By Gary Walker
Two local members of Congress who largely have similar fiscal and social viewpoints apparently differ strongly on how the nation’s fourth busiest airport plans to modernize its facilities, including how it proposes to make room for larger commercial airplanes.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Westchester) recently took issue with statements made by her congressional colleague, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Venice), before they left Washington, D.C. for the congressional break last month.
The disagreement between the two highly popular members of the California congressional delegation stems from Waxman’s apparent support for a highly controversial decision by officials of Los Angeles World Airports, which involves moving the northernmost runway at Los Angeles International Airport 260 feet towards Westchester and Playa del Rey.
Addressing a local Democratic Club meeting on March 23, Waters talked about a discussion that she had with Waxman about the runway proposal, known as Alternative 1.
“I had a long conversation with Rep. Waxman (last month) about this,” began the congresswoman. “The reason that I had a long conversation with him is because I sat with him on the House floor and I asked him about his position on LAX because I had been hearing some rumors.
“He said to me, ‘Yes, I’ve been approached, but I haven’t made up my mind. I’m not doing anything at this point.’ I said I want you to be clear that there is strong opposition to the airport plan,” Waters continued. “I want you to give it all the consideration that you need to, but I want you to be with me on this. And he said, ‘I hear you.’”
According to the congresswoman, she was approached the next day by an unnamed elected official from California who was waving a letter and told her that Waxman had asked her to sign the letter supporting LAX’s plan to move the runway.
“I felt that I had been misled,” Waters told the audience.
During her comments, Waters appeared agitated regarding her colleague’s position. She said that she does not respect Waxman for his actions on the issue. “And anybody who wants to tell him that, please tell him,” Waters added to applause from the audience.
Representatives from Waxman’s office said they could not locate the letter that Waters referenced.
“I support the modernization plan at Los Angeles International Airport. The FAA has stated that airport ‘safety and efficiency would be greatly improved by further separating the two runways and building a center taxiway between them,’” Waxman, who also represents part of Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey, told The Argonaut on April 2.
The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce supports the runway move as do various labor organizations.
The disagreement over the airport’s runway plan highlights how LAX’s modernization and the vehement opposition to relocating the runway by residents of Westchester and Playa del Rey have become a lightening rod of controversy.
The local chamber of commerce, the LAX Coastal Area Chamber, has adopted LAWA’s position on the runway, leading some of its members to cancel their memberships.
Waters called the union between organized labor and the downtown chamber an “unholy alliance.”
“It’s something that you better pay attention to,” she cautioned.
Waxman’s position has angered those who oppose the controversial position adopted by representatives of LAWA, including some of his constituents.
The Venice Neighborhood Council posted its support for what is commonly called Alternative 2 on its website after Waters’ comments. Alternative 2 does not move the runway.
“The motion passed unanimously, in large part because of testimony that rebuilding Lincoln Boulevard to accommodate the runway move would tie up Westside traffic for a long period of time (one to two years) and involve unknown engineering risks that could delay rebuilding even longer,” the motion states. “We also heard testimony that while the primary justification for the move was to improve safety on the airfield, a study done by NASA and a blue-ribbon commission of airport safety experts concluded that there was no safety problem that would be solved by the proposal.”
The post encourages residents to “express your concerns about (Waxman’s) endorsement of a plan that will cost millions of dollars in lost time due to longer commutes, (hundreds) of millions of dollars in construction costs and unknown costs to be borne by the city, the state and LAX to mitigate the effects of the runway move.
“(Rep.) Waxman has decided to ignore the Venice Neighborhood Council, WRAC (Western Regional Alliance of Councils) as well as scores of neighborhood groups opposed to the plan. And he ignores us without disclosing his reasons for doing so. Let the congressman know that ignoring his constituents is not part of his job description.”
Waters asked the audience to call constituents in Waxman’s district who opposed the runway plan and encourage them to call the congressman and lodge their complaints with his embrace of Alternative 1.
“I want them to tell him to get his nose out of Westchester’s business,” she said.
The Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa also backs Alternative 2, as do several transportation advocates, City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Councilman-elect Mike Bonin. Leading mayoral candidate, Councilman Eric Garcetti, recently stated that he opposes the separation of the north runways.
Westchester: Waters takes Waxman to task over statements regarding LAX runway
By Gary Walker