V for Victory

Photo by Myles RobinsonWhen Measure W killed the county's ruinously expensive and noxious plans for the El Toro International Airport, it also dealt a harsh blow to the high-priced public-relations mercenaries brought in to assist the county's aviation dreams. But these consultants are far from out of the picture.

Take the post-Measure W actions of retired Marine Corps General Art Bloomer, who directs the Orange County Regional Airport Authority (OCRAA), a loose coalition of North County cities terrified that the county might build an airport at Los Alamitos or Seal Beach. Bloomer's prolonging his lobbying salary by trying to resurrect what was thought to be a long-dead alternative El Toro airport design.

Bloomer is pinning his hopes on the old V Plan. Crafted in the late 1990s by a retired engineer from Balboa Island and a graphic artist from Santa Ana Heights, the V Plan never proved popular.

It rested on the astute observation that the county's proposed runway layout at El Toro was flawed, so the county hated it, writing in its environmental reports that the V Plan was grossly inefficient and would cause excessive noise. The V Plan threatened to direct aircraft over Newport Coast and east Orange, so the Irvine Co. hated it—and even took the unprecedented step of opposing it publicly. The Federal Aviation Administration never cared for it. The Navy said it wasn't even a serious proposal. And since the V Plan still called for an international airport, South County hated it, too.

A year ago, even Bloomer hated the V Plan. That's when Villa Park City Councilman and retired commercial pilot Bob McGowan, an OCRAA member, was saying pro-airport folks ought to abandon the county's immensely flawed design in favor of the V Plan. But Bloomer was then saying the best way to get an airport at El Toro was to back the county's runway design. So McGowan took Villa Park out of OCRAA, threatening to split the already shaky group wide open.

Now Bloomer and OCRAA are backing the V Plan again. Bloomer even wrote to the county Board of Supervisors, asking it to ignore Measure W, which banned aviation use at El Toro, and adopt the V Plan.

Far from crazy, Bloomer's plan is actually based on real political arithmetic. First, he's assuming that the county's airport plans are indeed dead. Second, he looked at the Measure W vote tallies and saw that all his constituent cities actually voted against it, meaning they still conceivably want an airport at El Toro. Third, he knows that the Measure W victory occurred during a primary election with extremely low voter turnout.

For that reason, Bloomer, OCRAA and the V Plan backers are pushing for a new ballot measure for the November 2002 election, when turnout will be much higher. That measure would repeal Measure W and rezone El Toro for an international airport based on the V Plan design.

They've already got the county counsel's office to write them a title and ballot summary. All they need are 71,000 signatures to qualify for the election. Rounding those up should keep Bloomer employed for months.

Last year, Bloomer hated the V Plan. Now it's his only hope.

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