More airplane noise expected over Burien; Sheriff seeking ways to control crime


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By Jack Mayne

Returning and increased airplane noise over Burien is likely after the the Federal Aviation Administration claims that it can ignore potential environmental rules to permit more prop-jet planes to fly low over Burien

A retired commercial pilot and former FAA inspector says such a move benefits wealthy corporations and imposes unnecessary penalties on Burien citizens.

The Burien Council on Monday (April 16) was also told by the new King County Sheriff that she is working on shoring up her police agency to gird against an increase in violent crime. Her agency by contract furnishes the members of the Burien Police Department.

Plane noise in Burien
City Attorney Lisa Marshall told the Council about the FAA’s decision-to issue what it calls a Categorical Exclusion or “CATEX” in governmental jargon. Simply stated, it means no fewer planes will turn left over Burien and probably means more planes will come over the city, perhaps at a level remembered in the past.

The categorical exclusion (CATEX) effectively means that the FAA is “not required to follow its own rules” and that the administration can implement the change without filing otherwise required permission requests under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which might force the FAA to not order all flight to turns over Burien. It had, in the past, said the turns would be allowed only by flight by flight decisions.

Now it appears the turns will be automatic for all turbo flights to the north from Sea-Tac, but Marshall told Council it “intended to cease the automatic 250 degree heading during nighttime hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., removing a few flights over the city.”

Marshall said the city listened but did not comment on the recent FAA meeting on the decision to go back to the turns over the city and the city is reviewing its options with city officials and its hired legal experts as how to proceed.

Burien did file last year a motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth circuit in San Francisco seeking to overturn the FAA implementation of a 250-degree heading for turbo props whenever the with is coming from the north. All planes, large and small, take off into the wind and when that wind it from a northerly direction, then planes will take off toward the north and turboprop passenger planes will be ordered to make a hard left turn shortly after they leave the runway surface and fly west over Burien at a variety of elevations, but low enough to cause noisy distraction below.

Marshall said Burien residents last year submitted “over 700 comments were submitted containing narratives of the impacts to the citizens of the community (that) such extraordinary circumstances exist.” The city can amend its existing petition to the court within 30 days or a new petition within 60 days and she said city administrators would report to Council any new information as it develops.

Larry Cripe (pictured, left), president of the Quiet Skies Coalition, told the Council his organization will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Gregory Heights Elementary School, and invited all to what likely will be a packed house.

Walt Bala, a retired pilot and former FAA inspector, said he was still analyzing the FAA CATEX decision but believes “the decision was made first, and then the justification afterwards.”

“I believe their procedure benefits wealthy corporations and imposes an unnecessary penalty on our citizens, many under the flight path who are economically disadvantaged,” said Bala. “I will not rest until we have exercised every option to expose the arbitrary and capricious nature of this procedure.”

Bala said the FAA says this is done for safety and efficiency and he said he can see possible efficiency reasons, but if it’s because of safety how did they get along without the change years ago? “I don’t think there’s a safety issue here.”

Cripe said that on July 26, 2016, “behind closed doors, the acting director of the FAA said clearly at the end of an all-day meeting, ‘I want all this traffic over the city of Burien and Seahurst. They don’t have the money or the stamina to fight me.’”

Bala said that was from a former bureaucrat, behind closed doors. “That can’t be tolerated by anyone in this room. This city, this state should be outraged by that kind of behavior.”

Former Councilmember Debi Wagner, a member of the Quiet Skies Coalition, said the real meaning of the categorical exception is to begin to build the traffic for Sea-Tac Airport over the “communities that are already overburdened.” The FAA believes the added traffic at the airport “isn’t going to harm anybody” and if anybody is, “they can mitigate it.” But the noise insulation project has never been proven to be successful, she said.

New Sheriff in town
King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht (pictured above) told the Burien Council in her first meeting that recent violent events leading to a murder have made her department look into ways to do things safer as her department provides the staffing of Burien Police under a long-term contract.

“The loss of any life is one too many,” she said. “We want to work with you to be better.”

Councilmember Krystal Marx wanted to know if it were possible to return the now defunct gang unit operation and Johanknecht said it was a good time to discuss the possibility as her department is entering the 2019-2020 budgeting cycle.

“When I was running, one of the things I talked about was we no longer had a gang unit, we no longer had a drug unit that specifically worked on those things,” Johanknecht said. “We can work together to see how that might fit, how those things blend between city and county resources. It is something the sheriff’s office is looking at and considering moving forward with.”

Mayor Jimmy Matta said he was very interested in youth and youth violence, but wanted to differentiate from “gangbangers.” He said there are some “real bad gangbangers – which we cannot allow to take over our streets. People should not be fearful of saying they saw something because they are afraid for their lives.” Just putting more officers on the street won’t solve the issue, “it is more complicated than that.” A culture of fear is causing some to not send children to school, which causes other problems.

“It is not just a Burien situation, it’s a county deal with some gangbangers who are trying to recruit,” the mayor said. “When this new chief comes into town and takes on the responsibility … one thing is keeping our streets safe. We definitely have a situation in several apartment complexes,” Matta said, suggesting also problems similer in White Center and South Park.

Plan to restore trust
Deputy Mayor Austin Bell asked if the Sheriff had a plan to restore the trust in law enforcement that has encroached nationally over the past number of years.

“I do, Mr. Deputy Mayor,” Johanknecht said, adding that the department has added a “community engagement professional staff member,” something they have never had before. She also is adding a full-time recruiter so “if we want to build trust in communities and communities of color, we need to go and have conversations because what I heard over the last six months was ‘we will tell you what barriers keep people in our community from joining law enforcement … and thereby having a better way to build opportunities and trust between communities.’”

Councilmember Nancy Tosta asked Johanknecht how the Sheriff’s department can be “more attractive to us and perhaps better serve our community in terms of their sense of public safety.”

The Sheriff reminded her that the contract takes from Burien any potential liability costs and is undertaken by King County. She also said her department in working with King County Executive Dow Constantine on efforts to lower her agency costs to the community it serves, which is south King County serves Burien and SeaTac.

Immigration status ‘doesn’t matter’
Councilmember Pedro Olguin asked about concerns about a person’s immigration status.

“Immigration status doesn’t matter,” Johanknecht. “What matters is that we are serving everyone equally” and to make sure that “everybody who may be a victim of crime is willing to report.”

The police agency has never acted on immigration retainer, she said.

“The only thing we are required to act on by law is a signed court order by a judge, like any other warrant.”

Proclamations
The Council approved several new proclamations, including one declaring May as “Music4Life Month” in Burien, another making April Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Burien. Also approved was a proclamation making April 20, 2018, as City of Burien Arbor Day and also City of Burien Earth Day.

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