Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is unhappy with Rep. Henry Waxman's… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais…)
In a sign of the high stakes and hardening political positions surrounding a major runway relocation project at Los Angeles International Airport, two of the state’s most powerful Democrats have come down sharply at odds on the issue.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a longtime foe of the proposal to shift the airport’s northernmost runway closer to Westchester and Playa del Rey, has gone public with her unhappiness with Rep. Henry Waxman, a colleague who supports the runway shift that proponents say is critical to keeping the airport competitive.
Speaking to the Westchester Democratic Club over the weekend, Waters described Waxman as someone who had joined "an unholy alliance" consisting of organized labor and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce on the runway issue.
Waters (D-Los Angeles) said Waxman told her he hadn't made up his mind on the runway, only to sign on to the plan the next day and seek support from his colleagues. Waters told the audience she confronted him in an elevator and "was not nice" -- telling him that she felt misled and objected to his involvement in an issue that directly affects her district.
“I said ... 'I don't like that and I don't have any respect for you for having done it,'” Waters told the audience. “Anybody here who wants to tell him I said that, please tell him.”
Waxman said he was persuaded by organized labor, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Federal Aviation Administration to support the plan. He confirmed that he had spoken twice with Waters but felt no obligation to inform her of his final decision.
“I don’t think I needed to get her permission to take a position on an issue. Nor did she tell me in her first conversation that she felt as strongly about it as she did afterward,” Waxman said. “Not that it would have made a difference.”
Waxman's district includes the South Bay communities of El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, as well as portions of the Westside. Waters' district stretches from South Los Angeles west to LAX.
The City Council is set to vote later this year on the runway plan, part of a larger $4.8-billion airport overhaul. The push to move the runway north 260 feet is backed by all but one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s appointees on the city’s airport commission. But it is opposed by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Westchester and LAX and is slated to step down June 30.
Opponents of the runway project say it will increase noise, air pollution and traffic congestion north of LAX.
The exchange between Waters and Waxman comes as a Westchester-based advocacy group has given notice to airport officials that they consider them to be in violation of a legal agreement dealing with airport expansion.
In her weekend speech, Waters told the audience to “pay attention” to what she described as an “unholy alliance” between labor unions and the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. She said the alliance puts elected officials “in the position of having to be in bed with them, because the places they go for money are ... the business community and organized labor.”
Waxman said he had not been lobbying colleagues on the runway plan but had no problem with people mentioning him as they sought support. He also indicated that he has no intention of getting into a fight with Waters, saying the issue is “not about me and … not about her.”