Here is a secret – politicians don’t really care about opinions expressed online … that is unless they are from their actual voters. Then watch out, because then you will see real democratic change in action.
As we’ve added neighborhood level engagement with “community life” exchange to our classic city-wide online town halls, we’ve seen a twenty fold increase in the percentage of households in the area participating (from 1% to 20% in some areas). We’ve also seen a major embrace, at least in Minneapolis … hey, St. Paul we want you next … by city council members, park board members and others.
Check out these recent passionate community discussions on airport noise (89+ posts)Â in Standish Ericsson and recreational fires and smoke (55+ posts) in Longfellow.
The below is the impressive and responsive full text from two different city council members. Every local elected official, everywhere should be part of an online space that makes this happen. (An not just some surface-level Facebook page that cuts you off with a paragraph or two or some puff your chest out political tweets.)
First, from Councilmember Sandy Colvin Roy on airport noise and then second from Councilmember Cam Gordon.
Metropol itan Airport Commission (MAC) staff have responded to my inquiry about
an increase in airplane noise. They confirmed through statistics, what you have observed. There has been an increase in flights going over Standish and Ericsson. Between January and August of last year, 16,093 flights went directly over these neighborhoods and in 2011, 20,441 flight flew over. That translates to an average of 67 flights per day for 2010 and average of 84 flights per day in 2011. I have requested numbers going back five years in order to get a longer term view of the situation. The flights being directed over Standish Ericsson are coming off runway 30R. Surprisingly, overall use of runway 30R actually went down quite a bit this year compared to last so it is puzzling why there is an increase in planes flying over these neighborhoods. When MAC staff inquired at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the reason, they said the increase was due to their policy of using runway 30R for north and east bound planes when there are northwest [air] flow conditions present. This still does not answer the question for me because I am told that this is not a new policy. So, why are there more departures than before that fit this criterion? I need to get answers from the FAA. I am scheduling a meeting with the Control Tower Manager to discuss this because he determines which runway to use in accordance with FAA rules. MAC staff was also able to document that noise levels have increased. The remote monitoring tower (RMT) located on Northrop Elementary (installed at my insistance) showed average noise level for 2010 as 49.9 dB DNL and the average noise level for 2011 as 51.1 dB DNL. At Longfellow Avenue and 43rd Street, the RMT reported average noise level went from 56.3 to 56.8 dB DNL. Some residents had questions about fleet mix. This is what Chad Leqve (Manager - Noise, Environment and Planning at MAC) said in response to those questions: â€œThe general trend is that the aircraft fleetmix at MSP is getting quieter. The DC9 aircraft, the loudest in the fleet for many years, is being removed from the fleet. It is anticipated that in 2012 Delta will remove the last of the DC9s from its fleet. Conversely, operations by A320/319, B737, MD80, MD 90 and regional jets have increased over the neighborhoods in question. All of these aircraft , with the exception of the MD80, are significantly quieter than the DC9. The MD80 is quieter than the DC9, but not to the degree of the others listed. Overall the aircraft fleetmix trend is in the right direction from a noise perspective.â€ Are the planes flying lower? MAC staff says there have been no changes to flight operations (take-offs and landing procedures and flight tracks). They could think of no reason that the planes would be flying lower. This is another topic I need to cover with FAA staff. Some on this group have talked about the use of Performance Based Navigation (such as RNAV). These are navigation techniques that could impact how planes take-off and land, flight tracks, and noise exposure and intensity. However, these techniques have not yet been implemented at MSP. In fact, the FAA is still in the process of developing the procedures for MSP. The new proposed procedures will go through a review process that will include public comment and an environmental assessment. New proposed flight tracks are expected to be shared as early as this November. This will be a VERY important discussion. I will be keeping you informed about this process. We, as a community, will want to be actively involved throughout. We will also need to ensure that folks at all level of government are engaged. I donâ€™t have all of the information we want right now but I knew you would be anxious for an update. I will continue to work through various channels to understand exactly what changes have occurred and why. This is the first step to possible improvements. As you probably understand, I have no direct authority over the airportâ€™s activities but I will do everything I can to advocate for our community. I will not share details now since this is already a long post but you should know that I have been working hard on your behalf (and for all people who are impacted by airport noise) by fighting some potentially harmful proposed federal legislation. I have rallied the help of U.S. Senators Klobuchar and Franken and Congressman Ellison. We are carefully monitoring work on reauthorization of the FAA and working with people throughout the country to protect the interests of airport adjacent communities. If you want to know more about work on this issue, let me know. In the meantime, please continue to share your concerns with MAC via their noise hotline: Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 612-726-9411Â Â Â Â Â Â or online complaint form: http://www.macnoise.com/complaint Sandy Colvin Roy Keewaydin Council Member, 12th Ward
Now the smoke:
I have been reading this thread with interest. I have heard complaints about wood burning and recreational fires since first being elected to the City Council in 2005 and this is a topic I have done some research about. I have enjoyed wood fires all my life and I want the air we breath to be safer and cleaner. My understand is that the Minneapolis City government banned recreational fires in the past and then reversed that decision before I was elected. The last time the ordinance was amended was in 2003. The rules we have now appear to be focused on fire safety and are pretty consistent with what other cities are doing, although a more thorough study of what other mid- to large-sized cities do has not been conducted recently as far as I know. There does seem to be a difference in most people's minds between indoor fire places and outdoor yard fires, although air quality studies often don't distinguish between the two. The health experts also indicate that there is a difference between the types of stoves or furnaces as well as the material burned. Certain wood stoves and furnaces burn cleaner that others. It is clear to me that people have strong feelings about this on both sides of the issue. Some people, depending perhaps on their health and on the frequency of the recreational fires near their homes, consider recreational fires to be a major health issue and something that dramatically affects their quality of life and ability to enjoy their homes. There is an easy to read article (Health Effects of Wood Smoke Exposure) about this in this 2009 newsletter from the state health department (pages 5 and 6). http://www.health.state.mn.us/asthma/documents/bs0309.pdf At this point I am convinced that there is room for improvement in our approach. I am not sure if the problem is with the ordinance or with its enforcement, or with both. I am slowly moving to a position that says both could be improved. The ordinance may need to be amended in some ways, perhaps calling out air quality a little more clearly and adding some regulations or restrictions related to it. Currently, the ordinance says that recreational fires shall not be conducted if prevailing wind conditions exceed ten m.p.h. I believe it might make sense to also limit them during particularly dry periods, or during times when air quality is especially bad. Examining some kinds of additional time restrictions may also be in order. For those with asthma, emphysema, or other breathing difficulties, it seems unreasonable that they should have to endure wood fires burning next door most hours of most days. Still, most of the complaints we hear about are about fires that violate some portion of the City's existing recreational fire ordinance. This tells me that some of the problem is in compliance with the current ordinance and could be addressed with improved public education about the issue and better enforcement. Last spring we were able to include a mailing about this with our water bills. You can see the insert here: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/2010-meetings/20100514/Docs/RecreationalFires_INSERT.pdf This issue came up recently for a brief discussion at a recent Council Committee when we were reviewing our air quality sustainability indicator. In the months ahead I will be talking to colleagues, community members, and staff from both the Health and Regulatory as well as Fire department. I think that it would also be very helpful if the appropriate committees of our neighborhood organizations and our citywide Environmental and Public Health Advisory Committees would also be take the time review and weigh in on the issue. I am open to looking at possible changes both to the ordinance and to how we enforce it. It is clear to me that we, as a city, don't have a clear consensus about how to handle this issue. Perhaps, by sharing accurate, credible information and keeping the conversation going, we can find one. The conversation here may be one way to help do that. Thank you all so much for taking the time to write and read and care about our city. Cam Gordon Minneapolis City Council Member, Second Ward 673-2202, 296-0579 <email obscured> http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/ward2/ http://secondward.blogspot.com/
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