Long Beach council plans hearing on airport privatization
The Long Beach City Council will hold a public hearing on whether or not to lease its commercial airport to private investors after critics called for greater “transparency” in the important policy discussion.
The council had planned to discuss the matter in closed session Tuesday, but the officials voted instead to hold a public workshop after three council members and four citizens protested. The hearing will occur at a later date.
“I object to the closed session,” said William Pearl, editor and publisher of LBReport .com, a local news website. “This is designed to keep a major policy decision secret.”
Late last year, the city received unsolicited inquiries about the sale or lease of Long Beach Airport assets from major banks and Wall Street firms, including Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley.
Supporters of privatization say it is a good way for local governments to raise substantial amounts of money. Long Beach is facing a $15.7-million revenue shortfall this year.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, citizens questioned the excuse from city officials that real estate transactions were going to be addressed, hence the discussion could be closed to the public under the Brown Act, the state’s open meetings law.
“This is not a real estate transaction,” said Melinda Cotton, a Long Beach citizen who addressed the council. “I don’t like the lack of transparency. The airport is the most controversial and litigious issue to come before this city.”
Much of the controversy has involved the expansion of flight operations and an airport noise ordinance, which resulted after a 12-year court battle between community groups and the city.
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