With the fate of the Union-Tribune still very much in limbo, Malin Burnham, who once aspired to take over the newspaper, and Irwin Jacobs, his longtime political comrade in-arms, have hatched yet another scheme.
The word comes via KPBS, the public broadcasting operation run by San Diego State University and funded by Jacobs, the Qualcomm co-founder with a host of political causes, including Hillary Clinton and Qualcomm executive Nathan Fletcher, the ex-GOP assemblyman-turned-Democrat and failed mayoral candidate.
"Cal State San Marcos will unveil research this week that examines the feasibility of building a new international airport on the Camp Pendleton Marine base," according to the December 7 report.
"Well-known San Diego businessmen and philanthropists Irwin Jacobs and Malin Burnham support the research," the story added, not noting the KPBS-Jacobs tie or saying how much the billionaire Democrat had come up with for the airport project.
A 2014 document posted online by San Marcos says that Qualcomm provided $35,000 for the first phase of the two-year project, headed by Glen Brodowsky, a San Marcos marketing professor, but does not mention Jacobs.
“In no way does this replace, but rather augments the air-travel opportunities in the region,” Brodowsky was quoted by KPBS as saying.
“So they have direct flights to Asia, Latin America and Europe, in addition to wonderful connections within the U.S. from Lindbergh Field."
The Union-Tribune — said to be a candidate for takeover by Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad, another Jacobs friend and political ally — is also onboard with the plan.
"Someday, hopefully not too many years from now, sensible San Diegans will come to realize that the tiny, one-runway 'international' airport at Lindbergh Field is wholly inadequate and a significant obstacle to this region’s economic growth," the paper declared in an October 31 editorial, adding, "San Diego business leaders Malin Burnham and Irwin Jacobs have been quietly and patiently pushing the idea for several years."
On December 7, the paper sounded off again.
"California State University, San Marcos, has produced two extensive studies the past two years concluding that it is not only feasible, but the best new airport option for Southern California," said the U-T, adding, "San Diego business leaders Malin Burnham and Irwin Jacobs have been been pushing the idea behind the scenes for several years."
Previous San Diego mega-airport schemes, including ex-U-T publisher Douglas Manchester's 1994 push for a move to what was then Miramar Naval Air Station and a similar 2006 effort both failed, but Burnham has not lost faith.
"The ballot issue for Miramar was to ask the military to vacate it and give it to the civilians — 100 percent," KPBS quoted Burnham as saying. "We’re not asking the Marines to do that. We will be asking the Marine Corps eventually, to give up 5000 or 6000 acres on the very southwest corner of the base.”
Though most other observers aren't as sanguine about the project's fortunes as Burnham and Jacobs, the mere presence of the two wealthy media mavens could guarantee continued fawning coverage of the venture, as evidenced by the simultaneous U-T and KPBS coverage.
Meanwhile, ultimate control of the U-T, the big piñata of San Diego media, continues up for grabs, with L.A.'s Broad still reportedly determined to ultimately take the prize and the remaining political clout it wields.