The county has at last dropped the gloves. On Jan. 4, the Three Amigos—Supervisors Chuck Smith, Jim Silva and Cynthia Coad—approved a monster $1.5 million plan to push the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of the Navy to hand over El Toro, allowing commercial flights to begin immediately.
The biggest surprise about the decision is that it surprised anyone. Contrary to the cock-a-doodle-doo of Newport Beach consultants and county officials, their El Toro project is in real trouble. Sure, county attorneys got the popular anti-airport Measure F tossed off the books, but what else has the county done lately?
Short answer: nada. Nearly every El Toro-related issue taken up by the county Board of Supervisors has been a failure. Official planning studies and environmental reports have been late and sloppy. The high-profile noise tests during the summer of 1999 only inflamed local hatred culminating in the 67 percent approval vote for Measure F.
The Marines bugged out nearly two years ago. The county's own interim uses—supposedly set up to make money —were designed to fail, a plan to discredit all base uses save those involving commercial airliners.
And, of course, there's the county's abysmal relations with Washington, which still holds the deed to the El Toro base. Federal officials showed Smith and Silva the door in late November, when the two supes traveled to Washington with hopes of fast-tracking aviation approval of the base (see "Duck, Supe," Dec. 22).
Hence the county's top-flight lobbying crew. The Jan. 4 package includes such polynominative firms as Hill & Knowlton; Higgins, McGovern & Smith; Boland & Madigan; Glenn B. LeMunyon & Associates; and former H & K lobbyist Fred DuVal, who just struck out on his own and is now quarterbacking the county's Beltway play.
Data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington shows that these lobbying firms have represented many of the richest and most powerful corporations in the nation—some directly affected by the county's actions on El Toro: the Air Transport Association of America, America West Airlines, American Airlines, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, AT&T, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Motorola, the National Association of Manufacturers, Oracle, and Playboy Enterprises.
South County activists and attorneys are hard at work crafting yet another ballot measure—this one designed to negate the airport-zoning designation for El Toro mandated by old Measure A from 1994. That's fine and absolutely necessary, but just as important is real agitation.
County supervisor meetings are long; they should be made much longer by public denunciations of any and all El Toro spending. The time has come to pack every supervisors' meeting, regardless of what's on the agenda. The time has come to push and shove and shout and jab.
The people have already spoken. It's time to make the elected county supervisors listen.
The Board of Supervisors meets at the Board Hearing Room, First Floor, 10 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana. Every Tues., 9:30 a.m.
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