Once-Vocal Foe of Jet Noise Keeping Low Profile : Gee Still Gets Angry Over Airport

Times Staff Writer

Margie Gee is still mad about airplane noise. She's just not making as much noise about it.

Gee, a longtime anti-noise activist, has kept a low profile since her ouster from the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority in 1986. But the tone of her criticism against Burbank Airport and the airlines has not softened.

The Burbank City Council removed Gee as an airport authority commissioner because of what council members called her "combative personality."

In an interview last week, Gee, 51, blasted her successor on the board, Brian Bowman, and Burbank's other two representatives, Leland Ayers and Mary Lou Howard, saying they are concerned more with furthering the interests of airlines than with residents.

She said the commissioners have been particularly indifferent toward residents in the western area of Burbank around the airport, where she lives. "We have been written off as expendable," Gee said, adding that residents near the airport will continue to be plagued by loud planes over their homes.

Increase Flights

She said the airport authority was determined to expand the airport and increase flights.

Gee said she is especially angered by continued consideration of a new terminal at Burbank Airport. An environmental impact report on the terminal states that it could handle 7.3 million passengers per year, more than twice last year's total of 3 million. But Los Angeles officials, who are opposed to the terminal, say it could possibly serve more than 10 million passengers annually.

"It would be absolutely greedy for the airlines and the authority to build a terminal that size," Gee said. "They just want to expand the airport. If it ruins the community surrounding the airport, they don't care."

Howard, who sometimes was Gee's closest ally on the board, said the former commissioner's criticism about the board's indifference to residents is misguided.

"Margie doesn't seem to realize that we're representing the whole city of Burbank, not just a small portion," Howard said. "Of course we're concerned about the noise."

Bowman also took issue with Gee's criticisms. He said the authority has yet to take a formal position on the terminal. He added that the authority has not voted recently on any issues that have had a direct impact on homeowners.

Gee's blunt comments were in line with her demeanor during her stint on the authority, which lasted a little more than a year.

The council appointed the outspoken Gee to the authority because of her expertise on airport matters. But her dual role as opponent and insider put her at the center of some airport conflicts.

During her tenure on the authority, she admitted that she regarded the airport more as a foe to be controlled than as a convenient place to catch a plane.

She continually battled with commissioners on such issues as adding and deleting her comments from the minutes of meetings. She once said the minutes misrepresented her views and reflected "prejudice against me and my participational remarks."

Plaintiff in Lawsuit

While a commissioner, Gee also was a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the authority by homeowners seeking damages for lowered property values and nuisance caused by airplane noise.

Although Burbank officials said Gee's presence on the authority could be seen as a conflict of interest, she ignored the pleas of the City Council to either withdraw from the suit or resign from the authority.

Council members removed Gee as a commissioner in July, 1986, saying that her uncooperativeness and her disagreements with her colleagues on the authority was turning the authority against Burbank. The cities of Glendale and Pasadena also appoint three members each to the authority.

"I really miss Margie's knowledge and expertise on the airport, even now," Howard said. "She was a valuable resource. But she could not be effective because she couldn't or wouldn't try to see other viewpoints. She spent too much time on little things."

Recalling the controversy, Gee said she could have done some things differently.

"I'm sorry for what happened. I feel bad about it. But there was this determination to get rid of me anyway," she said. "There would not have been if I had just become one of the sheep and gone along with everything. But I was not willing to do that."

Howard denied that there was a plot to remove Gee.

Gee said her expertise was "better put to use inside the authority" than it is now. "I'm sorry I can't contribute to the public's cause," she noted. "But I don't miss the frustrations of that effort."

Gee ran unsuccessfully for the Burbank City Council last year, but said her campaign was half-hearted. "I was kind of pooped and didn't put much of an effort out," she said. "I would not run again without making considerable changes in rallying support and financing."

Many of Gee's activities these days are tied to the Burbank Anti-Noise Group (BANG) and attending homeowner coalition meetings. "I'm not as deeply involved as I was when I was a commissioner, but I know what's happening," she said.

Gee added that she does not plan to attend any authority meetings. "I don't really care to deal with that any more," she said.

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