Strategy #1: Honest Reporting

Last time, I said that I would finally get down to some strategic strategery. Despite the appearance of endless bloviation, I’ve really tried to give a whole bunch of tactical advice, ie. learning the history, who are your real friends in all this (virtually no one) and so forth. I’m going to give you a few other tactical gems and then lay out a broad outline of where I think this all needs to go.

I’ll tell ya why. Because no one else is putting forward a real strategy. No one else talks about goals. Simple as that. I’m not some rocket scientist. I’m just a nobody like you. The only difference is that I’ve had the time to work on this a bit more than most. And I am putting forward some real goals.

Don’t like mine? Cool breeze! Let’s see you put forward your own positive strategy for reducing noise and pollution within the next five years. What’s that? I CAN’T HEEEEEEEAR YOU!

So take what I have to say with as large a grain of salt as ya like, but stop saying “This won’t work” and “That can’t work” unless you can put forward better alternatives. So far, I hear none. And if you have no positive alternatives, then what you’re really saying is we should all just call it a day. Stop gainsaying every motherfucking idea unless you have your own proposal. Or just move. Leave the area if you have no good ideas. Or at least, shut the fuck up and quit criticising the few people left who are still trying. It’s only polite.

One thing I’ve forgotten to mention in my beat down of all local ‘leaders’ and politicians is this: Lean on your friends. Don’t waste so much time with your enemies. I see all the time people saying, “Write to blah, blah, blah!” And I always think, “Why?” They don’t give a shit about you. The only way your would matter is if it was accompanied by a gillion other letters. The fact is that we are a very small group. We can’t generate a blizzard of letters and phone calls to Adam Smith or Patty Murray.

But the people who do seem to be on our side? The Tina Orwalls, the Adam Smiths, (some) City Council people… those are the people you should be screaming at ALL THE TIME. Why? Because they are willing to listen. But if you don’t push them, frankly, they will only go so far. None of them have expressed the urgency that this movement needs. They all support ‘studies’ and ‘long-term mitigations’–ideas that will only provide help down the road. WE NEED ACTION NOW! We need them to make Sea-Tac Airport Job #1. Right. Now. So lean on your friends.

My goal has always been this to reduce the noise and pollution generated by Sea-Tac Airport within the next five years. Now speaking strictly from an engineering standpoint, I do not need fancy data or sophisticated measuring equipment to know whether we’re succeeding or not and that is the reason I have not been particularly interested in ‘studies’ and sophisticated ‘data’.

When your street is flooding from a broken fire hydrant, you don’t need any ‘monitoring’, you simply need to shut off the valve. All that is necessary to reduce noise and pollution in the short term is to reduce the number of operations and change some routes. In fact, there is no other way to achieve these goals. Monitoring is only necessary to quantify how much things are improving; not to enable the reduction. Get it? We simply have to lower the pressure on the fire hose. We simply need to reduce the operations.

That said, for decades the Port has used a serious ‘Catch-22’ to thwart any talk of reducing noise and pollution: we don’t have the requisite ‘data’ to know how to address the problem. They avoid any of the above common sense by saying, “Get us the data and then we can talk about mitigations”. But since they (and their proxy the FAA) are the arbiters of what is “good data”, the public never wins. We almost never get good data. The measurement equipment isn’t in place. Or the science isn’t in place. They have used all manner of ways to either obfuscate the problem or, failing that, to simply lie about it.

Goal #1: It’s The Airplanes, Stupid

Our first goal must be to insist on honest reporting. The Port must accurately declare all the environmental impacts generated by the airplanes when publishing data about the airport. Currently, the Port does not include the environmental impacts of the airplanes on its reports. This is so ridiculous as to beggar belief. They only put down pollution and noise from ‘the airport’, ie. the terminal and their ground operations. This must change. They must be compelled to declare the environmental impacts of all take offs and landings within at least a six mile radius, which are perhaps as much as ninety percent of the crap that the airport generates. While we are waiting for the results of various ‘studies’, we should have the specific goal of saying, “OK, now we have a baseline. And from now on, you will no longer be allowed to avoid giving an honest presentation of airport operations.” This message needs to get out to the Port Commissioners, to King County agencies and to the State. The environmental reporting generated by the Port (and published by King County) has been blatantly dishonest to the public.

You need those numbers in order to fight at institutional level. (Somewhat defensive remark: I have never argued that is not the case. My problem with all these studies is that they have been used as a substitute for immediate action.) So for now, your letter writing needs to say to all leaders: “Declare your impacts. All your impacts”. Because if we get these studies and then do not insist on making the Port declare its impacts? We will still be unable to go to the media, to State agencies, to Federal agencies and say, “We need you to take action.”


If we only get back one set of static data points from these studies without getting the Port to commit to ongoing honest reporting, we will still not be where we want to be. We will still not have ongoing system in place to keep the pressure on and to get relief from various government programs. We cannot accept a static picture of the airport at one point in time and think we’ve succeeded. If we do that, the Port will simply use that as a basis for future confabulation. As they do now.


To have any long-term relief, we will need a system in place to accurately monitor impacts from the airplanes. We need a complete set of soot, metal and toxic gas monitors throughout the area. And we need the Port to pay for it; not the taxpayers. We need the Port to accept that it is basically like any other factory in America. When it comes to impacts, it must pay its own way (with adult supervision of course.)

That adult supervision has to be disentangled from the Port. Another problem with the Port is that it has insinuated itself into previous studies and monitoring systems with disastrous outcomes for the public. This is because the Port has not been treated like a real factory, where outside inspectors are kept separate from the factory owners. This must change. The Port must pay for its monitoring and for its impacts, but it must not be allowed to be a part of that monitoring.


The very notion of treating the Port in this way (ie. like any other factory) will no doubt not be received kindly by the Port. I can hear literally dozens of excuses in my head ranging from patronizing to downright angry. “Why, we’re the economic engine of Puget Sound!”, “We can’t be held to account for the airplanes! That’s the FAA’s job (or the airlines, same difference)!”, “We can’t afford it. We’re a public corporation, we don’t have that kind of money!”, etc., etc.

Pressing home this goal, in itself, has value for the community. The more the Port resists something so practical and common sense, the more they reveal themselves to the general public for what they truly are. In other words, this goal has strategic value far beyond the practical benefits of impact monitoring.

When the Port resists this idea (as they most certainly will), it is a fantastic opportunity to launch a media campaign with a specific message–something this movement has been lacking. Until now, the Port has had an unbreakable PR message, “The economic engine of Puget Sound. The greenest airport in North America!” It has been virtually impossible to get media attention because our message has been so vague when measured against their very simple and clear message. But when they publicly reject this idea, they will be on the record as not really caring about their environmental impacts–and mostly importantly–in a manner that will be easy for the general public to be understand and to find sympathetic.


In order for this to work, we must all agree to work together on this. And by that I mean simply that from now on, every time you interact in any way with your neighbors and leaders at any level you need to make this message a part of that interaction: “The Port has been hiding their true environmental impacts from the public for decades. This has given the public a totally wrong impression about the bad effects of living near Sea-Tac. We want the Port to start declaring all their environmental impacts.” Simple. If everyone makes that a part of their messaging, we’re on our way.


Starting now, even before any test results are in, we need to insist on an ongoing monitoring system for the airport. We need to insist that the Port pay for its operation, but that they must never be a part of the actual monitoring process in order to keep that process honest. We must insist that the environmental impacts of take offs and landings are henceforth including on all financial and environmental data the Port generates and reports to the public as well as governmental agencies. And we must use any resistance the Port has to this idea to generate our own PR campaign showing the Port’s treatment of the airport communities. We must use this goal to help change the public’s perception of our predicament by leveraging the Port’s unwillingness to cooperate against them. And to effect this, we must have a coordinated campaign whereby every contact we have with various leaders mention this as one of our aims.

One Reply to “Strategy #1: Honest Reporting”

  1. Reading your web site from the Quiet Skies Puget Sound posting, this is so wonderful I can not believe it. I agree we need to be screaming going to meetings. I am in the process of protesting my property taxes due to my house being below third runway.

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