Berman Snubs Airport Chief : Congressman Demands Apology Before Meeting With Garcin

Times Staff Writer

Rep. Howard L. Berman refused Monday to meet with Burbank Airport Chairman Robert W. Garcin in Washington, demanding that Garcin first apologize for calling him a liar.

Garcin would not apologize, so Berman (D-Panorama City) declined to speak to him, according to Marc Litchman, an aide to Berman.

Litchman said the congressman "felt that Garcin owed him an apology before they went ahead with any talks."

Garcin, chairman of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, declared at the authority's meeting June 10 that Berman employed "distortions, inaccuracies and lies" to mislead a congressional committee.

Garcin was in Washington on a one-day lobbying trip in an effort to reverse a move by Berman in the long-running feud over noise from jetliners leaving Burbank Airport.

Amendment Passed

At Berman's request, the House Public Works and Transportation Committee earlier this month passed an amendment to an appropriations bill in an attempt to force the airport authority to approve a plan to route at least half of Burbank's takeoffs toward the east, over the three cities that own the airport. Almost all jetliners now take off toward the south and circle to the west and north, over Los Angeles neighborhoods in the eastern San Fernando Valley.

If it remains in the final budget bill, the amendment will bar the Federal Aviation Administration from giving financial help to the airport authority to build a new passenger terminal unless the authority approves the "share-the-noise" plan backed by Berman and anti-noise homeowner groups. The airport authority must build the terminal--at an estimated cost of $100 million--because the FAA has ruled that the existing terminal, built 56 years ago, is too close to the runways.

Litchman complained that Garcin had never called Berman to attempt to explain privately the points on which they disagree before branding him a liar in public. "We don't have to get down in the gutter with him," Litchman said.

He said the accusations had damaged Garcin's credibility as a lobbyist in Washington. "You've heard of blowing up your bridges behind you? Garcin sort of blows up his bridges in front of him," he said.

Garcin confirmed that Berman had turned down his request for a meeting but would not comment further. "You'll have to ask him why," Garcin said.

Met With Mineta

Although denied that meeting, Garcin said he "had a nice meeting" with Rep. Norman Y. Mineta, (D-San Jose), chairman of the committee that passed the amendment. Garcin said he explained the airport's position to Mineta and found that "we're not really as far apart as we appear on the surface."

Garcin said it is not true, as Berman and others have charged, that airport authority members are politically committed to protecting their home cities from aircraft noise. The authority has refused to take a stand on takeoff routing because the issue is part of an FAA-sponsored noise study, to be completed later this year, he said.

Airport officials have long maintained that they have no power over takeoff decisions, which are made by FAA traffic controllers and pilots who prefer southbound takeoffs. If the noise-control study favors adjusting takeoffs to change noise distribution, however, the authority could consider asking the FAA to enforce such a policy, Garcin said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World