PRESS-ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL BOARD
Six years ago, it seemed improbable – maybe even impossible – that the city of Los Angeles would return L.A./Ontario International Airport to local control. Yet today, it’s happening.
Los Angeles was scheduled to transfer management of the facility today at 7 a.m. to the Ontario International Airport Authority. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, the officials involved in the handoff will mark the occasion with an invitation-only ceremony at the airport – which by then will have dropped “L.A.” from its official name and become simply Ontario International Airport once again.
Officials expected to attend that celebration include L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Federal Aviation Administration administrator Michael Huerta, Los Angeles World Airports CEO Deborah Flint and members of the Ontario City Council and OIAA. Chief among the latter will be Alan Wapner, the Ontario councilman and OIAA board member who deserves the most credit for the transfer; he’s been the driving force all along behind returning the airport to local control.
Six years ago, as L.A./ONT’s traffic was plummeting, Wapner urged the L.A. City Council to consider handing control of the airport back to Ontario, which had transferred the airport to L.A. in 1985, 18 years after L.A. began operating it under a joint powers agreement.
In September 2010, after then-L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he didn’t want to sell ONT to Ontario, this Editorial Board opined that “a coalition of local leaders, some sort of joint powers authority,” should be formed to manage the local airport under contract with LAWA. OIAA is now that authority, but it is taking full control of the airport, not merely a contract to manage it.
It was smart of Ontario officials to regionalize the effort for local control. They received help from so many quarters that the momentum became impossible to resist. In February 2011, a number of then-state lawmakers from the area – Bob Dutton, Gloria Negrete-McLeod, Norma Torres Wilmer Amina Carter, Kevin Jeffries and Brian Nestande – proposed legislation to form the local airport authority. Torres, who since then has moved to Congress, teamed up with Rep. Ken Calvert this year to pass federal legislation that made the transfer possible.
In December 2011, then-Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge proposed, and his City Council passed, a resolution in favor of local control. Loveridge now is a board member of OIAA, as is Orange County business leader Lucy Dunn, giving the agency regional clout. The other members are Ontario Councilman Jim Bowman and San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman. Eventually, cities across Southern California supported the transfer of control. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein gave negotiations a boost in 2013.
It may be the most important person behind the transfer is Garcetti. His predecessor, Villaraigosa, gave lip service to regionalization of air traffic across Southern California, but his actions worked to the contrary. Garcetti, though, has been a good-faith partner in negotiations who ultimately allowed the transfer of airport control to take place.
So it’s fitting that Garcetti will be at ONT Wednesday to mark this milestone, along with Ontario Mayor Paul Leon and others who have helped make it happen.