International City? Screw That: City Council Sides with NIMBYs Instead of Travelers with Needs

I flew to Mexico thrice in 2016 alone. My Dude’s family is based in Jalos, Jalisco and the need to visit given his mom’s ailing health becomes more and more paramount.

So when JetBlue had requested that the City of Long Beach put in a request to the Feds to for an international terminal that would ultimately permit trips to—you guessed it—Mexico and Central America, my partner and I were ecstatic. And not just us. My good friends from Guadalajara were thrilled, our neighbors were beautifully excited to possibly visit Argentina and Guatemala—without the taxing trip to LAX that not only includes its nightmarish terminal but excessive planning time and costly transportation.

It was a reflection of our status as the International City, no?

Well, screw that status. That’s pretty much what City Council said this week when it shot down any further talks about letting our Latino brothers and sisters more easily travel along with bringing much needed money into an airport sinking in $110M in debt.

Even more shocking, the motion initially brought forth to the Council was to recommend the proper filing status for the City Manager’s office to request the Feds look into the feasibility of the terminal. After all, a study conducted by Jacobs Engineering had—or should have—calmed the qualms of naysayers fear-mongering premonitions of endless flights coming in and out of their precious suburban neighborhood endlessly, with thousands of immigrants invading the airport with lines upon lines of humans trying to get home.

The study was clear: the flights are needed (i.e. the demand is there; there will not be empty flights); the impact to the area would be nominal at best (i.e. same amount of traffic will be there with the Federal Inspection Station (FIS) as will be there tomorrow without the FIS); the noise ordinance will not be altered (i.e. as the City already contractually agreed with JetBlue, the current noise ordinance is grandfathered into the possibility of an FIS).

So what the hell happened? Well, City Council looked like they were talking about having an airport at all and then prompted 5th District Councilmember Stacy Mungo to cowardly propose the “receive and file” the FIS study, i.e. table the issue indefinitely. And 8 out of the 9 councilmembers agreed. (Minus, of course, Dee Andrews, who lives in an area filled with folks who need jobs, have families abroad, and actually enjoy the idea of connecting different cultures.)

The bitching at the Council meeting reached a level of astounding NIMBYism and anti-intellectualism. One woman—no fucking joke—claimed that planes passing by drop oil onto her precious, oil-free driveway. Others mentioned pollution. And of course, noise. The same damned noise that will be there tomorrow. The same damn noise that would be there if an FIS were installed.

So how did it reach this point? The Trump Era point where, despite a sound study with substantiation, claims of oil drops and noise pollution that doesn’t exist came to somehow… “exist”?

The lovely group of NIMBYs that made the charge, led by former Councilmember Rae Gabelich and several other parts of a generation wanting their last years to be untouched so the future generation can be less comfortable, is called—wait for it—Long Beach Neighborhoods First. If there is anything sketchy about any neighborhood organizations it is those that use priority over others, preservation, or protection in their titles—because it essentially means they want no change to keep their suburban little lives intact.

They knew this was an uphill battle because, well, evidence was against all aspects of their argument. First, they tried to get folks to believe this was an expansion. That evil E Word was paired with yard signs displaying a Nazi-like A340 silhouette flying—as if it was flying into your home—with exclamations that the EXPANSION MUST STOP.

This was and remains a complete lie. Never an expansion, never was, no talks of it. So when this failed, they moved onto the noise ordinance. First they tried to argue that an influx in traffic would harm the quality of life, despite the clear that fact that new flights would be added and the noise ordinance would remain untouched. There were even accusations—gotta love old white people—that the FIS would facilitate drug smuggling.

Apparently the worried eyes watching Narcos didn’t realize it took place in the 1970s.

But what really garnered traction after fumble over fumble trying to fool people with misinformation was promoting the What If? This what if decides to ignore the current evidence and instead, hypothesize about troubles that do not even exist yet.

“What if we become another LAX?” they pondered. Wait… How can that even happen? “Today, no international airline can fly into LGB because they can’t challenge the noise ordinance. But what if, in the future with an FIS, international airlines take us to court? What if they sue us into oblivion and alter the noise ordinance? What. If?”

Boom. Enter chaos and those damn planes dripping oil on to my damned driveway!

Congratulations, Long Beach, you ruined yet another opportunity (and Council, if this was a financial decision, make that more clear because right now, it isn’t). Let’s just hope JetBlue doesn’t finally walk out of LGB with blind hopes Southwest will take over—because we all know that Burbank and Ontario are aggressively seeking new service. Even worse, Ontario can take any size plane, any time of the day, has the slots, and has an FIS.

Or maybe JetBlue peacing out is a good thing. The 5th District will have the biggest playground ever for their children. And, of course, not a single decibel of noise.


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