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Council Supports Competing Airport Ballot Measure

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 25, 2014 -- City staff has lots of work to do in the next couple weeks as it attempts to produce a ballot measure to compete with one proposed by aviation interests aiming to prohibit the City from making any changes to the airport without voter approval.

Council members unanimously supported a proposal from their colleague Kevin McKeown on Tuesday night calling for City staff to find “a sweet spot” with a measure that would compete with the aviation interests’ proposal, give the council the ability for partial airport closure and address limiting future development on the site.

City staff is expected to present proposed language to the council at its next meeting on July 8. The council must approve the measure at its July 22 meeting for it to qualify for the November ballot. 

Aviation interests have already submitted their measure to the County. Officials are reviewing the proposal to determine if there are enough valid signatures from registered voters for the item to qualify for the ballot.

Nobody in support of the aviation interests’ ballot measure spoke at the meeting Tuesday. Several airport opponents addressed the council, including those who have sued the City and the aviation interests to prevent their ballot measure from going forward.

The litigants argued against the competing measure, saying it was too similar to the aviation interests’ proposal and written by what they called a “pro-airport” City staff.

Among their objections was that the competing measure would allow residents to vote on airport closure, which they said was something residents had never requested prior to the aviation interests collecting signatures to get their item on the ballot.

City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said she would normally not support having residents vote on something that should be addressed by council members, who residents elect to make decisions.

However, Moutrie said the City needed to include the voter approval feature in its measure to counter the aviation interests’ proposal for nearly any change to the airport needing voter approval.

Moutrie said the aviation interests’ measure would tie the hands of the council and “freeze the status quo at the airport until the airport closes, if the airport closes.”

In answering a question from Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day on a hypothetical situation in which voters approve both measures, if the one that receives the most votes would go into effect, Moutrie said “probably.”

She said she would do more research, and if it were possible to create a measure that would allow the City’s version to go into effect even if it received fewer votes, she would do it.

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