Los Angeles – Sunday, October 8, 2017 - Santa Monica Airport Runway Shortening Halted by California District Court Temporary Restraining Order.
Santa Monica City Council’s shameful backroom deal to shorten the runway at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (“SMO”) was halted today by a federal judge. The City council met in secret earlier this year to force through a runway shortening deal with FAA out of public view or comment, resulting in a controversial “Consent Decree.” Why is the City afraid of public debate and comment on SMO as a key public resource? All the City had to do to resolve the underlying lawsuit was put it on a council agenda, have the open meeting and hearings as required, and vote again – at which point the lawsuit would have been dismissed. Instead, they’ve dug in their heels, hired a pricey international law firm, removed the case to federal court, and are fighting tooth and nail. Which begs the question - Why?
Why is the City so hostile to open, transparent government? Allowing public comment? California Supreme Court Justice Baxter warned of “a widespread danger of secret ‘government by lawsuit,’ in which state agencies conduct their most important regulatory business in private, through the device of settling litigation,” exactly the situation we have here with the “Consent Decree.”
The City knows decisions of this magnitude must and should be done with full public participation. The City knows it committed State of California Brown Act violations. The City knows it has no chance on the merits. So the City is doing the only thing it can – delay and obfuscate in hopes of… what?
Until and unless the City cures its Brown Act violations and affords the public its right to participate in the process of government, it must be enjoined from spending millions of tax-payer dollars to fundamentally alter an important piece of national transportation infrastructure like SMO and disrupt aviation for the entire Los Angeles area. Judge Lew in his Order ordered the City to immediately halt all runway-shortening activities. Judge Lew’s finding that “…action that by substantive law may not be taken without a public hearing and opportunity for the public to be heard. ”The City has attempted to muzzle debate and force actions that will significantly harm the community. For example, SMO is designated as “Critical Infrastructure” by the City’s own “All Hazards MitigationPlan”. With all the natural disasters surrounding Los Angeles, hurricanes and earthquakes, the community lives will depend on SMO in any kind of disaster. SMO also generates around 1,500 jobs and at least $241 million dollars annually in economic activity (a City 2011 study).
Loss of SMO as an airport, and the City’s stated “creative reuse” of its structures, will additionally greatly exacerbate population density and traffic congestion within the City limits and in neighboring communities. Before the City of Santa Monica wastes taxpayer funds on this misguided endeavor, it must ensure the foundation upon which those actions rely was properly adopted in a fair, open and democratic process. Until that’s the case, we believe the brakes must be applied. Today, a United States District Judge agreed.
- Christian Fry (310) 849-1976 christianf at santamonicaairport.info
- Dave Hopkins (310) 990-2045 daveh at santamonicaairport.info