Hearings Will Take Stock of San Diego Airport Authority

Two state legislators will consider the fate of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority tomorrow in a hearing that will call upon critics and defenders alike to assess its controversial roles in aviation and land-use planning.

State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, said the hearing in Balboa Park will focus on "the performance of the Airport Authority thus far" and whether changes are needed to make the appointed board of directors more responsive to the public.

The question, Kehoe said, is whether "we are going to continue with the operation of the Airport Authority as is" or seek a structure "more tightly tied to local government."

The hearing, the first of two on the matter, begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Balboa Park Club and is scheduled to run to 3 p.m. Assembly Minority Leader George Plescia, R-San Diego, is co-chairing the event, which includes time at the end for public comment.

Kehoe and Plescia will give authority CEO Thella Bowens and members of the authority board an hour near the beginning of the program to reflect on the current governance model.

Then attention will turn to the authority's relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy, which were angered by the agency's choice of Miramar Marine Corps Air Station as a possible replacement for Lindbergh Field in a Nov. 7 ballot measure.

The speaker list includes Navy Capt. Michael Allen, who once accused the authority of "a conscious decision to ignore" issues of military readiness and public safety that would arise from the Miramar proposal.

Later in the agenda, the legislators will seek comment on the authority's work to update land-use plans for the areas surrounding the county's military and civilian airports. The speakers include an attorney representing property owners who were unhappy with the initial guidelines, still under revision.

The second hearing is Nov. 17, when the legislators will hear from county Supervisor Bill Horn, among others. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders has been invited to the November hearing.

Any proposal to change the structure of the authority could be taken to the Legislature in 2007, with an effective date of 2008, unless it were treated as urgent.

Kehoe said she is not out to eliminate the Airport Authority or affect the chances of its Miramar ballot measure. She already has discussed her concerns informally with three authority board members.

But San Diego Councilman Tony Young questioned the motivation for the hearings when the issue arose last week at a board meeting.

"I'm not sure this is purely about administration and effectiveness," said Young, one of three San Diego appointees on the board. "I suspect there are other issues involved that are far more political in nature."

Fate up in the air

State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, will co-chair two hearings to consider the fate of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

The first is at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Balboa Park Club in Balboa Park. The second hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 17 at the Caltrans building in Old Town, 4050 Taylor St.



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