A Letter To Sheila Brush re. Stakeholder Committee Interviews

Sheila Brush is the founder of Quiet Skies Puget Sound (QSPS), a member of the Des Moines Aviation Committee as well as a City Of Des Moines representative on the StART Committee.

Thank you for your kind phone message re. the Sea-Tac Baseline Study: Stakeholder Interviews.I’ve received a number of suggestions to join in, so I have asked to be included in that list of interviewees. However, I am not optimistic as to what good it will do for the following reasons:

1. I have been told repeatedly by Gary Idleburg that no public was allowed to audit the Stakeholder Committee meetings. And yet I know that is simply untrue. (From what you say, you and Debi Wagner have already done so.)

2. I asked Michael Matthias if I could have permission to do so, pretty please, and he said flat out ‘no’… and again that no members of the public had been allowed in any of those meetings. Another fib?

3. I even went so far as to go to the May 23th City Council meeting and beg to be allowed to audit these meetings on behalf of the homeowners I represent with Port Package Problems. And I was lectured by Michael that nothing to do with Port Packages were part of their scoping (including mold) and that it would not be ‘appropriate’ for me to be there. (Even though I had e-mails and phone calls with Gary Idleburg that very day asking me for specific data on those environmental and health issues.) Getting (cough) ‘misinformation’ from the dais is getting to be a favoured tactic of the city to manage uppity people.

Frankly, I think you should publish the date and place of all meetings so we can all crash them. Because there should be at least some price to pay for that kind of dissembling. My point is that, at the risk of sounding whatever, no one gives a shit about my data, knowledge or opinions.

The ‘collaboration’ that was rolled out as the shining path forward at last Thursday’s Study Session is just the next logical step from the City. Two years ago, they were content to write the occasional letter and do nothing of substance. But now that we’re getting closer to the SAMP and the conclusion of some of these studies, they can’t just be passive. They have to look like they’re doing something real and so they are upping the ante: lots of wasteful spending and outright dissembling.

try to tell myself that you and Steve mean well. But frankly? I don’t think you guys factor in the immense downside of your working with the City. I get the perceived benefits–which would be great if they were really on our team. But everyone, from the League Of Quiet Skies, to QSPS followers, to the Waterland Blog have to one degree or another enabled the City to continue forward with what I have long-considered to be an ineffective and downright disastrous strategy.

Just by being ‘nice’ and supportive of the City’s policy is ‘collaborating’ with the City in the same way that we’ve been collaborating with the Port Of Seattle all these years. This notion of ‘partnering’ might work, assuming that we could bargain with them in good faith. But you can’t bargain in good faith when there is such a power differential. And you can’t collaborate when there is no trust. They take all your group’s great efforts and simply spin it as part of their narrative about what a great job they are doing.

If it hasn’t become clear by now, I don’t know when it will: The City is not one of the good guys; they are not working on behalf of the needs of Des Moines or the region. And if you’re not willing to openly call out the City for all of their crap, then, at the risk of further alienating whoever, I can only make the following suggestions. Hopefully they will not appear too self-serving.

1. Encourage your followers to volunteer their time to help Seatacnoise.Info  in  our work–and that includes your connections with groups across the United States. We currently have several programs which are very time-consuming but which we believe can make a real difference soon; not twenty years from now. Here is a sampling:

    • Proposals to change State law (per Burien’s Airport Resolutions)to provide help for people with bad Port Packages and to provide more relief for more people. This is critical for everyone because thus far no one has succeeded in beating the Port. Ever. More than anything, we need a win in order to prove to totally disheartened residents that occasionally, we can challenge the Port. And the Port needs to see that we’re not always bargaining from a position of abject weakness.
    • An organized property tax revolt for homeowners inside the DNL65. Everyone inside the noise boundary should be filing for a tax write-down, sharing their data with us and then going back to the City and showing them how we’re going to take their money until they start fighting the Port more effectively. We can give people a step-by-step recipe. We’ve got five people on board. But I think we need 50 to get some attention. This should be an easy sell to your group because who doesn’t want to save money on their tax bill?
    • State legislation to get permanent funding for noise and pollution monitors paid for by the Port, but administered by a third-party. That way Cities won’t have to go begging and arguing (as they always do!) to run the thing.
    • A research project to compare Noise Mitigation Programs throughout the United States. We need to shame airport operators who haven’t done their best for residents. The Port has one of the poorest noise programs in the country, but no one knows this because the various Quiet Skies groups don’t have a way to pool their efforts. So no one has ever done fair comparisons and we all wander around in the dark. (Remember what the attorney said? “You seen one airport. You seen one airport.” Sure, if you haven’t compared the data.
    • Federal Legislation to make these surveys an annual requirement for receiving AIP Grants… and then a way to ding airports which don’t do a good job in terms of serving community residents.

Your followers tell me I should stop criticizing and offer solutions. I have solutions; just not the ones that the Cities and the Port want to limit us to. The old saying is that you can’t get out of a hole until you stop digging. We can’t get out of this hole until we stop enabling them and try something new. I flatter myself to think that I have it and need everyone’s help to make it happen.I want to conclude by saying that what I’ve written in no way discounts all the hard work you’ve put in. You don’t need me to tout your accomplishments and you deserve all the praise you get. Well, except from the City. Because the irony is that the City Of Des Moines would appear about 99% less credible today if they were not able to take your work as their accomplishments. And that’s what drives me crazy. 😀 I truly hope you find at least some black humour in that.



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