A Letter To Amanda Wyma-Bradley re. HR 6168

Ms. Wyma-Bradley is a Legislative Assistant for Congressman Adam Smith (D) 9th District, WA.

Thank you for your work on this issue.I worry that my comments at the meeting may have veered discussion away from your intended text. But I think I do understand the local situation and my concern in HR 6168 was that I couldn’t see the mechanics, the how that relief might be implemented.

I’m too stupid to understand the politics of getting any aviation legislation passed and I don’t mean to tell you how to do your job, but…

Before going further, I’m going to tell you that the real solution for communities is here.

And now back to our regularly scheduled show.  ANCA was never designed to help residents (it’s House version  was originally titled ‘the aviation capacity expansion act’ after all). But the infrastructure built over subsequent years is sincere in trying to help residents–at least within its crap parameters. You could do a lot worse than to simply modify a few sentences involving decibels, year of home construction, distance from runway and penalties to operators for non-compliance. That alone would help tens of thousands of people.  Again, I hesitate to be presumptuous, but you really need to not just read ANCA, but internalize it, specificially Section 302 forward.

Because without saying so, your proposed legislation is really a modification of ANCA, inserting the community component that should’ve been in that spot all along. The whole spirit of ANCA was that the operator (Port Of Seattle) was to act as a fair broker between residents and their tenants so no pesky community would be ‘necessary’. Oops.

What I’m saying is that we don’t need a fundamentally new mechanism for obtaining relief. The details for setting up programs, getting people paid and overseeing contractors is actually pretty good. You can insert that community component; great. But the trick (for me) is this: Can you craft a law which makes the FAA or the Port Of Seattle care?

The problem with the Port Of Seattle is cultural. They really believe, with a 100% neo-liberal fervor that their job is to grow King County. Any collateral damage is regrettable, of course, but no reason to slow down operations.

This attitude is so ingrained that, ideally, it would be dealt with the way that police departments are subjected to a court-monitored reform package–as the Seattle P.D. is currently doing. The Port has such a long-standing history of bad faith that they are not able to reform themselves. From voters to business interests, all the incentives go in the wrong direction.

Fortunately, the FAA has powerful carrots and sticks in the form of ANCA AIP Grants. The irony is that the law which created so much misery for us also has the tool to provide relief. ANCA quickly made all airports completely addicted to those grants.

But culturally the FAA has never had a reason to advocate for residents. They are like the Department Of Agriculture: a bizarre combination of regulator and business booster. They unabashedly advocate for the airlines. The fundamental skepticism you will face from airport communities will not be over a particular ‘may’ or a ‘shall’ as Steve Edmiston said, but rather a skepticism over any language you might create. Can an organisation with that ingrained history be redirected by any law you craft? How do you incentivize the FAA Administrator to provide the new oversight of operators that they have never provided. In one sentence: Can your legislation provide the will to act?

And downstream, the Port Of Seattle, which ANCA explicitly says should provide a balance between community concerns and those of the airlines, has always sided with their customers (the airlines). This is why they are thought of with special contempt by residents. They’re supposed to be an honest broker between the airlines and the needs of the communities. But they never do. Instead, they always side with the airlines, either cowardly blaming the FAA or (more honestly) saying that the revenues benefit the greater good of King County.

In short, your primary goal should be to craft a law which modifies ANCA in a modest way to act as a motivator for the FAA to provide proper oversight and, ultimately, begin changing the culture of the Port Of Seattle.  Effective community engagement is a great thing, but without tools to balance the Port’s pro-growth stance with genuine community advocacy, all the talk in the world won’t help much.

Good luck. 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *