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CHAPTER 2 Need for Building Relationships This chapter helps the airport manager review why to embrace building relationships and a public/customer service approach in airport communications. It introduces how other institu- tions, including universities with the need to expand, have learned their lesson about the impor- tance of listening to the public. Too often airports are faced with a lawsuit or an angry crowd that unexpectedly appears at a routine public meeting. Airport staff representatives then often wish they had a trusting, long- term relationship with the public. The time to develop that relationship is much, much earlier than in the middle of a crisis. Legal/Administrative Requirements for Public Contact In aviation, federal requirements for communication with the public are minimal. They are generally limited to informal public workshops, scoping meetings, or a formal hearing as part of some environmental processes, such as the Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study or an Environ- mental Impact Statement. Airports typically do what state or federal law or local policy require of them -- advertise in the local paper, post a notice in a public place, hold a formal hearing, or notify property owners when necessary. While these efforts provide an opportunity for discus- sion, they may represent little more than one step in a process required to gain project approval, rather than a chance to enhance constructive engagement. Airports often operate with a high level of autonomy in making decisions about what happens on the airport, so long as those decisions do not create adverse impacts on the areas beyond its boundary. When they choose to develop airport property for non-aviation uses, airports may not be subject to the same standards of notification, coordination with community groups, plan- ning commission review, and council hearings as private developers are impelled to undertake when developing adjacent properties. What involvement does the public expect? Because an airport acts like other governmental institutions and may have direct relationships with local government, the public tends to per- ceive it as a public asset that should have the same type of openness in its planning and develop- ment as is required of other public entities and other transportation organizations. At the same time, airports operate under various administrative structures. Some are city departments, some are agencies whose boards are appointed by the mayor or other elected officials, and some operate as independent authorities. In most cases, airport funding comes from user fees and federal sources and is only supplemented by local taxes, if local funding is received at all. 10