Most people who read our posts tend to be more wonky than most. But this is the first in a series of posts for the silent majority; which is to say the overwhelming number of people who are ostensibly following one of the Quiet Skies groups but are thoroughly confused as to what they can do that might really make a difference to the impacts from Sea-Tac Airport.
So I have a suggestion for you, the less than obsessed activist, for 2019. This is something you can do that will really make a useful difference. In fact, the biggest problem with this suggestion is in getting you to believe that something so simple will actually be effective. It’s so hard to believe that I decided to break this post into several parts rather than one big ‘thing’ the size of a small Russian Novel.
So today I’ll give you the suggestion and if you’re not immediately sold, hopefully you’ll come back for the rest of the series and you’ll become a believer. So now that I’ve given this thing such a major build-up, here it is:
Go to your next City Council meeting, sign up for Public Comment and YELL at yer City Council about the airport.
Well, that was underwhelming.
I know, I know, a number of you will say that you’ve already done this. But the problem is that you haven’t actually yelled at your city government. Literally every resident I’ve seen at a City Council meeting over the past two years has given some variation on what I call the ‘help me!’ speech. You’ll say, “I can’t sleep”, “My nerves are shot”, “Nobody cares”, etc. All of which is true, but that’s not yelling. Yelling involves feelings of ‘anger’, ‘disappointment’ and ‘blame’. I have yet to see anyone besides yours truly demonstrate those feelings at any City Council meeting (and I attend a lot of city council meetings.) Those of you that like to speak yer mind all seem to reserve your share of spleen for the Port Of Seattle. But this has to change. Because yelling at a Port Of Seattle Commissioner is like yelling at yer dog after it shits on the carpet. It may feel good in the moment, but all it usually does is leave them with this puzzled look and then they resent you for the long term.
Now I get it. I know you’re not convinced as to why you should be angry with your city about the airport. Isn’t it the evil FAA and the diabolical Port Of Seattle that are at the root of all our problems? That’s what you’ve been told over and over, right? Isn’t my city just this powerless little pawn in the game of life? And besides, aren’t they working hand-in-glove with your Quiet Skies people? Doesn’t that make your city automatically one of the good guys who is working on your behalf?
As I said last time, it is our view that the cities are the key to addressing the problems with Sea-Tac Airport, both now and in the long-term. However, taken as a group, lawmakers from all the airport communities have an absolutely terrible track record of defending their residents from the impacts of Sea-Tac Airport.
We’ll get into the reasons for this next time, but for now I just want you to keep in mind two numbers; or rather years: 2008 and 2012. 2008 is the last time that the Port Of Seattle spent any money on noise mitigation for residents. And it was before then that any of the airport cities actually attempted to negotiate for any of that money–even though they have every right to do so every year under FAA law.
Of course, 2012 is the year the Port Of Seattle announced the Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP). Which means that your city has had many years notice to prepare their response. Yet most of the cities did not take any action until being harangued by activists. And if you’ve been to any StART or Highline Forum meetings you’ve seen for yourself how poorly educated many (most) of your council members are about some of the most basic airport issues.
You get where I’m going with this. None of your cities have done nearly enough to protect your interests since the failure of the Third Runway Law Suit. What could they have done?
Well, let’s go back to 2008. Back then there were local activist groups that were even better organized than *Quiet Skies? Did you know that they were, even then pushing for better noise monitoring stations and pollution monitors? Did you know that there were super-detailed Impact Studies (like the upcoming ‘Budget Proviso’) with detailed blueprints for how each city could deal with the fallout from the Third Runway? Did you know that each city had staff which was well-versed in advocating for residential noise mitigation?
What if none of those good efforts had ended? What if they had kept going? What if each city had started an Aviation Committee back then and kept it going to be ready for the next expansion? It’s not like these committees cost much more than, er well, umm… actually they cost zero.
Each city already had this big infrastructure in place to fight Sea-Tac Airport and they let almost all of that wither away. With all those advantages they chose to not keep working those problems. And what’s even worse is that now? Your cities are, overall, once again poorly prepared. And what’s even worster? Most of their thinking is about ‘the SAMP’. Again, they’re doing very little long-term planning beyond those nineteen gates!
And that leads me to a couple of ‘whys’, which is where I want to leave you today. The reason why I’m asking you to go to your City Council and YELL has to do with why your city are once again so ill-prepared.
In the past few years you’ve no doubt heard about ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Me Too’ and so on. Various groups have gotten fed up with the status quo and said, “Enough! We don’t want a new law or a new rule. We want you to change the way you do things.” That is what has got to happen here. Your City Council needs to be shaken to the core. I’m talking a cultural change. Our cities have got to change the way they view the airport. Permanently.
Think about what city governments do. They provide police and roads and cable TV and so on. Traditionally, city governments do not deal with big issues like the environment or health or airports. Those kinds of things are the job of counties and states and the federal government. And people who run for City Council are not ‘environmentalists’. They’re typically small business people; men and women you’d meet at the Rotary Club. They run on issues of taxes and sidewalks and public safety. They do not run on issues like ‘Airport Impacts’.
But Sea-Tac Airport is unique. It has has been our neighbor now for over seventy years and time and again, neither the county, state or federal governments have stepped up to protect us. In fact, they have intentionally stepped aside to allow Sea-Tac Airport to drive over us so that the rest of the State could profit. Our electeds simply have no experience in dealing with this kind of threat so over and over they tend to reflexively turn the problem over to the very county, state and federal agencies that have let us down so many times before. They’re doing it right now. Your City Council cannot help themselves. They’re trapped in the computer program that loops over and over: turn it over to county. Turn it over to state. Write a letter. Fill out a form. Not my job.
But you can fix it. City council members respond to yelling. When enough people show up to a meeting and get pissed off about an issue? They respond. That is the only thing that gets them out of that loop. Gentle suggestions? Fawgeddaboudit.
It will require all the airport communities to get on the same page; to develop a different culture regarding Sea-Tac Airport, one where each city is constantly on guard. One in which we realize that it is up to us.
You need to yell, I mean really YELL at your City Council because time and again, they have not gotten this message. They have a terrible time with this because, again, protecting you from the airport is not a standard municipal function. So after every airport expansion, each City Council reverts back to business as usual and then the next expansion occurs and we get screwed.
Your city is the first and best line of defense against the airport. And the best thing you can do for this movement in 2019 is to tell your City Council two simple words:
We’ll get into some talking points next time.
*That’s not a slam against Quiet Skies. The groups working on the Third Runway were in a whole other league in many ways and are beyond this current discussion. I only mention it because there was such a wealth of material that could have been carried forward into the present fight.