By Jack Mayne

Two of the Des Moines City Council appointed members on its Ad Hoc Aviation Advisory Committee quit on Monday, July 13, 2020, citing what they called the city’s move from citizens and the committee to the city staff.

The two are Sheila Brush and Steve Edmiston, who said in a resignation letter to Council that the city “is moving away from placing reliance on citizen input and leadership from this (advisory committee), and transferring its work to the city manager and city staff.

“We have greatly appreciated the opportunity afforded to us, through this Committee, to work on behalf of the citizens of Des Moines in relation to the significant environmental and public health challenges presented by Sea-Tac Airport operations,” they wrote.

Both Edmiston and Brush said the city should continue to more forward on airport issues and keep the committee and make it stronger.

Lack Council confidence
“Like the City of Burien, a strong aviation committee can yield significant results,” they wrote.

But they said their assessment is that the Des Moines Airport Committee “has not engendered the Council’s confidence to the extent that the Council would have required consultation on matters that are core to the … mission, something that is vital to the long-term interests of our city in relation to aviation.”

This has to change if the aviation committee is “to have value.”

Tactical Error
The two were disturbed that the Council on July 9 decided to again be a member of the Sea-Tac Airport Round Table,” also known at StART. Originally Des Moines and Burien airport committees were tasked to come up with 13 changes in the StART, but Edmiston and Brush said “it appeared that as the result of negotiations involving (Des Moines) managers and Port personnel (as far as we could surmise), not a single criterion was met.”

Edmiston and Brush said in their letter to the city that what they saw at the past Des Moines Council meeting “we believe this decision is a significant strategic and tactical error.” The guiding principal for the decision appeared to be that enough time had passed and there was value in “being at the table.”

The cause of Des Moines’, Burien’s and Federal Way leaving the Port committee was because some reforms in the committee was that the Port needed to make changes in the structure of the StART group.

“I’m sure you can appreciate that the Council’s adopting a motion to rejoin, appearing to have no formal agreement with the Port on a single one of the joint criteria, without consultation of your (Des Moines committee), based on a hope that being at the table will work when the only historical evidence is that being at the table did not work (and which was predicate to suspending), was discouraging.” Edmiston wrote with Brush to the Des Moines City Council.

New Approach
“Accordingly, we believe it is incumbent upon us to get out of the way, and our sincere hope is that this new approach by the city will be supported by the necessary resources to go toe-to-toe with the Port and industry on StART,” the two wrote. “Our shared goal remains the same – to protect our environment and the public health of our citizens. We will be the first in line to applaud the outcomes that our city manager and this Council have committed to achieve by rejoining StART.”

They plan to continue “advocacy for Des Moines through our other volunteer engagements and projects. Again, thank you for the opportunity to serve as part of this valuable Committee.”