In a move that is peculiar even for this old-boy microcosm of San Diego politics, a sheriff has been appointed the responsibility of selecting a member of the executive committee of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, thanks to legislation amended by State Sen. Steve Peace.
Created under Assembly Bill 93, legislation written by Assemblyman Howard Wayne in 2001, the Airport Authority will assume control of the operation, expansion or potential relocation of Lindbergh Field. The Airport Authority will take control on Dec. 2.
An executive committee will be made up of three members, each earning more than $139,000 annually. Originally, one appointment was to be made by Mayor Dick Murphy, one by Gov. Gray Davis and the third by the county Board of Supervisors.
Under the new legislation, the third appointment has been yanked from supervisors and given to county Sheriff William Kolender and approved by the county Board of Supervisors.
“My only interest is to pick the most qualified person,” Kolander said.
When asked if he had any experience with a major international travel hub, Kolander simply answered, “No.”
The line from Peace's office is that the move was made because of the importance of homeland security.
However, when asked what role his law enforcement background would play in the selection, Kolender replied somewhat sarcastically: “My job is not to pick the head of security for the airport.”
Peace's staff also asserted that the move was made to de-politicize the decision because Kolender was elected by the people of the entire county and best represents the unincorporated areas.
The decision caught just about everybody off guard, even District 2 Councilmember Byron Wear, who's widely rumored to be hoping for an Airport Authority appointment. “That was kind of a surprise to all of us,” Wear said.
Critics of the way the Airport Authority is being formed believe the positions are little more than cushy landing spots for termed-out politicians.
“The appointments are supposed take effect on Dec. 2 of 2002, said Ron Morrison, vice chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments. “The first thing that happens in the first week in December in 2002 [is] new electees are sworn in-that means that old electees are out of office. There's no job criteria; there's just a paycheck waiting for them.”
The majority of airport director positions nationwide are occupied by volunteers who receive small stipends or no payment at all, Morrison said.
Peace, Wayne and Wear are all termed out of their respective political positions later this year.