Highline highlights: It’s a technicality

Contrary to my expectations, today’s Highline Forum was the most ‘content-rich’ affair I’ve been to in quite a while. If you weren’t there you shoulda been there. Or maybe I’ve been going to these pointless meetings for so long I’ve become so used to boredom that any excitement gets me hot and bothered. I don’t have any grand ‘theme’. Just a number of random observations:

Public Comment

Sheila Brush made an impassioned public comment about what she considers to be the poor structure of the StART Committee. She said that at its inception the Port maneuvered so as to make it as unproductive as possible. Well, duuuh! (Sorry. 😀 ) She referred to documents going back as far as 1979 (I think what she’s talking about is here, links to follow as soon as I get a sec) where Port reps. talk about a ‘community engagement strategy’ designed to keep the public at arms length.  But with regard to the StART, I can’t be too hard on the Port because…

StART Update

The Port didn’t need much help in creating a feckless StART.  Because frankly most of the city councils wanted something for nothing. They wanted to be able to say they were doing something about ‘impacts’ without actually having to do anything. And the StART is a great vehicle for that sort of press-friendly not-doing. Commissioner Fred Felleman is quite correct when he chides the Quiet Skies people: “Take it up with your city. ” Now, can one argue that there are some sort of machinations going on inside the StART to ‘maneuver’ (love that word) participants into a year-long study of *glide slopes? Sure. But again, are you suggesting that StART participants are gullible naifs who are easily led down the garden path–and that their highly competent and fully engaged city leaders would choose such people as members? Heavens. 😀

The real ‘update is to see just how chummy almost all civic leaders really are with the Port. In fact it should’ve been required for all StART members (as well as Quiet Skies people) to attend this Highline Forum. SeaTac, Burien, Normandy Park, both the schools; they all had nary a discouraging word for the Port after watching both StART and SAMP updates that were, by any objective rendering, pretty dispiriting. Except for Des Moines that is…

What are you getting so upset about?

Poor Michael Matthias and Matt Pina. On the one hand, I admire the fact that they are speaking up against the Port. In public no less. They commented that they had seen no real action and that there were promises about the future but no firm commitments. Fred Felleman’s replies were basically. “Don’t worry so much. It’ll happen. Why wouldn’t it happen?” 😀  It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. At every meeting now, I watch those two feel more isolated and more patronised as their concerns are increasingly dismissed out of hand. And they have to just sit there and take it. “Welcome to my world, boys!” 😀 They’re learning a tough lesson that all activists in this area should learn: You can’t have it both ways.

And now for a bit of a side-line…

There is this almost genetic code in our area which says “never air dirty laundry in public” and “all the real work happens in private”. So everyone tries soooooooooo hard to be cooperative. Seemingly until their face is about to crack.

But one of the first things I learned when I started studying the history of the Port Of Seattle is that being ‘nice’ simply doesn’t work. I know how that sounds–here in Puget Sound we’re traditionally very polite and the idea of being confrontational is just not in our DNA. But the Port Of Seattle does not play fair. And what is puzzling to me is that, despite all the visible evidence of their bullying how literally distasteful so many people still find the idea of confronting them when they treat us poorly.

Personally, I believe that many leaders are still stuck in the past with the Third Runway. The Dave Kaplans of the world believe that the big lesson of the Third Runway is that “resistance is futile” and “cooperation is good”. But that isn’t true. The real lesson should have been, “Learn from your mistakes.” And “Live to fight another day.” What we did was forget everything and then suck up to the Port hoping they’d be nicer to us this time. Good plan.

And now back to our show…

SAMP Update

Moving onto that SAMP Update. I could sum up Port Of Seattle Airport Environmental Director Arlyn Purcell’s, presentation in three words: “It’s a technicality.” She went over all the major concerns that had been expressed by the public such as DNL65, More noise monitors, Pollution monitors, Delaying construction until studies are complete, And on and on. And then she explained how each item could not be included in the SAMP scoping process due to various legal limitations or FAA rules. Not one. Really. Not a single one of the major items the public gets so upset about. I could go into more detail but just think of something in your top ten. Got it? OK. It’s not in the SAMP. And neither are the other nine.

So when you peel away all the layers of ‘due diligence’ and ‘outreach’ and ‘deep concern’ which are the trappings of the SAMP Public Scoping Process, when you get down to the core of what is going to happen?

We are about to get our clocks cleaned.

As we’ve been reporting now for over a year (and this goes back to Sheila Brush’s comment) the Port really does run the same playbook for every expansion. If you get nothing else from anything you’ve ever read here, please believe this: The Port Of Seattle loves the SAMP process. They do this ‘Brer Rabbit’ act of saying how painful it is for them. But it’s all a ruse. The SAMP process is designed to protect them and enable them to get their building done as easily as possible. In fact, they want to funnel any and every complaint through the SAMP process. This is why the answer to every concern residents and civic leaders have is “It’s being handled in the SAMP. Be patient.” It’s a bit like how corporations like to bundle consumer complaints into a single action rather than deal with them one at a time.

A Petty After Party

At meeting’s end, each entity gives an ’emerging issues’ wrap-up. Commissioner Felleman casually mentions that the Port is now in the process of offering new Port Packages to some luck homeowners and, gosh, wouldn’t ya know it, they’ve got extra money to work on eligible homes that haven’t asked to be outfitted.

I knew they had some money because we monitor the Port’s FAA grants. Yes they got $1.8 million this year for noise remediation which was notable because this is the first grant for noise remediation they’ve requested since 2008. Now here’s where I got lazy: I assumed that grant was for school construction they’ve been promising for years so I didn’t bother auditing it for the addresses. Stupid me. Apparently there’s some extra dough left over.

So I walk over to Fred after the meeting and Matt Pina is already there asking for the addresses of the eligible homeowners–he has the same idea I do. He wants to inform them that they’re eligible for a Port Package. What a guy. I ask Fred if he can do the same for me. And he says, “Why would I do that?” And instead of doing as my heart tells me I calmly say, “Well, because I hope you recall that I’ve been nagging your Commission for the past year about two dozen homeowners inside the 2013 DNL65 who are eligible for Port Packages but haven’t received them. I’d like to see if they’re the same people. And his reply. “I won’t do that, but tell ya what. You send me your list and I’ll see what I can do.” And then Matt Pina looks at me and says, “He can’t give you the addresses. It’s a political thing, you understand.”

The funny thing about this is that the addresses of eligible homes is public information. (As are the addresses of people who actually receive the Port Packages. We use that public data to research homes with Port Package Problems.) So they’re both being petty and silly for no other reason than because they can.

The Takeaway

The thing I wish is that the other activists (and Matthias and Pina) would finally wake up and start talking about the shortcomings of these processes and the cities with objectivity and above all with the public. The time for keeping everything in private, let alone ‘cooperation’ has been over for a long time.

This is an extremely high stakes battle that is not being covered by the press. And worse? It’s being fought by a very small group of people who rarely coordinate their efforts and who almost never even try to get the word out to the average resident. Think about that: It’s bad enough that there’s no press. And it’s a real kick in the nuts that your city leaders never talk about this stuff in frank terms. But what really grinds my gears is that the people supposedly fighting the good fight don’t accurately report on how shitty local leaders really are. Even with the sorry way the Port is treating us, we still insist on not wanting to air that dirty laundry.

No wonder we’re getting our collective asses handed to us.

At some point soon, if we’re going to win, there’s going to need to be more than just some idiot with a red baseball cap telling off Matt Pina or Jimmy Matta or Jim Ferrell, et. al when they’re not doing right by their residents on these issue. At some point the anger that expresses itself so eloquently inside these kinds of meetings is going to have to find its way to the wider world.

*We’re actually thrilled to see this issue get addressed. It’s the choice of this issue and the amount of energy devoted to it during the first year that we find odd.

One Reply to “Highline highlights: It’s a technicality”

  1. Here is Sheila Brush’s full comment (copied from her reply to me on https://www.facebook.com/groups/QuietSkiesPugetSound/permalink/2214602772187340/)

    Here is my actual public comment. The Port of Seattle was already forming a round table back in 2015, they’ve manipulated the assorted City Managers into thinking this was their idea, the formation. After my comment Commissioner Felleman clearly put the problems of it’s design back on the City Managers. So, if the City Managers have the power to change it, why aren’t they?
    “I’ve spoken many time about the disconnect with StART, the lack of elected leadership, coupled with the lack of local citizen experts. I’ve spoken many times how the intent and design of this group was to appoint citizens, some with a skill set, others with a special self-serving interest.

    When the pitch was make to the City Managers to create StART, to make it be “unique” like no other, and mirror the Highline Forum, but with citizens and only meet every other month, what the Port staff should of said is “lets create an extra barrier, let’s make sure we select a collection of citizens, some with knowledge, some with none. Like a citizen from Sea-Tac who does not live in Sea-Tac, has no problem with the noise, because he does not sleep in an impacted City, but owns Park & Rides and will have a finical gain from the Airport growth. But after all we are mirroring the Highline Forum, so his appointment was a-ok?

    Or another citizen from Normandy Park who knows nothing about any of the issues being discussed, who cannot contribute on issues and yet repeatedly takes valuable time away from discussions to praise the airlines and Port for their good work. Why? Because he works for a major non-profit and it is his job to procure donations from corporations, both Delta & Alaska Airlines being large donors. How is this not a conflict of interest? Is this really the best of the best in citizen experts? NO it is not, and YOU KNOW IT IS NOT.

    But sadly the City Managers were duped into thinking this was their idea. NO it was not. Back in 2015 through records request it has been discovered that the Port was already forming the foundation of a “working group” or “Community Round table” or whatever newly named of an old play book they were going to call it. I also spoke directly to Kim Stover from the FAA and asked what happen to the “required” community engagement that was to be held due to NextGen’s implantation? Ms. Stover answered that it was put on hold because 1) did not go as the FAA hoped, citizens across the nation were showing up angry and 2) budget cuts.

    But nevertheless the Port moved forward in forming StART. Sadly, the Port has been playing this long game going back as far as 1979, or at least that is as far back as the recorded pattern of manipulations I have here today.

    1979 you had the “Policy Advisory Committee” where members represented “Impacted Zones”.

    1982 still was the “Policy Advisory Committee” but what is interesting in the minutes I have discovered, is besides the citizens and Port AND FAA, there is Representatives from Highline School district, King County and Local Governments.

    1984 it gets interesting: Now being referred to as the “Technical Working Committee” they determined that Subcommittees would now be formed to dive deeper into the issues and present findings back to the full committee, exactly as is being done today with StART.

    So here we are, still kicking the can down the road, not having the serious conversation that must be had, but still allowing the Port to control the formation and foundation of this newly named working group, StART.

    Holding a charade of meetings with citizens that can only advise and try as some might, they can only advise on what they have the wherewithal to ask. You are only being giving a glossed over version of what is really going on, yet you the elected officials have the power and are supposed to take action? How is this not the definition of hypocrisy and dishonestly? Are the elected officials here today really comfortable with being blocked from attending a monthly closed door federal policy working group with Port lobbyist, many port staff, outside Port consultants and congressional aides from the hill who represent: Senators Murray and Cantwell, Representatives Smith, Larsen and Jayapal? Are you all honestly supportive of this format?

    It is time to form an actually committee with both elected officials coupled with citizen experts AND GET REAL WORK DONE.”

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