ALISO VIEJO : Anti-Airport Group Checking Petitions

The leaders of an organization opposed to building a commercial airport at the El Toro Marine base missed Monday's self-imposed deadline but remain confident they will qualify an anti-airport initiative for the March ballot.

Bill Kogerman, co-chair of the Taxpayers for Responsible Planning, said the group will turn in petitions calling for another vote on an airport to the registrar of voters by "Thursday or Friday or, at the latest, next Tuesday."

Kogerman said the group believes it has more than the required 76,314 signatures already, but wants to recheck their validity.

"At this juncture, our course of action has got to be the prudent one to be sure the incredible work of our volunteers does not go down in vain," said Kogerman, 57, a retired Marine Corps colonel from Laguna Hills who has been working 10-hour days to finish the signature gathering.

"We are being extra careful, but we remain very confident," Kogerman said.

Monday's deadline was calculated to ensure there was enough time to make the March 26 ballot, but time still remains to file the signatures, Registrar Rosalyn Lever said.

"They asked us for a worst-case scenario and we gave it to them," Lever said, adding that the law allows her office 30 working days to check the signatures on the petitions. If a random sampling of the signatures shows most of them to be valid, the process can go much more quickly, Lever said.

The Taxpayers for Responsible Planning is trying to repeal Measure A, the proposition approved by voters last year that requires a commercial airport to be built on the base after it closes in 1999. Backers of Measure A could not be reached for comment Monday.

Kogerman's group, which operates out of an Aliso Viejo office, will spend about $125,000 to qualify the initiative for the ballot, he said.

"Believe me, we are paying for this with the $25 and $100 contributions we are getting from our supporters," he said.

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