Monday, March 25, 2013

Maxine Waters Goes To War With Henry Waxman Over LAX Expansion Double-Dealing

A jumbo jet lands on the LAX north runway. If the LA Chamber gets it's way, the runway will move several hundred feet further north. Construction could cause "endless carmageddon" in the region for years to come.

This weekend, Congresswoman Maxine Waters declared war on fellow Congress Member Henry Waxman over LAX expansion, telling her constituents Waxman was working behind the scenes with an "unholy alliance" of the LA Chamber of Commerce and organized labor to expand Los Angeles International Airport - a move that some experts believe would create region-wide traffic gridlock.

Addressing a meeting of the Westchester Democratic club on Saturday, Waters told constituents Waxman secretly circulated a letter from the Chamber in support of LAX expansion to Congressional colleagues only a day after telling Waters he had not yet made up his mind about the issue.

Waters, who represents the communities directly surrounding LAX supports modernizing, but not expanding, the airport.

I was on hand to record Waters' remarks. Watch it:

Maxine Waters Goes To War With Henry Waxman Over LAX Expansion from Marta Evry on Vimeo.

The Chamber is promoting a plan which could expand capacity at LAX by up to 14 million passengers a year, and is advocating moving the North runway several hundred feet, a move some experts say would force the closure of parts of Lincoln and Sepulveda Blvds for at least 2 years, and perhaps even permanently.

Such closures would force thousands of cars onto other surface streets and nearby freeways, creating a near constant "carmageddon" scenario as traffic backed up onto the 405, 105 and 10 freeways, potentially affecting commuters as far away as Orange County, the Valley and Downtown Los Angeles. 

The move is also backed by many of Los Angeles' biggest labor unions, who see expansion as a job-creating engine for the region. Airport opponents say a multi-billion dollar plan to modernize the airport without moving the runway would create as just as many jobs.

In a highly unusual move that signaled just how seriously Waters took Waxman's end-run, Waters very publicly threatened to take the fight to the Congressman's own district, calling into question Waxman's motives for being the bag man for an "unholy alliance between organized labor and the Chamber of Commerce"

"Now I can't say this is why Mr. Waxman is doing what he's doing," said Waters.  "But these are the two places they go for money - the Chamber.....and organized labor. And so some of these elected officials don't feel they can be independent and fight. They say, 'Hey, you know, this is too difficult, after all, they've come together on this issue'."

Waters then encouraged her constituents  in the room to reach out to their counterparts in Waxman's district.

"I want you to find all the community activists in his district and ask them to join with us. I want them to call him and tell him to get his nose out of Westchester's business. He's thinking, 'Well, it's not my district, so I don't have to worry about my constituents on this issue. I can do what ever I want.'"

"But we have to turn that around. Get busy. I will remind him, every day, that we're after him.", Waters said, smiling.

Waters strategy, though unusually pointed and public, might be effective. Last November, Henry Waxman faced the fight of his life when he suddenly found himself representing the beach cities on either side of LAX due to redistricting.  Rather than cruise to victory virtually unopposed, as he had nearly every year since he was first elected to Congress in 1975 to represent constituents in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, the 17-term Congressman narrowly fended off Manhattan Beach resident Bill Bloomfield.

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