A Letter To Port Commission President Stephanie Bowman

Madam President,

First off, let me congratulate you on your new office. I’ll just say something you already know: your office carries the ability to make the single greatest impact on the lives of people in our region of any elected. You sit down on a Tuesday, get two of your peers to agree to an idea and? It happens. That’s an essential attraction of the job. And that’s why people like me always hope you’ll decide to see things differently with regards to the airport communities. Because you can make those changes.

At today’s Commission Meeting you repeatedly remarked at the expense of noise mitigation products (ie. insulation and special windows.) Sadly, the physics of blocking sound transmission are pretty simple: it requires mass and lots of it. I dunno if you’ve had a demonstration of the products involved, but they are heavy which makes them hard to work with and thus expensive. There are no inexpensive substitutes that actually work.

But aside from that, I take issue with this notion of ‘expensive’. In exchange for these products, which are, frankly, only at best moderately effective under the current circumstances, the homeowner gives up that Perpetual Avigation Easement. And that’s is definitely not nothing. In exchange for a one-time payment, you and your tenants are getting a forever benefit. And at an eighty to one hundred percent discount! Not bad

I’m not just being snarky. I’m asking you to think differently about this whole notion of these products as being ‘expensive’. For everyone who lives under the flight paths, specialized windows and insulation are as essential to home ownership as any other mechanical system. An average person would not want to live in an untreated home in my neighborhood.

My house is 906 feet under the flight path of 34L. I can get by ten months of the year without my furnace (Yay, Global Warming.) But I absolutely need my ‘Port Package’ every damned day of the year.

And beyond that, the dirty little secret about those windows and insulation is that a good number of them fail in any number of ways; or cause the home to start to cultivate several types of mold. All of these defects create health problems for the current owner. But even if the owner chooses to live with these problems, those issues must be corrected when the home is sold. And those are major expenses. (Mold remediation alone starts at $2,200. The four homes that have sold on my block in the past two years have all tested positive and all had to be cleaned. It’s quite a job.)

Since 2001, the airlines have collected $3.5 billion in Facilities Charge Program dollars (that $4.50 tacked onto each ticket) on flights in and out of Sea-Tac. And what Stan Shepherd failed to mention in his presentation today is that the majority of the Port’s expenditures for noise mitigation have not gone for private residences, but rather for a whole range of public buildings. Anyhoo, whatever the Port has paid out in noise mitigation funds is miniscule when stood next to the fact that the airlines pay absolutely nothing for any of the damaging externalities they inflict on our neighborhoods. We give you a perpetual license to run your railroad however you want, we get a one-time payment, an all-too-short warranty within an all-too-small DNL65 area.

If you really care about relations with your neighbors (us), I gotta suggest, never bring up the expense of those windows and insulation again. Because, (sorry) it comes across as beyond insensitive. It comes across as if you’re doing us all some great favor by providing us windows and insulation. You’re not doing us any favors. Actually it’s quite the reverse. It probably wouldn’t hurt to express a little appreciation to your neighbors once in a while. Frankly? The residents of the airport communities have, for the last decade, put up with a whole lot of your growth without much complaint at all. It’s only when things have gotten truly out of control that we have even begun to complain.

Unlike other polluters such as cars and trucks and factories, your tenants currently pay almost nothing for the externalities they generate, not even on the fuel they burn. You control a great number of funding sources that could and should be used to provide relief for residents who are worn out. This is only simple fairness given how much we suffer in order to enable you to be “The Economic Engine Of Puget Sound”.

I hope we can work together to find ways to provide effective sound mitigation for a much wider range of residents in SeaTac, Des Moines, Burien, Normandy Park, Federal Way and Tukwila.



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