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    Council To Develop Guiding Principles Re City Hall Airport Policies

    (October 6, 2004) -- Acting on an item brought forward by Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell, Rae Gabelich and Tonia Reyes Uranga, the City Council voted 6-0 on October 5 to develop policy direction and guiding principles regarding the city's municipally owned and operated Airport.

    The vote was 6-0 to direct the Council's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (comprised of Uranga, Kell & Gabelich) to develop guiding principles -- in effect policy directives -- whose scope would include (but not be limited to) Airport marketing activities and responsibilities of Airport users.

    The move comes as a Council-appointed "Airport Advisory Committee" prepares to offer its recommendations (the Council will ultimately decide) on expanding the Airport's permanent terminal area facilities. The Council sent the terminal expansion issue to its advisory panel last fall (with Council elections then-looming). In those elections, Councilmembers O'Donnell and Gabelich ousted two incumbents who had been backed by Mayor Beverly O"Neill.

    In presenting the agenda item, Councilwoman Gabelich said:

    [I]t's time for us to take a look at some of the other questions and the other responsibilities that we have outside of the actual sizing of the terminal. Some of the larger city related issues that I referred to are establishing a financing program policy for airport terminal improvements, and this could include financing agreements with the user airlines for the upgrade of termninal facilities, and it would also include the commuter airlines tenants as well, should we get to that stage in our development.

    The other portion of that would be Council position papers for community review. And I think one of the problems is...there is not a great clarity...[in] just what is the position and what is it that we are challenged with. And one of the things that keeps coming up is the "Strategic Plan."...I would like to see...that we interpret the Strategic Plan references and how it relates to airport and neighborhood, and that we also identify a city mitigation policy for impacted homeowners, schools, churches and other community entities. Because it's been referred regularly by [Airport Manager] Mr. Kunze that the Council has taken a position of no mitigation on the city's part.

    But today we're in a new Council. We're in a different environment. This Council has said that they understand "no net increase in pollution" when it relates to the Port and I think that it's time that we take a look at Airport as well since we are growing in that area.

    We want to look at how our neighborhoods are impacted and we must identify our commitment to our residents.

    I'd also like to see a policy that identifies the process for marketing the 25 commuter slots that are still available and I would like this committee to review commercial airlines' contractual obligations to the city. And the intent of this is bring forward a bullet-style document that clearly shows the full Council and the community where we stand, if it's adopted by the Council, as we move forward in the Airport facility upgrade.

    Noting that the Strategic Plan cited the need for a balance between business growth and neighborhood needs, Councilwoman Reyes Uranga said:

    I think that sometimes the neighborhood needs gets lost in the shuffle when we're trying to cite the Strategic Plan. And [the Plan] also states...[the need for] 'a neighborhood plan, citywide, for business development to ensure quality of life in the neighborhoods,' and again we tend to forget that second part, the quality of life in the neighborhoods. So we want to try and bring it back and have kind of a holistic approach...[The Strageic Plan also said] 'Restoring the neighborhoods as a center of community life is the most important step the City of Long Beach can take to build a positive future.' And so we want to make sure that when we talk about the Airport, that we talk about the entire effects on the entire community.

    I think that what's missing from the Airport's discussion is a set of guiding principles...and really try[ing] to find a better way to communicate with the public.

    And if we get this set of guiding principles, then at least we're all on the same page in saying we're coming from this point of view and these are our guiding principles, much the same way we did with the 710 oversight committee to say this is where we're coming from, so we all can be on the same page when we're discussing airport issues...

    Councilman Partick O'Donnell said:

    I like the expanded approach that you've presented tonight. I really see this as securing our commitment to our neighborhoods and making sure that we have some communicating ongong and that all voices can be heard that's what I'm sure will take place in those committee meetings. It's not an attempt to bottle this up by any means, or slow it down, as much as it is to develop some communication on the issue.

    Councilwoman Gabelich followed-up:

    Absolutely [this] is not [an attempt to bottle this up]. It's to be a few steps of the [Airport Advisory Commission] because they'll be coming back here with their suggestions [on expanded airport terminal facilities], I'm going to venture to say within 30 to 60 days...and so going to [the Committee] on these issues just gives us a heads up in the other areas that need to be addressed.

    Vice Mayor Jackie Kell, a member of the committee, added "I do think it's a good thing to look at everything that goes on at the Airport."

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