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#EastBoston

Guest Editorial: 

The LIAG left a lot to be desired, namely, fairness. 

by Magdelana Ayed

Once again, East Boston residents stand alone in defending against airport expansion.

I was invited to participate in the Logan Impact Advisory Group (LIAG) representing the Maverick Association of Residents and felt this group was in fact designed not to encourage discussion of airport proposals, but to short-circuit it while making the appearance that a formal group had weighed the facts and voted on approved mitigation projects.

Since Massport has chosen to promote the LIAG in the local newspapers through a series of full page advertisements, I am responding in this op-ed.

In writing this, I have consulted with AIR INC., the community group which had organized the community effort resulting in 240 letters of comment during the official comment period last year to stop the Terminal E Project, creating the opportunity for the LIAG the first place.

It should be known that after initially stopping the expansion projects, Massport ignored AIR INC.’s invitation to address airport health impacts in partnership.

Instead, Port Authority officials met with our elected officials with no community input and planned the Logan Impact Advisory Group (LIAG). Massport sent invitations to the leaders of 8 groups:

Eagle Hill Civic Association;
Gove Street Neighborhood Association;
the Greenway Council;
Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association;
Maverick Area Residents Association;
Piers Pac;
the Orient Heights Neighborhood Association
AIR INC.,

As well as representatives of

the East Boston Chamber of Commerce; Main Streets;
the East Boston Health Center;
Boston Transportation Department; and
the Office of Neighborhood Services.

Over the summer, without the benefit of a defined process, without independent briefings on their contested technical claims, without a regular meeting schedule, without agendas and without providing any advance materials prior to meetings, the Logan Impact Advisory Committee met at the Logan Office Center on 4 or 5 occasions.

At the first meeting, Massport officials Jose Massó and Flavio Leo repeated the airport’s one-sided facts, reiterating claims which residents had rejected in community rooms across East Boston over the previous year.

While two of the 8 community groups deal with airport issues, neither was offered the chance to give additional environmental facts and perspectives as briefing materials. This assured that LIAG discussions would be based on Massport’s one-sided facts which have been discredited by community activists and environmental groups.

In the second meeting, invitees were led through a process of listing mitigation ideas. While this may seem fair, it was not. Without discussion of the proposed 30% increase in flights (at least 28 of which will be between the hours of 10:00pm and 5:00am), without discussion of the proposed 10 million more passengers by 2030, most of whom will drive, without discussion of the health impacts that will continue to spread through our community and into our homes, and without the input of our airport activist community, our civic leaders were not given the facts.

Before the next meeting, as I recall, the AIR INC. invitees’ requests for: funding for the Blue to Red Connector Design and a Regional Airport Planning Initiative were removed from the list at Massport’s request, with Massport Officials saying they were not practical. In the third meeting, a final list was presented and LIAG members were instructed to vote for their top choices. The LIAG was not given meeting minutes with the final list to review ahead of time and did not see that list until the meeting when we had to actually vote. Yet the elected officials had a copy of that list ahead of time. I pointed this out to Representative Madaro and he apologized but also did not offer to correct the offense.

The 'orange dot voting' process used was skewed. Asking residents to vote on mitigation 'benefits' when we never even had an opportunity to discuss how airport impacts and expansion would affect our community is wrong. Likewise, asking our elected officials to design complicated engagement processes about areas which they themselves are not expert on is also unfair. That Massport would attempt to mislead East Boston’s elected officials’ and sidestep the community process and input of the previous year is also sadly no surprise.

In the end, the LIAG mitigation package created was unfair and insufficient. It offers East Boston a park it had promised decades ago and funding for a Boston Senior Center the city should support. The LIAG package includes many promises: to improve Logan Express and the Silver Line, soundproof 100 more houses, support Hubway in East Boston and take part in ‘a dialogue’ about water transportation –but all of these are things they should be doing anyway to mitigate the noise, traffic congestion, air pollution and blight the airport already causes in our family neighborhood and they won’t be good enough to reduce the spread of disease in our neighborhoods.

While the LIAG mitigation offers the community greater access to Massport’s pocketbook, it fails to create avenues to real reductions in impacts that will make our families healthier. In fact, it makes way for the massive increases in noise, traffic and pollution which will cause equally large increases in childhood and elderly chronic respiratory disease for generations to come.

In all of this, the most disappointing thing is that I have just learned of the Massport Subsidy Program, which was put in place in 2014 to provide subsidies to major international airline carriers and lure them to provide stops at Logan, thereby increasing flights to Logan Airport. In other words, back in 2014 and possibly before, Massport was soliciting and courting major airlines so that they would expand their stops to Boston but yet they claimed in 2015, and thereafter justified to the Commonwealth in 2016 that they needed to expand Terminal E to accommodate an increase in flights and passengership.

How can we trust Massport if this deceit was carried out? Why should we conclude that this LIAG was anything but an attempt to create the appearance of a fair process in an effort to manufacture a vote of confidence for Airport Expansion?

In the last meeting, representatives from numerous community-based LIAG groups informed Massport and our elected officials that we were not comfortable bringing this list of mitigation ideas forward as package in return for expansions. No matter. These concerns were disregarded. And without the consent of these LIAG community members, Massport has taken the great liberty of announcing a meeting in which it will report back to the community regarding the LIAG process.

That our elected officials could be convinced to participate in and lend credibility to the LIAG, is understandable: it is not their job or area of expertise to design modern reflective and participatory engagement processes. That Massport would attempt to mislead East Boston’s elected officials’ and sidestep the community process and input of the previous year is also sadly no surprise.

Magdalena Ayed is the Tenant Leader for the Maverick Association of Residents

Submitted 10/7/2016










 

 

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