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Council Votes 6-3 To Extend Public Comment On Airport EIR Beyond Kell-Proposed Jan. 6, Public Now Has Until Jan. 30
(December 17, 2005) -- Rebuffing an effort by LB Vice Mayor/5th district Councilmember Jackie Kell to cap extended public comment at January 6 on a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to expand LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities, the City Council has voted 6-3 (substitute motion by Councilwoman Rae Gabelich) to extend the comment period to January 30.
As first reported in November by LBReport.com, Councilwoman Kell agendized an item to extend the public comment period beyond the minimum 45 days (due to expire December 22) until January 6. At the December 13 Council meeting, Vice Mayor Kell made the motion...but with her proposed extension still colliding with the Christmas-New Year holidays and a lengthy draft EIR involved, eight of nine Councilmembers ultimately voted to permit public comment beyond Kell's proposed limit (substitute substitute motion to extend comments to January 22 failed 4-5; substitute motion to extend to January 30 passed 6-3, details below).
The result left Vice Mayor Kell as the only Councilmember to twice vote against extending public comment beyond January 6. Kell's position was supported by a frequent advocate for LB Airport area businesses and a supporter of the Airport-boosting "Long Beach Alliance."
Councilwoman Gabelich said that the issue wouldn't have arisen in the first place if the draft EIR hadn't been released in November when it would inevitably collide with holiday season. "This is the first time that this Council will be making a decision that's going to affect this city for decades to come and I want to make sure that the whole idea is to try and work with the community, both sides of the community, so that it can't come back before us six months from now saying that we did not allow sufficient time for input," Councilwoman Gabelich said...and made a substitute motion to extend the public comment period to January 30.
Members of the public supporting Gabelich's substitute motion included Don May, president of CA Earth Corps (grassroots environmental group), who said his organization has teamed with LBHUSH2 (opposes airport operations that worsen neighborhood impacts) to conduct sophisticated pollution monitoring of aircraft using LB Airport, applying real time measurements...and plans to submit the data in the Airport EIR proceeding.
"It's our feeling that it's not enough, particularly in this case, to point out inadequacies; we also need to address what should be done in its place," Mr. May said, continuing:
Mr. May:: . What we all really need is to understand exactly what the impacts are. We don't know, right now. There isn't a good method, right now. We think that this is a good method to actually do real time, instant measurements so that you see the peaks and it's extremely important that the folks who are preparing this Environmental Impact Report receive the results of our study and the extrapolation of what that study means in terms of an isopleth, how much people are being exposed to and what they're being exposed to and that health risk assessment be prepared.
LBHUSH2 leader Mike Kowal, ELB activist Joe Sopo (both LB realtors) and ELB activist Laura Sellmer also testified in favor of Councilwoman Gabelich's substitute motion for more time than sought by Kell.
Two speakers -- Kevin McAchren (a frequent advocate for LB Airport-area businesses) and Mark Bixby (a supporter of the Airport-boosting "Long Beach Alliance") -- supported Kell...and urged the Council not to extend public comment beyond Kell's proposed January 6 deadline. Mr. Bixby said:
Mr. Bixby: Mr. May made a number of valid points regarding health risks and concerns. It's my opinion, or my argument, that they're all relevant and they all need to be examined, but they're not going to impact the number of flights that are coming in and landing at the Airport, that we need to keep moving with the process that's in place. The Long Beach Airport Commercial Passenger Terminal Improvement Project has been debated publicly for approximately two and a half to three years...It's difficult to argue that any local issue has in the recent history of Long Beach has received more or a [more] thorough vetting of the views and news about it. Sixty days total is a very reasonable amount of time for all the interested people to review the DEIR and be heard on the subject...I respectfully request that each of you support Councilmember Kell's original request for [a] 15 day comment period [extension]. I could live with 21 [days] but, you know, why does it need more time, what hasn't been said, in these two and half years of public comment?
Mr. McAchren said, "I'd like to rise in support of Vice Mayor Kell's motion. I think basically an additional 15 days...is quite reasonable...I would hope that you would vote for the 15 day extension but no more than that."
A series of Council votes ensued. Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal moved, seconded by Councilwoman Laura Richardson, to approve a second substitute motion extending the time period to January 22 (failed 4-5: Yes: Lowenthal; Richardson; Reyes Uranga; Lerch; No: Baker; Colonna; O'Donnell; Kell; Gabelich)
A motion to approve the Gabelich motion to extend the comment period to January 30 then carried 6-3 (Yes: Baker; Colonna; O'Donnell; Reyes Uranga; Gabelich; Lerch
No: Lowenthal; Kell; Richardson).
Although Mayor Beverly O'Neill took other agenda items out of order to accommodate speakers present to testify, she chose to leave the Airport item (scheduled as the last item on a lengthy agenda) until it came up at nearly 11:00 p.m. (the time at which she'd previously warned the Council would adjourn).
After the meeting, Ms. Sellmer commented in a mass email, "Mayor O'Neill, as a courtesy, moved many other agenda items forward so people could leave...Do you wonder why she didnít extend the same courtesy to those who oppose airport growth? How's that for Mayoral passive aggression?"
Ms Sellmer said the Mayor "exercised her power to punish us...It was a brutal experience. It didn't have to be. But the Mayor was intent on making it miserable for us and she executed that very well." She added, "It is my hope that this single insight to Mayor OíNeillís Airport ambition will galvanize residents to aggressively oppose Airport growth."
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