As of Dec. 7, the anti-airport force's Safe and Healthy Act has an official ballot name—Measure F. The act, which requires all future airports, jails and toxic waste dumps to win a two-thirds vote before any construction or expansion, would end planning for the proposed El Toro International Airport if it passes. The act is the only county measure on the March ballot.
Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Charles Smith insists he chose the letter F "at random." The act's authors and proponents insist Smith —a devil-may-care airport supporter—is mocking them.
We'd know the truth if the board were required to operate under open-government regulations like those in effect at the Federal Election Commission. At the FEC, commissioners are required by law to keep a log of their political conversations—whether by phone or any other means.
Imagine what such a log might reveal in this case:
The scene is late afternoon on Dec. 6 in Smith's fifth-floor office at 10 Civic Center Plaza. Smith is sitting back, feet propped on his desk. Supervisor Jim Silva and former-supervisor-turned-airport-booster Bruce Nestande are relaxing in lounge chairs. Silva is playing with a small model airplane and making jet-engine noises.
SMITH: So what do we call it?
NESTANDE: What? Call what?
SMITH: The Safe and Healthy Communities Act. You know—that anti-airport thing with the two-thirds—you know, the measure everyone says will kill the airport. It's gonna be on the ballot in March, and I have to give it a letter designation.
NESTANDE: Oh, that. Just call it Measure A.
SMITH: Yeah, but George [Argyros'] thing was called Measure A. We can't call it that. He might get mad.
SILVA: Uhhh, what's after A?
SMITH: No, we can't call it Measure B because this thing is the only one on the ballot. If we call it Measure B, people will ask, "Where is Measure A?"
SILVA: Measure A passed already, right?
NESTANDE: Uhh, many times, actually.
NESTANDE: Lots of measures were called A in the past.
SILVA: You mean people kept voting for the same measure over and over?
SMITH: Come on, guys, we're running out of time. The board meets tomorrow, and we've got to pick a letter. I say we've got a great opportunity here to stick it to these anti-airport extremists. We need a name that just kicks these guys in the nuts—really makes 'em squirm.
NESTANDE: Okay. How about Measure P?
SMITH: Are you kidding?
SILVA: Huh, huh—you said "pee."
SMITH: Guys! We need something that says—
SMITH: One sec . . . Hello . . . Oh, hi, Jan [Mittermeier, county executive officer] . . . Yeah, we were just . . . No, not . . . Yeah, I know it's . . . Yeah . . . Well, you see . . . I know . . . You know what, Jan . . . Let me put you on speaker. . . . Okay? . . . Hold on. Can you hear us, Jan?
NESTANDE: Hello, Jan.
SILVA: Good afternoon, Madame Chairman.
Smith glares at Silva.
MITTERMEIER: Chuck tells me you're having trouble naming the initiative.
NESTANDE: You could say that. . . .
MITTERMEIER: Call it F.
SMITH: Of course!
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SHOW ME HOW
MITTERMEIER: F for "failure." F for "flunk." F for "foul." F for "forget this." And, most important, F for "fuck all you South County people who think you can stop this airport."
SMITH: Beautiful! Now we've got 'em.
SILVA: How about W?