August 26, 2014
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
Advocates for Santa Monica Municipal Airport gathered Aug. 25 to rally support for Measure D, a ballot initiative that would require voter approval before the airport can be closed or redeveloped.
The rally, hosted by Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions, attracted a standing-room-only crowd and featured a panel of local airport advocates who spoke about the importance of the airport to the city’s economy and quality of life. Santa Monica Municipal covers 227 acres in the heart of the city, is home to 175 businesses, and is responsible for 1,500 jobs and a quarter billion dollars in annual economic activity. The airport also serves as a critical general aviation reliever in the crowded Los Angeles Basin.
During the rally, panelists urged pilots, airport supporters, and Santa Monica residents to educate family and friends about Measure D, support the campaign, and above all go the polls in November.
Following the panel discussion, AOPA President Mark Baker and National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen spoke briefly, thanking airport supporters for their efforts to preserve the iconic field that contributes so much to the community and encouraging attendees to get out and vote.
“For years, a small number of vocal individuals have tried to strangle, close, or redevelop the airport,” Baker said after the event. “But the majority of Santa Monica residents value this irreplaceable community asset and they don’t want the added traffic and congestion that could come with redeveloping the land. For nearly a century, this airport has served the people of Santa Monica and they deserve a say in determining its future.”
Measure D, which AOPA supports, will not be the only item concerning Santa Monica Municipal on the November ballot. The city of Santa Monica has sponsored a competing initiative, known as Measure LC, which would keep control of the airport’s fate in the hands of the city council, allowing the airport to be closed and permitting certain types of redevelopment without voter input.
Monday evening’s rally closely followed two significant court victories for airport supporters. On Aug. 19, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin threw out a case that claimed Measure D violated the state constitution and elections code and was not properly reviewed by city officials. Then on Aug. 22, a second Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, Joanne O’Donnell, dismissed similar allegations in a related lawsuit. Attorney Jonathan Stein, who represented the plaintiffs in both suits, said he would appeal.
Santa Monica Municipal has been the subject of numerous legal actions in recent months. In February, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter granted a motion from the Department of Justice and FAA to dismiss a lawsuit designed to release the city of Santa Monica from its obligation to continue to operate the field as an airport.
Director of Government Affairs and Executive Communications Elizabeth Tennyson joined AOPA in 1998, the same year she earned her private pilot certificate. She also holds an instrument rating and enjoys jumping out of planes almost as much as flying them.
National Business Aviation Association,
Getting the job done on the local and national levels requires long-term planning, a hands-on approach, and keeping the effort moving, said Sean Collins, AOPA’s Eastern regional manager.
When it comes to celebrating aviation, the folks in Watsonville, California, don’t take a back seat to anyone.
The Voters Decide campaign is making a pre-election push for a ballot measure to put the future of SMO into the hands of voters.
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