Trump Admin Sandbagged on Santa Monica Airport Closure; Will No Doubt Reverse It
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, an Obama Appointment, Double Crossed His New Boss Elaine Chao
February 5, 2017
It seems apparent that the Trump Whitehouse was not told in advance of Saturday's announced closure of the Santa Monica airport, as of 1/1/2029. That's because Donald Trump would never have agreed to it.
At a hastily called Saturday meeting, the City Council approved a settlement with the FAA restricting SMO's use until 2029, followed by its closing and turning over of the land to the City. The timing of the announced settlement, one week after the swearing in of a new Republican President, is hardly an accident. It is a parting shot by an Obama appointee at Trump and his allies. The settlement will not stand, and SMO will not close. Here's why.
The Federal Aviation Administration is headed by Michael Huerta. President Barack Obama appointed him to head the FAA in 2013; he has a five year term.
The FAA is an agency within the Department of Transportation. Huerta is also acting DOT Secretary, until the Senate approves the next Secretary of Transportation. He has his own political ambitions, no doubt.
President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to run the DOT, Elaine Chao, testified before a Senate panel last week en route to what is expected to be an easy confirmation, says the Washington Post. She was deputy secretary of transportation under George H.W. Bush. Chao has not been confirmed or sworn in yet, however.
To understand why this is Huerta's slap in the face to the Republicans, consider two facts: Chao is married to Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader. She has not yet been confirmed, but will be soon, at which time she will become Huerta's boss. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaine_Chao
Santa Monica is perhaps the most liberal community in the US. It is filled with the type of people Trump despises; well educated, left wing one percenters. Hillary Clinton came here to conduct numerous fundraisers with Hollywood A-Listers. 88% of Santa Monica voters were With Her in November 2016.
On June 7, 2016, the night of the California Primary election, Bernie Sanders' State HQ was in Santa Monica. At the Airport's Barker Hanger, of all places. A Bernie Sanders rally is very much the kind of "cultural event" that Santa Monica plans for the airport's future.
Why would the Trump administration want to reward Santa Monica with the gift of 227 prime acres, used for 100 years as a municipal airport? The answer is: He doesn't.
The settlement is the outgoing Democratic administration's gift to the ultra liberal community of Santa Monica, which has many residents vocally in favor of closing its airport and turning it into a park, luxury condos, cultural event venues and overpriced sushi bars. Most of those vocal opponents are vigorously rejecting the settlement. The SM City Council only voted to accept it 4-3, and only after the City Attorney told them at a rare Saturday closed session, that this offer was only on the table until Chao is confirmed. At their final opportunity, the City reluctantly accepted the offer because they know it's their last chance to get rid of the airport, and 12 years is better than never.
The rushed settlement was jammed through in the closing days of the Obama administration, along with a flurry of pardons, executive orders and national parks. Obama did approve the settlement himself; however President Donald Trump or Chao can override it and will probably do so next month.
Stay tuned. There's more here than meets the eye, and it ain't over till it's over.
For more information, see http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-santa-monica-airport-20170128-story.html