The Newport Beach City Council has decided to keep a former mayor on the city’s payroll as its consultant for keeping tabs and negotiating on possible changes to departure paths from John Wayne Airport.
The city has used Tom Edwards as a consultant on issues related to the airport since 2008, negotiating with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and John Wayne Airport to protect Newport Beach residents as much as possible from the roar of jet engines.
“We need someone to focus on this as the one thing they think about when they get up in the morning,” City Manager Dave Kiff said.
Kiff added that Edwards has lived in Newport Beach for a long-time and he knows the aviation issues that are important to the community. Edwards also helped create and negotiate the John Wayne settlement agreement in 1985, which places court mandated restrictions on the airport’s operations.
This experience comes at a hefty price to the taxpayers. Under the terms of the agreement approved by the council on Tuesday, Edwards will be paid $5,000 per month for the first 25 hours of work and every hour after that will cost $300.
Edwards can bill the city for up to $70,000 through March 23, 2017.
When asked if he or the city suggested this compensation, Edwards said “that’s something they proposed.”
Edwards’s expertise will be of increasing importance to the city as it tries to wrap its arms around possible changes for the FAA implementing its new Southern California Metroplex, a plan aimed at improving air traffic in and out of the region’s airports.
If federal officials choose to implement this plan it could condense flight paths out of John Wayne Airport. That could send more planes over some homes.
While the FAA is solely responsible for regulating air traffic, Newport Beach sent the agency a letter in September 2015 laying out its grievances about the environmental assessment being done for Metroplex.
“While we understand the desire of the FAA to proceed quickly, and that the FAA estimates that it could take up to three years to prepare an [environmental impact statement,] based on the draft [environmental assessment,] it is our opinion that the FAA is rushing through the environmental process to meet an unrealistic schedule to move forward with the implementation plan for the SoCal Metroplex Project,” wrote Andrea Leisy, an attorney representing the city.
Councilman Tony Petros, who serves on the city’s aviation committee, said he has seen Edward’s commitment to the community in his exhaustive monthly reports, comprehensive analyses at committee meetings and willingness join him for informational meetings at residents’ homes.
“Tom has a very thorough understanding of local and regional aviation,” Petros said. “He can articulate complex issues in a very simple manner.”
Residents could see a change in departure patterns as early as November, Edwards said.