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Kehoe hosted Café San Diego Friday.

After last year’s failed ballot initiative to build a new international airport at MCAS Miramar, it became clear that the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority needed to be reformed.

Created in 2001, the airport authority was assigned to manage Lindbergh Field, act as the land use commission for the region’s 16 airports, and place a long-term international airport site on the ballot by November 2006. 

Had the authority been more connected to the public, the ballot initiative might not have lost 62-38 percent. That’s why I introduced legislation that would reform the authority by: 

  • Saving taxpayers more than $500,000 a year through the elimination of the authority’s three executive board member salaries;
  • Requiring all board members be elected officials within the county;
  • Insisting that board members only be appointed by local governments;
  •  
  • Transferring airport land use compatibility decisions to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

Eliminating executive board salaries makes sense during tough financial times. San Diego’s airport authority is the only one in the state that pays a six-figure salary to some of its board members — three people called the executive committee who earn about $172,000.

The catch is that none are required to perform any more work than the members who receive a $100 per meeting reimbursement.

Permitting only elected officials to serve on the authority yields greater accountability. Constituents are familiar with calling their city councilmember or county supervisor to air views on everything from housing to the environment and our airports should be no exception. 

Requiring local governments to select board members assures the public that the authority is not a bastion for “political insiders.” Currently, one authority member is appointed by the governor, and one is appointed by the San Diego County sheriff.

No airport authority in the state allows the governor or sheriff such a role in the appointment process. 

Removing land-planning decisions from the airport authority follows the state norm.

Of California’s 11 largest airports, San Diego’s airport authority is the only one that both operates an international airport and makes decisions about land use compatibility around airports. It only makes sense to have SANDAG implement the region’s long term ground transportation plan and coordinate the region’s long term aviation strategy.

As my bill moves through the legislature, I’m optimistic that it will receive widespread support as more people learn of the need for change at the authority. Signing this bill into law would be a testament to just how much the region learned from last year’s failed Miramar vote.    

— CHRISTINE KEHOE

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