Hold the line at John Wayne

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

regional solutions.

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

more congestion.

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

expansion plans.

* 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.

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