by Charlie Costello, Operating Engineers local 3
For the third time in the past six weeks I found myself at the Oakland International Airport’s Control Tower Construction Site for a press conference about the same issue, extending the FAA’s reauthorization bill before it expires at midnight, Friday September 16, 2011. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think that I may be back here again but as a glass-half-full kind of guy, I quickly dispelled that thought.
On the surface, you might think that this is only about getting another temporary FAA reauthorization passed to prevent another work stoppage. I believe it is much bigger than that, and the President’s American Jobs Act is only the beginning of the battles that are to come over the next 12 months.
While introducing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the press conference, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan remarked back on the last one, which featured Senator Barbara Boxer:
Last month, Barbara Boxer warned us that we might be back here again. We are hoping that the third time is a charm.
Secretary LaHood began by letting everyone know that the U.S. House had passed a stopgap bill that would extend the FAA reauthorization bill until the end of January 2012.
It’s now up to the Senate to pass this bill by this Friday, September 16 to avoid another shutdown of projects that put 4,000 FAA employees out of work last time this happened, along with over 70,000 construction workers. Our work is not done. Once that reauthorization bill is passed, we need to ask them to pass the President’s American Jobs Act and put Americans back to work.
The construction site at the Oakland Airport Air Traffic Control Tower has been central for highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to this FAA bill. If the Senate approves another temporary extension to the FAA reauthorization bill, it will be the 22nd extension to that bill in the last five and a half years.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt spoke as well, taking the opportunity to point out that
Building infrastructure is what this is all about. We have a lot of things that are needed to improve our infrastructure, things that are critical for our future. Aviation is too much of an economic engine to play with. We need the Senate to make their move and pass this extension.
Secretary LaHood returned to the microphone to answer a few questions, and again emphasized that we need a long term vision:
These short term extensions are not the way to run the best airports in the world. The reasons for these extensions are that we need to know how to pay for some of these state of the art technologies.
I hope we all can agree that we need a long-term vision to get the working men and women of this country back to work. Passing this temporary extension of the FAA reauthorization bill through January 2012 is a start, but I am beginning to think that I will be at the Oakland construction site again at yet another press conference when the next temporary extension is up for renewal. With any luck, the control tower will be completed by then, and who knows, maybe the American Jobs Act will be passed too, putting Americans back to work again repairing and creating the infrastructure we need so badly. Otherwise, I will see you out here again in January, 2012. You can count on it!