Commentary: Marketing JWA hurts Newport Beach

As a member of AirFair, I fully support board member Melinda Seely and Airfair's recent letter regarding our surprise and anger over the head of Visit Newport Beach Inc.'s participation in marketing John Wayne Airport ("Newport Beach should avoid marketing John Wayne Airport," June 20).

In her June 17, 2013, Orange County Register column, Barbara Venezia asked Mr. Gary Sherwin for his reaction to Melinda and AirFair's letter.

His response missed the point. First, he said he was doing this as chairman of the Orange County Visitors Assn., not as head of Visit Newport Beach Inc., the city of Newport Beach's visitor's bureau, which receives almost all of its money from the city. And second, he said that nothing in their efforts violated the settlement agreement.

Mr. Sherwin does not understand the problems and the issues that JWA creates for the city and its residents, such as members of AirFair.

To the first point, if Mr. Sherwin's position as chairman of the Orange County Visitors Assn. creates a conflict for him in his duties as head of the city's visitor's bureau, and if he cannot resolve this conflict, by quitting one of the positions, then the City Council must resolve it by terminating its association with Mr. Sherwin and/or his corporation.

As to the second point, his comment regarding the settlement agreement ignores several things. The city has been actively supporting the efforts to enhance and encourage growth at other airports including Ontario and supporting alternatives means of transportation to Orange County including high speed rail.

More importantly, Mr. Sherwin appears to be in the dark as to the current settlement agreement negotiations, which have recently generated a draft project for the upcoming settlement agreement extension.

One of the deal points which the county sought was to increase the passenger cap. Currently, the passenger cap is 10.8 million annual passengers ("MAP") out of JWA. The proposed settlement agreement maintains this cap until the end of 2020 at which time it increases by a million passengers to 11.8 MAP until the end of 2025, when it again increases depending upon passenger demand.

If passenger demand reaches 11.21 MAP in any one year during 2021 to the end of 2025, then the cap rises to 12.5 MAP or another 700,000 passengers over the 11.8. If JWA fails to trip that trigger, then the cap is raised only by 400,000 passengers of 12.2.

So, if Mr. Sherwin's marketing efforts are successful, then the residents of Newport Beach will be assaulted by 300,000 more passengers during the years 2026 to the end of 2030. That conflicts with his duties to the city, and again, either he or the council must, Melinda said, resolve the conflict.

ROBERT C. HAWKINS, a former planning commissioner, lives in Newport Beach.

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