I am not convinced by the supposed shock and outrage expressed by city
officials at the tone and content of FAA chief Jane Garvey's November
letter that blasted the framework agreement as violative of federal
policy. The papers have reported time and time again the trips to
Washington made by Mayor Stacey Murphy and the city's attorney, Peter
Kirsch, for private meetings with FAA officials. It is hard to believe
that Garvey's letter was the first time they had an inkling that there
was FAA opposition to the Framework Agreement.
Mayor Murphy has not improved matters over the issue of easterly
takeoffs. As fellow Democrats, one would think that Mayor Murphy would be
more deferential to Rep. Howard Berman, especially when one considers his
influence in Washington, and in particular with the FAA.
The fight over the airport terminal is at an impasse, with the city
having won most of the battles, but not the war. While the official word
is that the litigation cost Burbank taxpayers $7 million, the real number
is probably a lot closer to $10 million. The prospects for the future are
gloomy at best because the City Council has dug in its heels over this
matter and, so far, has refused to budge.
Burbank residents are likely asking if city officials knew or should
have known that the FAA was unlikely to agree to the restrictions in the
framework agreement. Then why did we waste all of the time and money? The
point is understood by the 27-year-old case of Burbank vs. Lockheed Air
Terminal, where the U.S. Supreme Court said that local rules and
restrictions couldn't be placed on airports because they interfere with
interstate commerce. That rule has not changed. In fact, Burbank's own
city attorney in 1970 advised the then City Council not to sue to impose
restrictions stating that the effort would fail because it would
interfere with interstate commerce. Too bad the current council didn't
read that opinion.
The current City Council members allowed themselves to be hoodwinked
into believing the FAA would bend the federal rules just for them. The
fight will likely continue until either the council admits it has
followed a flawed policy or the council is changed by Burbank voters fed
up with the expense of the city's failed airport campaign.
* SEAN McCARTHY is a former assistant director of communications and
public affairs for Burbank Airport.