Lake Elsinore is not standing with the City of Ontario in its effort to gain local control of the international airport located there.
During its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night, Lake Elsinore City Council members voted 3-2 against a resolution that would have supported the northern city’s move to take control of Ontario International Airport away from Los Angeles.
“I don’t know why this is before us,” said Lake Elsinore City Councilwoman Melissa Melendez. “I don’t think this is any of our business.”
Melendez, along with council members Peter Weber and Daryl Hickman, voted against the resolution Tuesday.
The City of Ontario in recent weeks has ramped up its bid for local control. Ontario City Manager Chris Hughes has pitched elected officials and business leaders across the Southland, making his case that the airport is on a dizzying downward spiral under Los Angeles World Airports, the same operator that oversees Los Angeles International Airport.
On its website www.setontariofree.com, the City of Ontario features its 2010 Recovery Plan for the airport, which states that “Ontario is committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to assure that this vital economic engine is reinvigorated through the creation of a low-cost airport that aggressively markets the airport and region.”
According to the website, LAWA’s commitment to Ontario is overshadowed by its obligation to the much larger LAX. As a result, Ontario International has experienced steep passenger declines in recent years caused by LAWA’s lack of marketing efforts that include allowing high travel costs to get out of hand at the facility, the site contends.
Lake Elsinore Mayor Brian Tisdale said the airport issue came before his city after he attended a recent Western Riverside Council of Governments meeting in which Hughes addressed attendees and argued his case for local control.
“Nearly all cities in the Inland Empire are supporting Ontario,” Tisdale said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Tisdale ticked off reasons why Ontario wants local control, and said the San Bernardino County city is willing to spend $50 million of its reserves to make it happen.
In a brief interview after Tuesday night’s meeting, Tisdale said Ontario International Airport offers a valuable service to local residents who would otherwise have to commute a greater distance for air travel services.
Tisdale also expressed concern over Ontario International's future.
"If Southwest [Airlines] pulls out, that could be it," he said.
But during Tuesday’s meeting Melendez argued that the City of Lake Elsinore is only getting one side of the story – Ontario’s.
On Monday, LAWA announced it had launched a website to “provide accurate data, facts on LA/Ontario International Airport.”
According to a LAWA news release, the site “was developed in response to considerable discussion on the political level and in the media examining the underlying reasons for passenger declines at ONT.”
LAWA officials attribute the loss of passengers at Ontario International Airport “to the recession, the slow economic recovery of the Inland Empire, as well as changes in the airline industry that focus on building service at large hub airports at the expense of medium-hub airports such as ONT.”