Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006| The airwaves are silent. The roadways are free of signage. And the only brochure to land in voters’ mailboxes came from the airport authority and didn’t mention a ballot initiative.

You might not know it, but there’s a Miramar airport question on November’s ballot. It’s called Proposition A. And there is a campaign being waged out there about Prop A. Somewhere.

But fundraising by both sides in the debate about the future of Lindbergh Field has been much less substantive than most had expected. Four months ago, Miramar opponents aimed to raise between $1.5 million and $2 million. According to the most recent campaign disclosure forms released Friday, the pro- and anti-airport sides had raised a combined $333,000. And the anti-airport side has $88,500 in unpaid bills.

So what gives?

Several factors play a role:

  • The Nov. 7 vote on the future of Miramar is advisory. Voters will be asked whether or not the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority should work to obtain enough land at the base to house the region’s international airport. The question culminates a three-year-long search for an alternative to Lindbergh Field’s lone runway. But voting “Yes” doesn’t guarantee the airport will ever be built.
  • No immediate benefit exists for supporters. Groups that often support construction-related bond measures, such as the Associated General Contractors of America’s San Diego chapter, aren’t chipping in. In fact, that group opposes the Miramar initiative.
  • Political support for a Miramar airport has been tough to come by. No politicians have supported the pro-Miramar side (with the exception of San Diego City Councilman Tony Young, who sits on the authority’s board). The business community has been divided about the issue. Some of the business groups only endorsed the measure with caveats and conditions. That makes it tougher to galvanize financial backing for the measure.

“It’s hard to get people excited about something that is going to happen 15 or 20 years into the future,” said John Kern, the political consultant leading the pro-Miramar committee. “It’s just a tough one.”

Kern’s group, the Coalition to Preserve the Economy, raised more than airport opponents, with $201,000 brought in and $136,000 spent. No on Prop A and Taxpayers for Responsible Planning, the two consolidated anti-Miramar groups, have raised $133,000, but have accumulated $88,500 in unpaid bills. Total expenditures for Miramar opponents total $168,000.

The debt and the expenditures don’t match up because opponents have kept cash on hand.

Political consultant John Dadian, who is leading the fight against Miramar, has billed $70,000, but has not been paid yet. Political consultant T.J. Zane has billed $18,500 and hasn’t been paid. Dadian, who is speaking for the opponents, could not be reached for comment.

People and companies with connections to the real estate industry have been the biggest supporters of the effort to move to Miramar. Real estate magnate Malin Burnham has given $49,000. A management company affiliated with the Corky McMillin Cos. gave the same amount.

Had they given $50,000, they would have triggered a state law that requires major donors’ names to be added to campaign outreach. Any television ads, radio commercials or mailers would have included a phrase such as “with major funding from Malin Burnham.”

Other real-estate donors include Stephen B. Williams, a partner with Sentre Partners, a real-estate investment company, who gave $10,000. Another developer, the Douglas Wilson Cos., gave the same amount.

Other large donations came from William D. Lynch, an airport authority board member, who has given $25,000. Terry Brown, president of Atlas Hotels, gave $10,000. So did the San Diego Lodging Industry Association.

A $5,448 donation also came from Stop Mission Hills North Terminal, a group that has opposed Lindbergh Field expansion. Donations of $5,000 each came from Sempra Energy and James D. Jameson, a Del Mar investor.

Miramar supporters’ money has gone to Kern, the former chief of staff to former Mayor Dick Murphy, who has earned $54,500 from the campaign treasury. They’ve spent $15,000 on polling; $10,000 on consulting from Freelove Consulting Group, a San Diego-based firm run by Jean Freelove.

Miramar opponents’ money has come from a host of smaller donations from those who live near Miramar and from companies who do business with the military.

Larger donations have come from Biosite ($10,000), a bio-tech company near Miramar that has voiced concerns about airplanes flying over its offices. Irwin Jacobs, Qualcomm’s founder, gave $5,000. One Qualcomm official has suggested that the company may be forced to relocate if a commercial airport is built at Miramar. Epsilon Systems, a local defense contractor, has given $10,000 to date.

Their money has been spent on polling ($45,000) and campaign literature ($7,200.) Opponents also paid an Orange County law firm $4,000. That firm advised them that a recent airport authority campaign mailer was an inappropriate advocacy piece, not an educational brochure as supporters maintained.

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

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