Resolving Airport and Community Disputes
Developing a comprehensive community relations plan is an important first step towards establishing a conduit with your community. This plan needs to provide mechanisms which most effectively provide outreach into local communities. The community compatibility plan should be defined in terms of goals and objectives. It should identify target audiences, methodology and mechanisms for measuring success. Focus groups, workshops, public meetings, direct mail and airport friends groups are some of the tools that have proven to be effective. Community compatibility can be viewed on several levels. Through community involvement and public participation, the community is given ownership of a project, at least to some degree. Through workshops, hearings, small group meetings and one-on-one involvement, interested community members are provided opportunities to comment, provide input, and in some cases, determine the aspects of a project. A community relations plan can help you gain ownership and future support for airport projects within the community you serve.
Being Involved in Your Community
A good community relations program will help the surrounding communities better understand the airport and its projects by involving them in airport activities and making the airport an integral part of community activities. Community involvement includes outreach efforts such as establishing an airport users advisory group, a speakers bureau, and holding community events on the airport. It includes involvement in local civic organizations and sponsoring local youth organizations. Community relations also includes providing an effective community response system to ensure timely and effective feedback for anyone who calls the response line with a comment or concern. Most important, a good community relations program makes members of the community feel like the airport is their airport.
Dealing with a Crisis
Even with an effective community relations program, an airport is often faced with a crisis. “Crisis” is defined as any community situation which has escalated to the degree that it has the potential of jeopardizing an airport project or the operation of the airport itself. One of the most important aspect for resolving a crisis or airport conflict is recognizing the warning signs. Most community and airport conflicts do not develop overnight. It is important to maintain communication channels with neighbors and key stakeholders to be able to address issues as they arise.
Resolving Issues through Mediation
When an issue escalates into a significant conflict, it may be necessary to establish an ad hoc working group. This should be a group that represents all interests in the conflict. This group can develop a process to identify and resolve the issues. This ad hoc process is often successful in addressing airport and community issues. However, there are instances when a more formal mediation process is required. At this point, a professional mediator is probably an important element for success.
Copyrighted CommuniQuest 2002