Amidst all the reports of abusive uses of expense accounts, lavish living on the public doll, conflicts of interests and dubious personal business practices, Supervisor Dianne Jacobs came out Thursday and said the obvious: It’s time for Airport Authority authority Bob Watkins to pack his bags and catch the next flight out of town.
“I believe, unfortunately, Bob is at the point of no return. The important issue here is can Bob Watkins restore public confidence in his ability to serve on the Airport Authority board. I believe it’s beyond that point. He needs to resign.
So saideth Jacobs. Truer words were never blogged. But let me go the good supervisor one better. Have bumbling Bob resign and then ban the whole Authority board. The San Diego Airport Authority has been a bureaucratic crash and burn since Steve “Hey, look what a good job I did with energy deregulation so now let me do an equally good job with San Diego’s airport” Peace gave birth to the Authority back in 2003. As far as I can tell the only real purpose for the board taking over management of Lindbergh Field from the Port Authority was to play shill for the move the airport to Miramar movement. Given the way they handled the vetting process for picking a new airport site, Miramar was the given option from the get go. But the Miramar option was a no-go politically and no new site has been identified since Proposition A failed. Instead, the Authority has been pursuing a multi-billion dollar refit of an airport they spent several years “proving” could never be refit to fit local needs.
(Full disclosure. I’ve been giving political advice to the group –website here–that had the idea of putting the airport down in the Southbay. I’ve given several presentations on their behalf to community groups in recent years advocating that the Authority at least consider the idea since that was, after all, the only real purpose they were actually created to address: consider all alternatives to Lindbergh. This was the group that Bow Tie Bob Kittle pretty much slandered when he wrote—with full knowledge that what he was writing was simply not true—that the group was trying to extort money from the Authority, insisting they would “share their “solution” to San Diego’s airport dilemma — if only they were paid up front to divulge their mystery site.” The group never asked for up front money—What the group did ask for was that, if they shared their (eventually patented” design with the authority their intellectual property would be resepected – e.g. they would receive fair compensation should their idea be adopted. Radical notion, that. But that was why you had to love ‘ol Bow Tie – he never let the facts get in the way of his opinions. Miss you, Bobbo. Anyway, my view of the group’s idea was, good or no, it deserved review by the Authority. And if this or any other idea )
So what purpose does keeping the Authority operating serve, except to provide a board of political appointees a nice perch at the public trough? And keeping the Authority simply invites greater mischief in the future. Mark my words: if the Authority is allowed to continue it will, one day, five years from now, ten years from now, right when the big money is going to be coming do for their multi-billion dollar Lindbergh face lift, they will come back at the voters of San Diego saying “hey, isn’t it time to revisit Miramar again?” The only way to lay the whole issue of moving the airport from Lindbergh – or spending ten billion dollars on a dubious retrofit moving terminals around in a real Rube Goldberg scheme is to drive a stake through the board’s heart. San Diegan’s have spoken: they like little Lindbergh as is, long term economic consequences be darned. So let’s accept the fact, build the bullet train to LAX and move on.
Christine Kehoe was talking about passing new legislation de-authorizing the board and moving its functions back to the Port Authority. It’s time that notion be reconsidered. The Airport Authority has turned into just another one of those appointed commissions whose boards enjoy the perks of snug public sinecures without accountability to the electorate. Fold the Authority back into the Port District. Or, better yet, take the both the airport and all the bayfront assets managed by the Port Authority and turn them in their entirety over to SANDAG to manage. That way elected officials accountable to the voters—and not appointed commissioners with dubious public loyalties—can manage these public assets with greater transparency—and accountability.