VIDEO: ‘The Briefing #17: The Myth of Engagement’ presented to Port of Seattle


Local lawyer/filmmaker/activist Steve Edmiston continues his ‘The Briefing’ project, a one-man crusade (and documentary) against the Port of Seattle Commission, and his most recently testimony is called ‘The Myth of Engagement.’

In this episode, Edmiston presents another myth that currently seems universal for airport communities worldwide – the myth of engagement, and particularly, the myth that the airport operator seeks meaningful engagement with airport neighbor communities on the impacts to health and the environment from overflight noise and emissions.

Edmiston adds:

What communities want is more than a voice – and more than a passive seat at a table where decisions aren’t made. Communities want an ability to influence that decision on a par with other stakeholders. NOT a big ask. But do we get that? What communities don’t want is marketing campaigns conflated with proclamations that policymakers care about what we care about…

In Episode 17, we provide a brief reminder that meaningful community engagement is required by applicable laws. We reference perhaps the greatest “need to engage” movie reference of all time, Maverick’s failure to engage in Top Gun (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R42peOjhahQ profanity warning!). And we provide examples of failed engagement.

From refusing the type of engagement requested by airport neighbor cities, to minimizing engagement requirements by removing bylaw mandates to protect our quality of life, to controlling stakeholder group agendas and structure (and appearing to run from consensus when it doesn’t square with the Port agendas), this episode illustrates application of the classic Arnstein Ladder, where “the powerless stakeholders are falsely engaged by placement on “rubberstamp advisory committees or advisory boards” to educate them, or engineer their support, or change their views, instead of addressing the problem and providing top-rung shared decision-making.

Maverick, engage!

Edmiston is responding to an FAA and Port staff briefing in Spring, 2017 that he contends was both incomplete and inadequate because it failed to convey, among other things, data on harms being caused to humans and the environment by airplanes.

The goals of this documentary film project include using Edmiston’s collected public comments as the spine of a feature documentary film.

As a private citizen, under Port bylaws, Edmiston must provide his 43-minute briefing – the same time provided to the FAA and Port staff – in two-minute public comment segments. Edmiston estimates the project will take 9 to 12 months to complete.

For more information on this compelling ‘Citizen vs Goliath’ project, visit:

Our prior coverage is available here.


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