On December 1, four South Bay mayors met in National City to appoint a new member to the board of directors of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. The four mayors were: Ron Morrison for National City, Casey Tanaka for Coronado, Cheryl Cox for Chula Vista, and Jim Janney for Imperial Beach.
The airport authority website defines the agency’s tasks as: “to
operate San Diego international Airport, plan for the future of air transportation needs of the region, serve as the region’s Airport Land Use Commission — and ensure the adoption of land use plans that protect public health and safety surrounding all 16 of the county’s airports.”
The four mayors selected Janney for the position. Janney was defeated by Serge Dedina in the recent Imperial Beach mayoral election. The county Registrar of Voters certified the election results the day after the meeting — December 2.
(The registrar also recognized Mary Salas as the winner of Chula Vista’s mayoral race. Cox, who was termed out, presided over her last council meeting December 6.)
Appointment to the airport authority board is considered a political plum and some people suggested the appointment should have been deferred until after the two new mayors were sworn in. The term of the current representative, Tom Smisek, ends January 31, 2015.
A 2014 U-T article titled “Airport board stipends total $140,000” details the financial perks that come with the appointment:
“Commissioners and committee members receive $200 per meeting or event, up to eight per month, as a way of compensating them for their volunteer work.”
The article also notes that airport authority boardmember Greg Cox augmented his county supervisor income (which is $143,031 annually) with airport-board stipends that totaled $10,600 within a two-year span.
Similarly, the article points out that councilman David Alvarez, who receives $75,386 as a city-council member, received an additional $5800 from the airport authority between 2012–2014.
As for the position that Janney will occupy, the U-T article said “commissioner Tom Smisek was paid $18,800 in various airport stipends during the nearly two-year period examined by the watchdog.”
Code governing the appointment to the board indicates that the South Bay mayors can appoint “a member of a city council of one of the south county cities or another resident of one of the south county cities.”
The Reader queried Coronado mayor Casey Tanaka via email on December 6 regarding the appointment of Janney. Tanaka wrote: “The South Bay Mayors meet once a month. At our November meeting, we talked about Tom Smisek's pending retirement as our South Bay rep in January and we reconfirmed that we would rotate this position between our four South Bay cities. Tom, from Coronado, replaced a gentleman from Chula Vista.
“We determined that Imperial Beach should be next because of Mr. Janney's interest in the position. We confirmed his appointment at our December meeting. This would allow a smooth transition between Mr. Smisek and Mr. Janney. Mr. Janney was the only person considered and we unanimously felt he was the right choice to represent our South Bay cities because of his many years of experience in local government. He knows our issues and we are confident he will represent us well.”
The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority was created in 2001 by legislation enacted by former state senator Steve Peace.