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Airport PR Plan Was Off Radar : Supervisors on target with decision to reject El Toro campaign

August 03, 1997

A majority of the Board of Supervisors appeared to get a grip on its senses late last month on the matter of a high-priced public relations campaign to sell a proposed airport at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. The board wisely, if unexpectedly, rejected the controversial plan to spend more than $450,000 on a campaign to tell the public about the conversion, and correct "'misinformation" from airport foes.

Better late than never; the board deserves recognition for making a sound course correction. There may be some bad scuttlebutt on both sides of this issue, but depth of conviction should not be mistaken for misinformation.

The two supervisors who serve parts of South County clearly were disturbed by the proposal. Supervisor Thomas W. Wilson said it reminded him of brainwashing, and would promote only one side of the debate. Both he and Todd Spitzer, who also criticized the effort, pledged to find some county funding for airport opponents who are preparing a non-aviation plan for El Toro. In finding that money, the supervisors not only would be serving their constituents, they would address the larger need for a more comprehensive review of options.

The surprising turnaround came from Supervisor Jim Silva, who has been a strong airport supporter. He correctly observed that the antidote for those who worry about "misinformation" by airport opponents simply would be to do the job well for less money.

Regarding other alternatives, the plan for a stadium being floated recently is an obvious enough suggestion. However, we have serious doubts about whether the proposal would work.

The Irvine City Council recently commissioned a $63,000 study to determine whether it makes financial sense to build a professional sports stadium or arena for football or other teams. The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year by the accounting firm Arthur Andersen & Co.

The city probably could save some money, and remove one bit of ammunition that airport proponents already are using, the idea that foes are wasting time and effort. They should cut to the chase and recognize this as a bad idea.

A football stadium for Orange County might make sense as part of the Anaheim sports area. However, cities around the country that have looked at the football stadium option invariably are finding that hosting a few dates annually doesn't bring hoped-for economic benefit. Additionally, pro franchises seem to be expecting more and more of cities.

Surely there are better ideas awaiting exploration, given the growing importance of the Irvine Spectrum and the general economic prosperity now enjoyed in the region.

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