Time, Windows and Churn

I saw those guys at The Gorge in ’83. 😀


With the passage of time, the problems created for residents by Sea-Tac Airport get forgotten and this works to the advantage of The Port Of Seattle. Forget ever obtaining any justice, the passage of time prevents even understanding that any crimes have been committed. In fact, when I use the term ‘justice’ and the phrase ‘crimes committed’ that probably sounds over the top to you. But that’s only because you weren’t there. Everything softens with the passage of time.


I’m gonna stop yammering about ‘Port Packages’ real soon, but today I wanted to say a few (OK, more like 900) words about the big picture of the whole program and what it means for the communities.

Finally: the actual topic of conversation

Put simply, the entire Port Package system as it was originally implemented was something of a scam. It started from a half-baked set of requirements based on incomplete engineering and not exactly scientific best practice. Houses were sealed tight with heavy insulation without adequate ventilation and windows were installed without proper consideration for our climate. The FAA system of oversight, which was actually meant to protect homeowners was willfully perverted and then later ignored so as to give the appearance of proper controls.

Yeah talk is cheap, but *we’ll have plenty of examples of bad behavior up soon. I just want to keep this tirade under a billion words. For now, one example that most people are not aware of now: Homeowners were actually required to take something like a ‘course’ in order to qualify for the program. The point of the course was to educate you as to how to choose windows and a contractor, how to care for your windows, what ‘side-effects’ you might expect. Does this sound a bit like the warning label on a bottle of medicine? It should. Because the course was simply a thinly disguised way to indemnify the Port against system failures which they were well aware would be coming for many homeowners and which they also knew could lead to serious health issues. The Port bamboozled homeowners by telling them how that the entire process was designed to create an ‘educated consumer’. So as ‘proof’ of their desire to not ‘influence’ the process in any way, they left it to the homeowner to choose the contractor, the products and oversee the work. (Using their new-found skills, of course!)

Here’s the handbook that was your guide through the course.

And all the Airport City governments enabled this bogus process at every stage. The Cities knew full well what was going on and did absolutely nothing to go to bat for their helpless residents as problems began emerging; time and again saying, “Gosh we’d love to help but we’re powerless!” Years of that bullshit is what has led to the complete lack of trust and engagement among residents. But cities like Des Moines desperately wanted to build warm economic relationships with the Port and so intentionally ignored any ‘difficult’ issues such as this.

A brief introduction to ‘churn’

Now? What no one talks about is the immense resident churn since the recession. The majority of the population in Des Moines has flipped in the past twenty years. Most of the original homeowners who signed those Avigation Easements are long gone. (Can ya blame ’em?) And the new homeowners have no idea WTF an ‘Avigation Easement’ is or what rights the previous owners gave up. All they know is that it’s noisier than they thought it was when the nice realtor showed them the house.

So with each passing year, the odds of the Port ever having to face justice recede into the rear-view mirror. Not just for this issue but for all airport issues. Because the message is clear: all the Port has to do on any difficult issue is wait it out. With all the noise and pollution, there will now be so much constant turnover that within a few years a new batch of uninformed homeowners will replace the frustrated current crop and…. TADA! Problem Solved!

Each city government must come to terms with its past and do what it can now to right this wrong. Not just for people with Port Packages, but to demonstrate that when the Port steps out of line someone will stand up for residents.

Neither any of the Airport City governments or the Port ever speak with any sense of humility or contrition in the way they have treated residents. Current decision makers will tell you that they only want to focus on ‘moving forward’ and that only contributes to the cycle of bad outcomes. As they say, if you can’t learn from history…

But that’s not how the community sees it. They see leaders who never apologize or accept responsibility. The community perception is that ‘The Port Always Wins’. And even if one can’t measure it like you can a decibel, this too contributes in a very real way to that constant churn of people. And it is that churn that politicians should truly fear. What made communities like Des Moines great places to live for decades was their remarkable stability. Families that moved to Des Moines stayed. And it is that stability that makes  a strong city possible. The moment a city begins churning people out at a rapid rate, you’ve got real trouble. Even if other people come in to replace them, that churn is not healthy for a community. Constant turnover breeds all manner of sociological problems. It makes it impossible to build the kinds of small businesses and institutions that depend on a stable list of visitors and which most of us find attractive. And the rapid growth of Sea-Tac Airport, which is projected to continue until at least 2034 is the enemy of that stability.

You can do whatever grand municipal projects you want, but all the data we’ve seen says that so long as a nearby airport is in rapid growth mode, you will have an excess of people constantly heading for the exits in the nearby communities. In short:  Rapid growth at Sea-Tac feeds the churn.

We decided that the only way to slow down this churn, which is so damaging to the fabric of our communities, is for the airport communities to learn to ‘win’ against the Port Of Seattle. Because, we concluded, none of the cooperative approaches which have been proposed, have any chance of proving effective nor do they offer any hope of providing the justice we feel the community needs.

And we decided that the Port Packages were a good place to start for a bunch of reasons I’ll go into some other time. But for now I’ll close by saying that even though there are so many airport-related problems to solve one big reason we wanted to work this specific angle is because we truly see a through-line from getting your windows fixed to slowing the churn.

Actually, there’s all sorts of examples on this site now. You’ll just have to hunt for them yourself in the Search Bar if you can’t wait for us to finish building links and menus and so on for everything. Sorry for being a tease.

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