A challenger to one of the Westside’s longest serving members of Congress has jumped into the fray surrounding the level of air pollution at Santa Monica Airport and its consequences to those who work at or reside near the city-owned general aviation airport.
Marcy Winograd, who is seeking to unseat Congresswoman Jane Harman in the 36th congressional district’s June primary, has sent a letter to celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Julia Roberts, John Travolta and Tom Cruise, asking them to take a “no more jets” pledge and cease flying into and out of the airport in their private jets.
“If the Federal Aviation Administration refuses to act, if our lawmakers can’t produce results, then the people must take reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of their families,” the letter states. “What may be a matter of convenience to some is a matter of life and death to others trapped in a vortex of noise and air pollution.”
Winograd is also asking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who frequently flies into Santa Monica Airport from Sacramento for the weekend, not to use a private jet.
The request came after Winograd attended a community forum on air pollution earlier this year hosted by a neighborhood association and a grassroots organization that have attempted to convince city leaders to conduct air quality studies around the airport.
At the meeting, Dr. Suzanne Paulson, a UCLA professor, discussed a study that she and several colleagues conducted in December that discovered a significant amount of ultrafine particles downwind of the airport toward the eastern end of Santa Monica, Mar Vista and West Los Angeles.
The study indicates that large amounts of ultrafine particulates can lead to adverse respiratory effects, according to its authors.
“I noticed that there were a lot of residents who were full of frustration, anger and sadness over the findings of the air pollution study, and I thought, ‘Enough is enough,’” Winograd responded when asked the impetus for her pledge. “I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to live there and suffer through this, day after day, year after year.”
Martin Rubin, director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, applauded Winograd’s proposal.
“Several years ago we met with Marcy Winograd to show her how extreme the air pollution from jet traffic is at Santa Monica Airport. This pledge is a very smart idea that could only prove to educate the celebrities who are inclined to travel via jet into Santa Monica Airport,” Rubin said. “Celebrities could then choose to join the community who suffer daily from extreme jet exhaust blowing into homes, by altering their method of traveling to the Santa Monica-Los Angeles area.”
The Santa Monica City Council, on the heels of the air pollution study, passed a resolution January 19th that authorizes its city staff to work with state and federal agencies to establish toxicity standards for aircraft-generated particulate matter, and recommended that they craft legislation that will enforce such standards.
“We are moving on to
active contact with our state and federal representatives on behalf of Santa Monica and West L.A. residents,” said Councilman Kevin McKeown, who brought the motion to the council.
Rubin says he has little confidence that the city’s action on a toxicity study will amount to much long-term.
“Standards for ultra-fine (nano) particles will be established in the future and this action by Santa Monica will probably have little if any effect on accelerating the process,” said Rubin.
“The city would serve their constituents and their Los Angeles neighbors much better by asking the FAA, congress members (Henry) Waxman and Harman, and Sens. (Barbara) Boxer and (Dianne) Feinstein, as well as President (Barack) Obama to conduct a federal investigation as a result of the new UCLA study,” he asserted. “That would accelerate the process.”
Not everyone backs Winograd’s proposal.
Arthur Rubin, the proprietor of a Santa Monica Airport-based private air cargo and delivery company, Action Air Express, says the “no more jets” pledge is discriminatory.
“It is unfair to aircraft,” said Rubin, who is no relation to Martin Rubin. “All you would do is force the jets to go to other airports, putting an even bigger burden on them.”
Winograd, who last ran a primary challenge to Harman in 2006, said the UCLA findings and the council’s recent vote for toxicity studies are due to the efforts by Rubin’s group and others that have lobbied the city government to take action.
“These are the results of grassroots pressure by the citizens,” she said. “I applaud the fact that there will now be more studies on air pollutants.”
McKeown says he supports Winograd’s “no more jets” proposal.
“I’m glad Marcy Winograd has brought this to the level of personal responsibility, and reminded individual private jet patrons that their actions impact innocent residents near the airport,” he said. “While Marcy will represent an adjacent district, not our own, it will be great for Santa Monica to have another congressional friend, both on our vexing airport pollution issues and in our ongoing struggle with the FAA over airport safety.”
Arthur Rubin also feels prohibiting jet aircraft would have an adverse effect on the local economy.
“What about the fuelers, the hotels, the restaurant and other local businesses that benefit from the airport?” he asked. “The economic impact would be enormous. Why would anyone even suggest something like that?”
Rubin also offered a position that several others have regarding the complaints from homeowners who want less or, in some cases, no jet traffic at the local airfield.
“The airport was here first,” he pointed out. “A pledge like this is unfair, and it deprives many of the convenience of traveling to their destinations in a shorter amount of time.”
The Venice Neighborhood Council passed a motion January 19th to authorize $850 for a community survey and expert analysis regarding the jet fumes at the airport.
Martin Rubin welcomed the Venice action.
“I would be glad to participate in the planning process for the (Venice) airport survey,” he said.
Rubin also noted that the Mar Vista Community Council will soon publish its own one-year airport survey, which garnered approximately 700 replies.
Winograd brushed aside the notion that her “no more jets” idea would unfairly hamper anyone’s ability to travel by airplane.
“At some point, your neighbor’s health has to take precedence over convenience,” the congressional candidate said.