Along with about 20 to 25 other concerned citizens, I attended last week’s Airport Advisory Commission Meeting. It was shockingly interesting.
It is held in the banquet room at the Skylinks Golf Course. The commissioners sit at a table facing the audience and the airport personnel sit at a second table, forming an “L” shape. I am sure this meeting was a bit nerve-wracking for the commissioners since they had a full house of eyes looking their way. The commission has nine members, and all but two were in attendance. Jeff Anderson and Christopher Coronado were absent. Gerald Mineghino, is the Chair and Karen Sherman, is the Vice Chair.
At the time I arrived Bryant L. Francis, the Airport Director was giving his report. He went over his busy schedule of meetings for the last month and also talked about upcoming meetings. He mentioned Daryl Supernaw’s (who was in attendance) upcoming 4th District Meeting on August 5. His schedule has him out of town but his support staff will be in attendance. Probably the biggest take-away from the meeting was his estimated timeline for returning a feasibility study to the Council, of January or February.
Next Dale Worsham, Airport Administrative Officer gave an overview of financial performance. The Airport’s Bonds were recently given an A- rating but the outlook was stable to negative due to declining flights. Overall passenger activity is down. Revenues down 5% but costs are up only 2%. Overall he gave a sense that the airport is fiscally fit.
Commissioner Glenn Ray (my personal favorite on the panel because he was kind enough to stop the meeting to ask if those of us standing in the back would like to find a seat), asked if there were enough reserves should there be a greater downturn in business. The answer was yes.
Commissioners questioned the reason for the decrease. JetBlue has decreased use of its slots but also Alaska-Horizon had 6,000 less passengers. They can’t require a carrier to work at a higher level, they can only require them work at a minimum level. They also feel the merger of American and US Airways will cause an increase. Delta is doing a great job with a 94% load factor. Air Cargo the same as last year. General Aviation down but not a worry since 2014 was abnormally high.
Glenn Ray asked if decrease is affecting other businesses. Director Bryant, replied yes. There are fewer cars being rented and fewer parking spots being used. He was not aware of this causing any layoffs.
Next up to the podium was Drew Schneider, Manager of Airport Security. Schneider gave a quick synopsis. Commissioner Hal Gosling complimented Schneider on his handling of the plane crash just off of Lakewood a few weeks ago. He humbly said it was due to a good team effort.
Best laugh of the meeting came from Vice Chair Karen Sherman who complimented the six security personnel who entered the meeting after it had started and sat in the first row. These young man, who are all in the training program were crisply dressed and as Sherman pointed out, pleasing to the eye.
Next Carolyn Carlton-Lowe, the Operations and Facilities Manager, gave her report. She sort of lost me on the run-way issues, and soft-close, versus a hard close, but she came off as one bright cookie. She was proud to announce that the airport now has water bottle filling stations. I understood that concept.
She was followed by Ron Reeves, the Noise and Environmental Affairs Officer. I have heard Reeves talk at numerous 4th District Meetings and I am always impressed. He said late night activity is down 20% with noise violations down 40% from 2012. Non-commercial violations slightly up but they are working with General Aviation operators to try to get the information out about the airports rules. It is difficult because there are so many of them.
In the month of June there were $31,000 in fines. I believe if it is a consent decree violation the monies go to the library general fund. I will have to ask Reeves next time if that is a portion of that $31,000.
Most interesting was a breakdown of where complaints originate. There were a total of 1,158 complaints. Of those 995 came from the two same phone numbers out of the 92626 and 92646 zip code. Wow! Just Wow!
Finally we had come to the moment I thought we had all been waiting for, the public comment segment. In retrospect the meeting itself was much more interesting and enlightening.
Joe Sopo, who I believe is on the board of Neighborhoods First or HUSH2, was the first to the microphone. Here is the link to the groups previously mentioned for tons information on the Airport and the Noise Ordinance. Sopo directed all his questions to Director Francis. He asked him if he knew the cost of the study. Francis did not. He asked him if he had ever done a study. He answered he had worked for airports where studies where done, but he had not overseen a study. He next asked what are the airport reserves, should there be no flights. He answered one year.The following is solely my opinion:
The public comment portion felt like it was going down a combative path and it did not seem like a logical time to pull punches. To be honest, I couldn’t stay for all the public comments, but something told me they would have been questions and comments I had heard before. While I think it is fantastic that so many attended (special thank you to Brian, Melanie and Penny, a young family on my street) to show their support for maintaining the status, the reality is the decision on a customs facility is firmly in the hands of the city council at this point.
Many people have been asking me what is our next move. I think it is important we don’t become like the two callers mentioned above. Sometimes the squeaky wheel becomes just a noise you get used to hearing and direct our efforts in the right direction. I think Rae Gabelich and her group at Neighborhoods First have done a great job in the past protecting the noise ordinance and I know worked very hard to bring the reduced sized of the Long Beach Airport to fruition.
Rae needs more help on a grass roots level. The flight paths cover an awfully large swatch of Long Beach and it will most certainly will have a ripple effect on the community as a whole.
I think if Rae asked for teams to door knock on homes in the 3rd and 5th districts many would rise to the occasion. We need to make everyone aware of pit-falls should Long Beach Airport become a John Wayne. We need to urge them to write to Suzie Price, Stacy Mungo and perhaps most important Mayor Garcia. Elected officials are the voices of the people who elected them, so lets make democracy work for us, by working for democracy. Again here is the link to HUSH2 to sign up for emails and contact information.
I would like to end by giving kudos the airport personnel. They are a professional group of individuals who are extremely competent in conveying information concerning the airport to the Advisory Committee and community at-large.