Wednesday, Sept.13, 2006 | According to Thella Bowen, (“Authority Speaks Up“) the airport authority is “confident that our actions to date reflect our commitment to the spirit and intent of laws prohibiting advocacy actions in putting this important public policy issue before the voters.” According to today’s U-T (Group backs airport ballot measure), “Legal issues prompted the authority to pull out of a scheduled debate in University City last night with military representatives. Authority spokeswoman Diana Lucero said the agency decided the format would have thrust the agency into impermissible “advocacy.”
No “debate” was scheduled in University City last night! The airport authority determined the format of the UCPG meeting! The airport authority’s legal mumbo jumble is purely a PR spin to justify pulling out with less than 24 hours notice! No legal boundary was crossed by the airport authority. I am incensed by this smoke screen tactic.
As Chair of the University Community Planning Group (UCPG) I was contacted by Rosalind Winstead, the consultant for the airport authority several months ago. She requested the airport authority come out and give an informational presentation. The airport authority is allowed to educate the public about its decision and that is precisely what was agreed to. It is the job of a consultant to implement the public outreach strategy designed by the airport authority and that is what happened. The ground rules were set at the beginning, an informational meeting with two fifteen minute presentations followed by a time limited answer/question period. The intent was to hold an informational meeting to educate the public.
I made it clear from the beginning that I would include the Marines in this informational meeting as MCAS Miramar holds a seat on the UCPG Executive Board. No objections were ever raised, nor was the idea that the authority alone would be on the agenda because they could better educate and inform the public on the airport site selection issue without entering a debate. I discussed with Ms. Windstead and Mr. Craver that the Marines could not be involved in a public debate, a rally, or any discussion that resembled advocacy. I had the same exact conversation with Laura Thornton, the Community Plans & Liaison Officer at MCAS Miramar.
Ms. Windstead requested that I attend a public meeting to see first hand the airport authority’s desired format. I agreed and attended two meetings, one in Tierrasanta and one in La Jolla. The Marines were at both meetings. I complied with every request of the airport authority.
I spoke directly with Joe Craver, Chairman of the Airport Authority. We discussed the format, and defined an informational meeting. We discussed his concerns about a recent meeting held in Scripps Ranch where apparently the forum took a turn he described as raucous. Mr. Craver told me he would never subject his people to that again. That prompted further discussion as to the ground rules of our meeting. To ensure the success of the meeting I agreed the audience would submit questions and I would act as moderator.
The UCPG meeting was never set up to be a forum for advocacy of any kind, nor to be a public debate. It was strictly formatted to educate the public at the request of both parties involved. Recent concerns regarding public funds being used to advocate for the Miramar initiative is a cop out. There is a disconnect between the publics right to ask questions and the airport authority’s willingness to answer. The perception of controlling the flow of information by controlling the public format has led to public skepticism of the entire process.
The residents, taxpayers, and voters of San Diego County have the right to publicly hear all information regarding the site selection process even if the airport authority’s presentation appears at this point not capable of standing up to the test of public scrutiny. It is completely unprofessional to cancel at the 11th hour and leave the UC community high and dry. If the airport authority is going to spend $3.8 million dollars on their outreach campaign then they had best show up! At the very least the airport authority owes UC a public apology.