Liset Marquez, Staff Writer
Created: 08/17/2012 09:32:48 AM PDT

Storify: The battle over ONT

ONTARIO – In its latest grab for control of L.A./Ontario International Airport, city officials announced Friday they are forming a Joint Powers Agreement with San Bernardino County to create the Ontario International Airport Authority.

Governed by a five-member commission, the focus of the authority – should Ontario gain control of the airport – will be to operate and grow the struggling facility, which has lost about 42 percent of its passenger traffic since 2008.

Members will review the development of an airport business plan, stay updated on talks with Los Angeles on the airport’s transfer and review options for airport management.

Ontario officials said they would consider involving the city of Los Angeles, which runs Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of ONT, in the structure of the JPA.

“Ontario airport is the most powerful economic engine in the Inland Empire,” Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner said. “There is regional consensus that it should be operated by an agency that is responsible and accountable to our residents for its service and performance.”

City Council members are expected to approve the authority at its next council meeting on Tuesday.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is expected to give its approval on Aug. 28.

On Friday, LAWA officials said their immediate focus is ensuring the long-term success of ONT.

“An independent, multi-jurisdictional authority can be a good governance model for enterprises like airports. If there were to be a change in the governance structure for ONT, an airport authority is one of many models,” LAWA spokeswoman Maria Tesoro-Fermin said.

For nearly three years, Ontario officials have been engaged in efforts to wrest control away from LAWA.

Ontario officials maintain the agency, which also oversees Los Angeles International Airport as well as Van Nuys Airport, has not done enough to attract traffic to ONT.

City officials are waiting for Los Angeles City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana to release his independent analysis of the proposal.

Wapner said Ontario officials expect the report to be submitted soon to a Los Angeles City Council subcomittee. The formation of the authority is a preliminary step in the process to snatch control away from LAWA, he said.

“If and when L.A. is ready to transfer the airport we wanted it to go to an independent authority and not the city,” Wapner said.

Ontario City Manager Chris Hughes and San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux have worked on the authority for some time, Wapner said.

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