Showing What The Council's Voted Word Is Worth
(July 25, 2003) -- The next time Council incumbents Dennis Carroll and Rob Webb cast their votes, we think it would be appropriate for them to do so while thumbing their noses at the public.
Over a year ago on May 14, 2002 (before the election of Councilmembers Reyes-Uranga and Lerch), Webb and Carroll co-agendized with Councilwoman Kell and now-Vice Mayor Colonna three Airport-related items.
Two resolutions restated Council support for LB's Airport Noise Compatibility ordinance (41 large comm'l + 25 commuter noise budgeted flights/day). The third item was agendized as follows:
"Report Regarding LB Airport E.I.R. Request report from City Manager and City Attorney relating to environmental issues (E.I.R.) pertaining to the Long Beach Airport. This report should include an analysis of the environmental effects of 41 flights and possible economic impact upon adjoining property values."
Councilman Carroll stated in pertinent part:
"I would like to hear from the City Manager and Mr. Shannon, and I would hope within 30 to 45 days, their opinions with respect to that issue [doing a full EIR], and perhaps include some of these items that we have discussed that may not be directly involved in an Environmental Impact Report, that is the economic dimensions of this problem, and perhaps some of the health issues that could be studied, bring in studies from other cities."
Over a year has passed. No report.
At the August 14, 2002 Council meeting, Councilman Carroll volunteered that he had interceded with then-City Manager Henry Taboada to hold off on the report for the moment:
"...I have requested that those items that I was anticipating would be brought forward earlier actually be held sort of in a holding pattern. I do not want to disrupt those negotiations [then-ongoing with the FAA]. I have the sense they are moving forward in a way that is constructive and positive and, if we can bring them in in a manner that we hope, everybody will be pleased with...I hope we all appreciate we're moving toward the same objective, and I would hope that those possibilities are more imminent than they may have been and in the next two or three or four weeks we hope to know whether they are successful or not..."
In other cities, someone who presumed to interfere with a voted City Council action would trigger protests. In LB, 8th district residents watched as Councilman Webb, the person they elected to represent them, let Carroll run roughshod over Webb's vote on an action Webb had co-sponsored.
And it gets worse. The FAA negotiations Carroll cited as the basis for his arrogation of power have ended...months ago. Webb has still failed to act. That isn't Carroll's fault. It's Webb's fault.
As for Carroll, his words at the May 14, 2002 Council meeting speak for themselves:
"...One of the critical issues is the location of the airport. Unfortunately, it happens to be in the middle of our city. I do not know how many other cities find themselves in this circumstance but there are neighborhoods that have grown up and developed, and Los Altos is the one I will be speaking on behalf of tonight, that are inordinately impacted.
The problem with an airport from the perspective of the person representing Los Altos is the benefits, to the extent they exist, are widely dispersed throughout the city and principally those are benefits of convenience for our citizens who can take planes in and out of Long Beach as well as the economic dimensions of it, but the burdens are borne by a select few, those immediately under the flight path, either coming in or going out.
It is my belief that those burdens can become so substantial that not only the health of our citizens there can be compromised, but ultimately the economic base which supports those two communities, that is Los Altos and we'll here about Cal Heights from Councilman Webb, can become blighted. That is, the burden can become such that people who have the ability to move, and those people do, will, blight is not something that could be contained and it will spread if it happened, and I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that from happening, not only through Los Altos but up into the 5th district, down into the 3d district.
And it is my hope that this process will begin to educate our citizens that everyone has a stake in this issue. It is a fight that we need to no more move away from but need to actively move into...
[Carroll discusses Federal Court of Appeal ruling on LB Airport, citing part of the Appeal Court's opinion]...a local airport should be allowed, the court concluded, to enact noise ordinances if it has a rational belief that, number one, the ordinance will reduce the possibility of liability, that is the citizens suing the city because of excessive noise, or enhanced quality of the city's human environment.
And that is the dimension that I would like to explore tonight, and my request by way of this agenda item, concerns itself.
It is my belief that limiting this discussion to noise does a great disservice to the human dimensions of this issue. We know that noise is an important dimension of it but other aspects of it may be at least as important if not more important.
Not the least of which is the nature of the particulates that are spewed out into the atmosphere by the jet fuel. The soot that my neighbors will tell you they hose off their patio furniture in the backyard and their cars and kills their lemon trees. The items, and believe it or not ice even occasionally will fall off a jet plane.
The economic impact, which is argued and used as a justification for our city's airport, I'm sure there are economic benefits, from my perspective has not put into the equation the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods in terms of its effect on property values, on the health of the people that live there, on the safety of the children, and I have two schools in the fourth district, each of them have between 700 and a 1,000 children. Those planes fly over and you can count the rivets when they go over. Class stops when the planes go over. And parents have to make decisions about whether they want to keep their children in those schools when our flights are programmed to increase from 15 up to 41. Do they want to remodel their homes, or get out while the getting's good?
These economic and basic fundamental life decisions that all families have to make are under a terrific cloud at this time. And I urge that we do several things...With respect to my part of it, I'm asking for a preliminary report. I'm not asking for an Environmental Impact Report yet. This is the first step. That preliminary report would address several things.
Number one: with respect to a full on Environmental Impact Report, what is the cost of it? The last time we did one on our airport case it was $500,000. We have an update from 1997 that is very helpful to us but doesn't contain everything that I think is germane and relevant to this conversation.
Number two, how long would it take to prepare one?
Number three, who are the persons who are most qualified, who are expert in providing that information to us?
I would like to hear from the City Manager and Mr. Shannon, and I would hope within 30 to 45 days, their opinions with respect to that issue, and perhaps include some of these items that we have discussed that may not be directly involved in an Environmental Impact Report, that is the economic dimensions of this problem, and perhaps some of the health issues that could be studied, bring in studies from other cities.
So my request at this time is to get this preliminary report, to put everyone no notice that we are taking an aggressive, proactive stance here. We are not simply going to sit and hope for the best. There's no reason we should.
We have what I judge to be strong, equitable arguments to not only preserve our current noise ordinance but to bring within that current ordinance as suggested by the court [of appeal] that final paragraph with respect to enhancing the quality of the city's human environment.
What I would like to see, and what the law has not fully cognized at this point is a Human Impact Report, and that's what we're really dealing with here...We are working night and day on this issue and will continue to do so until it's resolved on human terms."
Councilman Webb chimed in, "[T]here have been a lot of studies that the AQMD has done, studies about Multiple Airborne Toxic Exposure, that was not brought up in the original EIR...I think it's good that these items are being addressed..."
For good measure, Councilman (now Vice Mayor) Colonna added, "I think it's important as Councilmember Carroll pointed out that we deal not only with the noise issues but also the other factors that come into play when you deal with a significant amount of airline traffic that's coming into a community."
Nice words. Over a year later, no report.
All this while City Hall is fermenting an EIR to facilitate its plan to build permanent facilities enlarging the Airport's passenger holdroom capacity. "The primary impetus for the recommendation to move forward with the projects proposed is not based on a federal mandate," said LB's candid, then-LB Public Works Dir. Ed Shikada in August 2002. He added, "There is not a direct federal requirement to build additional facilities, but instead the recommendations are based on operational concerns and a desire to maintain the operational safety and convenience of the Airport for users."
Our translation: air carriers probably want it.
The bottom line: an EIR focused on enabling permanent expansion of LB Airport's passenger capacity facilities proceeds...while a report on the Airport's overall, broader effects on homeowners and neighborhoods remains over a year overdue.
In our view, Webb and Carroll have done the public a real service on this. They have shown what the voted word of the LB City Council is worth.
And they've done this just months before 4th and 8th district constituents can show what the public's votes are worth. (We expect local mental hospitals will be prepared to receive backers (if any) of these two incumbents who claim LB is in better shape now than four years ago.)