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Ryan Supports, O'Neill and Grabinski Uncertain On, Charter Amendment Letting Voters Say "No" To Future Council Increase In Allowable LB Airport Flights

(March 11, 2002) -- Asked at Mayoral forum if they'd favor a Charter Amendment letting LB voters stop some future Council increase in allowable LB Airport flights, LB fiscal reformer Norm Ryan said he supports giving voters the right to say no, while Mayor Beverly O'Neill and Councilman Ray Grabinski expressed interest but stopped short of saying they'd send such a measure to the Council's Charter Amendment Committee.

O'Neill and Grabinski, who have previously said they support LB's current airport flight limits, both indicated they thought such a measure might be helpful but wondered if it might somehow undermine LB's current 41 daily (large commercial) flight limit.

[ comment: The measure would simply let the public approve what the Council can already do. Our question was whether they would agendize sending such a measure to the Charter Amendment Committee where these issues could be studied.]

We provide transcript excerpts below.

Vice Mayor Dan Baker and candidate Robert Livingstone did not attend the March 7 forum sponsored by ELB's Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association.

Sparks flew when Mr. Ryan cited Councilman Grabinski's vote last year as a member of a Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) committee which approved a regional airport planning scenario forecasting 3,000,000 passengers per year at LB Airport by 2025 -- roughly four to five times the current level. The plan isn't binding but is used for government funding and for future development and planning.

After his SCAG airport committee vote, Councilman Grabinski then failed to attend and vote on SCAG's overall regional transportation plan (which included the airport scenario) when it came to a full SCAG vote. So did LB's other SCAG representative, 8th district Councilman Rob Webb.

As Mr. Ryan began mentioning Councilman Grabinski's role in the SCAG events, Grabinski grew visibly agitated, and when Ryan included a rhetorical question, Grabinski interrupted and asked if he could respond since Ryan had mentioned his name. Ryan shot back, "Well, you've used my name [in your answers] and I haven't bothered," which drew audience laughter.

Ryan then asked Grabinski directly if he remembered voting or not voting. Grabinski didn't give a responsive answer, saying only, "Be as cute as you want, Norm."

We also include a transcript of this encounter.

The Mayoral candidates' responses came in response to a question from, two days after Orange County voted to build a park at El Toro and removed an incumbent Supervisor who favored an airport.

Our transcript excerpts begin with responses by O'Neill, Grabinski and Ryan although in real time, other candidates spoke before them; excerpts of their responses are included below.

Question from publisher Bill Pearl

On Tuesday, Orange County voted to turn El Toro into a park and threw out an incumbent Supervisor who favored a pollution creating, health risking, safety worsening, freeway clogging, home value degrading airport.

I believe all of you have said you support the current limit on Long Beach flights.

To put teeth in the policy you've said you favor, will you agendize sending to the Charter Amendment Committee the following:

Placement on the ballot of a measure requiring a vote of the people to approve any increased flights beyond the current allowable level or any major change to the Airport's EIR?

Councilman Ray Grabinski

I'd be more than happy to look at something like that, but our ability to limit the number of flights is what put us in court in the first place...I think staying at the 41 [flights] would be ideal for us. I don't know if we can, and a ballot initiative might be something that would take us in the right direction...I do know that I wouldn't want to support something that's going to put us back in court, because based on what's going on around us now, it would probably put us in a really bad spot. We would probably be pushed in a corner to take more flights...

Norm Ryan

About a little over a year ago, SCAG voted to finalize a regional transportation plan which they then submitted to the federal government. And Mr. Grabinski was actually on the committee that should have voted on it but he wasn't there, neither was Mr. Webb...

Grabinski (interrupting): That's not true...

Ryan: But he did vote it out of committee, and I understand Mr. Grabinski's point that well, as long as I'm a Councilperson, now we're not going to expand the flights. Well, what happens when you're not a Councilman Mr. Grabinski? And so I think that we don't...

[Grabinski, inaudible, interrupting off mike)]

Ryan: It's a rhetorical [question]...

Grabinski (interrupting): He used my name and asked me a question. You want me to answer it?

Ryan: Well, you've used my name [in previous answers] and I haven't bothered. [audience laughter] You don't remember voting or not voting?

Grabinski: [pause] Be as cute as you want, Norm.

Ryan: Anyway, be that as it may, I'm sure Mr. Grabinski is sincere, but he will not always be a Councilperson, and that [SCAG] plan hovering out there leaves us vulnerable to some day, when we are pressured to expand. I am in favor of putting something on the ballot where the citizens can basically say "no."

Mayor Beverly O'Neill

...I think that we have to realize that our airport is right in the middle of our city, and we have control over it right now. With the 41 flights that were settled on, it's not something that we are deviating from. I think every Councilperson remembers what happened in the past and does not want to go through that again. They are for 41 flights. Putting it on the ballot would not be a bad idea. However, if the FAA came in and told us that we had to increase our flights and the [Orange County] vote by the way on Tuesday [March 5] was the fourth vote they had had on this particular issue...It's probably not over yet because it's between north Orange County and south Orange County and there was a great deal of money on both sides. But we could have the FAA come in and tell us that we have to have more flights because of what's happening in Ontario and Burbank and Newport [John Wayne] and at LAX. So I would like us to keep this with the strength that we have right now...we keep to the 41 flights, use that as our maximum. The residents seem to understand that. The Council certainly does understand that.

John Stolpe

...I don't want no expansion...[W]e'd stay at the 41 flights period. ...If the people want to put out a ballot or a vote, I have no problem with that...[T]he airport is here, we keep it at 41 flights, period...

David Wong

...I agree with the 41 [flights]...My job is to protect the interests of the neighborhoods...

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