Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006 | Proponents and opponents of building an international airport at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar might disagree on a lot. But they have at least one similarity.

They don’t whisper – they shout.

The two sides have submitted their arguments for and against the November ballot measure that could eventually lead to the closing of Lindbergh Field and move the region’s international airport to Miramar. The statements give each side a chance to directly tell voters why they should check one box or the other.

But at times, they read more like angry e-mails than the carefully worded arguments they’re touted as. Why use lower case letters when you can use all caps?


Opponents: “THE MARINE CORPS and THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY have informed the Airport Authority that JOINT USE of MIRAMAR is INCOMPATIBLE with military operations and is UNSAFE!

These arguments – which are often more hyperbole than fact – are designed for the average voter, the person who, when told about the Miramar plan, says: “Theywannadowhatnow?” Not the person who knows the name of the authority’s technical consultants (Ricondo & Assoc.).

On both sides, they are visceral appeals to emotion. Voters will see them in pamphlets mailed by the county registrar. Both sides get 500 words of free advertising – especially important in a race where both sides have raised little money.

“It’s a sales game,” said Scott Barnett, president of TaxpayersAdvocate.org and one of five people who signed the pro-Miramar argument. “Ultimately, what sells best is emotion. For good or bad in ballot arguments you want to reach out and grab people.”

Breaking down some of the proponents’ claims:

  • The ballot measure does not take Miramar away from the military.
    Partly true. It would just take parts of Miramar away from the military. Like the runways. The authority has acknowledged that the joint use of the base – letting fighter jets and commercial aircraft share airspace – doesn’t work. So the military jets would have to leave. The authority spent months developing a plan for the base’s joint use. When they determined it would subject too many homes to noise (10,765) they abandoned the claim that joint use worked. They’ve since changed their characterization of “joint use” to mean that the Marines can still use residential and office areas. Helicopters can stay too. And the enlisted folks can still play on the Miramar golf course.
  • Proposition A will protect our quality of life.
    This presumes that quality of life is dependent solely on air travel. (No mention is made of Prop. A’s effects on our beaches, our parks, our nightlife, our surf breaks, our Padres or our weather.) Start planning for a new airport, it argues, before tourists stop visiting and before you can’t afford to go visit Aunt Susie in Dubuque. “Quality of life” can be considered code for “our economy,” which doesn’t sound nearly as sexy.
  • All the Airport Authority wants is a chance to talk with the military.
    The word that isn’t being used here: Lobby. The authority has had this chance once, and it didn’t go so well. The secretary of the navy delivered an unequivocal no.

While the pro-Miramar side makes appeals to quality of life issues, the opponents invoke the environment, residents’ safety and traffic. But many of their arguments are based on the assumption that fighter jets and commercial aircraft would share airspace. The authority has said that will not happen.

Opponents miss a major point: That putting a commercial airport at Miramar would mean removing fighter jet training – a major component of the Marines’ mission.

Breaking down some of the opponents’ claims:

  • The proposition will severely harm wetlands that protect a “countless number” of wildlife species.
    If the authority had stuck to its original joint use plan, which called for building two more runways at Miramar, this argument would hold true. But the authority abandoned that plan. And the wildlife species that live at Miramar aren’t countless, though at least seven are endangered or threatened.
  • Joint use of Miramar is incompatible with military operations and is unsafe.
    This argument is somewhat irrelevant: The authority has already admitted that joint use at Miramar doesn’t work.
  • Voting no will “save residential communities” and keep them safe.
    This claims that moving the airport to Miramar moves the accident-potential zone directly over nearby communities. This again is a reference to that old joint-use plan. Under the old plan, fighter jets would have been forced to fly over Kearny Mesa and Tierrasanta.

Each side has five endorsements from former military officials and elected politicians. Airport authority Chairman Joe W. Craver, Sheriff Bill Kolender, San Diego World Trade Center President/CEO Bella Heule, retired Vice Adm. Paul McCarthy and Barnett signed the pro-Miramar argument.

Retired Rear Adm. Jack Batzler, a member of anti-Miramar committee Taxpayers for Responsible Planning, and retired Rear Adm. Bruce Boland, with the anti-Miramar committee Support Our Military – No on Miramar, signed the opposition argument. They were joined by county Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price, as well as Col. Bob Modrzejewski, a retired Marine and Medal of Honor recipient.

(Correction: The original version of this story misidentified Retired Rear Adm. Jack Batzler’s affiliation. We regret the error.)

Please contact Rob Davis directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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