Allies in fight for local control
The gloves have come off in the fight between Ontario and Los Angeles World Airports, the L.A. agency that runs LAX and LA/Ontario International Airport.
There have been more solid punches landed - rhetorically, of course - in the past 10 days than in the previous two-plus years of Ontario's push for local control of ONT.
But then a couple of valuable allies climbed into Ontario's corner at Tuesday's Los Angeles City Council meeting, where two councilmen called for a study of ONT's value and what it might take for L.A. to return control of the airport to Ontario or to some kind of local joint authority that's yet to be formed.
That might or might not have been a direct result of the full-scale public relations blitz Ontario launched last week. Regardless, it's the most positive development we've seen out of L.A. since Ontario began its quest for local control of the airport in its midst.
LAWA's reaction, on the other hand, has not been the least bit positive. Michael Lawson, president of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners, called for a resolution from the commission stating that ONT is unavailable for sale or transfer for at least the next two years.
That came after Gina Marie Lindsey, LAWA's executive director, called Ontario's public relations efforts "misleading and an attempt to deflect the truth." Chris Hughes, Ontario's city manager, dissected her flawed statements in a three-page letter of response.
Ontario leaders are not going to let a resolution stand in their way, and good for them. A commission resolution that the airport can't be sold or transferred means nothing, really.
Here's the crux of the matter. Los Angeles doesn't much care about ONT, and there's no good reason for that city to run this facility, one of the Inland Empire's top assets. In the mid-1960s it might have been sound logic to hand over control to L.A., but the Inland Empire is no longer the backwater it was then. Cities around here are better run than L.A. in most cases, and there's plenty of local leadership capable of overseeing ONT's operations in some sort of joint authority to be set up for the purpose.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa talked a good game of air travel regionalization a few years ago - perhaps mostly to get around opponents of LAX expansion - but LAWA never walked that talk. LAWA did not make any effort to bring down the sky-high costs of flying out of ONT until Ontario hammered away at it. LAWA commissioned reports on boosting traffic at ONT, but did nothing substantial with the results.
ONT traffic has taken a nosedive - as LAX traffic is climbing - and no wonder.
Now, L.A. Councilmen Dennis Zine and Bill Rosenthal are getting the picture. "This may be an appropriate time to discuss the growing support for the transfer of Ontario airport to the city of Ontario," their motion stated. Exactly right. They want to know - after Lindsay belittled Ontario's offer of $50 million to effect a transfer - what ONT's fair market value is. The report would evaluate the airport's assets, liabilities and the possibility of Ontario assuming LAWA bond and debt obligations for ONT.
Good for them. That's the right step to set up the next round in this bout.