Most people in our coastal communities know me as a member of the
California state Assembly. Before going to Sacramento, I served on
the Huntington Beach City Council for six years. During my years of
public service, I have focused on trying to help resolve issues that
are primarily local in nature.
However, as a resident of Orange County, I recognize that many of
the issues that concern the people in the county today are regional
issues. In Orange County, we have numerous issues that cry out for
some sort of regional solution. Transportation, environmental and
economic issues come to mind as types of issues that often require
Presently, one regional issue that is of particular concern to
Orange County residents involves anticipated efforts to expand the
flight operations of John Wayne Airport. Currently there is an
agreement in place through 2011 that restricts the total number of
passengers that can use the airport on an annual basis to 10.3
million. This cap on passenger traffic is raised after 2011 to 10.8
million annual passengers through 2015, when the current agreement
will expire. In just 10 short years John Wayne will be subject to
massive increases in passenger traffic. Actually, such an increase
could happen sooner if the parties to the agreement decide to amend
it prior to that date.
Airport officials have predicted that as early as next year, the
2011 cap of 10.3 million passengers per year will be met. What
happens then? The obvious answer is that there will be attempts to
keep raising the cap to higher and higher levels. At what point does
increased growth at John Wayne cease to become progress and instead
begin to degrade the overall quality of life in the region? At what
point does increased passenger traffic guarantee more pollution,
congestion and noise than nearby residents should be asked to put up
with on a permanent basis? I think we're rapidly reaching that point.
As much as I sympathize with business concerns that have an
interest in expanding our airport operations at John Wayne, and as
much as I acknowledge that the residential growth in south Orange
County demands to be served by airline service, I strongly believe we
must hold the line on the number of annual passengers using John
Wayne to the current limits. We also must maintain the current
curfews contained in the agreement.
It is not just the residents of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach who
are affected by any expansion at John Wayne. A ripple effect spreads
to surrounding communities if we allow increased flight operations.
Our skies and roadways are crowded enough right now without adding
What is the solution? This is a complex and demanding issue that
needs further analysis and planning. A regional solution is
absolutely necessary. It will require leaders at all levels of
government to get involved in the process. Since the decision was
made that there is not going to be an airport at El Toro, we must
consider our options and look at all of the alternatives. But one
thing is certain, we need to think outside the box as we consider
what might work. However, before we make any moves that will be
virtually irreversible, like raising the caps at John Wayne, we must
have a strategy and a plan in place.
In my view, the best form of government is the kind that listens
to the people who are affected by its decisions. In keeping with that
philosophy, I believe the communities surrounding John Wayne Airport
have legitimate concerns that need to be addressed before any steps
are taken to expand airport operations there.
Recently, a new organization has been created to address the issue
of airport expansion. This group, which is called AirFair, calls for
no more expansion of passenger traffic at John Wayne over and above
what is in the agreement that is in place today. They have adopted a
motto, "10.8 -- Let's Shut the Gate." They simply say enough is
enough. Although they don't propose a solution, I think they are
right when it comes to putting restrictions on future John Wayne
* TOM HARMAN is an assemblyman who represents Huntington Beach and
plans to run for the state Senate seat held by Sen. John Campbell if
Campbell wins a race to replace Rep. Chris Cox.