By Art Marroquin and Liset Márquez, Staff Writers
Created: 01/23/2012 04:05:25 PM PST
The president of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners on Monday called for a resolution stating that LA/Ontario International Airport will not be available for a transfer or sale for at least two years.
The move comes less than one week after Ontario embarked on a new public relations campaign known as “Set Ontario Free” to wrest control of the midsize airport from Los Angeles.
“The transfer of Ontario is not something we have solicited, it’s what (the city of) Ontario has asked for,” said Lawson, who is chairman of the seven-member civilian panel that oversees Los Angeles International, ONT and Van Nuys airports.
“I don’t see any reason for it,” Lawson said. “I’d like to take it off the table for now.”
But Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner isn’t phased by the board’s new direction, as city officials are dealing directly with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council.
“It’s an offer on the table for the mayor and council, if they refuse, our offer then – we’ll file a claim and sue,” Wapner said.
Los Angeles city and airport leaders have rebuffed a $50 million offer from Ontario city leaders to assume control of ONT.
Ontario originally approached the commission with the offer and they chose not to “act on it,” said Wapner, who is the city’s liaison on the issue.
“If we wait for a resolution in two years, (ONT) will be closed by then. What they’re clearly saying is Ontario is not important and concentrating on LAX,” Wapner said.
The city of Los Angeles has spent more than $560 million on a series of improvements since it assumed management of ONT in 1967, including the construction of two new airline terminals during the 1990s.
Ontario officials balk at the figure, saying the improvements were all paid by the Federal Aviation Administration as well as fees passed onto passengers and air carriers at the airport.
“They have not invested a penny into it. If they say otherwise then I’d like to see proof of that,” Wapner said.
Ontario city leaders have claimed Los Angeles city leaders have allowed ONT to struggle while focusing on efforts to boost traffic at LAX.
Lawson reiterated ONT has not fully recovered from a recession-fueled loss of flights, along with one-third of its traveler base since 2007.
Lawson said he is bothered by Ontario’s newly launched campaign, adding that it “impunes the integrity,” of the commission. Lawson, who noted that he board is not paid, called it the most ethical, hard working commission “the city has ever seen.”
Lawson said he takes personal any implications that “we have done less.”
Commissioner Boyd Hight added that the board has offered Ontario, three times, the opportunity to lead in marketing efforts to improve traffic at ONT. They have decline each time.
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