The first step in the process of repealing the Tehachapi Municipal Code governing the formation of the Airport Commission was achieved the night of Nov. 4, at the City Council's regular meeting.
The new ordinance that was introduced would not only eliminate the code defining the Airport Commission and its role, but would establish an "advisory committee to address specific issues at the request of either the airport manager, city manager or City Council," as stated on the council's agenda.
That committee would be composed of the city manager, Greg Garrett, the airport manager, Tom Glasgow, one City Council member and two City of Tehachapi residents.
Four locals, all with ties to the local aviation community, spoke during the agenda item's public comment period. One of the speakers was Eric Hansen, current chair of the Airport Commission.
Although he did not voice direct opposition to dissolving the commission at the meeting, Hansen had previously submitted a letter for the council's consideration, in which he recommended the function of the Airport Commission be redefined, "acknowledging that the city management now and for many years effectively manages the airport in concert with the City Council."
Standing before the council, he said, "As you know, I provided my comments in a letter to the committee, and I have made comments and complaints over the years... that the functions in the municipal code that are given to the Airport Commission have pretty much been taken over by the city staff. In the interest of expediency in the way they're handled and certain legalities about how issues are handled, I can understand why that's done."
Hansen recapped the two possibilities to resolving the issue as outlined in his letter, the first being to dissolve the commission, and the second to maintain it as a public forum to address concerns about the airport.
"So those are the two options I've provided, and I could live with either one as the city council sees fit," he said in conclusion.
City resident James Roberts, who said he has actively participated in the aviation community as a hangar owner, pilot and flying instructor since moving to Tehachapi in 1977, voiced his opposition to the proposed ordinance.
"The current commission is now and has been in the past comprised of members highly qualified and respected in the aviation community," Roberts said. "To form an advisory and put members possibly without an aviation background [on it] would be a step backwards when looking for input on airport issues and improvements, and especially also if none of them are from outside the city. Going on further, why can't the current commission serve as your advisory group? They're more talented than anybody you could possibly pick on an advisory committee."
Garrett spoke regarding the new ordinance, prior to public comment.
"[The Airport Commission was] originally designed to be an advisory commission to the City Council, but city staff has filled that function," he said. "So whenever we have pros and cons, different grants, opportunities, development opportunities, those come to the airport manager, city manager, we bring it to council as appropriate. So the Airport Commission has evolved into this meeting that really doesn't serve much of a function, quite frankly."
Roberts reasoned that a breakdown of communication between the City Council and the Airport Commission must be taking place.
"If the commission isn't performing to your expectations, you should clearly define any problems and correct them so that the commission may perform to their expected standards," he said.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to enact the ordinance at its next meeting on Monday, Nov. 18, following a formal public hearing on the matter.