Los Angeles World Airports

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
and Neil Nisperos, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 09/30/14, 5:12 PM PDT | Updated: 5 hrs ago

Inland Empire elected officials are expressing shock and disappointment over a comment made by a top executive at Los Angeles World Airports in which he referred to the Inland Empire as the “inbred Inland Empire.”

The statement, made by LAWA Chief Operating Officer Stephen Martin in an e-mail, surfaced in a motion filed in Riverside Superior Court on Friday by the city of Ontario in its ongoing legal battle with LAWA over control of L.A./Ontario International Airport. The motion also made mention of a comment made by LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey in January 2010 in which she referred to an airport regionalization plan as a “politically driven mantra to appease LAX neighbors.”

“I was appalled by the statements that were made, and I think, frankly, it shows their ignorance of the Inland Empire economic market and what goes on out here,” Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner said Tuesday. “I don’t think most of these people have even been to the Inland Empire, and it’s reflected in their statements. It shows their ignorance.”

In its motion, Ontario alleges LAWA abandoned a 2006 regionalization plan to boost passenger and cargo airline traffic at its underutilized airports including LAX, Ontario International and Palmdale Regional airports, and instead focused its efforts solely on LAX. Ontario is asking the judge to turn control of L.A/Ontario International Airport over to the Ontario.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, prompted by “troubling statements” in Ontario’s court motion, introduced a motion calling for LAWA to report to a City Council subcommittee on the efforts it has made since 2006 to spread traffic to other airports in the region.

In October 2012, LAWA released figures showing that passenger traffic at Ontario declined by 6.9 percent between 2011 and 2012, while passenger traffic increased by 3.8 percent at LAX in the same time period, according to the court motion.

“The ‘death spiral’ at (L.A./Ontario International Airport) will continue unless something dramatically occurs to halt it,” the motion states.

During a May 2014 presentation about Ontario and improvements authorized by the Board of Airport Commissioners, Martin also referred to the battle over Ontario airport as “a storied tale of charity toward the Inland Empire,” according to the court motion.

Ontario has been in negotiations with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti over a price to regain control of the airport. Jeff Millman, spokesman for Garcetti, who oversees operations at LAWA, said late Tuesday: “Mayor Garcetti supports continuing negotiations for a fair transfer of Ontario Airport.”

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