In the mailbox
The Port of Portland is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants to "study" the noise problems created by its beloved Portland International Airport. So far the consultants have churned out a lovely six-page, three-color mailer reporting that, upon intensive application of their high-priced expertise, they have discovered that yes, the airplanes do make noise, and yes, the people who live below them don't like it. So far it has taken no fewer than six consulting firms to reach this profound conclusion.
But according to the brochure, this is only the beginning. More and more study will be done, with public meeting after public meeting, before a "noise compatibility program" is submitted to the federal government. If the federal government doesn't approve, I guess there will be even more study required.
I have not perused such a silly document -- nor witnessed such a grand waste of public money -- since my days as an activist against the nuclear waste dump at Hanford, Washington. There has been no shortage of consultants, studies, advisory committees, meetings, plans, and brochures up that way, either -- I have boxes and boxes of the stuff -- but the plain fact is, they don't know what to do with the waste, and they have blown billions of dollars screwing around with decades of plans and pilot projects that haven't worked. Fat-cat government contractors get rich talking to the public about how the quality of life has suffered, and will continue to suffer.
The Portland airport noise study is like the nuclear waste program -- an attempt to process to death a problem that won't go away. It's like the airport's noise abatement office. There's a number you're supposed to call to report egregious noise problems from the airport. But when you call, you spend 20 minutes on the phone with a guy who confirms to you that, yes, a noisy little Cessna went over your house at about 500 feet at 4:10 the other morning. That's it, thanks for calling.
As long as the airport attracts traffic, it will make noise. If the Port had the guts to establish a curfew, we could spend these tax dollars on schools and cops and mental health and food and shelter for the homeless. But it doesn't, so we don't. If the Port had had the sense to require the noisy littler planes to use the Port's Troutdale and Hillsboro airports, there would be far fewer complaints from densely populated urban neighborhoods. But they didn't, and so the complaints continue to roll in.
The other role of this high-priced study is a smokescreen for the Port's obvious agenda -- to condemn the two golf courses out around the airport for yet another expansion. Bigger, bigger, bigger airport -- that's what the Port people have always wanted during my nearly 25 years here. Already the consultants are setting us up for it:
The program... is part of ongoing efforts by PDX to reduce the effects of airport noise while continuing to operate a vital international airport in our growing community....As a veteran of the nuclear waste boondoggle, let me translate the six-page, three-color brochure for everybody: If you think the noise is bad now, just wait.
From the regional viewpoint, the [Study Advisory Committee] must balance the economic benefits of having a vibrant airport with maintaining the desired quality of life.
And you golfers out there in Northeast Portland, get your rounds in while you can.