Friday the 13th, the Mailer

El Toro Airport Watch No. 124

North County residents have to contend with a new piece of mail on El Toro International Airport. Sent out by the Airport Working Group (AWG), the new mailer harps on an old—and bogus—theme: scrapping plans to build El Toro International will doom North County to massive overflights from an expanded John Wayne Airport.

"What kind of family supports El Toro Airport?" asks the mailer. "Families like yours that don't want John Wayne Airport to expand!"

The mailer contains four sappy stories and photos of four white-bread families, each describing how an expanded John Wayne would hurt them. The piece also includes an old picture of former FAA administrator David Hinson as well as his statement that El Toro represents a "$10 billion gift" to Orange County. The mailer doesn't note that Hinson achieved notoriety for allowing the old Valujet to continue flying despite Inspector General's Office reports showing the cut-rate airline had a lousy safety record.

Readers opening the mailer are likely to glance first at a yellow box highlighting "JWA Expansion Plan G" on the bottom of the second page. That plan, part of the county's El Toro environmental impact report, represents one of the county's fallback options should the El Toro plan collapse. The mailer says Plan G means John Wayne Airport will host "full international cargo and passenger service, like Seattle International," as well as require "a new 8,000-foot runway over the freeway" and the "extension of the existing jet runway to 8,000 feet over the freeway." For any resident still skeptical, the last item promises "360 flights each day over your home, an increase of 288 percent."

The mailer makes no mention of anti-El Toro Supervisor Tom Wilson's attempts last year to terminate work on Plan G; it survives because it serves the pro-airport machine as a horror story. The Newport Beach City Council attacked Wilson for his proposal, claiming Plan G is needed to keep the "process moving forward."

The goal for El Toro's advocates has always been to turn their project into a zero-sum game—build El Toro or expand John Wayne. For residents who don't know that's a false dilemma, mailers like this one are scary. What makes it scarier is a reprint in the same mailer of Times reporter Jean O. Pasco's Oct. 6 story on an airport meeting at which, Pasco alleges, Laguna Niguel Assemblywoman Pat Bates said John Wayne should be "tripled in size."

Of course, the mailer makes no mention of the fact that videotapes and transcripts of the meeting show Bates never said any such thing. Or that Pasco—unlike other reporters who attended the meeting at which Bates supposedly made her statement—got the story wrong.

That's not surprising. Pro-El Toro groups like the AWG began deriding "Bulldozer Bates" a couple of days after Pasco's story hit the streets. Facts like who actually said what at a meeting last month are irrelevant to AWG's propaganda goal: to scare the hell out of the people in North County so they can continue efforts to build the nation's fifth-largest airport in someone else's back yard.

 
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