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The cover of the 498-page report looking at jet-engine noise around Midway International Airport. --Supplied image

The cover of the 498-page report looking at jet-engine noise around Midway International Airport. --Supplied image

Neighbors blast ‘secretive’ MDW update

Few knew of ‘public’ webinar

By Tim Hadac

It was a public meeting of importance to hundreds of homeowners (if not more) in the neighborhoods around Midway International Airport.

But almost no one in the public knew about it.

The meeting was billed by the Lightfoot Administration as a “Virtual Public Workshop” regarding the draft Midway Part 150 Noise Exposure Map (NEM) Update. It was held online Sept. 1.

Held in webinar format, the online meeting featured a 30-minute recitation by Ryan Anderson, an employee of Landrum & Brown (an international aviation firm hired by the Chicago Department of Aviation). He summarized a 498-page document which, in essence, said that projected noise reductions around Midway between now and 2026 will mean fewer homeowners will qualify for government-sponsored soundproofing windows and doors.

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The cover of the 498-page report looking at jet-engine noise around Midway International Airport. –Supplied image

That assertion is based mostly on the projected phasing out of older, noisier passenger jets—most notably the Boeing 737-700—and the phasing in of newer, less noisy jets like the Boeing 737-MAX8.

The recitation was followed by a 15-minute period in which citizens were allowed to ask questions, in writing.

But both Anderson and Department of Aviation Deputy Commissioner Aaron Frame declined to answer a number of questions directly, even refusing to say how many people were participating in the webinar. (In the webinar format, participants were blocked from seeing and hearing each other.)

“This was like going to a public meeting to discuss public business, but then the bureaucrats in charge make everyone wear blindfolds so you can’t see who’s here or even how many people are here,” said West Elsdon resident Frank Gonzalez. “This is a very undemocratic way of doing things. I’m surprised that Mayor Lightfoot, who campaigned on promises of transparency and open government, is doing things this way. What happened to her?”

Blasting the update on multiple fronts was Chrysler Village homeowner Pam Zidarich, possibly the most astute, active and vocal critic of the Department of Aviation in the city.

She first criticized the CDA for failing to notify Midway-area residents beyond what she called the bare minimum.

The Aviation Department sent out no advance notices of the webinar to neighborhood news organizations, civic associations or other community groups. They defended their actions by stating that they had purchased “legal notice” advertising in the Chicago Tribune, as well as its Spanish-language supplement, Fin de Semana, which they said satisfied their minimum outreach requirements under the law.

Several webinar participants commenting on social media said they participated in the webinar only because the day before, a local online news organization (which found out about the meeting through a source) posted about it on Facebook. Even the aldermen whose wards border Midway learned of the webinar via email, only 24 hours in advance.

“This is secret government, and it’s unacceptable,” Zidarich said. “We’re all being kept in the dark. They throw a 500-page report at us, with no time for anyone to review it or formulate questions about it. Then they hold this ‘public’ online meeting, which almost nobody knew of…then the CDA lets a private consultant regulate public input and shield the CDA and the mayor from public accountability. This is shocking. This is a clown show.”

She also doubted Department of Aviation projections about airport noise.

“It is shameful that [Anderson] would not answer my question about next-gen aviation,” she said, adding that passenger jets are flying lower longer than ever before—which means thousands more households nowhere near airports are experiencing jet noise for the first time.

“I think [Department of Aviation] data is greatly impacted in their favor of reducing the size of the [Noise Exposure Map],” Zidarich added. “This is more shameful and deceitful behavior from the CDA and our mayor where these airports are concerned.”

Clearing and Garfield Ridge resident who missed the webinar may still review the 498-page draft and enter comments into the public record. A link to the document is here: https://www.flychicago.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/Community/Noise/Midway/Midway_P150_NEM_Update_Draft.pdf, and comments may be emailed by Oct. 3 to [email protected]

2 Comments

  1. Pamela Zidarich on September 8, 2021 at 10:57 am

    Great article Tim!



  2. Pamela Zidarich on September 8, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Nail on the head Tim. Great article.



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