VIDEO: Steve Edmiston presents ‘The Lost Cause’ to Port of Seattle Commission

Des Moines resident Steve Edmiston’s solo media and citizen activism campaign addressing noise and pollution impacts from increased flights at Sea-Tac Airport – The Briefing Project – continued this week with his presentation of specific actions he seeks to compel the Port of Seattle Commissioners to adopt. 

Titled, “The Lost Cause,” and inspired by the famous scene from the Jimmy Stewart film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Edmiston proposed 10 initiatives, ranging from general policy objectives to specific mitigation-related actions to initiatives seeking reform of Port culture to process improvements.

“I get told all the time that trying to move the Port of Seattle toward placing the health of humans and protection of the environment as a priority – a ‘first do no harm’ approach – is a lost cause. Maybe so – but as Jimmy Stewart said, ‘they’re the only causes worth fighting for.”

The Accords are designed to be easy for citizens to understand and track for the purpose of accountability (download PDF here).

“These ten actions each reflect, quite clearly, the Port’s priorities. Right now, none of these actions have been taken. The Briefing Project’s stakes – the quest, in film theory – are to convince at least three Commissioners to sign on. If they don’t, the quest fails.”

Here’s Edmiston’s public comment (running time 2:57):

In addition, Edmiston also sees the Accords as an ongoing tool for community education, awareness, action and electoral accountability.

“The Accords are designed to become questions for any citizen to ask at any meeting with a Port Commissioner or Port staff. Anyone can ask – will you agree to audit the claimed historical mitigation expenses given that the Port used to claim $400 million, but now claims $300 million – isn’t it reasonable to ask what happened to the disappearing $100 million? Or ask why won’t you maximize your leadership position and leverage and make it a policy priority to do everything you can do under the law to curfew night flights?”

Finally, Edmiston believes the Accords can have great influence in the voting booth.

“What will be easier in our airport neighbor communities than having an objective checklist to compare candidates and incumbents in the upcoming 2019 Port elections?”

And because he referenced it, here’s the famous ‘Lost Causes’ scene from the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington:

“The idea behind the Accords is to provide cities and citizens a simple, ongoing, public measurement – a gradebook, or scorecard, of how the Port Commissioner choose to act, or fail to act, to the newest information they have, including the information provided by The Briefing Project. Any one of Commissioners can introduce these actions as policy, to be advocated for and implemented to the extent permitted by law. Any three of them can pass a resolution creating the policy. This is what the Commissioners chose to do, when inspired to do so, after the federal immigration ban, and on climate change. They went above the minimum requirements of federal law – they sought to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the Port has not applied this approach or advocacy for addressing the impacts on the airport neighbor communities. So the Accords are designed to shine a bright light on the choices being made – or not made – by the Port.”

Here’s a transcript of Edmiston’s ‘Accords’ presentation:


The Lost Cause – November 13, 2018

Thank you. I’m Steve Edmiston for The Briefing Project. Today’s comment is inspired by the “lost cause” speech from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, for two reasons. First, no surprise, I’m often told this project is a lost cause because of the Port’s economic growth ambitions and the disparity in our respective level of influence. Second, in film-speak, today reveals the list of actual project quests, meaning, here, the specific actions that will, “lost cause” or not, quantify success.

I’ve titled these actions the “Port of Seattle Airport Neighbor Community Accords.” The Accords are designed to provide cities and citizens a simple, ongoing, public measurement – a gradebook, or scorecard, if you will, of how each of you act, or fail to act, respond or fail to respond, to the information provided and the actions requested. Any one of you can introduce these actions as policy, to be advocated for and implemented to the extent permitted by law, just as you did on immigration, and on climate change. They are legal. They are within your authority. They reflect choices. I have the full text for the Clerk; I’ll read the Accord headings now.

First: The Health of Humans and the Environment is a Paramount Duty and Pre-Condition to Increased Frequency of Aircraft Operations (requiring reversal of the Port’s 2018 bylaw amendment deleting the commitment to community quality of life).

Second: Transparency Is a Core Value Requiring Independent Audit of Historical Mitigation Expenditures. 

Third: Trust is a Core Value Requiring Non-Interference with Independent Health and Environmental Studies. 

Fourth: Tax Levy Funds Shall Be Prioritized for Airport Neighbor Community Mitigation.

Fifth: Establishing a Nighttime Curfew to Protect Human Health Shall Be a Policy Priority Supported by Port Resources. 

Sixth: Fully Remediating the Failed Commitments for 3rd Runway Usage Shall be a Policy Priority. 

Seventh: Establishing Increased Glide Slopes for All Runways to Reduce Noise and Protect Human Health Shall Be a Policy Priority Supported by Port Resources. 

Eighth: Establishing a Regional Airport to Preserve Statewide Economic Growth and Simultaneously Reduce the Unfair Burden on Airport Neighbor Communities Shall be a Policy Priority Supported by Port Resources.

Ninth: Citizen Complaint Processes Shall be Reformed to Provide Meaningful Engagement and Solutions. 

Tenth: A Moratorium Shall be Placed on Capital Projects That Expand Aircraft Operation Capacity Until a Comprehensive Plan Developed in Collaboration with Airport Neighbor Communities to Protect Health and the Environment is Achieved.

It’s a big list. Perhaps certainly, a “lost cause” list. But as Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith said, “they’re the only causes worth fighting for.”

Much later in the meeting, as part of the 2019 Budget Resolution discussion, Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck introduced:

“…a proposal that I believe has been vetted by staff and law department and Commissioners to create an airport communities fund with an initial endowment of $10 million for five years. And the purpose is to “strategically address airport growth and the environmental impacts or effects associated with that including noise, pollution and health, potentially, and the concerns that have been raise publicly from various voices in the communities.” Commissioner Steinbrueck acknowledged that use of federal aviation funds within the 65 dB boundary is restricted, and “the intent here is to address some of the unfunded abatement measures.”

The Commissioner added “it would not be difficult to identify high priority uses over five years for this amount of money.”

In response to Steinbrueck’s proposal, Edmiston responded:

“I greatly appreciate this proposal for potential action – and leadership – offered by Commissioner Steinbrueck. This is moving the needle in the right direction. I hope that this type of action reflects the beginning of a long-term commitment that will require a much more significant investment. I agree with Commissioner Felleman’s comment that ‘my really my only concern is that the needs are so much greater than the fund and that we create an unreasonable expectation about all that could be accomplished with this sort of resource. But I’m ultimately tremendously sympathetic I’m bearing a disproportional brunt of this regional asset.’”

About The Briefing Project
The Briefing Project is a social media and documentary film project that merges journalism, editorial commentary, citizen activism, and the ‘it’s happening before our eyes’ elements of a reality-show, all serving an anticipated documentary about five elected officials with a choice to make to continue, stop, or mitigate, the harms caused to humans and the environment by noise and emissions from overflight operations. He has committed to spend no more time than the Commissioners provided to the FAA and to the Port’s own staff for a briefing in 2017: forty-three minutes. The project’s twist? As a citizen, Edmiston must provide his briefing during two-minute public-comment segments, as provided by Port bylaws. He estimates it will take a year to complete.

About Steve Edmiston
Steve is a business, intellectual property, and entertainment lawyer. He is also a screenwriter and independent film producer. He has written and produced award-winning feature-length and short films (including “Crimes of the Past,” “A Relative Thing,” “Farewell to Harry,” “The Day My Parents Became Cool,” “The Periphery Project,” and “The Maury Island Incident”). He serves on the Port Townsend Film Festival Board of Directors, and has taught screenwriting and producing at Seattle University, University of Washington, and Seattle Film Institute. 

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