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82 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations · For small airports, hire community/public relations staff for the noise program. Small airports need community/public relations staff more than they need technical people. The aviation side of noise can be learned, but it is hard to teach an aviation expert community relations. Communication Techniques OSU Chose to Avoid in the future · Don't use airport staff as facilitators at controversial public meetings. · Don't react defensively to unreasonable public accusations. Summary OSU was selected as a case study airport because it is representative of many small general avia- tion airports that have seen their missions evolve over time, or hope to grow in the future by grow- ing corporate aviation traffic. The introduction of new very light jets will introduce jet noise into many more airports that have not previously experienced such events. Communities will react to their introduction. The lessons learned at OSU Airport are applicable to any smaller airport that faces such growth challenges either on the airport or by encroaching land uses. Further infor- mation and reference materials for OSU can be found among the best practices referenced in Chapter 4 and in the bibliography (located in the Toolkit), as well as on the airport's noise man- agement website at www.osuairport.org/NoiseManagement/. Education Industry--Crisis in the College/University Relationship with the Community: A Case Study (14) Airports often face the same issues as other institutions and can learn from their mistakes. A 2006 paper entitled, "Crisis in the College/University Relationship with the Community: A Case Study" (14) by Kathie A. Leeper and Roy V. Leeper is an illustration of a university experience similar to what airports that develop master plans for expansion also may encounter in dealing with their neighbors. The paper's abstract summarizes the findings: Crises can arise in relationships between colleges and universities and their surrounding communi- ties, especially when campuses need to grow. If these institutions have focused strictly on sending their mes- sages out rather than establishing two-way communication with important publics, they may suddenly find themselves embroiled in conflict and confronted with a crisis. Colleges and universities must rethink and restructure their communication and public relations functions to include two-way communication and community engagement as a means of avoiding certain crisis situations. (14, p. 129) The need for increased engagement between the airport and its stakeholders and neighbors is also the principal recommendation that this ACRP study has drawn after over 40 interviews with airports and their interest groups. Case Study Summary The case study, as reported in the 2006 paper, describes the dramatic events of June 1998 through May 1999, generally as reported in the Kansas City Star (The Star) newspaper. It began when the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) made unilateral public announce- ments regarding expansion into surrounding neighborhoods based on a master plan of which the public had no knowledge. The public reaction was furious and immediate and quickly became highly organized and highly visible. The case study describes how the situation unfolded, what the role of the media was, how the university changed and the public reacted, and compares it to a similar university master plan for expansion in an adjacent area with a very different process and result. In addition to the Leepers' paper, the authors of this document were involved in UMKC's eventual successful approach to reconciliation with the neighbor- hoods and add their perspective to this case study. UMKC is an urban university in Kansas City, Missouri, of 14,000 students primarily surrounded by residential development. Its locational
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Case Studies in Airport/Stakeholder Communication 83 situation is not unlike many urban airports. A chronological summary of major events related to the case study follow. The authors of this ACRP document, when employed by the Kansas City, Missouri's City Planning and Development Department, were involved in the "Afterwards" part of the process. They were requested by the University to help design and implement an effective two-way com- munications plan that would enable dialogue with the public and incorporate the importance of public engagement in decision making. Initially, a kick-off meeting was conducted in which community leaders and the university's new chancellor had the opportunity to meet and discuss the issues at hand. This meeting was opened to the public as a successful attempt to clear the air after the initial expansion plans were dropped, and began to restore UMKC's credibility with the community. At the meeting, groups were formed to discuss the best approach for the university to move forward and to establish a framework for dialogue between the parties (Table 5-1). Table 5-1. Dialogue framework. UMKC Administrative University Neighbors Action UMKC Staff Action and Public Reaction Timing First two weeks (June University Neighborhoods are 14-27, 1998) administration furious and get announces action and organized insists on its right to act autonomously, is inflexible, denies full knowledge of Master plan in the face of proof and shows insensitivity to the impacts of expansion. Next six weeks (July Involvement of Community reacts with 1 August 12, 1998): University systemwide skepticism first meeting leadership, self- with mediator justification but beginnings of call for dialogue Next six weeks Faculty enacts "no (Through October, confidence" vote for 1998): University Chancellor, based in part in their claim of no involvement in decision-making Next 3 months University Chancellor (Through January, announces retirement, 1999): still does not recognize the essential problem with the community and retires. Next 4 months Interim Chancellor (Through May, 1999): communicates, expansion plan is withdrawn Afterwards New Chancellor brings Neighborhoods work in the City of Kansas within the process to City planning staff to achieve mutually help craft a successful acceptable goals and new approach to development planning and working with neighborhoods
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84 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations With the feedback and ideas gathered from the kick-off meeting, the authors helped neigh- borhood and University leaders form a group of stakeholders that met monthly, which led to the development of UMKC's "Partners Project For Planning Master Plan". This land use and cam- pus planning document was written to document the new and improved collaborative planning process between the University and its surrounding community. UMKC also added an Office of Community and Public Affairs in 2003, with the goal of focus- ing on communication between the University and surrounding neighborhoods. The Office launched a website recognizing the importance of two-way communication with the public and building engaged relationships with key stakeholders. The Leepers' paper reviewed a contrasting illustration of how collaborative planning can reduce conflict by recounting nearby Rockhurst University's successful master planning and expansion process. The boundaries of Rockhurst University are within one to three blocks of UMKC in a number of locations. In late 1999, Rockhurst announced the successful conclusion of a year-long series of negotiations that resulted in agreement with the neighbors to expand, and would include purchase and demolition of 25 houses a project effort comparable to that desired by UMKC, but without the crisis in public relations and delays in progress. Key Issues. Several factors contributed to the size of and speed that the UMKC crisis arose and the difficulty encountered in resolving it. They include: · The University Administration's assumption of absolute autonomy. It assumed because it had a legal right to pursue its master plan, that it could proceed in secrecy without consideration for impacts on surrounding areas. · The University's failure to really listen to the community and insensitivity in speaking to the public. · The University's failure to be transparent about the Master Plan even as information was trick- ling out to the public. When the press and the public asked for information, it was denied. · The failure of University leadership to be willing spokespersons who would meet with the pub- lic. This gave the impression to the public that the leadership was afraid to take responsibility for University decisions. Eventually, it was a higher level of University system governance that moved to soften the University stance. · The University's seeming inability to develop a coordinated communications strategy for working with the media and the neighborhoods when it was clear that there was a crisis. · The University's failure to understand how fast a community can be organized. As the Leep- ers' paper said, "Failure to recognize the power of activist publics and the speed at which they can organize and develop may have led to UMKC's initial dismissal of the neighborhood as a public to be consulted." (6, p. 134) · The University's assumption that because they provided services to the public, were open to the public, and provided an economic benefit to the area, the public will perceive them to be community oriented. The Leepers say that the UMKC example demonstrates that is no longer sufficient. Findings. The "Conclusions" in this case study identify those techniques that worked for UMKC and those that failed as they attempted to move their development program through a public involvement crisis of their own making. These are specifically lessons that can be applied to any public service organization, including airports, that have impacts upon surrounding areas in any way. Communication Techniques That Worked for UMKC · Establish an ongoing relationship. The Leepers write ". . . the importance of establishing and maintaining a strong relationship with the community surrounding a college or university is clear."(14, p. 140) This also applies to airports.