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Sounding Board: The Airport/Funding Priorities

Daily Transcript Question: The strategic planning committee of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority announced that the expansion of Lindbergh Field is not an option. Given that finding, the airport will likely need to be relocated. Assuming the airport could be moved to any appropriate site in the county -- such as existing civilian or military airport sites or available open space -- where would you recommend the airport be relocated and why?

The most desirable location for a new airport with the least residential uproar, with the least cost to provide access is the 22,000-acre Rancho Guejito mesa east of the Wild Animal Park. It's convenient and a location that will have the least impact on existing homes.

Second choice would be Borrego for two reasons.

The first is that it could become a 21st century "wayport" for international flights served by commuter airports at Lindbergh Field, Montgomery Field, Gillespie Field, Brown Field, Ream Field, Oceanside Municipal and Palomar Airport, which would serve respectively the areas of downtown, central San Diego, South Bay, East County and North County. Once upon a time Lindbergh Field was considered "way out" when Reuben Fleet offered to buy it for $1 million before moving Consolidated Aircraft from Buffalo to San Diego. Seventy-five years from now Borrego will no longer be "way out."

When considering military installations, North Island could be an adjunct to Lindbergh Field. Adm. William S. Guest, when in charge of 15 Navy airbases, conducted a feasibility study showing that the carriers and air wings at North Island could be serviced by repair facilities at Brown Field and joint military/civilian use of North Island was feasible. I suspect however, that with more retired flag officers living in Coronado than in any other city in the world, they might pull rank on this location.

That leaves nearly everyone's favorite -- centrally located Miramar. The biggest obstacle to obtaining Miramar is not what everyone thinks, according to Adm. Guest, now deceased. Every time civilians want a military installation they want it for free. The Navy cannot get reimbursed by Congress for the billion-plus dollars it would lose by handing over Miramar. If the city of San Diego would offer to buy Miramar the Navy might take an altogether different tact and support the sale of Miramar. Now there's a new idea: Buy Miramar, don't try to steal it.

The second reason Borrego is a possible option is that an airport could be built there by San Diego and traded for Miramar prior to the installation of civilian carrier facilities. (A trade of Brown Field, though possibly far too small, might also work, considering there is a thousand undeveloped acres adjacent and the mountains would not inhibit the Marine's helicopter operations now at Miramar).

Given military budget constraints for military infrastructure the Navy is increasingly receptive to property exchanges in lieu of outright gifts of military properties to civilian authorities.

The Marine's do not need an airbase to be in the center of the city of San Diego. And if the Navy brings back the Tomcats, as I once timed it, a carrier flight is only two minutes longer from Miramar to Borrego.

-- Fred Schnaubelt

Former San Diego City Councilman

Daily Transcript Question: What should be the priorities for the next mayor with regard to the financing of the city's pension deficit, the funding of long-delayed infrastructure maintenance and the continued operation of core city services?

The pension-system deficit has merely served to highlight a problem that already existed: San Diego needs additional revenue sources. This problem cannot be solved merely by robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is what's wrong with many of the proposals on the table.

Thus, I don't favor a pension-benefit rollback until a court decides whether the questioned benefits are actually illegal, not only because citizens are counting on those benefits, but because such unilateral action would likely expose the city to costly litigation.

I also question the wisdom of a fire sale of city land, first, because the city doesn't even have accurate records of what it owns; second, because city land belongs to the taxpayers, and its use should be planned to best benefit the taxpayers, which may mean parks or libraries rather than immediate conversion into cash; and finally, because the city shouldn't rely on land sales to pay its expenses, since what will it do next time, when the land is gone?

Our next mayor needs to educate the public as to the need for additional funding sources and the availability of such sources.

Most taxpayers don't realize that San Diego charges its citizens far less for various services than do comparable California cities. A small sales tax increase is both necessary and relatively painless, but the next mayor should also consider ballot measures approving a reasonable fee for trash pickup, an increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax, increased fees for real estate transfers, business licenses and construction permits, and the imposition of minimal utility taxes. These increases would all be small, so that no individual or business is hit too hard, but collectively they could eliminate the need for lay-offs, arbitrary personnel reductions, the continued postponement of infrastructure maintenance, and/or bankruptcy.

If the need for, and minimal impact of, such fee increases was properly explained to our citizens, I believe they would willingly pay a few dollars more each year to get the city back on track fiscally, the libraries open and potholes repaired.

-- Candace Carroll

Civil Appellate Attorney, Sullivan, Hill, Lewin, Rez & Engel

Complete Coverage: Sounding Board

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The Daily Transcript introduces Sounding Board, a regular opinion page feature focusing on current issues. Send your responses to soundingboard@sddt.com.

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