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Editorial: Emanuel's own airport delay finally ends

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks after the commissioning of runway 10R-28L at O'Hare Airport in Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to finally meet with aggrieved citizens sick of O’Hare Airport jet noise is a wise one, even if it’s mostly driven by a renewed effort to get friendly with ordinary Chicagoans.

For three years, the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition has been asking for a chance to sit down with the mayor, but until now, he’s said no. Last week, he changed his mind. City Hall says he’s looking forward to the conversation.

The citizens want to make sure he understands what the ear-splitting jets filling the air over their homes are like. The number of jets has increased significantly in some neighborhoods as part of an O’Hare modernization project.

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The mayor has steadily supported airport expansion, which brings in tourists and business travelers, helping Chicago’s economy.

But that doesn’t mean the mayor should ignore airport complaints or that there is no sensible way to reduce noise.

Emanuel has any number of other big issues to juggle, including Friday’s administrative layoffs at the Chicago Public Schools, battles with Springfield and the continuing fallout over the Laquan McDonald scandal. But minimizing airport noise, to the extent this is practical, is fundamental the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of long-suffering Chicagoans and suburbanites.

Some efforts are underway. Last summer, the city announced it would rotate flights to different runways at night to spread out the noise. The O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission is working up a plan to do that. The commission also wants to expand a program that routes flights over expressways, industrial areas and forest preserves to keep it quieter in residential areas.

No doubt, Emanuel will spend part of the meeting talking about what he’s already accomplished. But he just might learn something more. That’s what meeting face to face is all about.

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