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Chamber joins airport debate

October 16, 2004

Mark R. Madler

Business leaders have been encouraging city and airport officials to

move ahead with proposed future plans for Bob Hope Airport.

Burbank Chamber of Commerce members are being encouraged to send a

letter to City Council members showing their support for the proposed

agreement between the city and the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport

Authority. Others have told the council at their weekly meetings to

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push for the agreement.

"We ask the City Council to negotiate the best possible agreement

to the benefit of the city," said Chamber member Thos Peterson at

Tuesday's meeting. "We elected you and we trust you to make decisions

on our behalf."

Airport Authority and city officials are negotiating an agreement

on future projects, including a new taxiway; reconfiguring an

intersection at the airport's entrance; and purchasing an existing

parking lot next to the terminal for valet and rental car parking.

The agreement could also freeze new terminal building for 10 years.

Chamber President Bill Jacot said the board of directors' support

is for the concept of the agreement.

"We are not for or against something that we have not seen," he

added.

Encouraging its members to voice their views on any future

agreement is the extent of the chamber's involvement. There are no

plans for himself or Gary Olson, the group's executive director, to

make a direct appeal to the council, Jacot said.

The chamber board's position conflicts with the goal of

grass-roots organization Burbank Voters & Taxpayers, which wants a

public vote on an agreement between the city and airport.

"It's a shame the chamber has chosen to pit the business community

against the residential community and put money over quality-of-life

issues," said Phil Berlin, a member of the organization battling the

agreement.

The Bob Hope Airport belongs to the chamber and its director of

public affairs, Victor Gill, is an ex officio member of the chamber.

Ex officio members do not take part in discussions or votes by the

chamber's board of directors, Jacot said.

The presence of chamber members speaking on their own behalf at

City Council meetings adds a new voice to a forum regularly dominated

by members of the group fighting the agreement.

The Burbank Voters & Taxpayers website has generated accusations

that the chamber is being "un-American" for opposing a vote on the

airport agreement and of boycotting businesses supporting an

agreement.

Berlin said it is unfortunate that businesses should be tainted

due to an incorrect decision by the chamber board to support the

proposed agreement and leave it solely to the council to approve any

agreement.

"It is a bad deal," Berlin said. "Even if the deal is bad, it

should still be subject to a vote of the people."

But it is an individual choice of the group members whether they

will patronize chamber businesses, Berlin said, adding that he was

going to continue giving as much of his business to city merchants as

possible.

"I can't imagine there is a city or state issue that hasn't

ruffled somebody's feathers," Jacot said of the reaction to the

chamber's involvement. "It's a matter of everyone having an opinion

and deserving to be heard."

He had no comment on the talk of boycotting businesses, Jacot

added.

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