Quiet Skies says Des Moines City Council failed at handling airport problems

By Jack Mayne

The Des Moines Quiet Skies group has issued what can only be labeled as an extremely negative view of the City Council in what it calls a quarterly report card on the seven-member governing body (download PDF here).

“This is a very poor report card, and we gave the city a heads-up that this was coming,” said Quiet Skies Puget Sound (QSPS) member Steve Edmiston.

“The good news is that this is only for one single quarter, and there are definitely places where the City can immediately, substantially, and measurably improve if it wishes to do so.”

‘Antagonistic choice’
City Manager Michael Matthias did comment that the report card “was an arbitrary and antagonistic choice.”

“It is unproductive, does not promote communication on this important issue, and reveals a serious lack of understanding of this very complex situation,” Matthias said. “Further, it does not reflect the many actions the City has in fact taken.”

The “report card” was issued a day before Quiet Skies is slated to hold a public meeting on the city’s performance (more info here), a meeting that Council and staff at one time said it would not attend. Last week City Manager Michael Matthias indicated he “might” attend.

Quiet Skies Puget Sound said it would place seven chairs for councilmembers in a central place at the meeting, apparently suggesting that vacant chairs meant the Council was uninterested in airport noise and pollution problems.

“I am really glad we will be creating an Aviation Advisory Committee soon,” Councilmember Robert Back told The Waterland Blog. “I attended the meeting at the Port of Seattle on Tuesday to listen to the FAA and the Port make their presentations as well as listen to the concerned people from all around the Puget Sound area. There are a number of complex issues at hand here, and having a special committee task group for this subject will be a great benefit for our community.”

High grade was ‘D’
Total failure grades of “F” were given to the Des Moines’ Council for its “Transparency” and “Leadership.”

“Results” of the Council on airport issues got the body a D- and then the private group assigned D+ grades to the Council for “demonstrated knowledge/expertise” and for “cooperation with others.”

The most positive grade was a straight “D” assigned to the Des Moines Council for “communications/responsiveness” and for “mission/vision consistency.”

Edmiston, who says he is only a member of the group, but appears as its spokesman in recent public discussions, said the grades were figures “using measurable factors.”

Situations about Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were crosschecked “with the actions of other neighbor cities. For example, it was easy to determine that Burien, SeaTac, and Federal Way have airport committees or task forces that include citizens.”

“Des Moines does not.”

City works with airport
Matthias said Wednesday that the city “does not control Sea-Tac airport, although we communicate and work with them.”

“Every day the city works with our neighboring cities, the mayor’s council, our state and federal elected officials, the Port of Seattle, the FAA and the airport to assure that the impacts from airport operations are addressed before the airport continues to grow.

“The City Council is creating an Aviation Advisory Committee to work with us and take a serious look at these complex issues,” said Matthias. “The committee will include a broad range of residents to provide input and share their experiences.”

The city manager said Mayor Matt Pina endorsed the Council’s ongoing action to address airport problems.

City ‘failed’ to act
Quiet Skies Puget Sound said it measured whether Des Moines “responded to their requests made in January” and whether it took any action.

It said the city did “did not grade well in response to these requests,” because it failed to “engage publicly on airport issues.”

“Des Moines simply didn’t choose to do its airport issue work publicly.”

“There was simply no way to know the mind of each Councilmember on airport issues – where they stand and what specific actions they seek on new noise, NextGen implementation, new flight procedures and paths, impacts of Sea-Tac growth on human health, the environment, and property values,” said Edmiston.

“NextGen” refers to the Federal Aviation Administration’s upgrade of technical and physical handling of aircraft during landing and takeoffs. It is a way to channel planes that supposedly will cut down their impact on nearby residents.

Des Moines did on Tuesday (April 25) announce a new “Airport Advisory Committee” (read about that here). Quiet Skies said that if it had done so earlier and had “responded to citizen questions like the unanswered 20 questions … and if the Council spoke publicly on airport issues at Council meetings – with all seven Councilmembers engaging – it is easy to imagine substantial grade improvements for transparency, communications, and expertise,” said Edmiston.

The bad grades “could be a really fast turnaround if transparency and two way communications can kick in,” the advocacy group said.

Quiet Skies Puget Sound said its grades of the Council were not based on its refusal to attend the meeting tonight at Mt. Rainier High School that was to be a session “to discuss the new fight paths, related noise, the status of NextGen flight procedures, and the overall impacts on human health and the environment and property values.”


4 Responses to “Quiet Skies says Des Moines City Council failed at handling airport problems”
  1. Katherine says:

    Here’s my opinion, a certain Des Moines council member who seems to be the spokesperson for the council had the audacity to characterize the citizens that have had to become advocates as nuts. It looked very, very bad that the city council to include mayor Matt Pina were not in attendance at the QSPS forum.
    Another regional airport sounds great in theory but this could take years to accomplish, in the meantime what are we supposed to do? The flight paths have NOT improved and the aircraft have not become quieter by 2016, as the city of Des Moines cited in Ordinance 1539. The aircraft noise is way more frequent and louder. QSPS should continue to lead this effort because based on what the city manager Michael Mathias stated at the forum the primary focus for the city is another regional airport, trust me this will not happen overnight. The air traffic is only going to increase in the next 5 years and this will impact our health and quality of life and resale value of our homes. The stall tactic of waiting for another regional airport and solely relying on that as the one and only solution would not be a smart move. Taking bold and agressive moves in the same respect that Burien has is what needs to happen in Des Moines. A second regional airport sounds great in theory but there is a lot of red tape and required infrastructure that could take many years to work through before it could be operational and able to support commercial aviation.
    Keep up the good work QSPS. The forum was appreciated by the citizens.

  2. Mark Proulx says:

    I would very much appreciate a citation that documents the increase in aircraft noise frequency and intensity.

    • Steve Edmiston says:

      Hey Mark – great slide deck prepared by Port of Seattle staff for presentation to the Commissioners and FAA last week has top level info on increased flights and that this is causing far more noise, and more intense noise. They published that each home has a NET increase of 260 overflights a day, over the number of flights three years ago. You can find the slides at the Port of Seattle website, pages on commissions, look for agenda links. Hope that helps!

  3. Madeline says:

    Very poor City of Des Moines; It sounds they seem not to care about the pollution or citizens in Des Moines.We have the right to speak out about the air pollution. The city cannot do anything for the long time abandoned old theater and Land mark on the sound which was not bought by city. If the city could have bought, the city could have made use of the iconic resource for the city to make more money and running good. I wish the city council works for the people who live and get the city more lively and clean and safe city.
    Hope new candidates for the city council position will get better this city for the future.

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