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KPBS Commentaries

We laidback San Diegans have been talking for half a century now about building a real city airport before something awful happens.

Come on!

I love living in San Diego. But suppose it took your kids this long to bring their toys in out of the rain? San Diego leads the world in climate, neurosciences and shilly-shallying.

I used to get cheap laughs by telling about my first assignment as a San Diego newspaper reporter. It was a series on our already desperate need for a larger airport.

Two years after World War II ended, city council had voted against pursuing a Navy invitation to consider taking over the Miramar Air Base. That was more than forty airport studies ago. These studies are said to be stacked somewhere in city archives.

Of course no one wants to live under a flight pattern. Just ask people in Clairemont, who see the sleek noses of Miramar jets. We have many alibis.

The dumbest one is that we don't want a new airport because we don't want San Diego to get any bigger. The most recent airport study considered 23 sites and yielded nothing much more than laughs at the idea of a San Diego airport somewhere two hours out beyond Borrego.

Will we then become just another distant suburb of Los Angeles? Shall we build a high speed rail track to get to our flights in and out of L.A.? No, because Los Angeles Airport is feeling the same pressures as San Diego, just bigger than ours. They have nowhere to run. The fast-rail link to LAX would cost more than a new airport and rouse defiance in every coastal community through which it would pass.

Brown Field was our last, best chance for a new airport, even if only for a cargo airport, and it was murdered by Dick Murphy and his city council. Another undercover deal was the villain. A powerful housing developer fought Brown Field because he knew his houses wouldn't sell well next to an airport.

Mayor Murphy promised a public airport hearing, and guess where he staged it? In San Ysidro, near the big home developers' projects, and that insured an angry neighborhood crowd that allowed San Diego's lawmakers to seem to be meeting the public will.

As in other real estate stories over City Hall's long sad history of favoritism to lobbyists, the developer won. Yet, a new airport has to happen or we'll be taking the Trolley to Tijuana Airport. We need to elect city officials with the courage to make difficult decisions, to put the public first.

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