10:00 PM PDT on Friday, September 9, 2011
When a grand jury report criticized inadequate oversight at San Bernardino International Airport, officials fought back with positive publicity.
Newspaper ads touted a study showing public and private investment at the former Norton Air Force Base has created 9,355 jobs, generated $500 million in payroll and produced $1.2 billion in economic activity.
Of course, most of that is owing to warehouses built by Hillwood Development Corp. outside the airport.
The grand jury was concerned with how the airport is run: lacking financial controls, a no-bid contract for the terminal’s general contractor, faulty passenger traffic projections and used airline equipment bought before it was inspected.
It seems the airport commissioners still don’t get the message: They haven’t given proper oversight to the spending of nearly $200 million in taxpayer dollars.
I was hoping the man who brought that money to San Bernardino International — Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands — would knock heads together and tell the commissioners they need to be better stewards of the public’s money.
I spoke to Lewis when he was in California recently, but he hadn’t had time to read the report.
Knocking heads isn’t his style anyway, said his spokesman, Jim Specht. He believes in securing the funds, but not dictating to local officials how to redevelop the shuttered base.
Since 1995, Lewis has brought in $179 million to repair roads, runways and buildings, and $67 million for projects by Kelly Space & Technology and Magneto-Inductive, two private employers on the former base.
When I called airport authority staff to discuss the issues Friday, no one was answering the phones.
Callers get trapped in a voicemail maze with several dead ends, including one that refers you to a disconnected number at Palm Meadows golf course, which closed years ago.
You can reach a “company directory.” But the executive director isn’t listed.
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