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Senator for San Diego Airport Authority reform

By Christine Kehoe

California Senator

Reform never comes easily, especially for those it affects the most. In the case of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, its board members are slowly warming to the idea.

Created in 2001, the airport authority was assigned to manage Lindbergh Field, act as the land use commission for the region’s 16 airports, and place a long-term international airport site on the ballot by November 2006. The ballot initiative lost 62-38 percent, a margin that illustrated the need for improvement.

That’s why I introduced legislation to reform the authority by:

  • Saving taxpayers more than $500,000 a year through the elimination of the authority’s three executive board member salaries;
  • Holding the authority accountable by requiring that all board members be elected officials from within the county; and
  • Having board members appointed by local governments.

San Diego’s airport authority is the only one in the state that pays a six-figure salary to some of its board members, three people called the executive committee who earn about $172,000. Strangely, their job is neither full-time nor do they perform more work than the authority’s other six board members who receive $100 per meeting, or roughly $9,600 annually. These exorbitant salaries must stop.
Permitting only elected officials to serve on the authority yields greater accountability. Only two of the authority’s current nine board members are elected officials - San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond and San Diego City Councilmember Tony Young. Constituents are familiar with calling their city councilmember or county supervisor to air views on everything from housing to the environment and our airports should be no exception.

Requiring local governments to select board members assures the public that the authority members are accessible. Currently, one authority member is appointed by the governor, and one is appointed by the San Diego County Sheriff. No airport authority in the state allows the governor or sheriff such a role in the appointment process. Rather than have politically connected outsiders occupy these seats, my bill would ensure that all members answer to the public, not just those who appointed them.

As my bill moves through the legislature, I’m optimistic that it will receive widespread support as more people learn of the need for change at the authority. To that end, I would like to hear your views on reforming the airport authority, and encourage you to weigh-in by visiting my website at www.senate.ca.gov and clicking on “contact me.” This is a good-government measure that saves taxpayer money, increases accountability and ensures transparency.