Late Bloomer

Art Bloomer is back in town, fresh from a lucrative tour in Virginia as senior executive of a security firm. The 68-year-old retired Marine Corps general and former Irvine city councilman has a new assignment: boss of the pro-airport Orange County Regional Airport Authority (OCRAA). But Bloomer brings to the job a record his pro-airport friends may live to regret.

Despite its official-sounding acronym, OCRAA has played almost no role in El Toro politics. Ostensibly representing 14 pro-airport cities, the group is funded almost entirely by the city of Newport Beach and the county. They will pay Bloomer's $120,000-per-year salary.

The general has built a record for inaccuracy atop a now-infamous July 25, 1993, Los Angeles Times op-ed piece. In it, he bizarrely asserted that “converting El Toro to an operational civilian airport is essentially a turnkey operation”: unlock the gates, and the passenger jets can begin landing from all over the world.

The county's own airport plans expose this assertion for what it is: crap. At the very least, the official Airport System Master Plan indicates that county engineers will have to rip out and replace all four El Toro runways over the next 20 years. Total cost: at least $3 billion.

But besides not understanding airport economics, Bloomer is also a first-class hypocrite—something that may haunt him in his new capacity. Hypocrisy is a common enough character defect among El Toro's backers, most of whom are Newport Beach conservatives who hate living near John Wayne Airport but insist that South County residents are rich whiners who ought to embrace an airport four times larger for the good of the community.

But lest we forget it, Bloomer's peculiar brand of self-contradiction warrants precise documentation. He is, in fact, a newcomer to the pro-airport ranks: in the early 1990s, as an Irvine City Council member, Bloomer was an outspoken opponent of a commercial airport at El Toro.

Bloomer was elected to the Irvine City Council in 1990 on a platform of “working for the public good by seeing to it we fulfill the general plan”—a plan that doesn't include anything like 800 commercial-airline over-flights per day. He even served for a time as chairman of the Coalition for Responsible Airport Solutions, the first real anti-airport group.

As a councilman, Bloomer voted to approve a city of Irvine plan to annex the base. That, of course, would kill the airport baby in the cradle—a good thing as far as Bloomer was then concerned. His reason: although he thought a commercial airport was turnkey, he also thought it would destroy Irvine and South County.

Bloomer's views from those days are so relevant today they deserve full reprinting. “Now that El Toro will close, the city of Irvine should pursue annexation, since the base lies within the city's sphere of influence,” he wrote in the same July 1993 op-ed piece. “This action is appropriate to put the city in the strongest legal position possible to determine the airport and other land uses resulting from the conversion of El Toro.”

Bloomer pushed for annexation even after he left the council in June 1993, and Irvine works from that policy today. He explained the necessity of annexation so eloquently that it's hard to improve on it. “The communities most impacted by the reuse of El Toro should have the greatest voice in determining what the reuse should be, and that voice should have the force of law behind it,” he wrote. “It should not be just a council member's lone voice on another advisory committee.”

Now Bloomer is just another mercenary, heading one of the groups trying to screw the people “most impacted by the reuse of El Toro”—the people he once called his constituents. This is how Bloomer translates “Semper Fidelis”?

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