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Case Studies in Airport/Stakeholder Communication 59 neighborhood without involving the neighborhood residents in the planning process. UMKC administrators learned that they must plan ahead and develop a good interactive relationship with the community before there is a crisis. They discovered that a public relations crisis can develop very quickly and be made much worse if management does not make intelligent pro- active decisions. Literature Review of Peer Industries Best Practices in the Airport Industry: An Assessment of Airport vs. Community Airport Community Involvement Efforts Communication Goals Airports and communi- In a paper written in 2005 by Melissa Burn, PhD candidate at the Institute for Conflict Analy- ties often have radi- sis and Resolution at George Mason University (12), the author reports that most airports have cally different goals for public involvement. strained relationships with their adjacent communities. Further, that the "reasons for the tension Most airports seek to include adverse impacts due to noise and other effects of airport operations, lack of under- convey information standing each side's concerns and interests, and insufficient public participation in airport about decisions that decision-making." (12, p. 1) already have been made, while the public The paper goes on to assess the culture that produces that reaction, analyzes the results of a seeks to have early survey of airport operators, consultants, and neighbors, and gives implications, conclusions and input to the making of recommendations. those decisions. Study Findings Because most airports are busy public facilities charged with responding to many different clients--airlines, general aviation users, passengers, elected officials, governmental regulators-- on a frequent basis, the effects of aircraft noise on the populations surrounding the airport are typically low on the airport managers radar screen. Burn reported that: Most airports "want to increase traffic so that revenues increase, bringing expanded staff levels, greater access to federal grants for infrastructure improvements, and a higher status within their particular city, state or regional bureaucracy." (12, p. 3) "Airports are like utilities, highly regulated and largely reactionary rather than proactive." (12, p. 2) Because the amount of population that is affected by aircraft noise is relatively small in com- parison to the total population served, airports see making noise more "as a necessary, though regrettable, part of doing business." (12, p. 3) Because airport staff members are usually "busy people with multiple competing demands on their time and attention, public dialogue is rarely a high priority." (12, p. 3) Public complaint about noise "becomes one of many things demanding the attention of the Airport operator." (12, p. 2) Given the different responsibilities airport management must face in operating their facili- ties, Burn found an inconsistency in the way airports became engaged with the public when they were faced with aviation crises. Their attitude has been to place public engagement on the back burner and not establish on-going relationships to help diffuse crises as they arise. The typical approaches airports use for public involvement are summarized here. "Airports tend to conduct public outreach as though the only purpose were to educate the public about reality from the airport's perspective, in an effort to persuade people to let the airport get on with its business." (12, p. 3)

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60 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations "There is often little attempt to create an ongoing, cooperative relationship that might require the airport to share decision making with the surrounding citizens." (12, p. 3) Because community members are "often poorly informed about how airports operate and what options are available," and have unrealistic expectations for change, "they are easily dismissed by busy airport managers." (12, p. 3) "Most of the time, airport efforts at community outreach are sporadic and tied to a specific project. . . ." (12, p. 4) "The most common tools include press releases and websites to disseminate news of study progress, public informational workshops, public hearings, and multiparty advisory commit- tees. Only a few airports use the dialogue mechanisms, such as advisory committees that include citizen representatives, and rarely continue them beyond the life of the specific study for which they were convened." (12, p. 4) "The general consensus among airports and the FAA is that these outreach programs need to be much more effective." (12, p. 4) Study Survey. The paper reports the results of a 2004 survey of airport operators, consul- tants, and neighbors to investigate conflicts over airport noise. The respondents were self-selected from a data base of aviation industry e-mail addresses, which included airport staff members, consultants, and interested individuals, as well as websites for citizen groups concerned with air- port noise and other issues. Some relevant findings of the survey include: Most airport public outreach programs are instituted as part of a clearly defined study or project. Two-thirds of the programs included public open house workshops. "The open house is typical of many airport outreach efforts in that it is designed to dissemi- nate information widely and truthfully, but lacks effective mechanisms for engaging the com- munity in a two-way dialogue." (12, p. 5) "Other examples of this one-way information flow include websites to post study progress reports, newspaper announcements and media broadcasts." (12, p. 5) If the relationship between the airport and its neighbors is good when a study/process begins, chances for success are higher. Where a prior relationship was reported to be good almost half of the respondents reported further improvement of the relationship during the study. Almost half of airport and consultant respondents thought the community had been given a meaningful role in decision making, where less than 10 percent of community members reported they had been given a meaningful role. This is an example of major disparities of per- ception found between the two groups. Factors in Airport/Community Conflict. Burn identifies the following characteristics con- tributing to airport/community conflict: ". . . airports and communities typically speak past one another about basic values, norms for what is acceptable in the public space, and what role local agencies and communities should have in airport decision making." (12, p. 6) "Airports must respond to other voices such as the FAA, the airlines and the traveling public; they often pay little attention to their immediate neighbors. As a result, they fail to engage their communities in dialogue about airport plans until after the plans have been adopted." (12, p. 6) ". . . communities become polarized over airport noise and the consequences of this polar- ization." (12, p. 6) ". . . once conflict patterns such as mistrust, ingroup-outgroup identification, reduced empa- thy for the interests of the other party, a sense of aggrieved rights, zero-sum thinking, and other effects take hold, continued conflict is practically inevitable." (12, p. 6)