Changes sought in O’Hare noise panel


Using a seldom-used rule, Indian Woods resident Donald Walsh recently filed an ordinance with the City Clerk’s Office that would allow civic organizations and aldermen whose wards are near an airport to participate as voting members on the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

"ONCC chair (Mount Prospect) Mayor Arlene Juracek said citizens’ views are already represented with their village and ward reps," Walsh said. "That’s simply not the case. Suburban reps and ward reps don’t necessarily represent what the most affected citizens believe and want, clearly seen in how much the 41st Ward residents want their alderman to represent them and are instead stuck with the mayor’s appointee.

"This ordinance allows groups like FAIR (the Fair Allocation In Runways coalition), Wood Dale’s O’Hare Noise Group and other groups to have a seat and a vote." The proposed ordinance also would give seats on the commission to those aldermen whose wards are located near O’Hare or Midway airports.

Walsh, who is the vice president of the Indian Woods Community Association, is a member of the leadership team of FAIR, which has been critical of the commission’s efforts to address problems with jet noise. The coalition has been seeking a representative on the commission and has supported the effort of Alderman Anthony Napolitano to get Mayor Rahm Emanuel to appoint him to the commission.

Walsh is the former 45th Ward member of the commission, but he lost his seat after the Indian Woods neighborhood was redistricted into the 39th Ward. Walsh was replaced on the commission by Alderman John Arena (45th).

Arena asked Emanuel to appoint him because he believed that the city should have an elected official on the commission, which includes several suburban mayors, according to Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh. Each Northwest Side ward has a representative on the commission, but Arena is the only alderman.

Walsh said that he hopes that City Council Aviation Committee chairman Alderman Michael Zalewski (23rd) will hold a hearing on the ordinance.

"I am filing this proposed ordinance as a private citizen today," Walsh said on July 1. "I hope an alderman or two will jump on board as a sponsor and help pass it so that our voices of the home owners, taxpayers, and citizens can be heard. Our voices are votes, and the elected officials better start listening."

Walsh said that a temporary overnight "Fly Quiet" program is the only noteworthy recommendation the city and the commission have made to address jet noise, which has led to millions of complaints a year since operations at O’Hare primarily diagonal runways to an east-west runway configuration. Under the program, the use of runways will be rotated from 11 a.m. to 5 a.m., but the program allows an exemption for cargo jets.

"We and our suburban neighbors are stuck with outrageous aircraft noise that is steadily destroying our health, communities, property values, quality of life," Walsh said. "The minimal responses by the current ONCC shows how little it or city officials care how the (O’Hare Modernization Project) is destroying our lives."