Jet noise discussed at 45th Ward aldermanic debate at Hitch School


At a Feb. 5 debate, the three candidates challenging Alderman John Arena (45th) outlined their concerns about the jet noise problems facing area residents.

Candidates John Garrido, Michelle Baert and Michael Diaz attended the debate at Hitch School, while Arena was away at a grand opening event for Community restaurant, 4038 N. Milwaukee Ave. The debate, which was sponsored by the Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce, was moderated by Hitch teacher Ray Kinzie, and students asked the questions.

“The planes are getting louder and louder and more frequent,” Garrido said.

Garrido charged that Arena did a poor job of warning the community of the increase in jet noise that it would experience from the O’Hare Airport modernization project and that Arena should have fully supported the Fair Allocation In Runways coalition. The group consists of community groups which advocate solutions to the jet noise issue.

According to the coalition, Garrido and Baert have signed a letter of support for the coalition, but Arena submitted a letter which partially supports the coalition’s positions, and the group decided that it did not qualify as an overall endorsement of its activities. Diaz said at the debate that he will “sign on” with FAIR within 24 hours.

The noise problem will worsen for the area when an east-west runway over Berteau Avenue opens this fall, followed by the expected removal of an existing diagonal runway, Garrido said. The city needs to work with state and federal lawmakers to preserve all of the existing diagonal runways at O’Hare Airport in order to allow for a fairer distribution of flight paths over the Chicago and suburbs, he said.

Baert praised FAIR for “beating the drums” on the issue and said that the coalition helped to encourage American Airlines to retire its fleet of older and louder jets 10 years ahead of schedule. “We are suffering on a daily basis,” she said of the noise.

Baert said that she was disappointed that the 45th Ward did not receive one of the eight additional jet noise monitors which the city plans to install. “Unfortunately our alderman did not stand up for us,” she said.

The 45th ward does receive coverage from noise monitors along or near the ward’s border, as “noise doesn’t know boundaries,” an Arena campaign spokesman said. Arena has said that he or a member of his staff attend meetings of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission and that he supports the efforts of Chicago area congressmen to open new federal hearings on the O’Hare runway project.

Diaz said that one of best resources that the city has on the noise issue is Mayor Rahm Emanuel and that the ward’s alderman should be lobbying the mayor to call his friend and former boss, President Barack Obama, in an effort to get the Federal Aviation Administration to better address the city’s concerns. He said that Arena has developed such a poor relationship with the mayor that it is difficult for Arena to lobby the mayor on behalf of the ward’s constituents.

Arena is a member of the Progressive Caucus, which is often at odds with Emanuel on key issues.

Also, some of the candidates chided Arena for not attending the debate.

Garrido said that the restaurant’s grand opening started two hours before the debate and that it was “disappointing” that the alderman could not find the time to address the Gladstone Park community. “That speaks volumes,” Garrido said.

Diaz said that Arena’s decision to miss the debate is an example of how he “only focuses on Six Corners,” the shopping district where the restaurant is located.

In a statement read at the debate, Arena said that he was “sorry he couldn’t be here tonight to hear his challenger’s ideas and share his ideas for the next 4 years with you. As alderman, he has duties which include welcoming new businesses to our neighborhoods.”

Editor’s note: As a member of the chamber, Nadig Newspapers participated in the organization of the debate.