I spoke at the CBJ Assembly meeting Monday night to express my disappointment with the failure of flightseeing mediation. Despite the position of the hired consulting firm, Triangle Associates of Seattle, failure of mediation cannot be blamed on those who chose not to participate. Rather, failure was due to the decision to hire Triangle in the first place. Had the Forest Service employed an Alaska firm for mediation, the noise issue might have been resolved by now.
Triangle's litany of excuses for deadlock and subsequent failure are just silly. Justice Rabinowitz confirmed that a few months ago in his ruling on open meetings. Meanwhile, more and more public money gets thrown at the problem of flightseeing noise in Juneau with no resolve in sight for 2001 or 2002.
For instance, the helicopter operators don't plan on quiet technology any time soon, as we learned Monday at the CBJ Policy and Planning meeting. Also, no one wants to study or discuss solutions to flightseeing noise unless they are paid huge amounts of money. Last year's noise study cost $100,000, and we also learned on Monday that the 2001 noise study by Michael Baker will not include tests on heliport sites with real helicopters. They propose to 'model' the noise and collect another $98,000.
Another tourism request that really takes the cake is one by Princess Tours that the CBJ pay $300,000 this year for electrical improvements so their cruiseships can plug-in to a private dock. The reason that Princess will plug-in this year is the consistent air compliance problem they had all of 2000 with their ship, Island Princess.
The problem I have with the $300,000 gift to Princess is that we are paying for improvements to the Franklin dock, a private facility; a business that deprives the CBJ of cruise ship tonnage tax.
I support necessary improvements to city-owned docks, but the prospect of giving a $300,000 refund of head taxes to a company's private dock for electrical improvements, a dock that in effect is owned by the local electrical company, AEL&P, is outrageous. I do understand the tie-in to public relations with Princess on their many newspaper ads, but I also know that $300,000 buys a heck of a lot of full-page advertising.
In conclusion, many Juneau residents want the issue of flightseeing noise addressed and resolved in 2001. Thus far, the Assembly has deferred the issue to a host of non-resident consultants, modelers, listeners and attorneys who have not produced viable solutions to lessen summer flightseeing noise. It's time to stop pitching head tax money at every study notion that pops up and start working directly with the Forest Service and all the operators to either decrease the total number of flights or find suitable, consolidated flight locations that solve Juneau's flightseeing noise problem.
Chip Thoma is community activist concerned about flightseeing noise.