O'HARE — The chairwoman of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission will not follow a recommendation from the city's inspector general and give the leading anti-O'Hare noise group a seat on the commission.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson urged the Chicago Department of Aviation in January to give "established community groups full membership or advisory status" on the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, which was created in 1996 and charged with reducing the noise generated by planes using O'Hare Airport.
In a letter to Donald Walsh, the legal and legislative affairs leader of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, commission Chairwoman Arlene Juracek, who is also mayor of Mount Prospect, said she would not recommend the group be appointed as an advisory member of the 56-member commission.
Coalition "members are already represented by several [commission] members who belong to your community group as well as" the commission, Juracek wrote. "Please rest assured that the people's voices are being heard."
Ferguson said Tuesday he stood by his recommendation, which was based on an examinations of how other airports near major metropolitan airports handle citizen complaints about jet noise, including Los Angeles.
Coalition members have long pressed the O'Hare noise commission to be more responsive to citizen complaints and to pay more attention to the more than 4 million complaints filed in 2015.
Helen Rosenberg, a coalition leader, said Juracek's decision was not a surprise, saying the commission's leadership has "shown nothing but contempt for the coalition," which formed in 2012.
The group has led the fight against the $8.7 billion O'Hare Modernization Program, which sent hundreds of flights over areas of the Northwest Side like North Park, Jefferson Park Edgebrook, Edison Park and Norwood Park that heard little or no jet noise in previous years.
"God forbid you allow the people who are most adversely affected by this situation a seat at the table," Rosenberg said. "We have a right to be there."
In her letter to the coalition rejecting their request for a seat on the commission, Juracek said that the law that formed the commission in 1996 does not provide for "community membership."
But the coalition was granted an advisory role on the committee that developed the plan to rotate the runways used at night every week, as Juracek reminded coalition members in her letter.
The mayor praised Catherine Dunlap, who has represented the 41st Ward on the noise commission since 2011.
Members of the coalition said the proposal had the "potential" to change the terms of the debate over airport noise.
Members of the City Council's Progressive Reform Caucus and unions affiliated with the Service Employees International Union joined forces in May to introduce a measure that would ask voters in November whether Chicago's airports should be managed by an elected board rather than the mayor and his appointed aviation commissioner.
But the Council's Rules Committee picked three other advisory referendums to put on November's ballot, leaving no room for the airport control question to be put to voters. The full Council is expected to finalize the ballot lineup Wednesday.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: