Quiet Skies critical of Des Moines for passing on meeting slated for next week

By Jack Mayne

The fledgling Quiet Skies Puget Sound group in Des Moines has severely criticized the city administration and its City Council over its refusal to participate in an April 26 public meeting to explore how to fight increased noise flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

City Manager Michael Matthias said in a letter that city officials and councilmembers “will be unable to attend, as we are putting our time and resources into other actions to address noise and health impacts,” and the wellbeing of Des Moines citizens “is always of paramount concern to city staff and the City Council.”

While Mayor Matt Pina and most councilmember have not spoken about the proposed meeting, former Mayor Dave Kaplan said he “can’t speak for my fellow Councilmembers, or the Council as a whole, but I’ll speak for myself” and that he considered attending, then decided not to because “it is unclear what this group is looking for … what the specific complaints are.”

If the Quiet Skies Puget Sound meeting was to be a “general session to complain about the airport” then Kaplan said “then I believe there are alternative and more constructive ways to get the issues addressed.”

Michael Matthias

As of late Thursday (April 20) it appeared only City Manager Matthias might attend, even with Quiet Skies’ apparent intention to leave seven vacant chairs on view to illustrate the lack of City Council attendance.

The Quiet Skies challenge
To begin with, this Quiet Skies is not the same group as the one that encouraged Burien to seek legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration over its order to send propjet planes over Burien on takeoff, an order since rescinded.

This allied group is called Quiet Skies Puget Sound and is headed by Des Moines attorney Steve Edmiston, along with activist Sheila Brush, who wrote a long letter to the city on April 17.

“We are deeply concerned that no member of the Council deems that engaging the citizens of Des Moines in an open dialogue about new Sea-Tac flight paths, NextGen implementation, aircraft noise, declining property values, or human health and environmental issues arising from airport operations is sufficiently important such that they would attend the community forum,” Edmiston wrote to the city.

He added, “No member of the Council has cited a single scheduling conflict. Worse yet, the ultimate reason cited for not attending (apparently signed-off upon by all seven Council members) is cringe-worthy” and cited Matthias’ comments about using “our time and resources into other actions to address noise and health impacts on behalf of our residents.”

But Edmiston said the “rationale is even stranger when considering no evidence is offered to establish exactly what ‘other actions’ that each member of the Council is going to be undertaking on the evening of the forum.”

“We profoundly disagree with your position that listening to and answering questions from your own citizens is not worth City time and resources. We respectfully request that each member of the Council reconsider his or her decision,” Edmiston wrote of the city. “We will hold the invitation to participate open indefinitely, for one or all.”

As of Thursday, no councilmember indicated publicly their intent to be at the meeting next week.

Bad report card
The city also complained that after the first invitation from Quiet Skies to attend the meeting, it released “a similar” invitation on The Waterland Blog also “contained a number of different aspects of the event that were omitted from the City Council invitation. These omitted details included a presentation from Quiet Skies on “who the heroes and villains are shaping up to be.”

But what really piqued the displeasure of the city was the possibility of “a presentation of the ‘City of Des Moines 2017 Report Card,’” and that the “forum is being recorded for a documentary film.”

Edmiston said it was true that Quiet Skies Puget Sound was “issuing the city a report card” for the first quarter of 2017.

“Candidly, it is not a good report card for the city,” Edmiston said. “We hope the council will learn from the report, and take the feedback constructively. It will be published to the community before the community forum – in the interests of transparency and so that there are no surprises.”

Then the documentary being made without “informing the City Council flies in the face of transparency,” Matthias said.

The city manager added, “Without assurances of integrity in the editing of the film any perspective chosen by the documentary maker can be presented. These omissions, intentional or not, are troubling and unfortunate in that they suggest an adversarial tone between Quiet Skies and the City, which clearly would not be productive to addressing extremely important issues for our community.

‘Heroes and villains’
Edmiston writes about city concerns about an alleged ‘adversarial tone” and lack of transparency of the Quiet Skies efforts.

The assertions are “disturbingly unfounded and easy to rebut.”

“The flawed ‘lack of transparency’ logic becomes clear when considering that all information about the event has been shared publicly through traditional and social media outlets – even the original invite to the Council.”

“It is absurd to argue that the order of these events was somehow designed to trick the Council,” Edmiston wrote. “If we did not want the Council to know what we intended, we would not be continually sharing all program updates with the entire community.”

The Quiet Skies Puget Sound leader also suggested “complaints about a documentary are similarly unfounded.”

Edmiston said that he has been a filmmaker “for nearly 30 years … I suggest that you misunderstand the journalistic ethics of documentary filmmaking. You would not be granted editorial control of a documentary – if you were in control, it would cease being a documentary and would instead be a commercial. We are not seeking footage for a commercial, nor are we in any way even certain at this time about the story that might be told in a documentary. We are capturing footage.”

He added that concerns about “unfair editing” are unfounded.

Not special
Kaplan in his response to Edmiston’s charges, said he is “less than inclined to attend a meeting that implies or characterizes typical conspiracy theory nut concepts (i.e. – ‘why no one told you about it.’ and “who the heroes and villains are shaping up to be”), or presumes to give a “report card” on the City Council, simply because we haven’t done things on the group’s timeline or in manner the group wishes to have issues addressed.

“It doesn’t make me feel ‘special’ to be invited to what amounts to an attempt at public shaming,” Kaplan said. “And, given my personal experience with many of the people involved (in regard to other issues), I’m wondering why I would invest my time addressing what likely are real issues of concern, with people who have attacked my personal character, shown me nothing but contempt, made rash and unfounded accusations against me and many of my fellow Councilmembers, and who seem to have jumped from issue to issue to issue … most of which don’t directly impact the residents of Des Moines,” Kaplan wrote.

Kaplan was apparently referring to a run-in with Ms. Brush at a 2015 hearing on the Valley Cities drug rehabilitation site.

Deflecting transparency
Edmiston said the city is troubled by lack of transparency about forum contents.

“This argument fails when considering you did not contact us about the forum at all until well after all information about the forum had been published and you requested a phone call to discuss the forum on March 30,” Edmiston said. “We discussed and answered all your questions about the forum on the call with you and the city attorney on the 30th, and ultimately even agreed to your request for a change in the structure of the program, granting a period of time for the City to make a full five minute presentation in addition to the Q&A. This was confirmed to you in writing on March 31st.

“It is impossible to see how, now another two weeks later, the Council has a basis for complaining about ‘transparency,’ except as a way to seek deflection from the fallout that might arise from the Council’s non-attendance.”

Edmiston said the “lack of transparency” logic becomes clearly flawed “when considering that all information about the event has been shared publicly through traditional and social media outlets – even the original invite to the Council. We published the Council’s invite to the community; we published the poster to the community; we published the 20 questions to the community.”

Finally, Edmiston said a dialogue has been sought with the full Council and between the council and the residents since November of 2016.

“By way of example, you can revisit our presentation slides from the January meeting, titled “The Ask for Des Moines – Help us Help You” and “The Five Most Discouraging Things Des Moines Can Do”:

No public discussions
When it became clear to us that the City did not intend to engage its citizens on Airport issues in the normal course of business, we determined we had no choice but to act independently. Hence, the community forum. Quite honestly, it’s astounding that after rebuffing QSPS for four months, the City now contends it should have had some say or control or approval over the event, its structure, and how it is promoted. We believe the magnitude of the proposed growth of SeaTac Airport operations is largely unknown to your citizens, and presents the greatest risk to health, property values, the environment, and the quality of life in Des Moines. These are, in essence, life and death issues from a human perspective, and life and death issues from the standpoint of a city’s survival. We will advocate wholeheartedly for the City and City’s Airport initiatives when the City demonstrates publicly what the details of the initiatives are (hence, the 20 questions we’ve asked). We look forward to that time! If you are authentically desiring a greater degree of trust and support, if you want a relationship that is “mutually advocative,” then rest assured the absolute worst thing you can do is to attack the volunteer citizen activists, fail to show up and listen to and talk to the citizens, and inflate a historical track record of “action.”

‘Adversarial’ concerns
Edmiston said the city “seems overly concerned that QSPS is being ‘adversarial.’

“We respectfully contend that this concern is misplaced,” he wrote. “We believe the city is confusing the concept of ‘being adversarial’ with the notion of ‘being held to account.’

That is a marker of “effective government that citizens ask questions, and continue to compel answers and actions, when the responses are incomplete or unsatisfactory.”

Quiet Skies Puget Sound suggests Des Moines “should embrace and provide leadership for this citizen activism, as opposed to attacking it.

“We believe the City is confusing the concept of ‘being adversarial’ with efforts required by citizens to propel action by a Council that has taken little or none, to date, on the issues,” Edmiston wrote to the city. “We understand you would prefer a partnership rather than a relationship that appears accusatory rather than mutually advocate.

“Unfortunately, with no dialogue between city and citizens, the city forces us first to seek information and accountability as a foundation for future collaboration.

“The predicate to accountability is actual knowledge of what the City is doing,” Edmiston wrote. “We also have limited ‘time and resources’ that might be better spent. However, unlike the council, we are not quitting on the need for dialogue between the city and our citizens. We are showing up for the forum.”


18 Responses to “Quiet Skies critical of Des Moines for passing on meeting slated for next week”
  1. Carri says:

    I am going to make a broad assumption that the Quiet Skies group is the the “hell no” people. They say hell no to everything…fish packing warehouse, detox centers, housing developments. Basically they are against businesses in general and economic growth, perhaps they need to buy acreage somewhere in the country and live in their own bubble.
    They are not attempting to what? Make the airport move? More and more people are flying these days my suggestion is move if you can’t handle the noise. The city cannot control growth of an airport why try and hang that on our council members heads?

    • Steve Edmiston says:

      I appreciate that you characterize your comment as an assumption. It is incorrect. QSPS is very pro growth, a huge advocate of Alaska Airlines and the aviation industry in general. Would love to have you attend the forum! There is much the city can do (see what Burien recently accomplished where the FAA acted in violation of the law).

      We are not in favor of growth in violation of the state and federal laws and which place human health and the environment at risk – illegally. If you make that assumption, you’d be correct. We are in favor of preserving the quality of life in Des Moines. Guilty.

      We wish the City would attend to tell us what they intend to do – perhaps the answer is nothing, I think they will do something positive. Don’t you want to know/

    • D. Harper says:

      You know what Carri, you are totally right. We as a community deserve to have what the rest of King County does not desire, so let’s just validate those holding decision making positions and let them draw the ‘Red Line’ around our community. Apparently we are disposable because “we only live in the south end because we can’t afford to live in Seattle”. Based on what you are saying, we should have had an involuntary drug, alcohol and mental health rehab clinic next to our grade school and library. There should have been a methadone clinic attached to it so all of those seeking their fix can hop off the bus, take their hit and then head to the woods nearby. Gang crime is out of control now and yet you support subjecting this community to more of it with drugs and theft. Let’s keep adding to the list… we don’t have enough money in our city coffers to hire more police to protect the citizens. We are being bombarded by increased flights going slow and low over our neighborhoods dropping toxic emissions over our households. You support paving the earth over at the Weyerhauser Campus because financial gain comes before quality of life for the people who actually live there. Putting in a fish processing plant with refrigerator/freezer facilities running 24/7 and semi-trucks clogging neighborhoods roads. All of the issues you seem to have are about location. I’m curious… are any of these developments near where you live? Would you be impacted to where your opinion, way of life, or property value actually matters? Well, a lot of people live here, invest here and deserve to fight for their quality of life. In fact, they wouldn’t have to ‘fight’ for it if their leaders were doing what they were elected to do.

    • Katherine says:

      I see you’re still bitter that you weren’t elected to the city council in 2011, and had to settle for a Rotary Club position. I don’t think your focus is on economic growth of the city when your company builds and sells defective houses and has 18 lawsuits in King County Superior Court filed against it. So yeah, hell no to a city council that doesn’t have the courage to face its citizens over important issues that not only impacts their health but their property resale value. Then cancels the city council meetings following the forum because they don’t want to be publicly shamed. You tell me one thing that this lame city council has done to stimulate economic growth in this nearly bankrupt city. The sane city council that repealed the sound code because of improved flight paths and quieter airplanes. Girl bye!

    • Kristin says:

      Carri economic growth is one thing the toxic pollutants in an airplane’s exhaust is another. Is it really that unreasonable to suggest that school children shouldn’t have to play beneath the constant roar of plane engines and spewing of exhaust?

      Please read: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/10/101005-planes-pollution-deaths-science-environment/

  2. Katherine says:

    As far as Kaplan’s statement with regards to a conspiracy theory and calling us nuts, he really needs to keep his moronic thoughts to himself. The man that brought in a Dollar Store to stimulate the economy. How about the Chick-fila that will soon open in Federal Way, did you ever think of that? That certainly would have been a great economic stimulator to the local economy.
    Kaplan is also one of three of the morons that still remains on the city council (since you want name call like a 5th grader) (Pina and Musser) that voted to repeal the city sound code in 2012. Remember Kaplan- improved flight paths, quieter airplanes and builder’s interest. Kaplan talks big from the city council podium and when he’s sending out a statement to the local media but he is too chicken*#[email protected] to face the citizens. It’s a good thing Kaplan is not running again for city council because I would have a ball tearing him down. Do us all a favor Kaplan, leave Des Moines once your term is up. You’re an imbecile and a dirty spineless politician! if you’re so proud of your decision making and so pleased with the job you have done then face the citizens of your community and answer the questions asked by QSPS.

  3. Ken says:

    Now I understand why the City wants nothing to do with your cause. If you are a spokesperson for QSPS, then I strongly suggest you find someone with a little more tact.

    • Katherine says:

      I’m not a spokesperson or representative for anything or anyone but myself. I will freely voice my opinion and if you don’t like it too bad. This is America.

  4. Sheila Brush says:

    Hi Folks – To keep neighboring communities updated on operations at Sea-Tac Airport, the Port of Seattle has scheduled a presentation – set for Tuesday, April 25 at 1 p.m. – on aircraft noise, flight paths and the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which the Federal Aviation Administration describes as “the modernization of our air transportation system.”

    I urge you all to attend and please note the information below, it is fact and will help many of us form a much better understanding. I would also again urge you to attend our community forum the following evening, as I am sure many questions will arise from the Port/FAA meeting.

    As part of the FAA “Airport Noise Compatibility Planning (14 CFR Part 150)” the FAA requires airports to create and register noise exposure maps. They can be found here:

    If you compare the 2013 map to the 2018 forecast you’ll notice the noise affected areas for Sea-Tac airport gets bigger as we move to the future, this goes directly against the air industry’s claims that planes are getting quieter because the noise impact is getting bigger:

    2013 map:

    2018 map:

    Also with part 150, the FAA requires airports to provide noise impact mitigation. Info on Sea-Tac airport’s program can be found here:

    There is a catch: if a property owner takes the port’s “free” noise insulation, they must give up their property air rights forever, this is required by the FAA because that’s where the federal money for the program comes from. Needless to say, a property without air rights is worth less than a property that still has full rights.

    One way cites have been dealing with this is by passing local laws requiring developers to construct buildings with better noise insulation. New buildings get better insulation without giving up air rights, but the developer and ultimately consumer pays for this additional cost.

    As long as these local laws are in place, they can prove the negative impacts from the airport, which may provide cities the opportunity to obtain mitigation. Obviously the airport does not like these laws and tries to get rid of them with every opportunity. Get rid of these local laws and your city is effectively saying the airport noise does not impact your community.

    The NextGen system is reeking havoc across the nation, couple that with an over expanding Sea-Tac International Airport, that, by the way is not only the 9th busiest and fastest growing in the Nation, but the 6th fastest growing in the world.. ON the Smallest Blueprint. We have a serious crisis. We can no longer ignore the devastating impacts we are facing now and will become even more paramount in the near future.

    Sea-Tac will always be our neighbor, let’s work together to keep the relationship strong and healthy for ALL who reside in our beautiful South Sound cities. The time has come for another regional airport and for our Port to acknowledge that their desire to grow is at the cost of human health and environmental devastation.

    • Katherine says:

      I’m not sure if it is legal to be stripped of your legal right to file litigation. Even if you signed such an agreement when you accepted the Port Package under the circumstances it can be nullified by the courts. You can strip someone of their rights ever. Perhaps there will be a lawyer present at the forum that can elaborate on this. That does not sound constitutional. i’m giving you an insulation package to combat the airplane noise around you but if you accept this insulation package it essentially strips you of your rights to file a registered complaint about aircraft noise. This can not be.

  5. Katherine says:

    I’m sorry to keep going in on our friend Carri but seriously do you really think that the Des Moines City Council is going to escape accountability for this matter? The answer to that is hell no! How dare you tell anyone that they should move to the country. When you live in a $2 million waterfront property I guess it’s easy to dismiss the rest of us . You’ve insulted us before when you made the statement that the kids before addicts signs were “silly”.

    I’m sure you will retreat to your safe place with your City Council friends because you most definitely do not have the courage to say what you said on this blog post at the forum. Now forreal girl bye

  6. Dave Kaplan says:

    Unfortunately what got left out of this article was the fact that the City of Des Moines had been working to set up the meeting Quiet Skies requested, with FAA and Port of Seattle representatives in attendance (they rarely attend any public meetings, so getting them to agree to attend was big), for the first quarter of this year. However, when the City of Burien filed a lawsuit against the FAA over their flight issues, the FAA backed out of our meeting while the legal challenge was hanging over their heads.

    Regarding the sound insulation standards, the standards in the latest version of the International Building Code exceed those that the City of Des Moines had long had in place. To claim that they are less than the standards we had in place is a myth. We repealed our window insulation code in 2012 because it was negatively impacting the ability of residents to get contractors willing to come in and do the work (because of the cost of having different window manufacturers test their windows.) Residents have actually been thanking us, since it is now easier to find window installers willing to do the work.

    As for the reference to Ms. Brush in the article, I have never named anyone or singled anyone out. There have been a number of people who fit the description I stated in my letter … a letter sent in response to Mr. Edmiston’s letter, and only reluctantly shared with the Blog … to ensure that at least my reason for not attending the meeting was made clear. Fellow Councillmembers can speak for themselves.

    Ms. Pace seems to think I brought the Dollar Tree store to town. I wish that I had, but, alas, it’s another myth. One of the property owners agreed to lease them the space. That store brings in far more money to the City of Des Moines than the three-years-empty building did before, and (because of a relatively short lease) can move out when the property owners are ready to redevelop the block.

    I’ve never been afraid to meet with or address the concerns of our residents (another ranting myth.) I’ve engaged with our citizens regardless the controversial nature of the issues involved, and continue to address all communications that comes my way. But I’m really not obligated to meet with people who have consistently been disrespectful, who traffic in conspiracy theories (e.g. – we won’t meet because we don’t want to tick off the FAA since they are moving to town), or who want to issue a “report card” because we haven’t done things their way or on their timeline.

    Regarding the airport and its impacts, as I stated in letter (the full content of which was not posted here), and as I have for 20 years, I have been and will continue to be an advocate for Sea-Tac Airport being a good neighbor in relation to Des Moines.

    • Katherine says:

      Well, the locals call you Dollar Store Dave. Further, you want to talk about people being disrespect to you??? You’re the most disrespectful public official I have ever witnessed in my life. Ha!

      You can also stop with the lies regarding the sound code repeal. The repeal was intended for new construction because you’re looking out for developers. Pretty much all of the older homes were eligible for the “Port package” which was at no cost to them. The Port package replacement program ended in 2011. Read Ordinance 1539 and tell me that it does not say that there would be improved flight paths, quieter airplanes by 2016, and you go on to say that the development community cited the city sound code as unnecessary, not economically justified and overly burdensome. I doubt anyone has thanked you but the developers for looking out for “builder’s interest”. We are talking about the reasons you cited in Ordinance 1539, stay on subject.

      This Quiet Skies forum isn’t about you or your ego, it’s for the citizens that you were elected to serve and how this implemented NextGen program is impacting our health, quality of life and resale value of our homes in the Des Moines area. You have friends at the Port of Seattle, one of which was asked to sit on the panel to help decide who the assistant city manager would be (Michael Matthias was selected) so let’s not pretend that you were unsuccessful finding a participant to attend the forum.

      You’re not above being rated by the citizens of the city, some of which see your leadership as lacking, your accomplishments as insignificant and your lack of community participation as you giving us the hand We know that you visit the many senior centers in the area but there are other citizens in the city of 30,000+ that have the right to be heard. The city council meeting being abruptly canceled the Thursday after the forum is a pretty clear indication to most of us that you don’t want to engage with the citizens on this mater.
      You speak of facing other controversial matters head on, but failed to name one. You must be talking about the Pokémon Go crisis when there were all of those pokey-people that probably would have spent money if there was anything to buy on the Marina- water, cotton candy, a hot dog, espresso.The Pokémon crisis warranted a special city council meeting, private security and a majority of the already understaffed police force to be on Marina duty. It was also the precursor to paid parking at the Marina. If you want to bring up Woodmont recovery center, it wasn’t until the citizens, local media and local legislators got involved that you reluctantly got behind the citizens on this matter. You, Dave Kaplan publicly went on Facebook and basically told us that it was a done deal, nothing could be done, you/the city council never knew about it (doubtful) and for us to deal with it. Now you’re telling us the same thing about flight path impacts. There is much you can do but you’ve made up your mind that attending the public forum will not be good for your public image.

      I’m happy this is a re-election year. It’s time for new and real leadership in Des Moines. What’s been happening in this city under yours and Sheckler’s leadership over the past 20 years needs to ousted. Trying to categorize some Des Moines citizens as bandwagon jumpers (nuts) creating issues that aren’t really impacting the city of Des Moines is absurd. Are you laying in their beds when a cargo plane is taking off at 1:40AM? Or sitting in their living room and the volume on the television is at 32 on the remote because they can’t hear it otherwise due to airplanes flying low? Have you watched how kids play on a playground when there are low flying planes above? Do you know the health statistics? How about the people that just recently started experiencing the low flying airplanes to include their homes shaking when the airplanes are above? It is about quality of life. It’s ridiculous that the citizens are not getting any support from the elected officials are trying to make it about them. Des Moines is the only city council in the area not supporting its citizens.That’s fine because you won’t be getting our support on Election Day. If the candidate that you endorsed for your seat has your same ideology (which I’m sure he likely does) the other guy will get my vote. The other guy, Chad Harper has far more impressive endorsements.

      I know, we should all just move, problem solved. Then you can just sit up there on the city council panel week after week patting each other on the back for the decisions made and accomplishments of the Des Moines city council like paid Marina parking, increased taxes on garbage and recycling pick up and for the FAA compound being constructed in Des Moines. We should be so lucky that they picked Des Moines. You’re an advocate for SeaTac being a good neighbor to Des Moines The Port of Seattle has the control over flight operations coming in and out of SeaTac International Airport.

      I guess we will all be doing our best Clint Eastwood impression and talking to empty chairs at the quiet skies forum. We know you’ll be watching though.

    • Katherine says:

      Since you brought up the subject of RESPECT why don’t you start respecting the position you’re in and show up at the council meetings dressed like the professional you’re supposed to be. You/Kaplan wearing jeans and cheap polo shirts, Pina wearing highwater khakis, Nutting wearing construction worker gear and Musser putting lotion on her hands every five minutes (drink more water if your skin is that dehydrated). The only one that shows that professionally dressed is Back but I can’t get past his constant gibberish. You’re all an embarrassment. Besides your wardrobe choices you might want to work on your explosive temper and poor decision making.

      • Rikki says:

        Katherine that is a laughable comment. You are addressing how our council(all with other paying gigs because council is NOT full time). I mean how dare they earn a living and take a position to care for our community. Makes me not put any validation in anything else you have to say.

  7. Carri says:

    WOW..Catherine you sure spew a lot of vitriol….have we ever met? I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess you have that Facebook page “Des Moines Can’t” that has all of five followers? I’m not sure whether I should be flattered or frightened that you even bothered to look up where I live and what my house is worth. Have a blessed day,

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