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Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024
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Editorial Agreeing on the airport authority

Gov. Gray Davis may not have signed a more controversial bill into law during a spate of 11th-hour legislation earlier this month than Assembly Bill 93.

But to the governor’s credit, he made AB 93 palatable for all sides of the issue by seeking additional legislation to modify the bill. AB 93, drafted by state Sen. Steve Peace of El Cajon and Assemblyman Howard Wayne of San Diego, creates a nine-member panel to oversee the potential siting of a new airport.

It is incumbent upon Peace and Wayne to urge fellow legislators to approve the governor’s modifications when they introduce legislation early next year. The governor signed off on their legislation based on their commitment to rework portions of AB 93.

That may not be so easy. It will take a two-thirds vote of both the Assembly and the Senate to add the modified legislation to AB 93. Still, the governor likely would not have approved the bill unless Peace and Wayne promised to do their best to include the modifications. They must follow through on their pledge.

The bill as originally written gave the airport authority control over land use issues, which officials from several cities feared would usurp their powers to control their community’s future. The governor agreed, writing that the authority should only have the power to plan and site a new airport. Such a modification still allows the panel plenty of leeway to do their job.

Davis also saw fit to urge the retention of the San Diego Unified Port District as the airport’s operator until a new site is signed and sealed. It’s simple enough; the transfer of Lindbergh Field operations from the Port District to the new panel won’t occur until county voters approve the authority’s decision to expand the current location or build a new airport. If voters reject it, Lindbergh remains in the hands of the Port District.

While we see this as the best possible compromise in pushing forward the search for a new airport, the latest chapter of “Locate the Airport” has its perils. We must agree with several local congressmen, who pointed out this panel has all the trappings of being just another layer of bureaucracy.

Since members of the airport authority won’t be elected, there is no accountability on their part to voters. It could lead to yet another governmental agency that can perform a study like nobody’s business yet not have the will or the ability to implement it.

This authority has come a long way in a short period of time. We trust the appointed members of this board will provide voters with the best possible option for a new airport.

It’s up to Sen. Peace and Assemblyman Wayne to get the panel off to a good start. By heeding the governor’s request for modifications, AB 93 may turn out to be the most effective piece of legislation the governor has signed this year.

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