Airport-noise group with local links honors Minneapolis

  • Article by: Steve Brandt
  • Star Tribune
  • August 13, 2008 - 5:24 PM

Dateline Minneapolis concedes we were skeptical about the recent airport noise kudos given to the city of Minneapolis and Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy.

It's not a knock on the city's airport noise settlement last year. Or on Colvin Roy's success in winning further research into airport noise and environmental issues.

Rather, we noticed that the announcement by an organization known as NOISE came from the Washington office of the Lockridge Grindal Nauen law firm. The firm is the city's lobbyist on federal matters, and NOISE executive director Dennis McGrann is the Lockridge firm's lead attorney for its city contract. So it's hardly an arms' length relationship.

"It seems like a pretty small world," Colvin Roy conceded. But she noted that the group has been around for much longer than her three terms on the council.

NOISE (National Organization to Insure a Sound-controlled Environment) is made up largely of cities affected by airports. It cited Colvin Roy as its 2008 environmental steward. Minneapolis was named community of the year for the package of airport noise-dampening work that it won last year with Richfield and Eagan. The choices were announced at the group's annual symposium held -- where else? -- at an airport hotel near Dulles International Airport in suburban Washington.

Colvin Roy, currently the president of NOISE, is eager to talk about the potential results of a noise research program at the FAA that she and former Congressman Martin Sabo, D-Minn., worked to establish. It has enlisted top research institutions in 25 research projects.

Colvin Roy attended her first meetings on airport noise in 1996, the year before she ran for office. When she and her husband bought their Nokomis-area home in 1988, she checked airport noise maps and chose a less-loud area, betting that the international airport would be shifted to Rosemount.

That didn't happen, and cities brought suit to force the Metropolitan Airports Commission to live up to what they said were noise-insulation commitments. Colvin Roy said her prime goal was staving off deterioration in high-noise areas of the ward. While doorknocking during her 1997 campaign, she noticed that the area south of Lake Nokomis and west of 28th Avenue S. was increasingly turning rental as the homeowners fled jet noise. Their left-behind homes weren't always left in capable hands.

Colvin Roy's house doesn't stand to gain much from the noise settlement. It falls into the lowest priority area and may merit about $3,000 for noise-dampening work.

On a related note, the city is moving to expand its lobbying presence in Washington. It will keep the Lockridge firm at its current level of at least $48,000 and add the huge D.C. firm of Patton Boggs for up to $144,000 to seek budgetary earmarks and grants.

Gene Ranieri, who oversees city lobbying, said the added firepower is being sought for two reasons. One is the retirement of 28-year veteran Sabo, succeeded by first-termer Keith Ellison, and the other is a change of presidential administrations in January.

Black like thee

When Alex Jackson was confirmed as fire chief of Minneapolis last month, Council Member Ralph Remington eloquently praised Mayor R.T. Rybak but used the occasion to call on the city to fill other department head spots with black candidates.

He said he'd like to see a black police chief someday, a black development director, a black city coordinator, a black city attorney ...

Oops! Long before Remington was elected in 2005, Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton appointed Surell Brady to be city attorney. Last time we looked, Brady was black. She was appointed in 1994 and resigned two years later.

Quote ... Unquote

Former Council Member Judy Corrao, who returned for the city's sesquicentennial in July, was asked about the difference between being on and off the City Council. She answered in terms that will strike a chord with any recovering parent:

"It's like when you're the parent, you're so worried about your kid. And then you're the grandparent and you don't worry."

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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