LETTER: ‘Irritated at Endless Chit Chat’ at Wednesday’s Highline Forum Meeting

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I attended the meeting of the Highline Forum yesterday at ERAC at 2:30 in the afternoon. I wouldn’t expect too many people from the public to attend since it was held during most people’s working hours but was surprised that I was the only citizen there. The Forum includes council members from local cities which used to be part of the ACC along with Sea-Tac, Federal Way and the Highline School District. It also includes a Port Commission representative or two, usually John Creighton attends, a few members from the airport and an FAA representative. This group was originally developed to help create an actual dialogue possibility between the Port and cities during the third runway planning most likely to work out mitigation.

I felt a little irritated at the endless chit chat of people trying to figure out why we were there and whether to add more groups to the discussion forum in the future. Citizens can speak at the beginning but without advance notice of topics and accompanying materials it is useless to go up before anything happens and blather on about how frustrated citizens are with the noise, fumes and process. This has been done repeatedly and has little effect on the group. If I were allowed to speak and I don’t understand why a citizen wouldn’t have the right to give input on what seems to be a fairly informal gathering to talk about pretty much anything, I would have suggested adding citizen group representatives and someone from EPA to the gathering, especially when we (they) are talking about environmental effects. I would also like to see a better balance in what is being discussed. I suppose if I hadn’t been there it wouldn’t matter but citizens want some kind of bang for their representative buck. For instance, in wanting to bring in others to talk about economic development someone should keep in mind that it is that very drive that brought us the third runway in the first place and that disconnect on promoting more and more while offering citizens less and less that created the gap that the Forum was supposed to help bridge.

I would also like to see a discussion on the items recommended to the FAA from the Part 150 and to know where the FAA is at on that process. The consultant Landrum & Brown dropped the noise wall request from the proposal early on. I had been working on pushing for that item for 2 years prior to the FAR 150 process. Buy-outs of homes along the new flight path were never added and in the end it didn’t look good for the hush-house or widening the boundaries of noise impact on the map.

The presentation from the Port was just as off putting; The airport will do what it does and always has, mainly as it wills and people will be harmed as they always have been without a voice, representation or remedy. They did point out there are no consequences for any airline or frequent offender who deviates from the designated flight corridor. It usually happens for safety reasons where an aircraft will abort a landing and then must climb quickly away from the airfield and turn, usually over the heart of Burien but sometimes over Normandy Park. Incidentally, the usual turn over the water occurs at 3,000 feet or 5 nautical miles out which means the entire ground level impact of emissions is on people, property, children and animals. A Des Moines council member did ask the Port for the summary of noise complaint calls which I think is a first of its kind request.

Overall, I feel the Forum is out of touch with what is happening around the world. A third runway proposal at Heathrow was defeated by community and government opposition. They opted for high speed rail instead. There was recently a 20,000 person protest against a 3rd runway in Munich (http://www.foeeurope.org/node/896). Another large group is protesting expansion in Nantes France. We have a local lawsuit ongoing regarding noise and fumes/soot from the new third runway use. There is a lawsuit against EPA regarding leaded AV Gas. Turns out, general aviation’s use of leaded fuel is the largest producing industry in this country of airborne lead emissions affecting 22 million children. Recent studies found children living within a mile a airports of study had elevated blood lead levels (A Geospatial Analysis of the Effects of Aviation Gasoline on Childhood Blood Lead Levels). There are thousands of children living or going to school in that exposure area here near Sea-Tac. There is another lawsuit against EPA for not regulating climate change emissions from aviation. Aviation is the fastest growing contributor to climate change emissions in the world (www.aviationjustice.org). Locally Sea-Tac produces 22% of the county total. Discussion forums like this should be seriously considering a new era of intermodal links, sustainability, transportation alternatives, etc. but most importantly to me, what can be done to lessen the terrible effects of aviation on the constituency represented at the table.

– Debi Wagner

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4 Responses to “LETTER: ‘Irritated at Endless Chit Chat’ at Wednesday’s Highline Forum Meeting”
  1. Wheels says:

    Debi, the goal of most public forums is to minimize public input. Local governments know how to work the process. The goal of local governments is to say, when the first shovel hits the dirt on any project, “We had meetings with the public on these dates, so if you had any complaints you should have raised them then. It’s your fault if this project doesn’t meet the needs of the public.” Meanwhile, planners used the meeting schedule and forum topics to control and minimize public input at every step. The end product is often far different than what was discussed. Also, they personally invite citizens known to be sympathetic to a project, so that any dissenting comments can be countered by support from the planted citizens.

    Further, if someone has a detailed and thought out comment like yours, the comment is written down as “Citizen is against the project,” with all of the reasoning gutted. Someone who found out about the project yesterday and makes a lollipops and sunshine comment gets equal weight in the public comment process.

    The public input process is a tool that local governments use to make sure the public has the least possible influence on any project’s outcome, while giving the public the illusion of control.

    Something to think about next time you go to one of these phony meetings.

  2. timetowakeup says:

    It’s called the Delphi Technique. It’s used by beauracrats all the time when they want us to think they care about taxpayers.

    Google it for yourself.

  3. Robbie Howell says:

    Thank you Debi, Wheels and timetowakeup. I have witnessed this myself. I used to think our elected officials and staff represented the people but only a few do. The rest of them follow their own agenda whatever it may be. Debi thanks for reporting this meeting.

  4. stuart jenner says:

    Yes Debi, thank you for your write up and for attending. I have gone to past forums, and think there have been notices in the past, but did not even remember this one was happening nor did I see any announcements of it.

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