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Sen. Lewis Backs Anti-Airport Measure

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Siding with constituents in his district, state Sen. John R. Lewis (R-Orange) is throwing his support behind Measure S, which would repeal plans to put a commercial airport at El Toro.

Lewis, whose district encompasses cities near the airport, including parts of Irvine and all of Mission Viejo and Lake Forest, said he supports the proposal as a means of ending intra-county bickering and “getting us back to an objective planning process.”

“The reuse planning for the El Toro Marine base needs to involve the entire county working together,” Lewis said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, we now have a situation pitting one part of the county against the other.”

The future of the 4,700-acre El Toro Marine Corps Air Station is one of the county’s most divisive issues. Measure S goes before voters March 26.

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Supporters of Measure S are skeptical of the county’s current planning process for the base and believe it is stacked in favor of an airport, which many fear will bring noise and traffic. Passage of the initiative, they say, would set up a new planning process.

But critics say Measure S would effectively bar an airport by putting insurmountable obstacles in its way. An airport would help revitalize the economy by fulfilling regional transportation needs and bringing thousands of jobs, supporters say.

In another development in the Measure S campaign, the federal government awarded Orange County a $900,000 grant Tuesday to pay for a study of alternatives to an airport on the base, which the military is expected to leave by 1999.

Airport critics, hoping to undermine the current planning process, had lobbied the federal government to postpone awarding the grant until after the election.

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The Orange County Central Labor Council, representing nearly 150,000 AFL-CIO union workers, has announced it will oppose Measure S.

“We must promote jobs and provide an atmosphere that will attract new business and retain or expand current businesses in the county,” said William J. Fogarty, the council’s executive secretary-treasurer. The council took its vote Jan. 24.

Airport critics say the union council is misinformed about the number of jobs an airport at El Toro would create.

“There will be many more jobs created if there is not an airport at the base,” said Bill Kogerman, co-chairman of Taxpayers for Responsible Planning, which is leading the anti-airport fight.

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The debate over El Toro also took a detour into the legal arena Tuesday.

A consultant to airport supporters filed suit against the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority--a panel that continues to function even though it was stripped of its authority when the county formed its own base reuse panel.

In legal papers, David Ellis alleged that the panel has failed to turn over public records regarding its use of taxpayers’ funds. Ellis is requesting the panel’s correspondence lists as well as its consultants’ progress reports.

“It’s public funds being spent for a public planning process, and those documents should be made public,” Ellis said.

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Authority Chairman and Irvine Mayor Michael Ward said he had not seen the suit and could not address it in detail.

Times staff writer Len Hall contributed to this report.


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