Under the Flight Path
Airport environmental expert lands in city hall
by Dean Lindberg
Its Loud. We Vote.
It aint poetic, but the motto of Resident Opposed to Airport Racket (ROAR) has been surprisingly prophetic since the groups birth in 1998.
The rise of ROAR spark plug R.T. Rybak, who entered the political limelight on the wings of airport environmental issues, and sprinted by the pack of contestants in his race for Minneapolis mayor has left some political wags uncharacteristically tongue tied when trying to explain his improbable ascent.
As Rybaks support escalated throughout the city, another of ROARs agenda items was quietly accomplished with the hiring of a full-time environmental expert by the City of Minneapolis Planning Office.
ROAR and Southside noise activistsfueled by chronic cynicism over spurious MAC predictions for significantly quieter neighborhoodshave been pressing city officials to hire an independent airport expert to work on behalf of residents inundated with airport noise and air pollution. That effort saw success well before Rybaks election when the city hired Merland Otto last August.
The political sea changes which left the old guard DFL boat rocking in the wake of Rybaks electionwhich include a city council expected to be more pro-active on community environmental issuesmay chart a more active course that Otto anticipated when he was hired. But, when he spoke with Southside Pride early this January he exuded a quiet confidence in his ability to serve the new city administration.
A University of Minnesota graduate, Otto has spent more than two decades specializing in environmental planning, with considerable experience working on airport issues. Otto is fluent in the language of airport noise acronyms which flow freely in noise discussions, and confound all but the most earnestly involved noise activists. Otto hopes to help bridge the communications chasm that separates airport officials from Minneapolis city officials and residents.
Since his August hiring Otto has monitored MAC commission meetings, including sessions of the Planning and Environment and Finance committees whose decisions can have big repercussions in Southside neighborhoods. He has conferred with the venerable watchdog group South Metro Airport Action Council, and plans to attend meetings of the Metropolitan Aircraft Sound Abatement Councilprovided the organization can figure a way to reconvene noise discussions that collapsed when the airlines quit the committee well over a year ago.
Otto doesnt plan on duplicating MAC noise monitoring and reporting efforts, but he expects that residents and city officials will find information gathering easier as he assumes responsibilities which have previously been spread through several city departments. There was no single entity to go to, Otto commented in characterizing the fractured condition of airport planning and environmental issues before he landed in the Planning Office. Now he will be the guy to go to for residents and city officials concerned about airport impacts. This is what you are charged with: The airport, Otto said in a nutshell summary.
Im hoping that what I have done at this point is to inform city council members about what is going on, and what they should pay attention to, Otto said while remarking that the large new crop of city council members will likely require some background briefing and reeducation to move up to speed.
Work Plan Details Still Fluid, But Taking Shape
The evolution of his Work Plan has stalled a bit as the dust from Novembers sweeping election changes slowly settles. There is still some re-focusing going on according to Otto who portrayed the present state of his Work Plan as somewhat fluid. He predicts the Work Plan will be a living document, with the ability to adapt as environmental concerns and circumstances dictate.
The Work Plan will be shaped as Rybak and new city council members settle in, but the home insulation program will undoubtedly head the line of priorities. Otto believes the 1996 state legislative directive to insulate homes beyond the boundaries of the Federal Aviation Association program may have more legal legs to stand on than Southside noise activists may believe. The present home insulation programwhich insulates home in the Ldn 65 noise contouris voluntary, Otto observes, with airports and communities given the option to participate or pass as they deem appropriate. But, the directive to expand the insulation program around MSP airport beyond the Ldn 65 contour is state lawand not voluntary, Otto explained. So airport back peddling on that commitment would require rescinding state law, a politically perilous task for the MAC.
Otto monitors activity on state and federal levels to surmise significant consequences for residents and the city. He may also undertake a review of health and quality of life issues and make recommendations that may reasonably be expected to bring improvements for city residents.
Otto believes the threshold for significant concerns with noise and air quality issues extends well beyond areas now eligible for home sound insulation, and dismisses the notion held by critics that insulation is nothing more than a windfall benefit for airport neighbors. I dont think you can write it off, Otto declared in response to an insulation opponents comment that everybody (near the airport) is out for a free lunch.
Otto believes that part of his job description includes acting as an information resource for residents as well as city officials. He can be reached by e-mail at:
email@example.com or by phone in the City of Minneapolis Planning Office 612-673-2576.
Sweeping city hall changes heighten expectations
by Dean Lindberg
"This can, and should be a different kind of partnership that puts aside the paternalistic past, mayor elect RT Rybak told Southside Pride. He explained how his administration will differ from previous city hall leadership regarding airport environmental concerns. I see ROAR (Resident Opposed to Airport Racket) as my partner on thishelping to lead me to positions I should be advocating, and helping to develop the grass roots networks that will be needed to get us beyond the political structure.
ROAR board members met with Rybak Nov. 28 to brainstorm strategies to fill the two newly opened Metropolitan Airports Commission seats representing Minneapolis, and to reaffirm the intent to collaborate efforts after Rybak assumes office on Jan. 2.
Rybak pledged to stay faithful to the activist roots that fueled his record setting landslide victory over two-term incumbent mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. Rybak hopes that mass demonstrations such as the ROAR pajama and swimsuit party airport protests will no longer be necessary to force public officials to pay attention to neighborhood airport environmental concerns. There may be times when ROAR needs to go out front (on environmental issues), but I really want to minimize that, because I want to have an activist agenda, Rybak stated as he reiterated his commitment to be a proactiverather than a reactivemayor.
Rybak and the ROAR board of directors foresee building on the relationships established with attorneys Mike Ciresi and David Lillehaug that were born during their U.S. Senate bids. Hugh Schillingwho was pulled from the chairmanship of the Metropolitan Airports Commission by governor Arnie Carlson when he refused to support a premature end to study of a new airportwill also remain on ROAR's list of advisers.
ROAR and Rybak look forward to fostering more collaboration with concerned communities near the MAC's reliever airports, including the Zero Expansion anti noise group near Flying Cloud airport in Eden Prarie. Rybak believes the MAC needs to follow the lead of citizen grass roots organizations as well. He suggests that they begin working with non MAC controlled airports such as Rochester and St. Cloud to develop state-wide strategies to improve airline service and competition, and minimize noise impacts.
Rybak reprised his breath of fresh air in city hall campaign theme, remarking, We will be making it up as we go along. But, let's make sure both sides (of the noise and environmental coin) err on the side of working together. His first agenda items will be to make sure the home noise insulation program survives MAC budget cutting cravings, and that the two new MAC commissioners replacing Minneapolis Roger Hale and Joe Gasper will serve residents well.
Newly elected 11th ward city council representative Scott Benson is cheered that every new council member has airport noise on their agenda. And, There are all kinds of exciting possibilities with a council who at least has an understanding that airport noise pollution is pollution, and polluters should not be allowed to pollute without consequences. It is certainly a different attitude than the one heard from some of their (city council) predecessors.
Having a staff person dedicated to airport issues gives the council and our new mayor an opportunity to make a difference, Benson predicts, referring to Merland Otto, an airport environmental planner hired by the city last August. Now, we are forming the infrastructure at City Hall to make airport issues like capacity and pollution visible agenda items. Plus, I expect Mr. Otto will be a tremendous resource to answer questions and conduct research in areas previously left to Council Members.
Dick Saunders, president of South Metro Airport Action Council, is concerned that only 150 of the 950-home backlog in the DNL 65 noise area are scheduled for treatment in 2002, with no clear timetable for the remainder.
Saunders also is disappointed that airlines have rejected a proposed 2005 deadline for the start of a phase-out of Stage 3 hushkitted planes, and the U.S., with other nations in the International Civil Aviation Organization, have not accepted a proposed 14-decibel reduction for Stage 4 aircraft.
We need the city council to push strongly for these improvements, he said, as well as to find ways for MAC to restore funding for the home insulation program as quickly as possible, and to assist in the re-establishment of a successor to the MACs noise abatement advisory council.
Saunders said the new council also needs to take a leadership role, along with the business community, in addressing the impacts of the current economic slowdown and post-Sept. 11 traffic declines on competitive air service levels.
Finally, the mayor and council need to work with other metro communities to assure that adequate air, rail and highway systems are in place to accommodate the states next round of economic growth, Saunders said.
Report may be beginning of end
panacea which had been promised. Additionally,
the spirit of mutual cooperation among formerly factious citizen delegates has changed
MASAC's atmosphere into an anti-airline environment, which caused airline delegates to
throw in the towel last fall.
On the heels of the NWA-led airline resignations, Hamiel proposed that a Blue Ribbon panel made up of three citizen and three airline delegates and chaired by a neutral party should start negotiating to resolve the airline complaints. Citizen delegates swiftly accepted Hamiel's proposal and selected three delegates. But NWA and the airlines didn't follow suit, which torpedoed hopes for a speedy solution.
To spur talks last April, Hamiel asked Dr. Brandl to interview citizen and airline delegates and prepare a report of his findings along with recommendations for reconciliation. Six months, and scores of interviews later, Brandl's report was finally unveiled.
DIFFERING EXPECTATIONS BREW CONFLICT
Delegates with differing understandings regarding the purpose of MASAC also disagreed over whether the group does anybody any good, Brandl found.
For whatever reason, some community members deny the organization has been very effective, Brandl found, while on the other hand he heard MASAC praised as the envy of people throughout the world.
Brandl identified three radically differing perspectives various delegates believe the purpose of MASAC to be. Some view it as a soapbox to air grievances and berate those with opposing viewpoints. Others engaged in practices such as secretive coalition building and horse trading to advance favored agendassomething appropriate for political organizations, but not MASAC, according to Brandl. The third faction viewed the organization as a worthless, monthly nuisance.
All are wrong, Brandl declared. MASAC is a discussion group that offers proposals for action to the airport's commission.
Brandl said that some airline delegates confessed to feeling badly because citizen delegates think they don't care about noise impacts. But he also indicated that the airlines may never rejoin MASAC, and will only resume noise discussions if a new committeewith different citizen delegatesis formed.
Citizen delegates confided hurt feelings as well. Airlines also appear to not appreciate fully the futility and outrage felt by some community representatives, who in turn are uninterested in airlines responsibilities to customers and stockholders, Brandl said. He found cases of citizen delegates who were chosen from among the few people who are so deeply angry as to be unconciliatory about noise, not from the vast majority who are inclined to balance the pros and cons of the airport, and suggested these delegates are incapable of making meaningful contributions to noise talks.
MASAC is not a governmental organization where a myriad of issues allows for horse trading, Brandl summarized. Nor should it be thought of as merely a sounding board where disgruntled residents can carp about noise without working cooperatively with others who hold different positions. It is nothing more, or less, than a discussion group to consider and offer recommendations to the MAC on noise issues, he concluded.
Brandl unveiled new ground rules for either repairing MASAC or creating a replacement body. The most significant suggested that Membership in MASAC or a successor organization should only be open to people who commit themselves to abide by a code of civil conduct, and A chairperson should be found who will have no obligations to either business or community agendas.
Following Brandl's remarks, Jeff Hamiel stated that NWA finally seems ready to participate on the Blue Ribbon panel he proposed last year, and predicted the panel might convene within the month. Hamiel also cautioned that Brandl's suggestions may be altered during negotiations, and any recommendations must be approved by the airport commission before they are instituted.
by Dean Lindberg
The shockwaves and repercussions following the Sept. 11 terrorist missions have jolted both airport critics and Metropolitan Airports Commission officials more than any event since the dawn of the jet era. Enjoyment of the silence in southside neighborhoods following the attacks has been dulled by the unfathomable destruction that preceded it. MAC officials have been forced by circumstances to re-evaluate every airport project with the intent to delay all but the most essential.
MAC Executive Director Jeff Hamiel briefed airport commission members and the media Sept. 26, and sketched an overview of likely changes in course for airport expansion projects.
Hamiel described a financial crisis which had been brewing in the months before Sept. 11, when airline flight and passenger numbers tumbled from record-setting levels only 12 months before. Although the recent drops in passenger and flight totals only amounted to 2 and 1 percent, respectively, that has translated into tens of millions in lost revenue for airport construction projects.
Last winter's heavy snows piled up unusually high plowing bills, Hamiel told commissioners, and recent utility rate hikes have jumped 27 percent, further straining the airport's beleaguered bank accounts. Additionally, extra security costs since Sept. 11 have topped $40,000 per week, and new, long term security budget figures are still unknown.
Hamiel also revealed that Northwest Airlines has not paid fees totaling more than $5 million due for August and September, and has notified the MAC of its intent to withhold all payments. Although NWA executives have hinted they might pay enough to keep the MAC solvent, the financial dispute will further hobble airport planners.
MAC budget cutters hope to avoid employee layoffs, Hamiel indicated and pledged his support to airport employees nervous that the airline layoff epidemic that has affected airline executives may also affect airport officials.
Hamiel declared that the crisis situation, which developed before Sept. 11, has now ballooned into a grim situation. Revenues from parkingwhich comprise about one-third of the MAC's incomeare threatened as a result of new FAA stipulations banning parking within 300 feet of the terminal. Hamiel pledged to lobby the FAA to exempt MSP from the new restrictions, and cited the 175-foot distance and protective plastic covers over terminal windows as sufficient to meet FAA blast standards. But FAA approval for a variance is not certain.
Income from the airport terminal's shopping mall in the terminal has dipped 50 percent following the terrorist attacks. Hamiel predicts a year end drop of 30 to 40 percent, further draining expansion revenues.
Categorizing the airport's short term financial situation as dire, Hamiel announced that capital improvement spending for 2002, originally budgeted at $375 million, will be stripped by $295 million.
Hamiel told commissioners that the new north/south runway construction would most likely be delayed, with the competition date pushed back 11 months to November 2004. The crosswind runway extension, which MAC planned for NWA's Hong Kong flight, which was canceled two years ago, has been postponed indefinitely.
The home insulation programwhich by far has the most significant impact to southside residentswill take a heavy jolt during 2002. Airport officials have proposed a $31.5 million cut for that yearfrom $38,500,000 to $7,000,000.
Dick Saunders, president of South Metro Airport Action Council, while stunned by the Sept. 11 attack, still feels the MAC must honor its 1996 pledge to insulate homes as directed by the state Legislature.
Responding to airline pleas for federal and state financial help, Saunders recommends that officials seek a re-affirmation of the commitment to keep the insulation program intact and on schedule along with financial grants.
Saunders is cautiously optimistic that if the north/south runway survives budget cutswhich will give the airport and airlines something they covetthe home insulation program might remain intact as well.
Saunders also observed that a bailout might help NWA survive, but not smaller airlines such as locally owned Sun Country. Northwest could be left with this whole airport by default, he cautioned.
Southside airport watchdogs predict that flights and airport activity will return to near normal within six to 12 months. However, John Halla, a community delegate to the Metropolitan Aircraft Sound Abatement Council senses a notably reserved attitude among airlines that have not raced forward with deep discounts and added perks to stimulate ticket sales as they did when the Gulf War crisis erupted and passenger
The future of MASAC, which served as an informational forum for community delegates and governmental officials until NWA quit the committee and caused the MAC to withdraw its sponsorship of the group is in doubt. A September meeting to discuss potential resolutions to NWA grievances was canceled, leaving a missed opportunity to brief delegates on future airport course changes.
Residents Opposed to Airport Racket chair Sara Strzok observed that the 20 percent cut in aircraft flights has brought operation levels down to what the MAC had forecast in 1996 for this year. But while the skies have been noticeably quieter, Strzok's enjoyment of the noise respite has been marred by the events that preceded it.
Noise reduction coming to Southside
by Dean Lindberg
A little like Moses wandering in the wilderness, Southside residents and elected officials have worn out their sandals attending airport hearingspleading with officials to honor their 1996 promise to expand the home noise insulation program to the Ldn 60 contour, areas where the average airplane-generated noise level is 60 decibels.
Airport commissioners acceded to requests of residents and elected officials to approve an insulation plan that will provide the same full five decibel noise reduction outside the Ldn 65 which is currently given to homes inside that contour. The insulation plan budgets $150 million beginning in 2003when homes within the Ldn 65 contour are all insulatedand running until 2010 when funds will have been depleted.
The home noise insulation program uses airport funds, mostly gate and parking fees, to have houses retrofitted with insulation that blocks noise. The primary upgrades include thicker glass windows, attic and wall insulation, and noise baffling vents in chimneys.
On Aug. 21, the Metropolitan Airports Commission narrowly approved a resolution providing noise relief for the 3,332 homes in the Ldn 64, 63 and 62 contours, but left the fate of 6,708 homes in the 61 and 60 contours in limbo. Forecasts predict that homes in the Ldn 64, 63 and 62 contours will be insulated by 2010. An additional $300 million would be needed to insulate homes in the 61 and 60 contours, but no source of money has been identified.
Residents and elected officials argue their case
Neighbors deserve as good a nights sleep as airline crews, Southside legislator Rep. Wes Skoglund, DFL-Minneapolis, admonished commission members in his call for the airport to honor its commitment to expand the insulation program. Skoglund cited an FAA forecast indicating an additional 200,000 airplane arrivals and departures at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport by the year 2010, and the recent airline announcements that noisy DC-9s will still be flying in 20 years to justify noise insulation expenditures.
Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton reminded commissioners that more than 25,000 people are significantly impacted by the airports noise. Keep your promise to fully insulate homes, Sayles Belton chastised commissioners who have recently begun claiming the 1996 insulation to insulate homes is too vague to interpret. Sayles Belton disagreed, stating there was never any doubt that the agreement to insulate to Ldn 60 contours was anything less than the full 5 decibel package.
Its not about dollars or windows and insulation, Sayles Belton lectured commissioners. Its about an affirmation of your commitment to be a good neighbor, she said.
Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, cited Minnesota law which requires the MAC to assure minimal impact to nearby communities. Wagenius criticized airport staff for giving inexcusably low airport operation estimates to legislators in 1996 when study of a new airport was prematurely halted.
Flight operations at the airport have already surpassed the forecasts given to the legislature for the year 2020, according to Wagenius.
Were getting more noise than we expected, but less protection than was promised, she said.
Rep. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, charged commissioners with playing reverse Robin Hood by threatening to renege on insulation commitments.
Theres plenty of money to expand, but noise insulation is being cut, Dibble said.
Dibble recommended airport officials get busy working with the Legislature to find funds to insulate to 6,708 homes in the Ldn 61 and 60 contours.
Twelfth Ward city council member Sandy Colvin Roy said MAC officials used bait and switch practices with their attempts to cut the insulation program. Dore Mead, 11th Ward City Council member, concurred, stating the 1996 decision to expand the airport and insulation program was painted as a win-win outcome by airport officials; The MAC gets a new runway, and homeowners get more insulation.
Mead warned commissioners that in three to five yearswhen the next round of airport expansion projects needs to be approved by the Legislaturea failure to live up to noise commitments will haunt MAC officials by tarnishing their reputation as reliable promise keepers.
Commissioners air worries
When public testimony ended, commissioners debated the pros and cons of provided additional insulation.
MAC Executive Director Jeff Hamiel pledged that his staff will faithfully carry out any recommendation commissioners approve. Hamiel praised the airport, calling the current insulation program extravagant, the Cadillac of insulation programs throughout the world, but then recommended cutting insulation for homes in the Ldn 60 through 64 contours.
Duluth resident and commissioner Robert Mars, who recently offended residents by suggesting they move if they dont like the noise, expressed worries that people will cheat the airport by building poorly insulated homes within the Ldn 60 contour with the intent of having the airport give free insulation against noise.
A tie vote among commissioners left chairman Charles Nichols with the deciding vote. With his vote to approve the full five decibel insulation package favored by residents and elected officials, Nichols may have made himself a few thousand new friends in South Minneapolis neighborhoods.
He said, she said
Candidates and activists discuss airport issues
by Dean Lindberg
With the mayoral primary fast approaching, Under the Flight Path got the candidates take on the airport-related issues that have concerned Southsiders.
Credit is due where credit is due, declared Pam Blixt, president of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and one of the Southside citizen activists Under the Flight Path asked to evaluate the A-list Minneapolis mayoral candidates.
Dick Saunders, president of South Metro Airport Action Council, James Spensley, former watershed district president and Sarah Strzok, chair of Residents Opposed to Airport Racket have considerable track records working for improvements of airport noise, and air and water quality issues also contributed their opinions.
Campaign offices of four candidatesSharon Sayles Belton, Lisa McDonald, R.T. Rybak and Mark Stenglein were contacted. Candidates were asked how they propose to force the Metropolitan Airports Commission to stick to it's 1996 promise to double the number of homes insulated against noise, whether they supported a controversial 1996 City Council resolution that was seen as city support for expediting airport expansion, and what noteworthy differences distinguish them from other candidates.
Sayles Belton, McDonald, Rybak and their supporters responded promptly. The Stenglein camp didnt respond. He does represent the north side, after all, cracked Pam Blixt upon hearing of Stengleins reticence.
Sharon Sayles Belton
With two terms as mayor under her belt, Sayles Belton has the longestand most controversialairport record.
I believe the MAC would not have listened to the concerns of the people or the Watershed District had the Mayor not quickly stepped up to publicly ask them to protect our lakes, Blixt commented giving Sayles Belton credit for decisive action last summer to force airport guarantees to protect the lakes against construction dewatering impacts. She was a champion for the cause, according to Blixt who also credits the mayor for converting her representative on the MAC, Roger Hale, into a staunch defender of city lakes.
The preeminent Southside airport issue concerns the 1996 promise to expand the home insulation program by 10,040 homes mostly in Minneapolis. Recent MAC moves to cut the effectiveness of the insulation program have created the latest lighting rod du jour for anti-airport vitriol.
Sayles Belton explained her active commitment to protect the insulation program from cutbacks, stating I raised the issue of going to the state and asking for their involvement. The recommendation of 1996 suggested that the state could be a financial source. Sayles Belton personally lobbied the House tax committee recently and praised the committee chairman for supporting her call for state assistance, but criticized the MAC for its foot dragging which derailed state help for insulation funding.
The MAC was not there Sayles Belton complained, echoing the sense of betrayal felt by Southsiders. They asked us for ideas, and agreed the state should be involved, but did not partner with us to lobby.
While the Mayors critics empathize with her frustrations, they also charge that an on again, off again policyrather than consistent attention to constituent concernshas hobbled Sayles Beltons effectiveness on airport environmental issues.
Registering chronic vexation with wobbling mayoral commitments, Saunders observed She formed a community task force to work on noise and other environmental issues in 1999, then abandoned it a year later with explanation to the members.
Saunders faulted Sayles Belton for not pushing the MAC for a firm date for phasing out hushkitted aircraft or in reducing night flightstop priorities for her airport task force, and for abandoning the mayoral bully pulpit to call for the reassembly of the Metropolitan Airports Sound Abatement Council since the airlines pulled out last November.
Even though she has praised it as a model of joint citizen/industry cooperation on noise affairs, and proclaims herself a consensus builder.
McDonald believes a health study will yield legal leverage to force the MAC to fully insulate homes as per its 1996 agreement, and establish evidence to curtail nighttime flights.
McDonald promises to personally take a seat on the airports board of commissioners, rather than following the traditional protocol of appointing a representative. Years in government service will allow her to hit the ground running, according to McDonald, and give her an edge making her more effective than her mayoral competitors on complex airport issues.
McDonald, along with Sayles Belton, voted for the hotly controversial 1996 city resolution despite a standing room only audience of city residents who stridently opposed language recommending an expedited expansion of the airport. McDonald said residents and legislators misunderstood the resolution by believing it to be City Council opposition to a new airport being studied at the time.
Recently, McDonald has expressed second thoughts about her support of the 1996 resolution and admitted that airport statistics have proved her vote to be a mistake. As an elected official, I reserve the right to change my mind when new information comes to light, McDonald declared, adding that although in the airport case this has happened, it doesnt happen often.
Jim Spensley repeated anti-incumbent sentiments with comments referring to McDonald and Sayles Belton, bluntly declaring that their 1996 votes were wrong then As events have shown, but she (McDonald) was still wrong.
McDonald said Rybak and Stenglein have claimed credit for her ideas, citing her vote in favor of hiring a city airport environmental expert as an example of her supportbut failing to acknowledge the two efforts of Rybak, Saunders and other activist who had lobbied the city for to hire an expert for two years preceding her vote.
McDonalds recent airport pronouncements strike committed activists as transparent Jane-come-lately trolling for Southside votes.
Illustrating that skepticism, Strzok said Lisa McDonald told me in a public meeting a year ago (before her run for mayor began) that she would never be able to advocate for a new airport, because it was unrealistic and would hurt the city. Now I see from her campaign literature that she thinks we should be landbankingquite a shift in position. It strikes me as rather opportunistic.
Blixt, who was suddenly thrust into the Southside spotlight as chair of the Minnehaha Watershed District during last summers lake quality uproar, also questioned McDonalds commitment. Although she said she would participate in the defense of the lakes regarding (airport) de-watering issues, I never really saw her at anything or heard from her.
Rybak is new to elected city politics, which, depending on the findings of recent federal investigations into 8th Ward extortion, might be a significant advantage. His leadership in organizing the anti-noise Residents Opposed to Airport Racket has drawn accolades, even from his critics. Spensley praised Rybak by crediting him for moving airport environmental concerns into the citys political arena.
One of the differences between me and the other candidates is that Ive been doing the work as a private individual that they should have been doing for many years as government officials, according to Rybak who was recruited by disaffected DFL activists to campaign for mayor following his orchestration of memorable Pajama Party and swimsuit demonstrations. Rybaks humorous cajoling charmed the City Council into unanimous approval of a resolution urging public officials to avoid booking nighttime flights whenever possible.
Rybak cites the recent support for shifting cargo and charter operations to Rochester and St. Cloud as a page lifted from the comprehensive airport policy helped develop three years ago, and believes relationships he has built with Minnesota federal office holders will help him push an agenda for more stringent airport noise and toxin standards.
Supporters characterize Rybak as a doer rather than just a talker, and believe his emergence as a legitimate political player is a testament to his leadership abilities. Rybak supporters counter the charge made by Lisa McDonald that he is a single issue candidate by noting he won more delegate votes than two-time incumbent Sayles Belton a the city DFL convention, and surpassed McDonalds vote tally by about four to one.
R.T. believes the city should stand behind its residents, and do everything it can to represent them to the Legislature and the MAC, even if it seems futile at the time, according to Strzok, who characterized charges that he is a single issue candidate as nervous spoutings from competitors with vulnerable records.
Under the Flight Path opinion
Rybak: A stellar airport track record, with a creative positive approach to proposing workable improvements. His notable ability to marshal support and participation from chronically noise-wracked residents is unprecedented. Though a DFL candidate, he is not a part of the inner circle of the present DFL dominated city leadership.
Sayles Belton: A bird in the hand DFL candidate representing the status-quo. A solid core of city-wide support, but a mixed record of disappointment sprinkled with occasional accolades from her strongest airport critics.
Lisa McDonald: A perennial DFL critic of Sayles Belton. Her apparent born-again conversion on airport issues rings hollow among dedicated activists.
Stenglein: No known position on airport environmental concerns. A no-show response from the Independent northsider indicates confidence that his north side voter support would outweigh southside airport concerns.
Long-haul runway to Hong Kong? Phooey!
Runway extension for nonexistent flight may send Coldwater Spring down the sewer.
by Dean Lindberg
In 1997, the State of Minnesota determined that Hong Kong nonstop service will bring more than $45 million a year to the host city. That grand pronouncement, published by the Metropolitan Airports Commission in September 1999, was used as the airports purpose and need to stretch the crosswind runway 1,000 feet toward the historic Camp Coldwater spring. The additional 1,000 feet would allow fully loaded Northwest Airline 747s to take off during 80 to 90 degree summer days, when high temperatures hinder take-off performance.
Despite the dazzling MAC and Northwests economic projections, a lack of ticket sales grounded the Hong Kong flight in 1998. But while the dearth of interest in the flight, and advances in jet engine technology are making the need for a longer runway increasingly obsolete, MAC plans to march ahead.
In its 1999 Environmental Assessment for the runway project, MAC officials declared: It is therefore determined that the proposed (runway extension) project will not have an effect on the integrity of the historic features of the Camp Coldwater Spring/Reservoir.
However, Southside residents playing connect-the-dots with MAC statements draw a different conclusion. They claim the Hiawatha Avenue/Crosstown intersection must be excavated some 30 feet deep to meet federal height restrictions created by the runways extension toward the highway.
To comply with the new height restrictions, the intersections deep excavation and drainage systems may draw much of the subterranean water supply away from Coldwater Spring, and divert it into a wayside pond and sewer system instead. Critics have scoffed at the MACs position that the runway extension poses no threat to the spring: If the runway wasnt extended, the intersection could be constructed up to 50 feet higher enough elevation to leave the springs water source undisturbed.
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is currently seeking court orders that will force the Minnesota Department of Transportation to guarantee the spring will reamain undamaged by highway construction. Because the Legislature rejected MnDOTs proposal to overturn a law that protects the spring, the watershed districts efforts to save the spring have improved.
Pam Blixt, watershed district president, said that suggestions to elevate the intersection to protect the spring have been nixed by airport planners. With that option scuttled, the legal tussle between MnDOT and the watershed district over the springs future may slow the intersections construction.
The historic, threatened spring was the center of the Camp Coldwater pioneer community which existed from 1820 until the late 1830s. The spring was born eons ago when glaciers made their restless retreat from North America. Fort Snelling records document 85 settlers living in Camp Coldwater in 1836. Explorer and scientist Joseph Nicollet studied the spring in 1836, and described its remarkable flow and consistent temperature of 46 degrees in his field journal. In later years, An extensive pipeline brought the springs water to the entire Fort Snelling post.
Since 1959, Coldwater Spring has existed in quiet repose behind the chain-link fence surrounding the 27-acre Bureau of Mines campus.
However, recent Hiawatha Avenue protests have cast an unprecedented spotlight on the spring and its historic aspects, and perhaps brought some chagrin to highway and airport planners.
No flight, but build it anyway
In September 1999, NWA canceled the flight that spawned the runway extension plans. But MAC officials still pushed ahead, stating: Although nonstop service to Hong Kong was discontinued, the MAC desires to provide adequate runway length for this service when the economy improves in the Pacific Rim, regardless of the air carrier providing the service.
Airport critics note that the performance of the long-range Boeing 777currently being used by NWA code-sharing partner Continental Airlinespulls the last scrap of carper from under the MAC argument for extending the runway. The 777 requires less runway length than the 747s used by NWA for long-haul flights. And more importantly, the 777 can make nonstop flights to Hong Kong from nearly all major U.S. cities.
The ability to operate from most east and west coast citieswhere the bulk of the Hong Kong passenger base existsgives a virtual trump card to any airline competing with Northwest for the Hong Kong market.
Mayor Interrogated Under The Flight Path
by Dean Lindberg
SSP: What is your opinion, as a high profile public official, on whether activities by grass roots anti-noise organizations have been helpful?
SSB: First, let me say that I've always believed that there is a need for citizen activists and organizations for raising issues and making recommendations with regards to solutions. I think we've been fortunate in Minneapolis over the years to have had organizations like SMAAC, MASAC and ROAR [South Metro Airport Action Council, Metropolitan Airports Sound Abatement Council and Residents Opposed to Airport Racket] that have all played a role in the ongoing challenge of resolving issues associated with the airport and aviation operations that take place in and around the city. I think these activities are going to grow in the future. There are new communities that have not been impacted by airport noise in the past, but because of the decision to more equitably distribute noise around the airport as opposed to Minneapolis carrying the brunt of those negative impactsthere are going to be more communities who will want to express their concerns in a variety of ways to the MAC and other decision makers.
SSP: Do you think it is just mere coincidence that suggestions made by citizen groups, such as moving some airport operations to Rochester or St. Cloud are being considered by some MAC commissioners lately?
SSB: I believe that, for quite some time now, a variety of officials, citizens and others have been challenging the MAC to think differently about how solutions can be found or crafted for age-old problems. I believe that when citizen voices are raised it adds to the pressure that MAC feels to find solutions. So I think that elected officials and citizens can craft some very effective partnerships to achieve desired outcomes. I also think that, even in the absence of partnerships, organizations can work effectively toward solutions. I think citizen groups need to have the flexibility of operating independently of elected officials in order to make their point or to create an environment of tension that again, may result in solutions being found.
I'll give you an example: When issues were being raised over the [Lake Nokomis] dewatering, you had citizens organizing and going en masse to the Minnehaha Creek Watershed meetings. While that was happening, as mayor of the city, I had organized a meeting a few days before with the MAC, the DNR [Department of Natural Resources], the Watershed and an environmental consultant. We needed to try to find a solution, and it was at that meeting where the MAC agreed to seriously examine the use of piling methods and jet grouting [to reduce the impacts of] dewatering.
So we were able again to help them know and understand that now was the time to agree to a resolution, and that it was in their long-term best interests to cooperate. They did, everybody was there: The DNR, the Watershed and the MAC, and everybody in that meeting tried to talk about how unnecessary these additional expenses were.
I believe that the groups in Minneapolis that are working to address airport noise and operations issues do have some sense of hope that change can happen, that change is possible. I think that's good, because without that sense of hopewith an overwhelming feeling of powerlessnessthen you have business as usual. But that's not the case here. The case here is that we are considering the expansion of the Part 150 [home noise insulation] program to the 60 DNL contour. [That expansion would make an additional 10,040 homes around the airport eligible for noise insulation.]
One of the best things about this part of the country and this community is pride in itself, and its citizen participation and engagement. When citizens are engaged I think that they have great influence, and I think that's one of the things that distinguishes us from other parts of the country or other cities that I have visited. We should be proud of that tradition. In Minneapolis or in Minnesota, it is unheard of to not have a public hearing or a public forum for issues to be debated, even when they are highly contested.
Certainly the issues around airport operations have been highly contested and debated over the years. So the fact that SMAAC, ROAR, MASAC and other groups have existed for so long and have had influence over a significant span of time has everything to do with our commitment as a community to let the voices of our citizens be heard.
SSP: Are you standing firm on demanding the MAC insulate homes in the LDN 60 contour with a full package as the 1996 Mayor's Community Stabilization Committee recommended?
SSB: In our recommendation we statedand again it was a concern by the MAC that none of the costs of insulation should be borne by the residents or by the local unit of governmentif there were insufficient resources to finance the program out to the 60 DNL, that they needed to approach the state. I pointed out to the MAC Planning and Environment [P and E] committee that there was in fact a bill in the legislature that might provide some opportunity for the MAC to take a portion of the airport-generated sales tax and dedicate them to a program like this [DNL 60 insulation], or other things that might mitigate the negative impacts of the airport on surrounding communities. And that they would be well served to follow the legislation, and if there were some concern about their inability to be able to finance the program as they had previously committed, that is was their obligation and opportunity to secure state money and support.
One of the things I've said to them over and over again is that theyre on the hook; they made this commitment and it would be a violation of the public's trust if they were to renege. And, as the mayor of Minneapolis, I wasn't going to let them do that. All of the mayors from the 1996 Mayor's Committee are on record endorsing the full insulation program.
One of the things I'm trying to do personally is to talk with each and every member of the P and E committee. [The committee is expected to determine the extent of home insulation this June]. I have personally provided each one of them with a summary of our deliberations as the Mayor's Committee, and copies of all the actions that were taken by the committee, and then subsequently by the MAC. I have also provided this information to the governor's office because what we want to do is make sure everybody understands the legislative intent that created our committee. I gave a copy to Jeff Hamiel and his staff also, so that they would understand that we were not distorting the facts [that the committee recommendation was for a full sound insulation package] in any way whatsoever.
There's no reason for the MAC to continue to make excuses for why the full insulation package cannot be done. The MAC knew that when they made this decision in 1996 this would be new ground that would have to be broken with the Federal Aviation Administration. It's not a surprise to them. This decision is nothing new, so let's get on with it.
Southside raising voice over NWA noise
By Dean Lindberg
We know that getting rid of those noisy, hushkitted Stage 2.5 planes [DC-9's and Boeing 727's] is still years off, and Northwest Airlines has more hushkitted planes in operation than any major airline carrier, Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton reminded members of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) at an airport meeting March 19. The meeting was called to review six home insulation options prepared by MAC staff, and to take public comments.
The six insulation packages range from a "full" option (which homes currently being insulated receive), expected to cost $450 million for the 10,040 homes eligible, down to an option that offers just air conditioning, with no sound insulation. The full option could be financed with a 75 cent ticket surcharge, while the air conditioning package would not require new funding resources. MAC Executive Director Jeff Hamiel has thrown his support behind the air conditioning option.
Mayor Sayles Belton pressed commissioners to support the full insulation option, which would cut airport jet noise levels entering a home by 5 decibels. Sayles Belton reminded commissioners that the 1996 MSP Community Stabilization Committee, on which she served, received airline and MAC approval to expand the home sound insulation program to the 10,040 homes that have recently become eligible. The Mayor also reiterated that the intent of the committee's recommendation was nothing less than full - 5 decibel - insulation.
Southside residents and elected officials comprised a majority of a standing-room-only crowd of about 75 in the airport commission chambers.
About 20 people spoke, all in favor of full insulation. Southside City Council members Sandra Colvin Roy, Brian Herron and Dore Mead were joined in their opposition to insulation cut-backs by 13th Ward Council Member Barret Lane. Minneapolis mayoral candidate and founder of Residents Opposed to Airport Racket (ROAR) R.T. Rybak blasted the MAC's integrity, saying, The MAC made a deal with those suffering from ongoing pollution, and now they want to break their promise. Rybak, whose father owned a Southside neighborhood pharmacy, compared the MAC's plans to cut insulation to an incompetent physician. Blaming us for noise problems is like a doctor who tries to cure cancer with over-the-counter drugs, and then complains to his patient about the high cost of aspirin.
Other testimony charged the MAC with using reverse Robin Hood tactics by cutting insulation in favor of airport expansion projects preferred by the airlines. A proposal to cut jet noise intrusion into homes by 3 decibels (rather than 5) was criticized with research findings which document that a 3 decibel change is imperceptible to humans. A proposed package requiring homeowners to contribute $13,000 drew fire for being extortionist. Scott Benson, DFL candidate for the 11th Ward City Council seat being vacated by Dore Mead, drew chuckles by mocking MAC claims that interior home mechanical devices in the proposed insulation contours make more noise than jets. Benson testified of visiting a neighbor's home, closing all windows and doors, and listening for furnace and appliances noises louder than jet noises. Benson reported that aircraft exceeded all interior mechanical noises.
Who Pays The Price For Noise?
"We know that: Conversations must be halted in mid sentence as airplanes fly overhead. There is little enthusiasm by the MAC to ban nighttime operations or even restrict operations of those loud Stage 2.5's, and windows must be kept closed - even during pleasant summer weather - to reduce the roar," Mayor Sayles Belton testified, reminding commissioners of the quality of life sacrifices made by Southside residents. "Sleep is disrupted, anger and anxiety levels among residents are rising as they contend with noise day after day, and for thousands of people living near the airport a significant price is paid in lost quality of life," Sayles Belton concluded.
While community support for a full insulation package appears unanimous, Northwest Airlines (NWA) executives oppose any insulation. NWA officials have charged that a cost/benefit evaluation of home insulation should be undertaken, but haven't laid out specifics of what their cost/benefit study should examine. Airline critics are quick to point out that the airline saved approximately $3 billion by keeping DC-9's and Boeing 727's rather than leasing newer, quieter aircraft, which exponentially outweighs the airline's funding obligations for noise insulation.
The MAC has chosen a fast-track decision-making process in deciding which insulation package to approve. However, community pressure for a public hearing has spurred MAC decision makers to schedule a hearing on the matter. The hearing is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11, at the Thunderbird Hotel on Highway 494, just north of the Mall of America.
5335 39th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55417
NWA truculence rules the day
by Dean Lindberg
If we can get an agreement that we can continue, that we don't want to waste the tremendous knowledge gained over the last two decades, we will continue, pledged the Metropolitan Airports Sound Abatement Council (MASAC) Chairman Charles Mertensotto. He believes if MASAC is allowed to collapse because of recent airline resignations, it could take years to assemble a new panel with the present group's level of expertise. Frequently touted as a pioneering, uniquely composed panel of airline and community cooperation to address noise issues, MASAC has been set on its heels by a Northwest Airlines (NWA) orchestrated industry boycott.
Mertensotto is optimistic that if community delegates can convince the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) that they want to continue while keeping the doors open for airlines to return, the MAC will be supportive. Additionally, if the MASAC can continue, airport and community officials can resume touting their sponsorship of the venerable organization. MAC officials seem to support mediation efforts and resolution of airline grievances. Jeff Hamiel (MAC Executive Director) has had a number of discussions with the airlines, but hasn't been able to persuade them to participate in the Blue Ribbon panel proposed to allow them to mediate their disputes, MAC Deputy Director Nigel Finney told airport commissioners last week. Finney added that Hamiel and MAC staff are proposing alternative solutions to bring airlines back into noise discussions.
NWA PRESENTS COMPLAINTS TO MAC COMMISSIONERS
While community delegates are busy seeking reconciliation, NWA officials have been assembling their list of grievances. Mary Loeffelholz, formerly a NWA MASAC delegate, recently told airport officials that the airline quit MASAC because it has become a community advocacy group. Loeffelholz, who previously had been offered the position of chair of the influential MASAC Operations Committee, chose to resign from the organization instead. Loeffelholz also warned MAC Commissioners not to expect a phase out of noisy hushkitted DC-9's any time soon.
It is essential that MASAC communicate to the general public that hushkitted planes meet the most stringent noise guidelines crafted in Washington, a recent NWA document claims. The memorandum also promises that NWA will be replacing all of its 727's by 2003, demonstrating their commitment to quieter planes. Additionally, the airline expects to reduce its DC-9 fleet by 16 aircraft (10 percent of its DC-9 fleet) by the year 2005.
Because MASAC is designated as an official advisory committee to the MAC during the recent study of noise contours and mitigation proposals, NWA's resignation represents dissatisfaction with both MASAC and Part 150 noise mitigation recommendations. NWA documents accuse MASAC of using unfair procedural maneuvering and disregarding cost/benefit considerations throughout the recent Part 150 evaluation. MASAC citizen delegates are quick to point out, however, that they only can recommend mitigation, and the airport commissioners have the ultimate power to either implement or kill mitigation proposals through their budget approval process.
The extension of the home noise insulation program, approved by the MAC's Airport Noise Mitigation Committee in 1996, is also targeted for oblivion by NWA officials. The airline contends that building codes for heat insulation more than adequately reduce noise. Also, mitigation against low-frequency noise is unnecessary, according to NWA, which also opposes recommendations designed to expedite phase out of DC-9's and 727's.
Along with a laundry list of specific objections to mitigation measures, NWA papers recently offered advice and admonitions to community leaders.
Policy makers and community leaders need to educate themselves and their constituency on the overall issue of community noise rather than blindly focusing on a single source - aircraft, the apparently beleaguered NWA attorneys claimed. They also admonished community leaders for allowing noncompatible development near airports, and thus creating the need for expensive mitigation measures. Some community MASAC delegates are concerned that NWA's resignation, and their fervent objections to mitigation proposals may significantly delay or stop the required FAA approval of the current Part 150 mitigation document. However, MAC Deputy Director Nigel Finney allayed those concerns somewhat, stating he believes the airport should be able to get the document prepared for FAA review.
MASAC MARCHES ON
We need to figure a way to get users back, said Roger Hale, Minneapolis representative on the MAC board of commissioners. MASAC community delegates agree, but aren't comfortable just sitting around until airlines offer up a solution.
While the committee cannot operate in compliance with its charter without airline representative participation, the citizen delegates met Feb. 27 to discuss possible reconciliation approaches. Some delegates feel that recent collaborative and cooperative alliances between community delegates, which have displaced chronic internecine squabbles, may have caught airline representatives unprepared. Past disharmony among community delegates has worked to the advantage of airlines by fracturing community consensus necessary for approval of mitigation recommendations, but the present atmosphere of community cooperation may make the task of finding acceptable proposals easier. Delegates suspect that NWA may have underestimated their commitment to MASAC's success as a mitigation advisory panel, as well as their understanding of the airline's concerns. So, fueled with optimism that they can construct an arrangement NWA can accept, community delegates will commence discussing reconciliation strategies.
Dean Lindberg can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
RT Rybak files flight plan for mayors office
by Dean Lindberg
Can RT Rybak, known for organizing protests over airport noise and watering, run the city of Minneapolis? A recent gathering of supporters - wearing street clothes, rather than the colorful swimsuit and pajama outfits donned for airport protests - seemed to think so.
A standing-room-only crowd of 65 Southside residents filled the Mel-O-Glaze bakery near Lake Nokomis January 25th to hear Rybak outline his priorities and "vision" for Minneapolis. The event was one of a series of neighborhood meetings that Rybak is holding during January and February to build support for the city convention in March. Rybak described himself as both a "citizen activist" and political organizer, ( known for founding of Residents Opposed to Airport Racket and Save the Water in Minneapolis) and a private sector entrepreneur with extensive experience as a journalist, publisher of the Twin Cities Reader, small business and internet consultant, and the first Director of Planning for the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
Rybak declared his faith in city residents, stating his belief that an "active citizenry has contributed more to making the city a great place than political leaders. We have enormous gifts and talents here, but more and more we are becoming followers." The city is sliding toward mediocrity because of uninspiring leadership, according to Rybak, who declared the city is slipping from being a "leader and innovator, to a follower - half-heartedly copying what other cities are doing."
After presenting his track record of business and political experiences during his lifetime spent in Minneapolis, Rybak presented his "reform" agenda. As "ethical" reforms, Rybak wants to ban political fund raising in non-election years, and require "instant" disclosure of campaign donations posted on the internet. He promised to be a pro-active defender of the urban environment, and chided Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton's office for waiting too long before demanding guarantees that city lakes won't be harmed by airport expansion projects.
Rybak envisions himself as a Mayor who would be less dependent on "writing out checks from the public checkbook" to attract downtown commercial development. He pledged to rely more on personal salesmanship and less on public subsidies to spur development. Rybak contends that Mayor Sayles Belton is "out of synch" with residents "spending too much time on stadium issues," and not enough on libraries, schools, parks, and quality of life concerns.
Although Rybak opposes public funding for a new stadium, he attributes citizen opposition to a feeling that city priorities are tilted too heavily in favor of downtown interests.
"One-by-one the companies that were the bedrock of our economy are being sold, merged or closed," Rybak told listeners. "I know from my work in the 'New Economy' that Minneapolis is falling behind." Rybak's reform agenda proposes bringing "start-up and new business" growth in Minneapolis to levels on par with growth in the suburbs.
Rybak claims he's hearing "over and over again that nobody's listening to me," during his series of meetings in Minneapolis neighborhoods. He attributed that sentiment to a breakdown of trust and confidence in city leadership, and pledged to used his skills as a coalition builder and organizer to "create a new atmosphere of citizen and business involvement and enthusiasm."
"I'll fight the fight," Rybak pledged as he concluded his stump speech, to make Minneapolis a great city again." Rybak is "Talking About the Things People are Thinking About. The environment will be a major issue," he remarked, reiterating his opening comments and answering questions with the Úlan of a slugger hitting slow-pitch softballs into the bleachers. It's now more difficult for the airport to stuff environmental concerns back down our throats" after demonstrations he help orchestrate to protest threats to city water resources. "We should never have had to get 700 people to turn out to protest the Lake Nokomis dewatering," according to Rybak, as he chided Mayor Sayles Belton for being too slow to stand up for citizen concerns.
Rybak promised to "rebuild trust in city leadership, and end the revolving door policies" which led to Mayor Sayles Belton's former airport policy advisor "being educated to public concerns on the taxpayer's dollar, then taking those concerns - which residents believed would remain confidential - to Northwest Airlines (NWA)." The Mayor then appointed the former aide, and NWA employee to the city Planning Commission, Rybak explained, which added to the cloud of mistrust.
"I never-ever-ever would have authorized the police action that took place." Rybak responded when asked for his opinion on the massive raid on the Highway 55 protesters. Rybak claimed that "personal diplomacy was never given a chance," and the costly raid could have been avoided by a mayor with his diplomacy skills.
Rybak said he's happy light rail is here, but advocates a "comprehensive transit strategy" including innovative traffic management, increases in commuter bicycle options, and a "strong focus on the bus system which will remain the center of our transit system."
"He's got a message that people want to hear" Southsider Ken Bradley said after the donut shop event. Bradley finds Rybak's non patrician style refreshing. "The things he's talking about are the things people are thinking about." Bradley praised Rybak's charisma and his ability to attract support and engage citizens. "He talks about things from a citizen's perspective; This is us - not just the Mayor. He brings out the best efforts in people. People seem to rise in response to his call."
5335 39th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55417
NWA Memo says noise insulation isnt necessary in DNL
by Dean Lindberg
Minnesota, with its cold weather constuction, is the airport in the United States least likely to need a reduction in the impact threshold to 60 DNL, according to a protest memo NWA staff presented to the Metropolitan Airports Commisssion (MAC) December 5th. Normal house construction in cold weather climates will reduce the DNL (Day/Night Levels), a noise averaging formula which converts individual aircraft noise events into a single, theoretical, continuous noise level, by 27 from outside to inside.
By subtracting the 27-decibel noise reduction attributed to Minneapolis area building codes, Northwest Airlines (NWA), calculates that interior noise levels in the DNL 60 contours already exceed the FAA and Environmental Protection Agency interior noise standards of 45 decibels.
The airline has no objection to insulating the noisier DNL 65 contours, even though their methodology deems those homes sufficiently quiet without addtional noise insulation. NWA estimates the DNL 60 contour around the airport includes approximately 15,700 homes, and may cost $745,750,000 to soundproof.
Following the 1996 Northwest-endorsed decision to cancel a one-year public comment period meant to discuss the pros and cons of constructing a new airport, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Noise Mitigation Committtee, which included Mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton and airline representatives as participants, endorsed insulating homes in the DNL 65 to 60 neighborhoods. Four years later, NWA now wants to kill the program, calling the Noise Mitigation Committees 1996 recommendation unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.
The NWA memo also dismisses noise impacts for families in the DNL 65 to 60 contours as insignificant, stating the number of individuals self reporting noise is small. However, that pronouncement is contradicted by the volume of telephone complaint calls from noisier areas, according to MAC noise complaint data.
Along with belittling the consequences of airport noise pollution, the memo includes mathematical calculations designed to attack noise insulation from a cost/benefit perspective. NWA claims the number of people reporting high annoyance at 60 DNL is only about 7 percent of the impacted population. According to NWA arithmetic, that 7 percent translates into an estimated 2,304 to 2674 people highly annoyed, and a consequential noise insulation expenditure of $275,000 to $325,000 for each highly annoyed person. That logic seems shaky, at best, to noise pollution researchers who have criticized the annoyance date cited by NWA as insupportable by legitimate science.
Due to the conversion to an all Stage 3 fleet, the memo continues in its plea to stoop insulation to the DNL 60 contours, the number of persons exposed to a significant level of aircraft noise has declined and will continue to decline significantly without further aggressive regulatory actions. However, many Southside neighbors recall noise levels last year when NWA made the conversion to an all Stage 3 fleet as about as loud as ever. Noise contour maps created recently confirm that neighborhood observation; New MAC calculations indicate noise hasnt decreased significantly in the last decade.
While the NWA memo stridently opposes additional mitigation from a cost/benefit perspective, and expresses concerns that mitigation funds may draw money away from airport expansion projects desired by the airline, the increase in mitigation costs caused by the airlines decision to muffle old DC-9s with hush-kits, rather than leasing newer, quieter aircraft is missing. Southside noise activists observed that in the cost/benefit analysis presented by the NWA, a comparison between money saved by choosing cheaper hush-kit alternatives over leasing newer quieter planes is notable for its absence. With that comparison, according to Sara Strzok of Residents Opposed to Airport Racket (ROAR), it could be documented that home insulation costs are drastically cheaper than the costs of leasing new aircraft.
UNDER THE FLIGHT PATH
Nov 2000 by Dean Lindberg
People make Minneapolis their home because of our reputation
we have a high quality of life, and we enjoy it! boasted Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton
to the International Transportation Symposium held in Washington D.C. on Oct. 11th. Yet,
Conversations must be halted, family outings at our chain of lakes and parks are
disrupted, . . . the learning environment in school classrooms, and sleep are disrupted
due to the racket.
The rising anxiety and anger among residents, as they contend with the noise day after day is an assault on our high quality of life, according to the Mayor. We must take the complaints of citizens seriously . . . expand insulation programs . . . and seek proactive solutions that reduce airplane noise at its source.
MASAC members in disharmony over noise reduction policy
If we dont get our way, well take our ball and go home! joked MASAC community delegate Will Eginton in his characterization of Northwest Airlines, and industry representatives who have boycotted MASAC meetings for the second consecutive month. The airline was angered when MASAC endorsed a resolution supporting voluntary incentives and disincentives to induce expedited retirement of noisy DC9s and Boeing 727s from Northwests fleet. More than two unexcused absences bring summary dismissal from many organizations, noted Eginton while pondering if a similar sanction might be enacted against the annoyed Northwest MASAC delegates.
The amusing sideshow of the Northwest led boycott has brought a touch of comic relief to MASAC, where Minneapolis delegates faithfully participate despite a nagging sensation the group is little more than window dressing in a bureaucratic attempt to make governmental agencies look benevolent. Requests to Minneapolis City Hall for assistance with research into laws and regulations, and noise and air pollution health impacts are regularly dismissed, typically for budgetary reasons.
Consequently, Minneapolis delegates depend on themselves, or activist organizations such as South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) for help with such requests, while Bloomington and Richfield delegates routinely receive financial and professional assistance, and work in concert with their respective city governments. So while the greatest numbers of metro area residents impacted by noise live in Minneapolis, their delegation receives a comparatively meager portion of city help.
Residents Against Airport Racket (ROAR) member Sara Strzok agrees with Sayles Beltons recent call for airports to nurture partnerships with communities in order to successfully address concerns and conflicts of interest. The idea of MASAC is great, Strzok remarked. But the standard operating procedure for airports and airlines to delay, wear down, dribble out information, and stonewall is a blatant contradiction to the cooperative MASAC model.
Strzok compared this past summers collaboration between elected officials and residents in demanding guarantees from the airport that city lakes and parks would not be damaged by airports expansion projects. MASAC, with its resident/industry battle lines narrowly drawn over noise issues was stuningly passive in response to citizen concerns about the lake impacts, in Strzoks opinion.
We need to reduce night time flights, according to Minneapolis resident and MASAC delegate Glenn Strand, because they have the greatest impact on people, especially children. Sayles Belton repeated Strands opinion during her Washington visit, calling for local control over night time airport operations, a multi-jurisdictional consortium to fund health studies on children and senior citizens who live near airports, mitigation programs beyond the Ldn 60 mitigation boundaries (currently committed to in Minneapolis) and local jurisdictions to impose incentives and disincentives to encourage the use of quieter planes and operating techniques.
Contrasting with the Northwest-led boycott in protest of the MASAC resolution for incentives and disincentives, Mayor Beltons call for such measure met a positive reception in Washington D.C., according to policy aid Ann Freeman.