It Couldve Been the Spitzer Plan

El Toro Airport Watch No. 138

There's a new advertisement for john Wayne Airport running in the Los Angeles Times. Paid for by the county, the ad would fool anyone new to OC into thinking the past five years of fighting over the proposed El Toro International Airport never happened.

"Convenient. Beautiful. Crowd-free," says the ad for the airport county officials have repeatedly described as insufficient for the demands of a growing, dynamic county such as ours. Oh, and "Close to Home. Close to Perfect."

But the fight did happen, and it continues to this day. Despite such flowery rhetoric, despite the overwhelming victory of anti-airport Measure F, the county Board of Supervisors remains committed to building a massive international airport at El Toro. Thankfully, others in the pro-airport camp are more rational.

Enter Tom Edwards, a former Newport Beach mayor, longtime El Toro International Airport advocate, and the current chairman of the El Toro Citizens Advisory Commission. Edwards has put forth a bold—dare we say brilliant?—plan to stop the madness surrounding El Toro: end all planning for an El Toro International Airport, prohibit further expansion of John Wayne Airport, and use other regional airports to pick up future aviation demand.

Of course, the plan is nothing new to Weekly readers—we first advocated it two years ago. The plan appeared in a speech we had written for 3rd District Supervisor Todd Spitzer and published on June 5, 1998. He never gave the speech, which means what could have been forever known as the "Spitzer Plan" may now achieve fame as the "Edwards Plan."

Keep in mind that Edwards' sudden interest in real diplomacy comes after years of ridiculing such a move. When South County city officials opposed to the airport sent a letter to Newport Beach residents offering information on the non-aviation El Toro reuse plan and urging cooperation, Edwards called the offer "baloney" and described the letter as a "cynical attempt to apply pressure to Newport Beach."

That's because Edwards' original strategy for keeping John Wayne Airport contained centered on dumping all future aviation into El Toro. After all, he's one of the founding members of the Newport Beach-based Airport Working Group, whose original charter—prevent John Wayne Airport expansion—changed in the mid-1990s to rabid El Toro boosterism. In addition, Edwards acted as one of the attorneys suing in late 1999 to get Measure F tossed off the ballot.

But Measure F stayed on the ballot and won with a stunning 67 percent of the vote. El Toro's future, once bright and clear to people like Edwards, now looks like the skies over LAX. That was Edwards' rationale for admitting there might be other options for preventing further expansion of John Wayne Airport than merely building a second, mightier airport.

If more pro-El Toro activists like Edwards come forward, maybe the three pro-airport county supervisors will finally open their eyes.

 
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