Park Ridge mayor wants head of noise commission to resign

Written By Rosalind Rossi Posted: 08/05/2014, 05:17pm

The mayor of Park Ridge has jumped into the fray over the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, saying its chairwoman should resign because she represents a suburb that will benefit from flight path changes that have bombarded other areas with new jet noise.

Park Ridge’s Dave Schmidt is the first mayor to publicly join the Fair Allocation in Runways coalition in calling for the resignation of noise commission chairwoman Arlene Mulder, who had served as mayor of Arlington Heights for 20 years, until 2013.

As one of 52 members of the commission, Mulder represents a suburb that will see far less noise once O’Hare’s $8 billion runway overhaul is completed, Schmidt told the Chicago Sun-Times.

RELATED: Citizens group raises uproar over O’Hare noise panel

By 2020, a diagonal runway aimed at Arlington Heights is due to be decommissioned, Schmidt said, so Mulder has “no dog in the hunt.’’

Meanwhile, Schmidt said, Mulder is “far too chummy” with the Chicago Department of Aviation, which proposed the runway changes, and the Federal Aviation Administration, which approved the city’s plan in 2005 after four public hearings  — none of which were held in locations due to experience onerous increases in jet noise.

“She has turned the ONCC into a lap dog for the Chicago Department of Aviation,’’ Schmidt said. 

“Those of us living east of the airport wonder who is standing up for us, because I don’t think it’s Mulder” Schmidt added. “She has absolutely no incentive to see the plan change because ultimately, the plan is for the runways that are pointed at Arlington Heights to be decommissioned.’’

Mulder said Monday she has the same single vote as every other commission member. Arlington Heights, she said, is still affected by O’Hare noise.

Mulder said she only sees FAA and Chicago Department of Aviation officials at Commission meetings. Schmidt, she said, is “misrepresenting my attempts to be respectful” to them at those meetings.

“Chummy? No,’’ Mulder said. “I don’t do anything social [with them].”

 Jac Charlier, a leader of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, last week called for Mulder’s resignation, saying the Noise Commission under her watch has “failed” in its mission of advocating for residents impacted by O’Hare jet noise.

Such noise has triggered growing attention since October, when O’Hare switched from using mostly crisscrossing, diagonal runways pointed at the suburbs to mostly parallel ones pointed to the east and west of the airport as part of the O’Hare overhaul. Even more parallel runways are due to be added by the project’s projected 2020 completion.

The move is supposed to reduce delays in all weather while increasing capacity. It also will ultimately bring at least 98.9 percent of all arrivals into O’Hare on parallel runways that point at Chicago, FAA data predicts.

Even now, Northwest Side Chicago residents have been howling about jet noise they say they never anticipated. One of them has bemoaned the “highway over our heads” in a You-Tube video and song.

After the big October switch, monthly noise complaints from Chicago residents skyrocketed by nearly 250 percent from April 2013 to April 2014, according to the most recent city aviation department data. In Park Ridge, they jumped 60 percent in that period.

Mulder became chair of the Noise Commission within a year of its 1996 creation by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. The group supervises a massive city and suburban sound insulation program, monitors attempts to reduce nighttime noise over residential areas, and “partners” with various aviation officials to reduce jet noise, one of its other officials said.

Mulder was re-elected unanimously in March at a meeting attended by 31 of the 52 commission members. Park Ridge’s representative did not attend, minutes show.

Critics say the commission has no real power, except for its ability to collect data. They contend it should be actively taking advisory positions that reflect the opinions of its members and the impact of new jet noise. 

Mulder has insisted the commission has worked hard on jet noise issues. Over the years it has urged the FAA to reconsider the formula for determining what level of noise should warrant sound insulation, and the FAA is now doing so, she said. It also successfully pushed to put a night “curfew” on the new northern-most parallel runway, which most affects Park Ridge, Mulder said.

Schmidt said the “curfew” is voluntary and Park Ridge is still impacted by jets that use other runways and fly over Park Ridge. Just Monday night, Schmidt said, there were jets flying over Park Ridge every one-to-two minutes.

Mulder is a “career politician and bureaucrat” who is minimizing her power as chair, Schmidt said.

“She sets the agenda and runs the meetings. That’s a lot more than one vote,’’ Schmidt said. “If she and I have the same power, then let me chair the meetings and she can have her one vote and see how she likes it.’’

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