How To Instantly Change A Powerful Person’s Mind

Jeff Flake confronted by #METOO protester

If you were watching the news today you got to see a Master Class in “How to instantly change a powerful person’s mind.”

United States Senator Jeff Flake walked out of a hearing today as a solid ‘Yes’ vote on the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, got into an elevator and was immediately cornered by several women who had been sexually assaulted. And given that sudden, totally unexpected gift from God, they did the only thing one can do: they made the most of it.

They yelled. They cried. They invaded his personal space. They let him know exactly how hurt they were and how much he should start caring about this issue. And when Jeff Flake walked out of that elevator (or rather was set free), he had a different point of view.

It has to be personal

Now I don’t know if that was just great luck on those women’s part or a thought-out strategy. But regardless, that was an absolutely brilliant maneuver on their part. Because that is how people get their minds changed on difficult issues: not with calm, measured arguments, but with a two-by-four right between the eyes combining not just truth, but personal feeling.

Dick Cheney becomes a champion for gay rights. Impossible, right? Not after his daughter tells him she’s a lesbian. Franklin Roosevelt starts a series of summer camps for people with polio: Because he had polio. A guy approves funding for research into MS: right after his wife is diagnosed. That is how people change their minds: when it becomes personal.

We’d like to believe that people in authority are practiced in taking information from all sides and rationally weighing the arguments. But really, what they learn (very quickly) is a form of professional sociopathy: how to listen to almost any comments from the public and not be affected AT ALL.

Distance

Have you noticed how the place where the public makes comments is always a good distance from the dais? That’s not just a physical distance, it’s an emotional distance. The further the public is placed from the people in authority, the easier it is for them to remain aloof no matter how passionate the petitioner’s speech.

Whenever someone gets upset with me for not ‘following the rules’ during public meetings, first I try to ignore them. And the second time I tell ’em (politely :D) to fuck off. Because following Robert’s Rules Of Order is not designed to improve the flow of democracy. It’s designed to allow the guy at the dais to keep on schedule and make his tee time!

I should pause for a moment and tell you just how hard it was for me to develop this approach. Like most of you I HATE CONFLICT. But I quickly realized that adhering to the ‘decorum of the meeting’ was for saps. It never gets you anywhere unless you’re already in a position of authority.

Now I’m not suggesting to go looking for trouble. Rather, I’m saying that you should consider what would have happened if those protesting women had decided to take their three minutes to speak under controlled conditions. Under those circumstances do you really think Senator Flake would have changed his mind? I didn’t think so.

So as protesters, we have to find ways to interact on a personal level with decision makers. It is very, very difficult to get them to ‘feel our pain’ unless we’re able to be physically close to them.

#METOO

Now, I can hear you saying something like, “Well those women were raped!”, which implies that their outrage was in a completely different ballpark of ‘worthiness’ from the assaults the airlines make on us. If that’s how you feel inside; ie. that our struggle isn’t as important as #METOO? Then we need to talk, girlfriend.

We can never–and I mean never hope to win this fight unless enough of us feel it waaay down deep. And then we need to find creative ways to project that hurt onto those in power. We literally need find a way to get them to ‘feel our pain’.

I’ll put it another way. Ask yourself this question: if you’re at a public gathering, do you care more about being polite or changing that Senator’s mind? Be honest. Most of us probably lean towards ‘being polite’. We’ve been trained all our lives that politeness and behaving in an orderly fashion matters most in all situations.

I’ll just ask you one more time to consider the women above. If they hadn’t been willing to act (or rather found themselves unable to keep from acting out!), we’d probably be talking tonight about Judge Kavanaugh taking his seat on the court. In the two minutes they held Senator Flake captive in that elevator, they accomplished more than a hundred thousand people could by following the rules.

Doing More Than the MDR: A Letter To The Port Commission

Dear Commissioner,

Regarding my comments at the Regular Commission Meeting today.

Several of you have expressed a sincere desire to do more for the airport communities. To which I have two coments:

1. Who’s stopping you? There are numerous changes that you can make without fear of opposition by the FAA or any other agency. The only requirement? You need to get out your checkbook. Any meaningful changes you might want to make will cost real money. Not a few hundred thousand for some ‘grant’. The kind of money that should have been put into escrow for us after the last expansion.

2. The Port has done literally nothing to address community concerns beyond the minimum FAA requirements since the last expansion (the 3rd Runway). Just one example I gave today: The windows and insulation programs. The Port could, at any time, offer that ‘Port Package’ to as many homes as you like. You only offered them to the ones you got reimbursed for. But your people (falsely) imply that the FAA somehow bars you from doing more. The reality is that you simply don’t want to pay for any Port Packages you’ll lose money on. In fact, NONE (zero) of the recommendations made by that EIS were implemented. This is why I personally have had so interest in the SAMP or any current studies. We’re still waiting for relief on the items from 1997!

When I tell you that the Port Commission has a scotoma when it comes to the airport communities, I’m not whistliing Dixie. Again, several of you wax on all the time about the dire urgency of our environment, but no one ever addresses the above two factual statements.

One other factual statement: You can trust the community: We know the airport–in many ways far better than you ever will. And in other ways much better than your own people. We’ve had decades to study the situation. We know the law. We know the politics. And we know your economics. We know what you reasonably can and cannot do. Sadly, no Port Commission has ever had the political will to do so.

The 1997 EIS has a list of prescriptions for helping the airport communities and may I suggest that you start there if you’re looking for ideas. The next step would be for the Commission to convene a meeting with local activists and make a laundry list that you can then investigate and vote on.

Coming up with a plan has never been difficult. The question just hangs there, year after year: Is there the will?

Incest

I admit it. I wasn’t paying much attention during the whole 3rd Runway battle. The Des Moines Marina was my home base for sailing adventures up and down the Sound, but during the infrequent times I was on land, the thing I noticed most were all the gravel trucks slowing traffic on 509. Of course, my buddies and I all joked about the project–in ways that I now realize were not only cruel but also very short-sighted. We’d meet at Anthony’s and hear about some recent ‘victory’ in the lawsuit and chuckle at how the gravel trucks kept right on moving. We knew that the fix was in.

It’s now fifteen years later. But when I heard that Dave Kaplan was going to work for the Port Of Seattle, I still wasn’t shocked. Because the fix is still in.

If there is one thing I could convince you of it is that it is the politics of the airport communities which matters most in this fight. In fact, the politics of these cities should matter far more to this movement than who is running the FAA or the Port Of Seattle or any other institution. Ironically, most of us pay far more attention to the politics of far away: Federal and State and almost none to our local governments. That is why we don’t realize how important local leaders are in controlling our relationship to the airport. We believe all that shuck and jive from local leaders about how ‘powerless’ they are. But cities like Des Moines suffer from a certain kind of low-rent aristocracy. And like so many aristocracies (even the low-rent kind) there is incest.

Some History

At least since I bought a house here in 2005, the City Council has largely been self-selecting. As people move off the Council, their successors are groomed by current members. Mr. Kaplan was part of that system as are our current Mayor Pina. Part of what enables this process is the fact that Des Moines has absolutely terrible voter turnout and even worse voter registration efforts by the two parties’ District Offices.

And then there are that very small group of people–typically small-business people who enjoy politics. It’s their hobby–which is great. Public service is a wonderful thing. But taken together, these factors tend to create that aristocracy and a continuity of policies. In the case of Des Moines that has meant a very strong ongoing partnership between the city and the Port Of Seattle. You can see this partnership in action the moment you enter the city on 216th Avenue and pass by the Des Moines Creek Business Park (DMCBP). And for years to come you will also be seeing it in redevelopments of the Marina and the downtown–the city is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Port to help in the re-design of those spaces.

Now between the Great Recession and changes to State tax laws (thanks Tim Eyman), the City had been in a world of fiscal hurt. These partnerships have been key to the city’s turn-around strategy: the Business Park development (2006), the hotel (2013)and the Marina (2017-). I think it’s fair to say that, given the sorry state of the City’s finances if the Port had not provided this support, the City likely would have gone into receivership in 2015.

New Directions

If you look at the history of the Council since Mr. Kaplan became mayor, the City has actively courted the Port and nary a discouraging word has been heard.

Now think about this: Say that your city had spent millions of dollars fighting the Port, considering the 3rd Runway to be an existential threat. Wouldn’t you find it a bit odd that your City all of a sudden made a one hundred and eighty degree turn and started partnering with them? Would you not find it odd to learn that the city had basically stopped talking at all about the negative impacts of the airport–even though the number of flights were rapidly increasing?

Well that’s exactly what happened to Des Moines. After the defeat of the lawsuit, the government of Des Moines completely flipped. The argument, which I have heard from several former Council Members (including Mr. Kaplan) was, “The lawsuit was stupid. We never had a chance. We should have taken a deal like SeaTac.” In other words: the fix was in.

So no more concerns about negative impacts from the airport. And no trying to implement any of the recommendations of the 1997 EIS. The current regime–again, with members that have largely inherited their positions from their predecessors, has continued this path of partnering with the Port, only making modest protests against the unbridled growth of the airport.

Objections

“Now wait a minute!,” I hear you say. “The City has created an Ad Hoc Aviation Committee. The City has partnered with Quiet Skies Puget Sound. The City and QSPS were instrumental in getting the StART forum going in less time than any similar forum in the nation. The City is spending money on consultants. The City is spending money to help fund a State Environmental Impact Study. Mayor Pina has written many letters chastising the airport for its failures to help site a second airport. The City is on the case!”

Uh huh. The City is following all the necessary steps so that it appears to be fighting against the negative impacts of the airport. It’s following a minimum standard of care. However Mayor Pina was on the Council during the last expansion. He knows full well that this minimal level of engagement has no chance at being successful. (But please do not get me wrong, I’m not saying our Mayor wants our efforts to fail. It’s simply that he values the economic development waaaaay more than he is concerned about any impacts from the airport.)

So the above steps are all window dressing. The truth is that the City has no interest in doing anything that might jeopardize their financial relationships with the Port. Don’t believe it? Just ask any Council Member or the City Manager why they continue to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in development grants from the Port every year. You’ll likely get a polite scoff. Which is a bit odd now that the city is doing so much better, financially. But they see nothing fishy in taking these grants while also tasking their City Manager with protesting against the negative impacts of the airport. They do not ‘get’ the optics.

Because let’s face it: to really change anything at the Port, you’d have to be willing to piss them off, right? You’d have to not care what they think. And you’d have to find it unseemly to take their money when you don’t have to.

Have you seen or heard anything from anyone on the City Council which takes the Port to task? At best there might be the odd harsh word for Airport Director Lance Lyttle. But what does that mean? Nothing.

Mr. Kaplan’s New Career

The first City Council meeting after his leaving the Council, Dave Kaplan was contracted by the City to provide advice on transportation issues–primarily the 509 Extension. That could be construed as a conflict of interest. I immediately filed a grievance with the State Auditor’s office. It’s now been eight months and I have yet to receive any update from the Auditor in charge–even though her office is in Kent. Why is the State not doing their job? So perhaps the fix is in there as well. Whether or not there is anything fishy going on, I am struck by the fact that neither the City Manager or anyone on the Council sees the bad optics. They seem genuinely confused that anyone would object to the former Mayor leaving office and then getting a $20k contract a week later.

And now Mr. Kaplan will be working for the Port on issues pertaining to Des Moines. And I am sure that neither the City Council or the City Manager find anything untoward about that either. How can I be so sure? Couldn’t it simply be that he was hired because the Port values his extensive knowledge about the City’s inner-workings?

The answer is simple: there is no way in hell that the Port would have hired Mr. Kaplan if there were any concerns that he was no longer getting on well with the City Council. It would be beyond stupid to hire a lobbyist who is hated by the people he is meant to lobby. The Port is not only getting someone with the best possible ‘insider’ game of Des Moines, but also someone who has long-standing good personal relationships with several of the current Council.

Who Cares?

“OK”, I hear you say. “It’s a drag that Mr. Kaplan is now working for the airport. But what does that have to do with our fight? I’m angry, sure. But what does it really have to do with our goals?”

I would suggest that you should most definitely care because the hiring of Dave Kaplan makes three things abundantly clear:
1. The Port has no interest in adjusting their expansion plans by talking. We are now squarely in the conflict stage of this melodrama. Whoever made that hiring decision is either tone-deaf to Des Moines or simply does not care.

2. The City has no interest in engaging in any sincere effort to oppose the Port. They are more than happy to up the ante on this whole ‘partnering’ thing. It clearly shows that all their efforts to fight the airport are just ‘window dressing’

3. And worst of all, if you are one of the hard working people partnering with the City (for a very different reason), it says that you have been played like a Stradivarius. The City has used your precious time and talent to show the rest of the world how (cough) ‘committed’ they really are on this issue.

I know this last item is a tough pill to swallow. And I am fully aware that it may be taken as ‘nasty’ and ‘divisive’. That is not my intention at all. Unfortunately, the truth is the truth. And I would rather tell you the truth and have you upset with me than see you continue working your guts out for cynical people whose goals will never match yours. Be angry with me, but don’t ignore this. Please.

Now What?

To my mind, this event requires an unambiguous statement by residents and activists, both to the Port and even more so to the City Of Des Moines.

If I were on the Ad Hoc Aviation or StART Committees I would resign–and then immediately move that we re-create the group outside the purview of the City. You’ve done great work, but you no longer need them to continue. Yes, having a guy with statutory authority on board can be pretty handy, but I’ve seen what you all can do without the City’s help. Besides, having the City Manager on board is self-limiting. You can never really speak truth to power because he works for people who aren’t as committed as you are. You’ve tried effecting change from within the system. But the system is broken. The fix is in. And unfortunately, there is no other way to get through to Pina, Matthias, et al., that this is no joke.

And Quiet Skies Puget Sound should make a public statement that, as an organization they will no longer cooperate in any way with the City Of Des Moines so long as Mr. Kaplan is employed by the Port. Again, I think it is critical to make the City Of Des Moines understand that we are all sick to death of their trying to have their cake and eat it too.

All of us have to demand that the City finally change course and really start fighting the airport.

The Optics

Why is it so danged important that residents protest the City? What does that have to do with Mr. Kaplan being hired by the Port? This is also simple:

Because we as residents also cannot have our cake and eat it too. No one in power takes our fight seriously when they see that our city government does not. Neither government nor media can tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Read that again. Really let it sink in. One big reason we can’t get strong support from anyone on the outside is because when they visit our town they literally don’t know what to think.

We’re Having Company?

When anyone in power visits Des Moines (and this includes the media–there’s more than one kind of power), they may hear talk about ‘residents unhappy with noise’. But when they see what a great working relationship the City has with the Port; how much of the City’s turnaround has depended on the Port, what are they supposed to think? (Who tells them about our great relationship with the Port? Why our City Council of course!)

We may complain about the airport until we’re blue in the face, but if a visitor sees the ‘prosperity’ caused by the airport (again, that’s our Mayor and City Council talking), they immediately discount our concerns. We may tell them that life is awful, but during their visit they see a fabulous new Business Park and hear a rousing pep talk from our City Manager and Mayor. Then they leave unconvinced. After all, we voted for our Mayor and City Council. They represent us. Right? That’s what visitors see.

Of course, the Mayor and City Manager also get to proudly display their bona fides by telling a reporter or an official how closely they are working Quiet Skies and how ‘instrumental’ they (the City) has been in getting a StART committee rolling!

And now the maraschino cherry on top? The visitor sees that the former Mayor is now on the Port’s payroll–with the apparent best wishes from his colleagues on the City Council. Wow. Our visitor can only walk away deeply confused.

Oh by the way… this is not merely hypothetical. It actually happens. Don’t believe it? Just ask our Mayor about all the city tours he’s given in 2018. Does he talk about environmental impacts? Of course not. He talks about how Des Moines is ‘moving forward’. Job #1 is attracting positive press for the city; not telling the rest of the region about noise and pollution.

Conclusion

In order to win, we must put a stop to the incest. All the incest. We have to make it obvious to everyone that there are clearly recognizable good guys and bad guys. And ne’er the twain shall meet. We (the residents) are the good guys. And all those people who crow about all the great things the Port has done for the city? Those who try to avoid talking about all the impacts that are damaging our city and our people? Yeah, they’re on the other side.

300

So we’ve passed a teensy milestone: 300 subscribers. Woohoo. I smell movie! 😀

OK, maybe not. But given the dry nature of the material stored here, I think we’re doing OK. More interesting is that we’ve had three days now with over 100 hits. Again, it’s a drip. But it’s a steady drip.

What I really want to say here is this: COME BACK, HONEY. I’M REALLY SORRY. 😀 From what we’ve monitored, a bunch of you have done searches, gotten totally crap results and immediately split–and not returned. And that’s not good. But there’s a simple explanation:

I’m old. 😀

What you see here is, data-wise, the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, we’re scanning thousands of pages and trying to ‘scrape’ a gazillion web pages as we try to create a broad picture of life at Sea-Tac Airport. And I’ve done a mediocre job of managing my job, leaving lots of aspects of this web site half-baked. I often forget that I’m no spring chicken and I just can’t get done as much as I think I can.

Enough whining: the whole point of this site is information. That means current events and history. As I so often gas on about, we are like those Italians in the Fifteenth Century who re-discovered so much important information which had been lost for a thousand years.

Every time we have one of these airport expansions, we have fallen all over ourselves to deal with it. But once it’s past, we then promptly forget all about it. And that means we lose a ton of precious information from the prior expansion.

The purpose of this site is two-fold:

First, we want to convince you that this history matters. We want to convince you that knowledge is power and that without a good knowledge of how we keep playing the same movie over and over again, we will never be able to break this cycle of failure and win.

Second, we want to tell you that this forgetting is not your fault. Your government, at every level, from City (especially City) up to the Federal Level wants to forget. They have no interest in anything except expanding the airport–which is why they always use the phrase “Moving forward”. Forgetting makes it much easier for them to have their way. Because if you don’t know about something that happened, it may as well have never have happened. Something you don’t know about cannot help you. For example: just trying to find information about the 3rd Runway is surprisingly difficult. And that was only fifteen years ago!

Our goal is to prevent this cycle of forgetting so that this time is different. This time we win.

So please , keep checking in and do let us know what you’re looking for (and what you’re having trouble finding).

A reply from Fred Felleman re. the Budget Proviso (2)

A letter I received this morning from Port Commissioner Fred Felleman in reply to my letter to the Port Commissioners yesterday.

>JC — if the legislators want independence from the Port, they don’t have to take its recommendations. I’ll look into the history of the issue, but like I said, I’m committed to having the Sustained Airport Master Plan (SAMP) review be as objective as possible. Please don’t question my motivations or commitment to the environment, which includes the human environment. I am fully aware of the lack of trust by those in the community based on history with the Port. Â I’ll do my best to regain that trust but I understand it must be tough to live near the flight path of the only major airport in the region.

Fred

Again, the Commissioner says that legislators should push back against Port lobbyists. And as I wrote in my last post, I agree 100%. However, what strikes me most about Commissioner Felleman’s tone is that he downplays the importance of the Budget Proviso and tries to get attention focused on the SAMP. I believe this is known as ‘pivoting’ in politician-speak. The only problem with that is that the SAMP’s rules of engagement dictate a far more limited scope of inquiry. The defining benefit of the Budget Proviso was supposed to be that it would give the airport communities complete control over what was to be studied.

Commissioner:

Once again, I appreciate your courteous reply.

—Before the bill passed: According everyone in the room, the legislators (Rep. Orwall and Pelliciotti) were told by your lobbyist that if they did not accede to the requested changes in language the Port would use its influence to encourage Jay Inslee to veto the bill entirely.

—Unfortunately, my legislators have lost their sense of ‘boundaries’. That’s not the Port’s fault, but it also does not excuse your man’s efforts to lobby a bill created with the express intent of excluding Port input.

—If you want to regain trust? This is great place to start: Pearse Edwards wrote me the following yesterday.

…This meant that we neither supported or opposed the legislation. Neutrality did not mean that we would not engage in the formation of the bill (My italics)

That sentence is exactly the kind of double-speak the airport communities loathe. People who’ve done nothing wrong don’t use that kind of tortuous language. If you want to be neutral on this bill? Do as I asked below: Instruct your people to stay out of it. It’s simple. It’s fair. And that alone would greatly improve the atmosphere between the residents and the Port.

Thanks in advance.

—JC

A reply from Fred Felleman re. the Budget Proviso

A letter I received today from Port Commissioner Fred Felleman in reply to my letter to the Port Commissioners yesterday. And my reply (cc’ed to the Commissioner) follows.

On 9/13/2018 2:24 PM, Felleman, Fred wrote:
>
> JC I have only heard of claims of port “interference” with the bill’s development from members of the community. While I don’t know other what has been said, I don’t understand why you would think it odd that the agency under scrutiny would not have the opportunity, no less be requested by the legislature, to be involved in the crafting of the bill.
>
> Regardless of your perception of that process, as I said at the meeting Tuesday, the scoping for the SAMP is the most direct way you could seek inclusion of “quality of life” or whatever other analysis for the EIS to reflect.
>
> Fred

Before we get to my reply, I have to admit he skirts around the edges of making one very good point: Where are the legislators on this? On any level. Why didn’t Representatives. Orwall or Pelliciotti express their objections in public–or at least with the Port Commissioners directly? And I would ask the same of our own City Councils? Why don’t we hear them screaming about this?

A big reason the Port gets away with so much crap is because our electeds don’t complain IN PUBLIC. What I am totally SICK OF is how absolutely two-faced our city, county, state and federal legislators are when it comes to the Port. This is only one of a hundred examples I could cite. It’s what I call “Teenage Slumber Party”.

Legislator X has a town meeting with residents. And at said meeting, residents complain mightily about the Port. Then Legislator X knowingly smiles and says, “Yeah, they’re the worst. I know exactly what you mean. Oh, the stories I could tell you. You don’t know the half of it. But don’t worry. I’m fightin’ for ya, people! Lots of great things are happening behind the scenes.” Everyone goes home happy.

Sound familiar? There is never a real confrontation where Legislator X talks openly with the Port Commission on the record, “You’ve gotta cut this shit out. Now.” Doesn’t happen.

On virtually every issue the Port Commission can rightly say to us, “If the issue was so bad, why isn’t your legislator as upset as you are? That is the proper avenue for relief: your electeds.” Absolutely correct. But it’s clear that our electeds do not present our case with the necessary passion. They seem to want to have their cake and eat it too, get relief for us if possible. But definitely continue to have pleasant relations with the Port. That is a huge part of our problem.

I no longer believe that any legislator has our back because it’s clear that what they say to us about the Port does not match the way they talk to the Port in private. And I won’t believe it until I see any public official (City, County, State, Federal) begin to confront the Port for bad acts like this on the record. I understand the value of everyone getting along, but sometimes, ya gotta stand up to the bully.

On Sep 13, 2018, at 3:55 PM, JC Harris wrote:

Thank your for your reply.

First of all, I am sorry if my tone seems constantly harsh. I don’t know how to interact with you guys in a more congenial manner when I see no substantial change to the Port’s approach versus 1996. I’m not trying to compare you with any previous commissioners, but you must understand: you’re treating us in exactly the same unfair ways as 20 years ago. And I am genuinely puzzled that you can’t seem to recognise the unfairness of your lobbyist’s actions.

And at the risk of sounding flip, besides concerned residents who else would you expect to hear complaints from? I don’t understand exactly why my City Manager did not raise objections until residents showed up but that does not surprise me. As I’ve told you since the day we met, my city is not properly representing the residents when it comes to the airport. It is why I have begged you to put on your Environmental Steward hat when you deal with your neighbours (us) because our city governments simply do not. In any event, that is for me to take up with the city.

As to your comment about ‘the agency under scrutiny’, The Port Of Seattle will not be under scrutiny with this study. The environment will be under scrutiny. All I am asking is that the Port not be allowed to help ‘craft’ the bill for the simple reason that the bill was introduced by Tina Orwall and Mike Pelliciotti specifically to exclude the Port’s influence. This was supposed to be the one study that the Port would not be involved with in any way.

You do not understand the fully justifiable level of mistrust in the community. Since the 3rd Runway, the Port has influenced the results of every document in every context that was meant to study the impacts to our cities and environment from your airport. We have almost never had objective tests on a whole range of impacts. This creates an insidious vicious circle where the Port can never be held to account simply because there is a dearth of data in which to refer.

If you cannot see how the changes your lobbyist ‘negotiated’ are unfair to the spirit of the bill and how they will render it incapable of providing the results it was intended to, then it puts the lie to your claims of being an ‘environmentalist’. You can’t show concern for orcas on a Monday but then approve of your lobbyist’s efforts on a Tuesday. Our communities are ‘the environment’ and we have a right to know what is going on–especially when we paid for that study, not you.

As to the SAMP? The SAMP is under your (and the FAA’s) auspices. Both SEPA and NEPA are limited to specific areas of inquiry and at the end of the day, the two agencies the airport communities mistrust the most will help determine their results. Your choosing Landrum & Brown brings up a whole other range of PTSD feelings for residents. All of us who have studied their work have found it to be heavily slanted in the Port’s favour, leaving out many critical details. In short, we wanted the budget proviso so that we would be free to study the items we care about and know that we were getting objective results.

I respectfully ask you, once again, to do the following, by resolution if necessary, at the next meeting:

Instruct your representatives to have their changes removed and the original language of the law reinstated in full. They should be instructed to make no further attempts to alter the process in any way, either at those meetings or in any other context.

Thanks in advance for your help.
—JC

A Reply From Pearse Edwards on behalf of Peter Steinbrueck

A letter I received this morning from Pearse Edwards at the Port Of Seattle in reply to my letter to the Port Commissioners yesterday. And my reply (cc’ed to the Commissioners) follows.

On 9/13/2018 6:56 AM, Edwards, Pearse wrote:
>
> JC –
>
> Good morning. Commissioner Steinbrueck asked me to respond to your e-mail relating to the Port’s engagement on the impact study authorized in the 2018 legislative session. During the past legislative session, the Port maintained a neutral position on the budget proviso sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall to study Sea-Tac airport impacts on area communities. This meant that we neither supported or opposed the legislation. Neutrality did not mean that we would not engage in the formation of the bill. Like any other agency in Washington state, we work with legislators and their staff and the executive branch to shape public policy. In this instance we asked Rep. Orwall to consider certain changes to the language in the budget proviso. She agreed to some of our requests and rejected others. The compromise language was addressed in a letter from the House and Senate Budget chairs to the state Department of Commerce, the agency responsible for carrying out the study.
>
> This summer, at the invitation of the state Department of Commerce the Port joined the working group being established to contribute to the study. At the meeting you refer to, the Port’s representative, Eric ffitch (our State Government Relations manager) sought to incorporate the language that Rep. Orwall had agreed to, and that the Legislature had asked Commerce to incorporate. All that we did and continue to do relating to our engagement on this piece of legislation has been above board and proper. The Commission was regularly informed of the development of the study, including the changes requested and those accepted, over the course of the legislative session.
>
> We view our participation in the working group as an opportunity to be collaborative, just as we are trying to do in other studies and via the StART community group.
>
> Thank you for your continued engagement with the Port on these and other important matters.
>
> Pearse
>
> Pearse Edwards
> Acting Sr. Director Public Affairs
> Director Government Relations
> Port of Seattle
> Office – 206-787-4894
> Cell – 206-953-9324

And now my reply:

On 9/13/2018 10:31 AM, JC Harris wrote:

Mr. Edwards,

Thank you for your courteous reply. I want you to know that I fully appreciate that your people have an obligation to defend the Port’s interests. However, without getting all hi-falootin’, the Port Commission also has a duty to be good stewards of the environment and to treat their neighbours (that would be us) fairly. It says so right on the first page of the job description for Port Commissioner. So I’ll cut right to it…

Your reply glosses over some details and distorts others to the point of having no resemblance of the events you describe. The Commissioners should not read it and think, “Well, problem solved. Just another misunderstanding from those pesky residents.”

First off, my understanding is that Representative Orwall acceded to changes in the language of the Budget Proviso only because of a direct threat from your lobbyist to ask the Governor to veto the bill. That is not what I would call taking a neutral position on this bill. Your reply to me distorts that interaction to the point of being simply false.

Secondly, it may not have been illegal, but it was decidedly unethical for your people to even be in the room with the Dept. Of Commerce (DOC) during meetings to hammer out implementation. The bill has already passed, it says nothing about your participation in its implementation, so your representatives have no business being in the room continuing to lobby for changes. Those meetings should be only for the representatives of the participating communities. The fact that the DOC and our city reps did not show you the door is another kettle of fish that I will take up with them, but that does not excuse your representatives’ unethical behaviour.

Third, you are contradicting replies I’ve received from Commissioners Gregoire, Steinbrueck and Calkins. They all say that they had no knowledge of your lobbying efforts on behalf of this bill. So now we have a “he said, she said” which, if you’ll forgive me, is quite typical for the Port. You say they were kept in the loop. And they can reply, “Oh yeah, now I remember, I’m so busy I forget details like this.” It is all chalked up to being just another misunderstanding.

And finally, regardless of “who knew what, when” the Port’s behaviour in this matter was simply wrong and unfair to the airport communities. That bill was written (and paid for) by us, the residents of the airport communities. You and your commission know full well that it was intentionally structured so as to exclude any influence by the Port Of Seattle. That knowledge should have told you and your lobbyist to respect that and make no efforts to influence its language or implementation. That would have been the ethical and proper thing to do.

As I wrote yesterday, what should happen is this: Instruct your representatives to relegate themselves to exactly the same status as the public: they may audit these meetings, but they should not be allowed to interact with any of the participants with regard to this law. They should accede to our demand to have their changes removed and the original language of the law reinstated in full. And finally, they should be instructed to make no further attempts to alter the process in any way, either at these meetings or in any other context. And again, I ask that the commission immediately take the above action to preserve the independence of our impact study.

I recognise that your reply is most likely merely a necessary formality, but every once in a while one can hope that you can do the fair and decent thing. At bottom, the ongoing problem for the Port (and us) is the intrinsic conflict of interest between your mission statement and the Port’s obligations to its neighbours and the environment. I can’t think of a single instance, not one, where the Port has put the interests of the communities ahead of the region’s desires for growth and economic development. It would go a long way towards repairing the completely broken trust between us if your commission would do the right thing in this particular instance.

—JC Harris
Des Moines

SAMP Comments: Can you hear me now?

I’ve eavesdropped on quite a number of Sustained Airport Master Plan EIS scoping comments and I’m struck by how high-minded most of them are. They cover the big-ticket items of noise, pollution, schools, property values, crime, etc.

But I want to remind you that you can (and should) also comment on the smaller annoyances that make life that much less pleasurable. For example, the bad effects the plane’s electronics seem to have on all sorts of our devices. This can range from poor radio and TV reception to dropped cell phone calls and disruptions to Wi-Fi networks. These sorts of problems really do drive all of us nuts from time to time. Worse still, these sorts of problems can become far more than just a nuisance. Imagine, for example, that your cell coverage drops during a 911 call or if your Wi-Fi disconnects just as you’re entering an important health care form on-line.

Ironically, these sorts of problems are exactly the kinds of issues that the airline industry should be more than happy to address. Since none of these issues require them to curtail their operations, they really have no adequate response to such nuisances other than to correct them.

Then there is a whole other class of issues that are not so easy to fix, but should definitely be reported. These include: damage to your house’s siding and painted surfaces. Changes to your garden and trees.These are obviously damages caused by airplane exhaust, but they are now occurring at a much greater rate and depth due to the rapid increase in flights. But the point is to document the tangible effects on you and your life on a day to day basis.

And be sure to point out that this is happening -before-any expansion occurs. We all must push back against the notion that the stopping the expansion is the goal. In fact, the airport must be rolled back to fewer than the current number of operations if we are ever to save our communities. So it is up to us to point out that even the status quo is not acceptable.

So: don’t forget to include these sorts of ‘quality of life’ issues when you make your comments. It’s not all about the big-ticket conflicts.

A Letter To Port Of Seattle Commissioners

Yesterday, I made the following public comment at the Port Of Seattle regular commission meeting (Start @ 22:30)

Sorry to digress, but my opening remark had to do with an award given at the beginning of the meeting to a Port employee for his good work in helping to clean up the Duwamish River. The irony of course is that the aviation industry (primarily Boeing) was the cause of the irreparable harm done to the river several generations ago. I was musing on that fact that fifty years from now, it is very likely that another Port Commission will hand out an award to another Port employee for her good work in attempting to fix the irreparable damage done to our communities by the aviation industry. The Commissioners tend to have puzzled looks on their faces when I do this sort of thing, but I can’t seem to help myself.

This morning I received replies from Commissioners Steinbrueck and Calkins. Both said that they were unaware of the Port lobbyist’s activities to change the language of the State Environmental Impact Proviso.

This was my reply:

There is no transcript available for any of these meetings. They were not organised under OPMA. It was only by chance that local activists from Quiet Skies discovered this. Yarden Weidenfeld gives a timeline of what happened in the video link I sent you.

More to the point, all of us in the community are very upset that your people were able to negotiate significant changes to the law, removing important language as to the areas that can be studied. This is deeply unfair on a number of levels.

The current ‘solution’ seems to be that your people will continue to be at these meetings, but they will be also open to some small number of residents. That is far from an adequate remedy. That means that your people will continue to have influence over the implementation of the law–however the public will get to watch. Hooray! NOT.

Because of your people’s tactics, a simple process will now become unnecessarily formalised. Far worse, it will have the appearance of fairness, without actually being fair.

The whole point of the law was specifically to keep you OUT; to have at least one study/process that was beyond your sphere of influence. Your people have circumvented the very spirit of this law. I understand it is their job to ‘jealously defend your (the Port’s) interests’ but this goes too far.

The rage and ongoing resentment the residents of the airport communities feel towards the PoS is exactly because of tactics like this. This is a pattern that goes back decades and decades. It is why I so often bring up history during my public comments. (Now you have a concrete example of what I am talking about.) You need to understand that not only is this situation bad, but that this is part of a systemic pattern of bad-faith behaviour that goes back to the 3rd Runway and before.

But you can provide a very simple fix that would go a long way towards rebuilding at least a modicum of trust:

What should happen is this: Instruct your representatives relegate themselves to exactly the same status as the public: they may audit these meetings, but they should not be allowed to interact with any of the participants with regard to this law. They should accede to our demand to have their changes removed and the original language of the law reinstated in full. And finally, they should be instructed to make no further attempts to alter the process in any way, either at these meetings or in any other context.

I respectfully ask that the commission immediately take the above action to preserve the independence of our impact study.

–JC Harris
Des Moines

As I said in my public comment, it’s bad whether or not they knew of their lobbyist’s efforts. If they were not aware, the next question would be: “OK, now you know. Are you OK with this?” and then, of course. “What are you going to do about it?” My letter says what I think should be done about this particular situation, but I am trying to hammer home the notion that this is how the corporation operates.

If the Port Commission is simply unaware of what is going on (as is the conceit of Steve Edmiston’s The Briefing Project), then not only should a fix to this problem be forthcoming, but we should also expect that this will help to steer the Commission towards a different course. In other words, if we give the Commission concrete examples of bad behaviour by the corporation they oversee, can they (or will they) step up and recognise that they need to do a much more thorough job of oversight? The above example is about as clear as it can get so we shall see.

Commissioner Felleman’s reply to me from the dais was telling. He now frequently engages in ‘what-about-ism’. When someone brings up any problem with the airport, his reply tends to be “Yeah, well what about…”. Usually followed by a spiel about ‘sustainable aviation fuels’. This defensiveness does not, to put it mildly, inspire optimism.

SAMP: We’ve had our Open House. Now what?

OK, so we had our Open Houses, kids. So what’s the next crisis to react to? Sorry to sound snarky. I do believe all these current issues matter. And I applaud everyone in the community and government who are reacting to them. Well done. Really. (At some point I have to develop the nerve to not have to say “well done” over and over before getting to the point.)

However my generally dour tone has to do with the ‘Long Game’ I frequently yammer about. We’re not playing it and the Port Of Seattle most definitely is. Which is why we keep bouncing from crisis to crisis every dozen years or so.

As I write this Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Carolinas. What I find heartening about that part of the United States is that as a matter of practicalities even the most conservative person there can no longer deny the whole climate change thing. Many people have now had their homes ruined two or three times, so the reality of the situation is finally sinking in (no pun intended). Their local governments are becoming long-term planners because they recognise that game-changing hurricanes will be a regular part of their world from now on.

We in the Sea-Tac Airport communities have yet to learn this lesson. This is the fourth major expansion at Sea-Tac. And every time, a generation worked as diligently as they could to try and manage the acute situation. But when the expansion had finally happened, win or lose, all the residents either left or wanted nothing more than to get back to ‘normal’. And that’s the problem.

You see, like the people along our east coast, it’s taking us a while to understand that we must always be ready for the next hurricane. We must always be preparing for the next challenge from the Port Of Seattle–even as we get ready to face the current challenges.

The reason the Port has become so intractable, so damned powerful, is not just because they have outrageous statutory power, but because they are constantly planning for that next expansion and we are not.

Remember: the Port has all these compliance procedures baked into their institutional thought process by State and Federal agencies. They have a whole range of employees with the word ‘environment’ in their job titles. Scientists, lawyers, engineers, analysts. Do you see the irony? The policies put in place to protect us by our State and Federal governments also give the Port Of Seattle the very blueprint and systems they need to overcome any and all of our objections. (A very real way of thinking of SEPA and NEPA as not being about processes designed to protect you, but rather as processes that allow them a clear pathway towards no-hassle construction.)

We also know what’s coming. Because the Port graciously shares their plans with the public. It’s called marketing and public accounting. They have a very appealing story of growth and increasing prosperity that they want everyone in the region to know about. And they have the requirements of a public corporation which disciplines them towards thinking about where they want to go.

Finals!

But what we do is wait until the night before the test to start cramming. For example, we’ve known since 2012 that the Port was planning this current expansion. And when did any of the city governments respond? Only within the past two years. And only (and this is the really important part) in response to badgering by us pesky residents (way to go Quiet Skies). Be honest: can you see your city leaders having taken any action against the Port on their own? Of course not. They are 100% reactive. (And by the way, the ‘study’ metaphor goes further: because we spend literally years re-learning strategies and tactics that residents from prior expansions learned and then immediately forgot.)

Emergencies? Really?

Another irony is that cities like Des Moines are falling all over themselves now to develop Emergency Management programs–to protect residents from an earthquake or some other life-changing disaster like Hurricane Florence. And that’s great. But the predictability of the next earthquake is far less than that of hurricanes on the east coast. And that predictability is far, far less than that of the next airport expansion. In fact, we know exactly when the next airport expansion will occur–even as we fight the current expansion. So why are our cities spending so much on the next earthquake (which is not predictable) but nothing on the next airport expansion, which is 100% predictable? (Spoiler Alert: Because your city leaders don’t see the airport as one of their top five priorities. Really. Not even in the Top 5.)

There is going to be the next expansion. Let that sink in. There will be another expansion. And another after that. It will never stop. Just like hurricanes. They are a fact of life in our community just as surely as hurricanes are to American people of Puerto Rico and the southeast coast.

So the single biggest thing protesters can do to help our communities is to get city leaders to start feeling a sense of real urgency; to get them to start planning for the next expansion while dealing with the current expansion.

Obstructions To Long Term Thinking

The problems with long term thinking are two-fold. First, there is the 800lb. Gorilla, namely ‘The SAMP’, which we haven’t been preparing for. So it’s natural for people to be falling all over themselves to address it. And if one talks about ‘long term planning’ it’s a bit like trying to sell auto insurance to a guy who is about to drive off a cliff. He’s got other fish to fry at the moment.

The other problem is that there really are NO low hanging fruit. (Or is it ‘fruits’? I’m never sure with that one.) Anyhoo, everyone talks about how there must be ‘lots’ of things that are doable, right? WRONG! Every (and I mean every) suggestion you might come up with will be rejected by the Port for one reason or another. Some of them because the Port spreads misinformation which we believe and so lose heart. (This kills me. Why should we believe anything they say at this point?) Yer average Port Commissioner knows way less about the airport than you do. Just ask them. They’ll freely admit it. They leave all that ‘operations’ jazz to the corporation. The real problem is that you can’t get Port Commissioners to believe you over the people they are supposed to oversee.

Other tasks we don’t take on because they are considered ‘too hard’ or would take ‘too long’. This is like not saving for retirement because it’s so far away. We refuse to take on tasks that won’t reduce noise or pollution in the short term because there are no tasks that reduce noise or pollution in the short term.

This is where beating on your City Council is an imperative. Your City Council has no desire to take on long-term airport planning. How am I sure? I’ve looked at their budgets. None have anything about airport planning. None. And as Dr. King tells us, “Budgets are moral documents.” Translation: if it isn’t in the budget? Your city can say whatever they want, they don’t really give a shit. At best your city is setting aside “one time money”. Which only goes to show that they consider the airport a one-off problem.

And then there is the sad truth that many of your cities are in bed with the Port and simply will not create any friction (See: Dave Kaplan). As I write this Burien’s Mayor has shared his desire to seek development money from the Port.

Why Cities Are The Key

But the truth is that until your city allocates a sustainable budget for fighting the airport, we will never beat the airport.

Why? Well think about it: The Port has a guy at every meeting that concerns their interests. There are literally meetings every day of the week where they have a Port representative. WashDot, Commerce, Ecology, PSRC, King County. As Yul Brynner used to say: “Etc. etc. etc.” Does any city currently have someone at all those events standing up for our interests? Of course not.

Our citizen advocacy groups try their best to keep up with the Port’s efforts, but even if we could be everywhere we should be and know everything we should know we would still lack the one superpower that the Port has that is even more important than all their money: continuity. Their long-term process ensures that they will be executing their plan over time regardless of any individual. Us? If any key person moves to Barbados, falls ill, gets fired, is voted out of office or whatever, everything we try to accomplish is immediately at risk.

Beatings, You Say?

I emphasize beating on your city because the notion of working with your city is not getting ‘er done. Objectively, there has been almost nothing but failure since the airport cities have had their various citizen committees. I know how harsh that sounds but it’s just the truth. I coulda told you it would go like this, but people already think I’m “Mr. Negative” so I try to avoid saying ‘I told you so.’

One reason is the simple fact that committees are often not about hard soul-searching. How many official committees have you been on in your lifetime where someone said, “This committee is nowheresville. I’m outta here!” Doesn’t happen. Especially on a committee where the goals are totally noble, people like each other, are smart and are generally working their tails off. People don’t give up under those circumstances. Kids are typically the only ones with enough honesty to say something like that.

Another problem is that all these failures don’t look like failures. I often use the metaphor of the Port as a casino and this is one of those times. Every time there is some bad news it is also invariably coupled with some new ‘opportunity’ that makes people keep playing the same game. It’s like slot machines: almost irresistible because every pull seems like its bringing you one step closer to winning–even though yer brain (cough) ‘knows’ that’s not at all the case.

There’s also the sheer fascination factor. Face it: a lot of people get a real charge out of making a civic contribution. And that makes it really hard to be objective about the results.

And last but not least? There’s the distinct possibility that your city doesn’t really want you to succeed. Maybe all they want is to appear to be making progress. Is that too harsh? OK, fine. Then perhaps it’s more like that idea of the guy with the hammer who sees every problem as a nail. Perhaps each city can only see the committees as the way to solve problems because that’s the only way cities solve problems? They also may see the Port as providing tremendous benefits. (Some council members I’ve spoken with in various cities believe this even more strongly than the leadership of the Port.)

The Current Scoreboard

By my tally, we’re not doing great at the moment. We’ve been at this now almost two years and we have put no wins on the board. All our efforts have been reactive. We have no goals other than the ones the Port has put in front of us by way of the SAMP. We have no agenda of our own and no long term plan in place to achieve it. And worst of all, we have no buy-in from our cities to create a system and processes which will provide continuity from one government to the next.

Your cities currently have no incentives to provide the resources necessary to win (whatever ‘win’ means.) Their residents know very, very little about the airport situation and none of the cities has spent any effort to improve that state of affairs.

Leadership?

What I’m describing is a lack of leadership. But some city has to step up in order to get the ball rolling. And in my opinion, Des Moines is the one city that has the ability to turn round this state of affairs. Des Moines currently has the resources to do so and also, Des Moines has the greatest amount of airport pain with only trivial airport benefits. The difficulty, of course, is that their city government is populated by people who believe the falsehood that the Port provides dramatic and ongoing benefits. They believe they can have their cake and breathe it too. Unfortunately, here on planet reality, it doesn’t work that way.

Again, regardless of which city you live in, part of your job has to be changing your council members’ minds on this point or voting them out. You have to make them understand that the airport is an existential threat, otherwise there is no chance in fixing the mess we live with at Sea-Tac.

Now What?

The best thing you can do for this fight is to contact your city council member(s) and tell them you care about not just the SAMP but having a long term strategy to fight the airport. You have to convince them that this is not a one-off problem that they can solve by hiring some consultants and maybe a lawyer or three.

If your city has a citizen airport committee, make it clear to them that they should also be focused on a long term plan.

One last thing: It is essential that the various airport committees find ways to work together. What I find a bit disquieting is how the various committees currently reflect their city governments to one degree or another. Each city government has many, many disagreements with their neighbouring cities, but we as residents should be able to share one common issue: the airport. What I’m trying to say is that you have an obligation to try to work together as citizens and not as part of your city government. The only way we can wrest control of the airport is by working together. The city governments will never do so until we work together. It starts with us setting the proper example.