Earlier today, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Organization front group “Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions” submitted 15,000 signatures to place an initiative on the fall ballot that would make any efforts to make major management decisions or downsize the Santa Monica Airport subject to a city-wide vote.
Three Santa Monica residents managed to haul the 15,700 signatures, gathered exclusively by paid signature gatherers who were accused of saying whatever was needed to get a signature, up the steps of city hall. For a Charter Amendment to be placed on the fall ballot, it needs 9,100 signatures from registered Santa Monica voters.
With over 5,000 submitted, it is likely that SMfOHDD reached its goal even with local advocacy, community and political groups urging members and residents to rescind their signatures. Despite the successful gathering of signatures, Airport2Park released a statement praising the community pushback noting that:
“…the price-per-signature the AOPA paid from about $4 originally to as much as $20 this week. Sworn affidavits have been collected regarding false statements used by the gatherers, including claims that the state or the City Council itself backed the initiative; that the measure would reform SMO to make it pollution-free; that the City Council had approved massive housing developments at SMO; one even claimed that no jets currently use the airport.”
Thus far, about 35 people have reached out to City Hall to do revoke their signatures. If enough signatures were gathered, then a simple majority is needed to pass the charter amendment.
Resident Lauren McCollum, one of the filers of the petition, claims that the amendment is needed because the City Council can’t be trusted with land-use decisions for airport land should the status of agreements between the city and Federal Aviation Administration expire.
“If the legal status of the land changes, the city can make whatever land use decisions it wants. But, it must get voter approval rather than listening to a few political insiders,” claims McCollum. “The city has wasted millions in fruitless litigation with the federal government at the behest of a few pressure groups. But the courts have made it clear that the law requires the city to continue operating this land as a low-density airport.”
The City Council has not been sitting on its hands while this debate moved forward. The Council has floated the idea of an alternate proposal which would require voter outreach for any “significant” changes but would allow the city to make management decisions on issues such as rent, landing fees and other safety and quality of life decisions. The Council has not decided whether or not to place this measure on the ballot.