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Kehoe Challenges Airport Authority

On Tuesday, State Senator Christine Kehoe, local legislators and community leaders called a hearing in Balboa Park to question how well the commissioned regional Airport Authority is working for San D

San Diego voters will get the chance this November to weigh in on the Airport Authority's recommendation to put a future commercial airport on the site of the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. But Tuesday morning, attention turned from the controversial ballot measure to the Airport Authority itself.  Legislators, community and military leaders joined State Senator Christine Kehoe and Assemblyman George Plescia at a hearing today in Balboa Park. The topic: is the regional Airport Authority, in its current capacity, working for San Diego? 

The Airport Authority was commissioned four years ago to operate Lindbergh Field, place a proposed site for the new airport on the ballot, and serve as the land use commission for the county's 16 airports. But Senator Kehoe is raising questions about the Authority's structure, power and how it’s managed. She says the cost efficiency, accessibility and responsiveness of the agency are issues that need to be addressed. Kehoe says her main concern is that public opinion may be falling on deaf ears.

Christine Kehoe: Private citizens, elected officials, businesses, many, many people have complained to the state legislature, not just to me, but to other members from around the San Diego area that the Airport Authority doesn't seem to be listening. That there's no way to give public input that's actually incorporated into the decisions they make. So we're wondering how we can make the Airport Authority more responsive to the public. 

At the hearing, Kehoe presented the findings of an airport study she commissioned. The report analyzes the operations of the thirteen busiest airports in California to compare approaches to airport management. Kehoe says San Diego’s Airport Authority needs to work more closely with local governments. One possible change would be to have the Airport Authority hand over responsibility for long-range planning and budget functions to the San Diego Association of Governments. That is similar to how the Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District operate. 

Christine Kehoe: So that's one alternative that could be looked at for improving the Airport Authority's coordination with local government and other planning efforts that are going on. You know, we can't look at our airport operation as distinct from our freeway system, busses and trolleys, the coaster and other transit that goes north and into Los Angeles. So, we want to see it all work together.

Kehoe says any new legislation designed to implement changes to the Airport Authority will be introduced in January 2007. A second public hearing is planned for November 17 in Old Town.