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Put Anti-Noise Group On O'Hare Commission, NW Side Man's Proposed Law Says

 Don Walsh used the little-known law to bypass the usual requirement that an alderman sponsor a new law.
Don Walsh used the little-known law to bypass the usual requirement that an alderman sponsor a new law.
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Flickr/Aero Icarus; Submitted photo

EDGEBROOK — A measure introduced this week to the City Council would give the leading anti-O'Hare noise group a seat on the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

But it wasn't sponsored by any of the 50 aldermen.

Instead, Indian Woods resident Don Walsh, the legal and legislative affairs leader of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, took advantage of a little-known provision in city law to submit the measure himself directly to the office of City Clerk Susana Mendoza.

Walsh's measure would follow a recommendation from the city's inspector general and give the coalition — as well as a suburban anti-noise group — seats on the board charged with alleviating O'Hare Airport noise by changing the city law that formed the commission in 1996.

Heather Cherone on the latest in the noise battles at O'Hare.

In addition, the measure would give Northwest Side aldermen automatic membership on the commission.

Without any aldermanic support — and the all-but-certain opposition from the mayor's office — the measure faces an uncertain future at City Hall.

"I hope an alderman or two will jump on board as a sponsor and help pass it so that our voices of the homeowners, taxpayers and citizens can be heard," Walsh said. "Our voices are votes, and the elected officials better start listening.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month rejected a request from 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano — whose ward includes the airport — to appoint him to the commission.

Catherine Dunlap has represented the 41st Ward on the noise commission since 2011.

Noise commission Chairwoman Arlene Juracek, who is also mayor of Mount Prospect, said she would not recommend community groups be given seats on the 56-member commission.

Group members are already represented on the board, and are free to comment at the end of each meeting, which typically take place on the first Friday of each month, Juracek said. The full commission is not scheduled to meet again until September.

But Walsh said the group's voices are not being heard.

"Suburban [representatives] and ward [representatives] don’t necessarily represent what the most affected citizens believe and want, clearly seen in how much the 41st Ward residents want their alderman to represent them and are instead stuck with the mayor’s appointee," Walsh said.

Napolitano asked residents of the 41st Ward this week to sign a petition designed to pressure the mayor into appointing him to the noise commission. More than 1,500 people have signed the petition, which is set to be delivered to Emanuel on Thursday.

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.

In October 2013, a new east-west runway opened as part of the $8.7 billion O'Hare Modernization Program, sending 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.

That incensed many residents, who have inundated both elected officials and the city's official complaint hotline with more than 500,000 complaints since the beginning of the year.

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