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Airport Authority Backs Down From Joint Use Statement

Officials of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority apparently were so convinced that joint use of a military base would solve the riddle of where to locate a new commercial airport that they thought they had the assistant secretary of the Navy reading off the same page.

Wrong.

The Airport Authority issued a clarification to a statement that Joe Craver, its board chairman, made in reference to a top Navy official in Washington, D.C., exhibiting an air of cooperation on the proposal that part of a local military base might be used to replace Lindbergh Field.

Craver’s remarks were made Feb. 16 during a media briefing after he and other Airport Authority officials returned from meeting with Assistant Secretary of the Navy B.J. Penn.

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Craver quoted Penn as saying, “We will cooperate with you.” Although he made it clear that Penn hadn’t actually committed to joint use of a base, he implied that the Navy official meant he’d give the Airport Authority a hand in finding a site to meet the county’s future air transportation needs.

On Feb. 17, the Airport Authority issued a communiqu & #233;, or “follow-on,” as it was titled, which gave a different version of the meeting in the nation’s capital.

“Following the presentation, Assistant Secretary Penn said that there were three criteria he applied to all decisions: is this solution the best for the sailors and Marines, the Department of Defense and the country,” the e-mailed release stated.

Joint use, Penn relayed after the meeting, wouldn’t meet any of the Navy’s criteria.

“Mr. Penn stated that all solutions presented seem to jeopardize (military) training and therefore he could not support any of the proposals,” the press release stated. “He said he could not be teammates with the Airport Authority but would continue to provide information, as requested.”

After reading and viewing news accounts of his media briefing, Craver admitted he was “uncomfortable” that he’d given a “mistaken impression” of what Penn actually meant.

“On Friday, we were saying to ourselves, ‘Hey, just exactly what did he mean?’ ” Craver said. “So we asked Penn for a clarification of what exactly was his position. On Friday, I sent a draft of my impressions to him, and what we wrote (in the press release) was in his words. That came directly from him. And what he meant by cooperate with us was he’d cooperate by giving us information (on the base’s operations).”

According to Airport Authority analysts, Lindbergh Field faces obsolescence in the next 10 to 15 years because of increased passenger and air cargo demand. The agency has a mandate to put a recommended site before voters in the November election. It has a deadline of Aug. 11 to get the advisory measure on the ballot.

The Airport Authority has pinpointed nine site possibilities, including four of the county’s bases , Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, the adjacent Miramar East, North Island Naval Air Station and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County and locations in Borrego Springs, Imperial Valley and Boulevard are technically on the list, but aren’t considered practical from a distance and cost standpoint. Expanding Lindbergh is also under review.

While local military brass had rebuffed the Airport Authority’s joint use proposal more than once, officials nevertheless decided to plead their case with the assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and environment in Washington, D.C. It could still be possible to continue up the ladder to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but Craver said he doubts that’s going to happen.

Since Penn makes recommendations to Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter, who in turn makes recommendations to Rumsfeld, Craver said “you can’t suppose” their reactions would be any different than Penn’s.

“But it’s up to the board. They’ll make that decision,” Craver said. “The military owns the bases here. That’s a fact of life.”

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Restaurant Association Puts Money Where Heart Is:

The San Diego chapter of the California Restaurant Association gave San Diego State University a nice Valentine’s Day present , a $15,000 check.

The donation, given to university President Stephen Weber and Carl Winston, the director of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program, was presented during a brief ceremony at San Diego State’s campus on Feb. 14.

The money is part of an endowment fund earmarked for bringing faculty members to the program whose area of expertise is the restaurant industry.

Beresford Wall, the president of the association’s local chapter, credited Young’s Market and Humphrey’s by the Bay with making the gift possible. In total the association has contributed about $185,000 toward a goal of $500,000 pledged to support faculty positions.

“Supporting education programs and investing in the future leaders of the restaurant industry is a priority of the San Diego chapter,” Wall said.

San Diego State’s 5-year-old Hospitality and Tourism Management program currently has about 425 students and has garnered approximately $10 million in pledged support from the private sector. Currently, the university has an enrollment of more than 33,000 students.


Send tourism and hospitality news to Connie Lewis via e-mail: clewis@sdbj.com. She may also be reached by phone at (858) 277-6359.

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