal expansion issues, which the Council instead referred to something called the "Airport Advisory Commission," a group with no substantive power except to offer its two-cents on airport issues.

    We have on principle urged the public never to deal with Council appointed advisory bodies. We think it's wrong for elected officials to expect the public to deal with them through some hand-picked intermediary ambassadors. We doubt that when Councilmembers were seeking office that they told voters they'd have to go through some advisory group to be taken seriously.

    For years, Councilmembers have packed their Airport Advisors with a disproportionate number of current or former aircraft owners or pilots or others somehow involved with airports or aviation interests (about half now). In our view, this is roughly akin to an advisory commission on smoking and health with about half its members either enthusiastic smokers or somehow affiliated with parts of the tobacco industry (on grounds they're "experts.")

    On December 2, the Airport Advisory Group's chair agendized a Council letter reciting in part:

    On October 21, 2003, the City Council referred an item to the Airport Advisory Commission (Commission) for follow-up action. Key issues encompassed within the referral were:

    1. Determination of the scope of the Terminal Improvements Project (e.g., number of structured parking spaces, square feet of holdrooms, etc.)

    2. Determination of the scope of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Terminal Improvements Project

    3. Response to requests by the public for other information such as Airport impact on real estate values and health hazard risks of the local environment, including impacts from ports, freeways, and the Airport."

    No. Real estate values and health hazards were supposed to be addressed in the now egregiously overdue May 2002 Council requested report.

    No. Air quality citywide, including impacts from the Airport, ports and freeways, was the subject of a highly progressive and potentially sweeping Oct. 21 motion by 6th district Councilwoman Laura Richardson. Her motion sought a Dec. 2 response from city management, not some self-inflating letter from a small time advisory body.

    Enough. It's time for the Council to stop moving the football. We urge substitute motions at the Dec. 2 Council meeting that will produce what was promised:

  • 1. Delivery of a stand-alone report on LB Airport's impacts on LB residents health and home values no later than the first Council meeting in January.

  • 2. An up or down vote no later than the first Council meeting in January on the scope of the Airport terminal facilities expansion EIR. Referrals to advisory groups mean more delays and make a mockery of the public input at the EIR scoping meetings in October. Voters have a right to know what Council incumbents think belongs in that EIR before the April 2004 Council elections. If Councilman Carroll objects, remind him that he chairs the Council's Infrastructure Committee...which could have held hearings on Airport Terminal issues if it wished.

  • 3. Delivery of a management report responsive to Councilwoman Richardson's Oct. 21 later than the first Council meeting in January.

    We urge Councilmembers to bring these as substitute motions on December 2, or agendize them separately on Dec. 16. One way or another, we think it's time a for a moment of truth.

    Let's see a recorded vote, for and against delivering what was promised and is now overdue. Let's find out who wants to stand and deliver...or hide and delay.

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