Whatever It Is, It Isn’t Democracy
It was beyond irony.
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) treated the City of Santa Monica exactly the way the City has been treating the Treesavers, a residents’ group.
Just as the City has refused to grant the residents’ demands that it not remove 54 ficus trees from Second and Fourth Streets in downtown Santa Monica, the FAA refused, again, to grant the City’s demand that large jets be banned from the Santa Monica Airport.
Though The City has steadfastly refused to give an inch to the Treesavers, it has sided with the residents of Sunset Park and Mar Vista in the battle with the FAA. Still, it spent five years running in place before it acted decisively, and then only after the FAA rejected its request.
For years, airport neighbors have been beset by the noise and toxic fumes the big jets inflict on them as they fly in and out of the airport, along with the very real possibility of a devastating plane crash somewhere in the densely populated area that surrounds the airport.
Last summer, the FAA came to town, rejected the City’s request that it ban big jets from the airport, and proposed some runway adjustments, Only then did the City finally act, passing on first reading an ordinance banning big jets. Meetings in Washington arranged by Congress members Henry Waxman and Jane Harman brought City and FAA officials together in an effort to resolve their differences.
But when the FAA came back to town this week, it rejected the ban on big jets again, offered runway alterations again, and, in addition, said the FAA would underwrite the wholesale purchase of houses in particular peril.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Council approved on second reading and adopted the ordinance banning big jets.
Litigation is inevitable. The FAA and the City will have their next meeting in court – unless Harman and Waxman work a miracle in the meantime. And miracles are in short supply in Bush’s Washington.
And so the big jets will go on flying in and out of the airport, and its neighbors will go on suffering the horrendous noise and toxic fumes and the fear of a plane crash. And the Treesavers will meet the City in court again.
Clearly, the FAA, a federal agency, ranks its priorities over the City’s priorities, just as City Hall has, in recent years, regularly ranked its priorities over the people’s priorities.
Whatever it is, it isn’t democracy.