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America has not had a visionary national air space program since Jack Kennedy. Local air programs are harder still. I know. I tried – unsuccessfully – to do a teeny airport project in 2001, and I know first hand the difficulty factor of this exercise.

My little airport project would have had 23 landings and 23 takes off per day at full build out. It would have created tens of thousands of permanent “real” private sector jobs in South Bay. The city of San Diego would have received millions annually for the Brown Field facility on which it now loses millions annually. We spent 5 years and $20 million private dollars.

We got crushed. It was a joke.

We couldn’t get the Chamber of Commerce, the EDC, or even the local section of the World Trade Organization to come out in support. C’mon. The World Trade Organization – you know, like planes flying around the world bringing trade to San Diego. They didn’t even show up.

I’m almost over that now.

Having said that, I think Brown Field was a far better option for a cargo airport than Miramar is for a major international airport.

I actually wrote this out in a voiceofsandiego.org item several months ago where I recommended that the BIG airport be sited in the desert. If you are interested, click on the link above and you can read it.

But, if not, think of this. No major airport facility has been developed in this century on close to the middle of the cityscape. Never like five minutes from your house.

There are lots of reasons for that, and it is a reality.

By example, Denver’s airport which was “way out there” when it began is now not so far out there any more. More importantly, it currently services about 40 million passengers and cargo (Lindbergh does maybe 17 million passengers and zippo cargo). Denver has 6 runways and can, and intends to, expand eventually to 12 runways. They project in the future 80 million passengers. The facility was planned for that. It was not an “interim” deal. The massive leadership surge including former Denver mayor and then U.S. Secretary of Transportation and later Energy, Federico Pena. He and all of the Denver business community was SOLID on this project, come hell or the rains don’t fall. It would define that city and its economic growth for centuries. Everybody was locked and loaded for “Big Denver.”

You get any sense of that here?

And if so, are we just so terrifically good with infrastructure and capital projects that, when no other American city even thinks about shoehorning a big city airport mid-city, we are just so good and so cool that we can do it. Hey, we do stuff this all the time. Does that sound right to you?

In any event, in about two cups of coffee, the airport authority will have to commit (re-redecide?) on initiative language for the November ballot. So far it seems like everyone is preoccupied trying not to put up on the ballot the very question we all want to be able to vote on: “Do you want a major regional international airport at Miramar?”

How hard is it to ask that question?

Following the earlier announcement of the question that was originally to go on the ballot with little support, another ballot language effort is now circulating.

Do we really need a ballot initiative to approve of “local and regional government officials” to “work with Federal government and military authorities concerning the long-term future of … Miramar?”

Doesn’t it come down to the real basic question: “Do you want a major regional international airport at Miramar?”

PAT SHEA

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