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Burbank Airport’s High Fliers : String of wild-spending disclosures impedes dialogue with community

Airports produce important tax revenues. They add jobs that help fuel the local economy. Every passenger is a potential buyer of goods or services offered nearby. And guess what: None of it matters to the neighbors if they feel the airport has turned a deaf ear to their complaints about noise. The same ire can scuttle efforts to expand an airport to meet new passenger demand, particularly if administrators are seen as wild spenders.

Well, that’s the condition in which Burbank-Glendale- Pasadena Airport officials keep finding themselves.

In June, we heard that the commissioners who represent the airport’s three jurisdictions had spent nearly $90,000 over three years on limou sines and first-class air fare (including tickets for their spouses). It was far in excess of expenses in this category at similar airports. In July, we heard the Airport Authority staffers had been doing the same: tours of a dormant volcano in Hawaii, huge tips, an ocean cruise and other recreational events, more limousine rides and a ticket to a fashion show for an assistant.

Now, Times reporters have found that more than $400,000 has been charged since 1992 to an expense account used by seven Airport Authority staff members. It’s another list of free spending on meals, tickets, etc. Included is a $2,826 bill for a Maui hotel hospitality suite.

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So, at a time when Burbank Airport should be pressing its case for a new terminal, it is choking on credibility sandwiches.

Lots of airports have irate neighbors who are fed up with noise, such as those who live near Santa Monica Airport. But some airport officials have far better relations with neighbors than others. At John Wayne Airport, owned and operated by Orange County, officials have earned the trust of most of the public and have addressed concerns about noise and expansion.

The same kind of mature dialogue is needed between Burbank Airport and its neighbors. Instead, the focus remains on embarrassing disclosures, and an further erosion of public trust.


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