Jet noise discussed at debate
by BRIAN NADIG
The three candidates challenging Alderman John Arena for 45th Ward alderman discussed their concerns about jet noise at a debate on Feb. 5.
John Garrido, Michelle Baert and Michael Diaz attended the debate at Hitch School, 5625 N. McVicker Ave., while Arena was attending a grand opening event for Community Tavern, 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.
Garrido said that Arena did a poor job of warning residents about the increase in jet noise that would occur with the opening of new runways as part of 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 for solutions to the jet noise issue.
"The planes are getting louder and louder and more frequent," Garrido said.
Garrido and Baert have signed a letter of support for the coalition, while Arena submitted a letter which partially supports the coalition’s positions, and the group decided that it did not qualify as an endorsement of its activities. Diaz said at the debate that he will "sign on" with FAIR within 24 hours.
Garrido said that the noise problem will worsen when an east-west runway that lines up with Berteau Avenue opens this fall, followed by the expected removal of an existing diagonal runway. He said that the city should work with state and federal lawmakers to preserve the diagonal runways at O’Hare in order to allow for a fairer distribution of flight paths over the Chicago and suburbs.
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 receives coverage from noise monitors along or near the ward’s border, as "noise doesn’t know boundaries," an Arena campaign spokesman said after the debate. Arena has said that he or a member of his staff attends meetings of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission and that he supports the efforts of Chicago-area congressmen to hold new 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 President Barack Obama, for whom he served as chief of staff, in an effort to get the Federal Aviation Administration to address the concerns of residents. He said that Arena has such a poor relationship with Emanuel that it is difficult for him to lobby the mayor on behalf of the ward’s residents.
Arena is a member of the Progressive Caucus in the City Council, which often is at odds with Emanuel on issues.
Some of the candidates chided Arena for not attending the debate.
Garrido said that the restaurant opening started 2 hours before the debate and that it was "disappointing" that the alderman could not find the time to attend the event. "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.
A statement by Arena that was read at the debate 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 organizing the debate.