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Daily Bulletin: Baseball icon Tommy Lasorda has become the city's newest champion in its quest to reclaim control of L.A./Ontario International Airport from Los Angeles

March 22, 2012

ONTARIO - Baseball icon Tommy Lasorda has become the city's newest champion in its quest to reclaim control of L.A./Ontario International Airport from Los Angeles. The former Los Angeles Dodgers manager is featured in a commercial advocating local control shown during Ontario's 2012 State of the City event on Wednesday night. The video was previewed for the more than 800 guests who gathered at the Ontario Convention Center. "The Moment of Truth," the commercial is a way for city officials to broaden its audience for the city's public relations campaign, "Set Ontario Free," officials said. "Right now is one of those moments of truth for Ontario International Airport," Lasorda says in the commercial. "Getting back local control will restore Ontario International Airport as the No. 1 economic engine for the Inland Empire." The embattled airport was the topic of Ontario's annual business mixer as officials also revealed an updated version of its website on the issue - "Continuing our commitment to building the local economy and creating jobs, we launched the Set ONTario Free campaign to demand that Los Angeles officials return the Ontario Airport to local control, and no is not an option," Mayor Paul Leon said. Since the start of the year, Ontario has embarked on a media campaign that now includes producing two commercials, conducting a poll of Los Angeles voters and running advertisements in local publications. Ontario Councilwoman Sheila Mautz said having a known figure such as Economist Christopher Thornberg talks about the California economy Wednesday evening during the Ontario 2012 State of the City Business Networking Event at the Ontario Convention Center. (Will Lester/Staff Photographer) Lasorda will help raise awareness. "To have somebody of that caliber is great. Anything that helps," she said. Following the presentation, the crowd moved over to a nearby room where five kiosks were set up for attendees to sign the city's petition. Among those who signed was Bonnie Verhoef of Upland because she is fed up with limited flight options, she said. A frequent flyer at ONT, Verhoef described the airport as a ghost town. "It's expensive to use (ONT) airport," she said. "I can't fly directly to any place I go. I have to change planes." Verhoef, who said she would rather pay the higher fees than choose LAX, is pleased the city is lobbying for control. "It's a tremendous economic waste," she said. Release of the video and updated site comes on the heels of recent developments in favor of Ontario's quest. On Tuesday, a Los Angeles City Council committee agreed to analyze Ontario's proposal to regain control of the facility. Ontario officials have offered $50 million to dissolve the 1967 Joint Powers Agreement between the two cities. In the proposal by Ontario, the city says it would be responsible for paying the remaining $75 million in existing debt obligations. City officials also have agreed to divert $125 million of ONT's future passenger facility charges to LAX. The passenger facility charge is a program that allows airports to collect a separate fee for every passenger. Airports use the fees to fund FAA-approved projects.