Thursday, August 10, 2017

JetBlue To Pay More For Late Flights At Long Beach Airport (KLGB)

City Prosecutor Doug Haubert announced yesterday (Wednesday) that JetBlue Airlines has agreed to pay $6,000 for each of the first six times in a quarter that it violates the Long Beach Airport curfew by landing after 11 p.m.

Haubert has control over the fines thanks to a 2003 consent decree approved by the court. That decree set fines for the first six violations in a quarter at $3,000, with more violations at $6,000 per incident.

Long Beach's curfew for takeoffs and landings is within the city's noise ordinance that also limits the number of commercial flights. The evening cutoff for takeoffs or landings is 10 p.m., but there is an hour's grace if an adequate excuse can be made.

The new deal is retroactive to July 1, and likely will cost JetBlue $18,000 more every three months. Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw has been tracking late-night flights through fines paid by JetBlue, and has not found a quarter when there were six or fewer violations; instead, the violations have been trending up.

"The raise was requested by the city prosecutor's office as a result of what appears to be a trend in recent quarters of increased late night flights by JetBlue," Haubert said.

The city prosecutor is involved in enforcement because a violation can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. But each violation would mean a separate court case (with a maximum $1,000 fine), prompting former City Prosecutor Tom Reeves to negotiate the consent decree.

Reeves also designated where the money would go — to the Long Beach Library Foundation. The decree stipulates that the money can only be used for books and publications, online databases and family learning centers. But the foundation was not a signatory of the consent decree, so was not legally bound to that stipulation.

So Haubert has executed an agreement with the foundation that would allow an audit of their financial books upon request. Haubert credited City Auditor Laura Doud with the idea.

"Although the Library Foundation has been spending funds as directed," Haubert said, "since there was no agreement binding the nonprofit, all those involved felt it would improve transparency and accountability to have an agreement in place.

"I want to thank the Long Beach Library Foundation for being so responsive to our request for an agreement, and I want to thank City Auditor Laura Dowd and her staff for initiating the discussion."

Doud said late Wednesday that she had no plans to initiate an audit at this time.

Original article can be found here ➤

Long Beach raises JetBlue’s fine for late-night flight violations

After racking up a record $640,000 in late-night flight penalties in the first six months of 2017, JetBlue Airways will face higher fines for each violation of Long Beach Airport’s noise ordinance, the city prosecutor’s office announced this week.

Under the prior agreement — negotiated in 2003 as part of a legal settlement with the airline over its repeated violations — JetBlue has been fined $3,000 for the first six violations in a quarter, or three-month period. The airline then paid $6,000 for every violation thereafter.

Now there will be no grace period, according to City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, who said he requested the raise due to the rising number of late night penalties incurred by the airport’s largest carrier. Each violation will trigger a $6,000 fine under the new agreement, which is retroactive to July 1.

This is the first time Long Beach has upped the fines since the consent decree was signed in 2003.

“At the end of the day, I think the compromise that was reached increases the deterrent and, hopefully, will reduce the chances of late night flights,” Haubert said in a phone interview.

The noise ordinance — grandfathered in under a federal aviation law passed in 1990 that bars the creation of such restrictions — sets a sound threshold measured in decibels, imposes a curfew between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. for takeoffs and landings, and limits the number of commercial flights to about 50 per day. The airport has a multimillion-dollar noise monitoring system that helps enforce the local law.

As a courtesy, the airport extends a one-hour grace period from 10 to 11 p.m. for legitimately tardy jets. Fines for flights landing after 11 p.m. are typically not waived, airport officials said.

And in recent years airline operations occurring after 11 p.m. have been rising, going from 81 in 2014 to 104 in 2015 and 163 in 2016, according to records.

Reports attribute the lion’s share of those to JetBlue, which also has by far the most flight slots. The airline accounted for 84 percent of late flights in 2014, 80 percent in 2015 and 82 percent in 2016, according to city figures.

Philip Stewart, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue, said via email that the company builds its flight schedule to adhere to the noise ordinance, and makes every effort to respect it. 

“When a flight operates beyond the curfew time, it’s often due to air traffic control related issues at some of the busiest airports on the East Coast and in Northern California,” he said. “JetBlue is working with elected officials to mitigate these instances and is a strong supporter of Air Traffic Control (ATC) reform.”

Late night flights aren’t the only thing on the rise at Long Beach’s boutique municipal airport. Commercial passenger flights also jumped nearly 50 percent in the first half of 2017, up from 1.3 million to 1.8 million passengers from January through June, airport officials announced on Monday.

Jet Blue is one of four commercial airlines that operate out of Long Beach Airport. The others are Delta, Southwest and American Airlines.

Though the increasing number of late night disturbances have been a headache for residents who live under the flight paths, the beneficiary of those late night penalties, the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, has received approximately $5.5 million in fines over the past 14 years, money intended for books and publications, online databases, and family learning centers. That total accounts for all fines paid through March 2017.

While the agreement outlines how that money is to be spent, Haubert said that, until recently, the city had no formal way to enforce the agreement with the foundation because the charity had never signed the consent decree. So, prompted by the city auditor’s office, Haubert executed a side agreement this week with the foundation’s executive director, Kate Azar, who agreed to provide the nonprofit’s financial records for audit upon request.

In a recent interview with the Press-Telegram, Azar said 100 percent of the fines go directly toward the city’s 12-library system.

Haubert said he has “zero concern” any funds received by the foundation have been used in any way other than what was intended. Rather, the agreement provides a way to improve transparency and accountability, he said.

“If we had requested to see the books, I think they would have voluntarily done it, but this agreement now confirms they have to spend the money that way ... and there’s a mechanism to verify it if there’s any reason to believe that the money is not spent the right way,” he said. 

Original article can be found here ➤

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