“…and I did not speak out…”

These are words famously lectured by Martin Niemöller in the years following WWII. He was a German Protestant pastor and was sent to concentration camps until 1945, for speaking out against the rising forces that eventually created the Holocaust. His lectures impressed upon people the importance of speaking out.

Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime. He spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Germany, 1937.

Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime. He spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. This 1937 photo was shot in Germany, prior to his imprisonment.

First they came for the Socialists,
and I did not speak out – 

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out – 

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out – 

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was
no one left to speak for me.

 <<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>

This applied then to the Holocaust, just as it applies with Whistleblowers today.

Speaking out saves lives, prevents damages, and best serves the Public interest.

…so, please — SPEAK OUT

[link to USHMM webpage on Niemöller]
[link to wikiquotes article on Niemöller]

 

“Nation needs a new airline policy”

“If Washington is serious about boosting the economy and creating jobs, it needs look no further than the U.S. airline industry. Every day, U.S. airlines safely and efficiently transport 2 million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo. Commercial aviation drives 10 million jobs and $1 trillion in economic activity, and U.S. airlines could contribute at an even higher level if they operated in an environment that enabled them to effectively compete globally.”

So said Nicholas Calio, President and CEO of industry group Airlines for America (A4A). He announced details of a ‘new airline policy’ in a media campaign aimed at reducing taxes. “The policy seeks to reduce taxes, reform the industry’s regulatory burden, modernize our nation’s air traffic control system, stabilize runaway energy prices and enable the industry to compete globally.” His sentiments were then immediately echoed by numerous airline executives.

As an example, he stated: “The U.S. air traffic control system dates back to the 1950s. Implementing new policies and procedures would enable airlines to leverage technology investments they have already made ….” Part of this is true; our present ATC system does date back to its earlier years, which includes the 1950’s (such as the Grand Canyon midair in ‘56, and Congress’ legislation that formed the first FAA in ’58). But, part of this is also highly misleading. Calio implies that controllers have equipment stuck in the 1950’s; as if they continue to drive Edsel’s to work, wear slacks and ties, and chain-smoke through long shifts to bear with crackling radio static while screaming at a heavy mic and shoving paper strips around. Ain’t so. Just look at all the other news articles (and the massive FAA budget) touting digital technologies such as GPS, collision-avoidance, and communications systems.

Calio goes on to make another misleading statement. “U.S. airlines face increased competition from foreign carriers that operate in much more favorable policy environments in their home countries. We need to level the playing field so that American carriers can better compete with these foreign competitors.”

This seems a bit fantastic, given the recent actions by EU to suspend their carbon taxation scheme. Is it not widely understood that EU is far more environmentally protective than the U.S.? It would be interesting to hear more from A4A and others, detailing some specific examples of FAA policies that disadvantage our domestic air carriers, in relation to EU or Asian carriers.

[link to the full statement by Calio]*[link to USA Today article]

 

Bellingham Airport’s AIP Grant History

When the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) became law in 1982, Congress authorized the collection of aviation taxes, to be redistributed by FAA. This has grown into an enormous fund for airport development. Paired with the required citizen processes that many find to be nothing but a show, AIP funding frequently stirs strong animosity.

Here are a few tips (and links) to fully understand AIP at Bellingham:

  • An excellent article, Feds keep little used Airports in Businesswas written by Thomas Frank and published in USA Today on 9/17/09. It is thorough, and delivers the pros and cons of AIP. In many communities, enormous amounts of air passenger taxes are being directed by FAA to subsidize excessive development at airports serving a tiny few. And, many contend that AIP spurs many projects that would never even be considered, if not for this available, practically-free money. Be sure to link to the online version, as it provides links to airport examples and other very informative content.

    [link to USA Today online copy]

    [link to 6p color PDF copy]

***

***

  • AIP Revenues are mostly generated from commercial passenger taxes.

***

  • AIP Spending has increased from $450Million annually in 1982 to nearly $4Billion annually today.

***

  • AIP creates a strong incentive for airports to add commercial passenger numbers, as those numbers translate to lucrative entitlement payments. Thus, an airport with 10,000 annual emplanements is called a Primary Airport and can expect an annual revenue stream via AIP payments of at least $1Million from FAA. A key requirement is that they have a valid Airport Master Plan … which typically costs a half million dollars, and is normally paid for using AIP funds.

 <<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>

 

The following is a partial history of AIP funding FAA has approved for Bellingham. This includes grants from 2003 through 2011, as identified in an online search of FAA records.

Format: (year, BLI, grant type, grant number, amount, project description)

2003 BLI P 32 $1,641,340: Rehabilitate Taxiway; Rehabilitate Runway Lighting – 16/34; Construct Apron; Security Enhancements

2004 BLI P 33 $423,851: Improve Airport Drainage, Rehabilitate Taxiway

2005 BLI P 34 $1,391,077: Acquire Handicap Passenger Lift Device, Rehabilitate Taxiway [2/2]
2005 BLI nil 35 $404,442: Modify Terminal Building

2006 BLI P 36 $997,500: Acquire Land for Development, Construct Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Building, xpand Apron, Modify Terminal Building, Rehabilitate Apron [Terminal apron design only], Rehab RY16/34, Update Airport MP Study.

2007 BLI P 37 $3,182,009: Construct Taxiway, Rehabilitate Apron, Rehabilitate Runway – 16/34, Rehabilitate Taxiway

2008 BLI P 38 $3,484,557: Construct Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Building, Construct Taxiway, Runway Incursion Markings, Security Enhancements
2008 BLI nil 39 $1,232,000: Rehabilitate Apron

2009 BLI P 40 $847,275: Acquire Emergency Generator, Acquire Snow Removal Equipment, Rehabilitate Runway [Design] – 16/34, Rehabilitate Taxiway
2009 BLI nil 41 $780,746: Rehabilitate Taxiway
2009 BLI nil 42 $1,500,026: Rehabilitate Apron
2009 BLI nil 43 $1,555,789: Acquire Emergency Generator, Acquire Friction Measuring Equipment, Acquire Snow Removal Equipment, Rehabilitate Runway [Design] – 16/34, Rehabilitate

2010 BLI 44 $20,156,094: Acquire Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Vehicle, Rehabilitate Runway – 16/34, Rehabilitate Taxiway
2010 BLI 45 $7,110,930: Rehabilitate Runway – 16/34, Rehabilitate Taxiway

2011 BLI 46 $487,041: Update Airport Master Plan Study
2011 BLI 47 $1,620,636: Acquire Interactive Training System, Acquire Snow Removal Equipment, Improve Airport Drainage
2011 BLI 48 $371,943: Acquire Aircraft Deicing Equipment, Construct Apron [Design], Expand Terminal Building, Improve Access Road

2012 BLI 49 …Port accepted $2.8M in july 2012?

Total AIP from FAA to Port of Bellingham since 2003:

$50 Million

A Tale of Two FOIAs

The FOIA law was passed by our Congress in 1966, on the belief that each us has a right to look inside the government, to see how things are done. Given the nature of politics, it is to be expected that acceptance of this FOIA transparency principle has been variable, depending on who resides in the White House.

When the 9/11 Attacks happened, an emphasis on security caused officials to reduce individual civil liberties. The right of the individual to obtain various federal records via FOIA was cut back. The Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, issued a new FOIA policy on 10/12/2001. At it’s heart, Ashcroft’s memo basically told federal managers to err on the side of non-disclosure:

“…when you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records….”

The Ashcroft policy stood unchanged through the duration of the ‘W’ administration. Then, the Obama Administration did a complete reversal. On the very day he was inaugurated, President Obama issued a White House Memo. The first three paragraphs stated:

“A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.

The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

“All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government….”

Obama’s Inauguration Day memo started the shift. Two months later, Attorney General Eric Holder officially replaced the Ashcroft Memo with a new policy that declared his office would NOT defend Agencies who improperly used FOIA exemptions to conceal releasable documents:

“…pursuant to the President’s directive that I issue new FOIA guidelines, I hereby rescind the Attorney General’s FOIA Memorandum of October 12, 2001, which stated that the Department of Justice would defend decisions to withhold records ‘unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records….”

The official FOIA policy shift within FAA was decreed eight months later. Rosalind Knapp, Chief FOIA Officer for the Department of Transportation (DoT), issued a memo on 11/2/2009 which included:

“…Agencies are directed to respond to requests ‘promptly and in a spirit of cooperation’. The President also called on agencies to ‘adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure’ and to apply that presumption ‘to all decisions involving FOIA’. The President’s memorandum directs agencies to take ‘affirmative steps to make information public’, and utilize ‘modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government’. The Attorney General, in his March 19, 2009 memorandum on FOIA, established a new standard for defending agency decisions to withhold information. When a FOIA request is denied agencies will now be defended by DOJ ‘only if (1) the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions, or (2) disclosure is prohibited by law’.”

The final step in FAA’s FOIA policy shift has proven to be the most difficult. A President, an Attorney General, and a Deputy General Counsel in charge of FOIA for a very large Department can all clearly articulate a shift in policy, but it still takes years for habits to change on the front line. FAA is doing a much better job on FOIA in late 2012 than they were doing in late 2008, but there is still much room for improvement. [link to Seattle Times article]