10/29/2012 by Cheryl Getuiza

California region takes historic steps towards local control of airport


The airport in Ontario, CA (photo: Flickr/richmanwisco)

Listen up Los Angeles. The Inland Empire is sending out a message they hope is loud and clear: Set Ontario Free!

The battle to gain local control of L.A./Ontario International Airport is heating up. The new regional authority, The Ontario International Airport Authority held its first meeting recently. The first order of business? The commission elected officers, to begin planning for the initial operation and manage of the airport, should the OIAA gain control. Currently Los Angeles World Airports manages the airport.  

Ontario council member and OIAA board member Jim Bowman said the meeting was a "historic moment" and that he looked forward to working "with our collegues throughout the region to return the Ontario International Airport to the jewel it once was and continue to shine that to the brilliancy that it can be."

The governing board is made up of leaders throughout the region: Ontario council member Alan Wapner is president, San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt is vice president, and Riverside mayor Ronald Loveridge is Secretary. Other members are Ontario council member Jim Bowman and Orange County Business Council President and CEO Lucy Dunn.

“This meeting is just the first of many, many steps toward success and I’m looking forward to the big celebration in the not too distant future when Ontario Airport returns to the region in which it belongs,” said Dunn.

The OIAA’s first meeting came after the Los Angeles City Administrative Officer released a report recommending the city of Angels negotiate for the transfer of ONT to the OIAA. That report and the recommendations were just approved by the L.A. City Council. 

The report states transferring ownership could foster the regionalization of air traffic and encourage economic growth across Southern California and local control gives both airports ability to grow, as ONT struggles with fewer passengers and LAX deals with congestion and lack of modernization of its runways and other facilities.

The two groups, of course, have to come to terms of the value of the airport.

California Forward has been talking with our people around the state for years. Their number one concern? The economy. If the region gets local control, there may be more job opportunities and existing businesses may see more customers. This could be the region's lifeline to a more thriving economy

Loveridge, who’s pleased with the recommendations, said “we look forward to a meaningful and productive dialogue.”

The OIAA believes local control:

  • Allows LAWA to focus its energy just on LAX
  • Reduces traffic congestion and harmful car emissions
  • Gives travelers more options of flights and airports
  • Ensures Southern California will have sufficient, sensibly priced airport capacity 

Support for local control is gaining momentum with more than 125 local governments, elected officials, businesses, civic groups and regional planning organizations. In fact, the campaign’s Facebook page surpassed 10,000 “likes.” 

“It is going to take a lot of work to bring the Ontario Airport back to regional prominence and we are all committed to that goal,” said Wapner.

Instead of squabbling, various government agencies are working together to see this matter through. A collaborative effort to gain local control makes sense--regional representatives are better fit to figure out what's best for the communities in that region.  And folks who live there will be able to have more say and more sway. The more people involved in this process, the more confidence they will have that their governents are working for them. 

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