Neil Derry

By Supervisor Neil Derry
Posted: 10/12/2011 06:21:59 PM PDT

For years, I and many others have watched in utter shock and amazement at the unfolding debacle known as the San Bernardino International Airport, which should be called the “airport to nowhere.”

It has always defied a logical explanation.

A convicted felon who has served time in prison and been banned from the aviation industry is tapped to develop an airport that is only minutes from an existing international airport. The elected officials providing the oversight have zero experience or knowledge about how to establish an airport and they give a man of questionable character a blank check. What could possibly go wrong? The absurdity of it all is jaw-dropping.

The FBI raid at the airport raises enormous questions. One of which is “how did we get here?”

As a former councilman in the city of San Bernardino who has repeatedly expressed my opposition to this commercial passenger airport over the years, I have a pretty good understanding of the situation.

After the closure of Norton Air Force Base, our region searched desperately to replace the 10,000 jobs lost. Lots of ideas arose over the years; World Trade Center, cargo airport, business incubator, technology center, and none gained any real interest from private sector investors.

Fifteen years later and without even so much as a feasibility study, our elected officials decided to pursue this ill-fated commercial passenger airport. The private sector, upon being approached to develop this boondoggle, responded with deafening silence.

If the private sector feels that it cannot make a profit on a business venture, it should give politicians pause. But, they were hell-bent on developing an airport. Championing the development of an airport allowed them to promote themselves with fluffy press releases and slick campaign mailers demonstrating their concern for creating jobs. Even better, it allowed them to provide a steady supply of construction and development contracts to local firms that also just happened to be campaign donors.

There was a problem. They couldn’t find a for-profit company willing to tackle this project. Enter Scot Spencer, the convicted felon barred from working in the aviation industry. Former Supervisor Hansberger was effusive with his praise stating that “Scot really understands the industry in a way that the rest of us don’t.” He would go on to say that Spencer’s connections would save the airport millions of dollars in a Press Enterprise article in 2008. In the very same article, Mayor Pat Morris said, “I don’t think there’s another Scot Spencer around, with his unique qualifications and experience” with running an airline.

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