SMAAC's 2017 Fall Forum Report

Minneapols Mayoral Candidates Survey

SMAAC's 2017 Fall Forum ran as a Blog for 6 weeks (Oct 15 to Nov 7, City Election Day). During this period,  the 6 pages were opened more than 500 times per day (22,681 views).

In mid August, 12 of the filed candidates were contacted [See Note 1.] and 9 agreed to answer questions about MSP [See Note 2].

A panel of voters reviewed the candidates' answers “blind” (a number rather than a name) as a start for the Forum/Blog. The panelists "read through" the candidates' answers as an essay.

One thing that emerged was a frequent reference to "openess and transparency," but little objection to the postponement of public hearings and EAs, or MAC meetings inside MSP security (without discussion on the record). And, based on the history of noise complaints around MSP, the panel looked for comments about noise metrics and mitigation measures, but did not find them. The panel, almost unanimously, ranked the responding candidates in this order: Ron Lischeid, Tom Hoch, Betsy Hodges, Troy Benjegerdes, and Jacob Frey


The 2013 Converging Runway Operations safety order drastically reduced MSP maximum airport flight operaions per hour. The last MSP LTCP Update, in 2010, did not reflect changes made after the September 2010 near-mid-air collision; Met Council approved the update on the condition that changed operations would be included in the 2014 Update (for 2015 to 2035). Meanwhile,  $millions in MSP capital improvements were undertaken in 2011 to 2017 without a LTCP Public Hearing by Met Council or an Environmental Assessment. The MSP 2018 capital budget for LTCP projcts is proposed at $81 million, but no date has been set for public hearings at Met Council. The amount spent by Federal agencies (FAA) is staggering, given that no finalization of the Converging Runways Operations planned operations per hour max and then cost of the needed safety has yet been announced publicly.

Generations of South Minneapolis residents have been subjected to health risks from overflight noise and air pollution. Compromises were made about operational safety as increases in peak-hour opeations at MSP were made in consecutive MSP expansions in the 1970s’, 80s’ and 90’s. Minneapolis and State government agreements with the Federal Aviation Administration to expand MSP deny that carbon emissions from commercial aviation add to climate change and other public health problems.

The issues raised by our Mayor Election Survey need ongoing attention through the Metropolitan Airports Commission member appointed by the Mayor.  The City's central policy for MSP support economic growth. This is complicated by public health and safety issues. The Mayor's MAC Commissioner should speak vigorously and often on behalf of the thousands of impacted City residents. 

MSP is a major source of GHG and particulate air pollution.  An estimated 0.5% of all US carbon emission to the atmosphere are from MSP operations, more that some of the largest coal-fired power plants.
The noise settlement is a positive but insufficient response to increased overflights at MSP from 2007 to 2014. Noise exposure modeling did not reveal the fact that louder flights were a consequence of the late 2010 to 2014 because more routes were added.
Modeling also fails to show how peak-hour flights increase ground noise by often reducing the rate of ascent for safety at peak-hours.
The Mayor's MAC Commissioner should champion safe, sufficient and affordable air transportation for local passengers [Note 3]. MSP capital expenditures --financed by airport revenue and enterprise bond --are a key reason local passengers pay premium fares and more airport fees --for capacity beneficial mainly to connecting passengers. This disparity has significant negative effects on economic growth: MSP capacity is more costly to build and maintain as a busy hub and the costs are passed on to Origin and Destination (O&D) passengers as higher fares. The hub operations have grown as a percentage of daily flights not only requiring more flight capacity at peak hours but also increasing MSP operations and facilities costs to keep up.

Survey Questions:

Air and Ground SafetyDid you know, before being contacted by SMAAC, that MSP’s Airport Layout Plan (ALP) was limited by an FAA Safety order in July 2013 and since then several changes to maximum hourly use of MSP Runways have been locally proposed and rejected by the FAA Safety Office several times?  

MSP Expansion. Is it in the City’s interest that more MSP Expansion as a major connecting hub be scheduled for a public hearing and environmental review? Are safety, environmental protection, affordability and economic growth equally important? 

Public Health. Do you think the Mayor’s MAC Commissioner should insist on Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAWs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for CIP projects that increase or detrimentally change overflights? Do you think the City should seek legislation that makes the MAC’s EAW and EIS findings subject to review and to appealable approval by another local government unit (LGU)?

Forecasted Need. The MAC’s long-term plan is to build up MSP to support its 2035 passenger forecast. How should the costs and fares be reviewed as to Minnesota economic growth needs?  

Delayed Long-Term Plan. Do you think the MSP 2015-2017 CIP funding approvals by Met Council were appropriate absent the LTCP update? If they were not, what actions should the Mayor or the Mayor’s appointed Commissioner suggest?

The Mayor's CommissionerWhat is the role of the Mayor-appointed Commissioner? What qualifications would you want your appointee to demonstrate?


NOTE 1. Some candidates were unreachable using the information given when they filed.

NOTE 2. We recieved only 5 sets of answers, but we reported the names of all nine candidates who wee sent the survey.

NOTE 3. Higher fares and more congestion has ill effects on economic growth: destination passengers are business partners and customers; origin passengers are often business travelers.  Jobs that require travel (example, field engineers, salespersons, attorneys, etc.)  are sited where air travel is both frequent and affordable. At a hub like MSP, affordable same-week reserations are scarce. 


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