Mulder won't seek re-election to O'Hare noise commission

  • Arlene Mulder

    Arlene Mulder

Updated 1/9/2015 10:14 PM

Former Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder won't seek re-election as head of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

Mulder's surprise announcement Friday that she is stepping down comes as noise from jets is causing a public uproar in communities affected by a new runway layout.


"It's the right time for me and the right time for the commission," Mulder told the Daily Herald. "There are newly impacted people and maybe they should be empowered."

Mulder's exit to spend more time with her family after serving as chairman since 1997 leaves a vacancy for what some call a job no one wants.

As data released Friday shows, airplane noise complaints shot up to 30,748 in November 2014 compared to 4,763 in November 2013. Most of the calls came from Chicago followed by Norridge, Wood Dale and Bensenville.

"You get the slings and arrows," Schiller Park Village President Barbara Piltaver said of the position. "... It's a lot of dedication and hard work."

The ONCC, which consists of 53 municipalities and school districts, is funded by the city of Chicago. The organization's been criticized as failing to stand up to the city but has also channeled millions of soundproofing dollars to schools and homes, which Mulder said was unprecedented compared to measures taken around other airports.

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At a December ONCC meeting, residents from the city and suburbs described unbearable living conditions caused by O'Hare's new east/west arrival and departure pattern.

Piltaver added her voice to the chorus Friday.

"We as mayors hear this on a daily basis from our residents," she said. "I know firsthand what it's like to live in a cavelike atmosphere. Until the city of Chicago and FAA finally realize they're subjecting every resident to a slow death, nothing is going to happen."

To that point, a letter from FAA Administrator Michael Huerta released Friday stated that the agency would not speed up a re-evaluation of the airport modernization plan as requested by the ONCC.

Niles homeowner Paul Heck said he'd moved to the suburbs to escape O'Hare noise only to be barraged by jets.

"I sit here and I'm just amazed by this committee," he said. "The city is making money on the backs of all the residents and O'Hare is allowed to do this."


Piltaver commended Mulder for her work. She, for one, won't seek to replace Mulder. "You have to find the right person," Piltaver said, explaining she was a relative newcomer.

The organization has a tough balancing act, Mulder explained.

"I can't give up trying to find that balance. At one point in time I was quite upset with the noise. ... I would get it at 3 in the morning," she said.

But Mulder recalled hearing from 600 residents with O'Hare-related jobs ranging from pilots to mechanics.

"They said, 'Wait a minute, there's another side to the story,'" Mulder said. "It's an economic engine."

A new chair will be elected in March and Mulder's replacement will be chosen by the mayor of Arlington Heights, officials said.

Mulder retired as mayor in 2013 and left the Metra board when her term ended in June.

"It's time to give this up, too," she said. "I want to be a wife and a grandma and travel with (my husband). It's been secondary to being a public servant."

Also Friday, the city announced it had located eight new noise monitors in Bensenville, Chicago, Itasca and Norridge.

Regarding expediting the re-evaluation, Huerta said the request was "not feasible because of the time required to complete appropriate simulation modeling that is needed to accurately assess temporary conditions."

By those, he referred to a switchup in construction that prioritized completing of a runway intersecting a former cemetery by autumn 2013 and pushed back finishing a runway on the airport's south end to this fall.

It's those changes that sparked the re-evaluation and the FAA has resisted calls for a do-over of the airport modernization plan.

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