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The region’s congressional delegation reaffirmed their bipartisan opposition to the Miramar ballot initiative earlier today, criticizing the airport authority’s site-selection process, while touting a prohibition on commercial use at Miramar signed into law Tuesday.

Five elected officials – U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter, Darrell Issa, Susan Davis, Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, and Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista – lashed out at the authority for targeting a military base while the nation is at war.

Hunter, R-El Cajon, said the authority had “no focus of creativity or dedicated analysis to alternatives.”

The authority, though, extensively analyzed non-military sites during a three-year site-selection search. That process culminated with the selection of Miramar as the best place to house a new international airport. Voters weigh in Nov. 7.

Filner, D-Chula Vista, who has supported an Imperial County airport, said the leaders were unified in their opposition to the Miramar ballot initiative – but suggested the unity doesn’t extend to plans about what will follow it. (His district includes Imperial County.)

If the ballot initiative is defeated, Filner said, “We will figure out a way to figure out new ways to approach this old subject.”

Hunter suggested making satellite airport improvements. Davis suggested maximizing Lindbergh Field. Issa, R-Vista, suggested extending the runway at Palomar-McClellan Airport in Carlsbad. Bilbray suggested a high-speed train to Los Angeles.

The event highlighted a challenge the airport authority faces in making its case for Miramar in a post-Sept. 11 era – particularly in San Diego, where defense is the region’s second-largest industry, and where Hunter, Davis and Bilbray serve on the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter is chairman of the influential committee, which oversees defense budgets.

The connection echoed in some of their comments.

Bilbray, R-Carlsbad: “If there’s one clear message we want to send today is now – especially now – in the time that our nation is engaged in a war on terrorism is not a time to put national defense on a back burner for any other agenda.”

Davis, D-San Diego: “Clearly there are people who would like to see this airport move, but we have to stand up for our entire San Diego region.”

Issa: “Miramar is not and will not for a very long time be available for any other use other than the United States Marine Corps.”

Hunter brought along a waist-high placard with the language of the new joint-use prohibition, which President Bush signed into law Tuesday. A similar prohibition has been in place since 1996, though this version extends it to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Naval Air Station North Island. It means an act of Congress would be needed to move the region’s international airport to Miramar, though that was already the case.

ROB DAVIS

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