Wapner Ties His Reelection This Year To The Fate Of Ontario & Inland Empire

(August 1)  Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner in November is asking his city’s voters to return him to office for a fourth term and what will be the initiation of his third decade on the city council.
Wapner said he believes he merits reelection “because there are still programs and work on issues I want to see continued and come to fruition,” the most important of which, he said, is “to see the [Ontario International] Airport brought back under local control.”
Wapner tied his reelection to the fate of the airport, the city, the community at large and the Inland Empire.
“Since I am the one leading negotiations and am the president of the airport authority, if I were not elected it would be a huge step backward in the effort to bring the airport under local control. Right now, we are in active negotiations with [Los Angeles] Mayor Eric Garcetti and Senator Diane Feinstein to be able to accomplish that.”
The city of Ontario entered into a joint operating agreement with the city of Los Angeles for the management of Ontario Airport in 1967 and transferred title to the airport to the city of Los Angles in 1985.  Wapner said the airport is on the brink of demise under the management of Los Angeles, its Department of Airports and the corporation, Los Angeles World Airports, that Los Angeles created to run Los Angeles International, Burbank, Van Nuys and Ontario airports.
“The closure of Ontario Airport would be disastrous not just for Ontario but the entire region,” Wapner asserted. “Once the other airports hit the point of the legal constraints on their expansion, it will result in the collapse of the Southern California aviation industry.  Ontario Airport is the last unconstrained airport in the Southern California region and if it were to close it would be a blow that would directly lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs and indirectly to the loss of thousands  of jobs. We have already lost millions of dollars into the local economy because of Los Angeles’s control of the airport. Control of the airport is the biggest issue facing Ontario.”
Wapner said Ontario has already made considerable progress toward that goal.
“We have carried out negotiations and already got Mayor Garcetti to suggest publicly it would be better for Ontario Airport to be under local control  and he has reiterated that in our private dialogue.”
The effort to wrest control of the airport back from Los Angeles has so far proven, Wapner conceded, “extremely difficult. Under [former Los Angeles] mayor [Anthony] Villaraigosa, they never got engaged. Our efforts with Mayor Garcetti are more promising than they have been with any other administration. We have gotten the airport commission to deal more directly with us.”
Wapner defended the city’s decision to file a lawsuit against Los Angeles to force the larger city to disgorge the airport, saying the lawsuit was a smaller piece of a grander strategy. “A lawsuit is very expensive and time consuming and once we prevail no doubt LA will then take it to the appeal level,” he acknowledged. “But so far, Ontario has one each and every pretrial motion. At the end of the day, I am convinced we will prevail. This lawsuit is providing us with leverage at the negotiating table. We have gotten the state legislature involved and are working with the federal government to put pressure on the city of Los Angeles to move control of the airport from Los Angeles to Ontario. We have also carried out what is the most successful media and public relations campaign in Southern California to unite everyone in Southern California behind us and convince everyone that it is not only the right thing but is in everyone’s interest for control of the airport to be local.”
Ontario will not be pushed around by the larger and more domineering municipal entity to the west, Wapner vowed
“Under no circumstances will Ontario pay Los Angeles to bring the airport back into its possession,” he said. “Having said that, we believe the city of Los Angeles should be made whole for whatever money they have invested in Ontario Airport and when we can come up with that number, Ontario will write a check to the city of Los Angeles to again take title to it. I think at that point it will then be a matter of Mayor Garcetti getting support from the city council and signing off on it.
Once the city of Los Angeles’s flag is taken down from the staff at the airport and Ontario’s flag goes up and we have full and clear ownership and we get FAA certification we will be able to move forward and manage what is this region’s most important asset in a way that will facilitate job growth, economic expansion and provide access to the entire area.”
Under his twenty year watch, Wapner insisted, Ontario has prospered despite the outside control of the airport and he made special note of the progress achieved by judicious use of the city’s redevelopment agency during that time.
“I helped create over 15,000 jobs, all due to our economic development programs,” he said. “When I first got on the council, Ontario consisted of agricultural and logistics uses. We have since grown, and have created segments of our economy that include hospitality and tourism and high tech to become to become the city in California with the highest per capita sales tax, which goes into providing services and a higher quality of life. While I have been here the city of Ontario has built three new fire stations, a new police headquarters, two libraries, remodeled City Hall, built the Ontario Convention Center and Business Bank Arena and created the Ontario Mills. We have never had an unbalanced budget in the twenty years I have been on the council. We have by far the best public safety departments of any city around us and we have lowered the crime rate even while our population has had tremendous growth. I have been part of a team that has done all of this without raising taxes on our residents. The businesses have subsidized our programs and growth, and they are happy to do it because the climate for them, the business climate, is so favorable.”
A Los Alamitos High School and USC graduate, Wapner has a law degree from Whittier College. He was employed by the Ontario Police Department for 16 years and retired as a detective sergeant. He was on the Ontario Montclair School District Board of Trustees before he was elected to the city council.

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