Perspective / Follow-Up

Here's How Airport Mgm't Responded To Our Public Records Request To Release Documentation For Details On Adding Supplemental (1 Yr) Flight Slots is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.

(Dec. 7, 2015, 11:40 a.m.) -- Long Beach Airport management is refusing to release "promptly" -- the statutory term under the CA Public Records Act -- documentation that should show in detail what factor(s) led Airport management to increase LGB large commercial aircraft flight slots (aircraft over 75,000 pounds) by nearly 22% (supplemental flight slots applicable for one year.) [Details separately.]

On Dec. 1 (the day after Airport management's agendizing memo appeared at late afternoon Nov. 30), sought access to last year's noise budget analysis which concluded 41 slots were sufficient. We want to compare that analysis with the most recent noise budget analysis which Airport management now says requires allowing 50 slots.

We acknowledge the obvious. The City Attorney's office has consistently stated the City must abide by the terms of its ordinance to protect it and protect Long Beach from from unlimited flights at all hours on all runways. For our part, has repeatedly noted that LB's Airport ordinance is among the most progressive in the country by allowing increased flights as cumulative aircraft noise decreases.

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Airport management's agendizing memo does a disservice in fogging facts when it states: "There are several factors that contribute to this result including the use of very quiet, new generation aircraft that are encouraged by the Ordinance." (Airport Dir Francis memo, Nov. 30, p. 2.)

Exactly what are the unnamed "several factors?" What action(s) by what airport tenant(s) are the reason(s) why Long Beach residents will experience increased jet engine particulate fallout from nearly 22% more flights for at least the next year?

"Why" is one of journalism's basic "w's." It's part of a well-reported story. Measured noise alone doesn't tell the "why" of this story.

The Airport-hired firm that conducted the noise measurements states in a memo that's part of the agenda package: "The reason the budget numbers are well below the permitted levels is due to the reduction in the number of noisier aircraft types and the fact that the airport operated well below the permitted minimum number of daily air carrier flights. [emphasis added] While the permitted minimum number of air carrier flights is 41, the airlines and cargo carriers actually averaged 30.4 flights per day." (Landrum & Brown Oct. 29 memo, p. 1.)

In a presentation to the Airport Advisory Commission earlier this year, Airport management acknowledged that JetBlue Airways flew incrementally less often from LGB over the preceding several months, legally within the terms of the ordinance, an action that had some manageable Airport budget effects. So...was this the unspoken factor that begat less noise and begat more flight slots? We prefer not to speculate; we want to see documentation showing what took place so we can accurately report the "why" of this story. These are documents that Airport management non-transparently failed to include in its agendizing materials and is persisting in stonewalling now.

Context is crucial in reporting a story. It's naive to pretend what's taking place now occurs in a vaccum.

JetBlue has asked the City to change our domestic municipal airport, which JetBlue knew full well didn't accept international flights when it came here, into an international airport by allowing a federal inspection (customs) facility. However a federal customs facility couldn't be limited to JetBlue. Allowing it could effectively invite an entirely new category of risk from an infinite number of international operators -- passenger AND cargo operations -- creating a situation the City hasn't previously faced by inviting them to seek LB flight slots exceeding levels permitted by our ordinance and thus put our ordinance at risk.

JetBlue has repeatedly said that its operations will abide by LB's Airport ordinance, which is fine; obeying our laws is the minimum we should expect from any corporate entity operating here...but we add the obvious: JetBlue can't control the actions of other operators.

Former Airport Advisory Commissioner, now City Prosecutor, Doug Haubert publicly testified on the risks involved in February 2015. To this day, to our knowledge not one other Long Beach news outlet has told their readers what he said in testimony to the City's Airport Advisory Commission. To read it for yourself, click here.

Our opinions follow: In analyzing a political decision, it's reasonable to ask: "who benefits?" The net result of adding supplemental flights creates "room at the Inn." It effectively gives Councilmembers political cover since newly available flight slots create the illusion that international flights are (shrugging the major downside risk) somehow "feasible."

We believe two things are taking place: (1) Adding nine supplemental flight slots now may be empirically, mathematically and legally necessary to preserve the noise ordinance; but at the same time (2) the net result could be misused to encourage approval of international operations that could put the ordinance at risk.

This isn't about some conspiracy. It's about lack of transparency. We object. Further on this separately.

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