Lack of communication raises concerns about 45th Ward delegate on O’Hare noise commission
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
When it comes to O’Hare noise issues, the 45th Ward is facing some static in communication, as Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th) is reportedly not receiving any feedback from current O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission ward designee and former alderman John Arena.
Residents have been asking if Arena will remain the 45th Ward’s designee on the commission’s technical and Fly Quiet committees, and if so, how can the current and former aldermen work together for the benefit of the ward? Concerns over the airport usually end up being directed to the local alderman’s office.
“I am aware that people would want him to be replaced with the alderman or who the alderman wants to select, but I do not at all have any say over who is on the ONCC,” commission chairwoman Arlene Juracek said. “(Arena) serves at the pleasure of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The mayor appoints the delegates and you serve until you are replaced. Nobody has appointed a replacement so at this point in time that delegate is former alderman John Arena.” The commission’s Web site also lists vacancies for city representatives from the 36th and 40th Wards.
“That would not be the best scenario,” Gardiner said in an interview about working with the former alderman. “With the changing of the guard in the city we need the changing of the guard in the 45th Ward on that commission,” he said.
Gardiner said that he would either make a suggestion for a replacement or take the post himself, but he has not heard from Mayor Lightfoot or what she might do.
Lightfoot’s press office has not returned several calls asking for comment.
Arena said in a text message that he has “served at the pleasure of the mayor, first Rahm Emanuel and now Lori Lightfoot, as the 45th Ward representative on the ONCC since 2015.” He said that he has worked to educate and advocate for a fair rotation plan to help alleviate aircraft noise and “as a result we are poised to adopt the most comprehensive nighttime runway rotation plan in the country.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to implement an interim “Fly Quiet” plan at O’Hare from November to May of 2020 and from September of 2020 to January of 2021. The plan will be impacted by airfield construction projects, which will result in reverting to the existing Fly Quiet program during those periods. The noise commission is working on its “Fly Quiet 21” program, which may become a permanent fixture at the airport once the O’Hare Modernization Plan is completed and full build-out is reached.
“I have offered to meet with Ald. Gardiner on more than one occasion but unfortunately (that) has not been scheduled,” Arena said. “I am sure that as he acclimates to his new role he will find some time to meet with me. I remain open to continue to educate our constituents on the opportunity to positively affect the quality of life for residents.”
However, Gardiner said the opposite was true.
“That has not happened. It’s ironic because I’ve seen him at the ONCC meeting this morning (Aug. 20) and we talked briefly, but since day one, there was no transition. No paperwork handed over on any issue. Nothing. There has been little to no communication in regards to anything.
“During the entire transition we’ve gotten zero information from him,” Gardiner said. He said that the former alderman walked into his office once it was set up and dropped off some mail and said “This is no longer my job.”
“Which was fine. But it’s unfortunate because the community feels the brunt of the lack of communication the most. And it’s not just about the O’Hare noise issues, but about schools, parks and most importantly development. I am willing to move forward and just want to continue to work for my constituents in the 45th Ward. You cannot live in the past,” Gardiner said.