<!----Enter Date Bellow *****************> Weekly Presidential Update for March 2, 2001 <!----End Enter Date Bellow *************>
Weekly Update for March 2, 2001

Dear Friends,

Better late than never! This update was due last Friday, but our transition to the new system precluded me from posting it. Thanks for finding your way here, and enjoy the updates. I'll type today's after a trip to the movies, and post it late tonight.

JTB

Weekly Update for the Week of March 2, 2001

Saturday, February 24th was cold, drizzly and dreary…a perfect match for the mood of the hundreds of mourners who gathered to pay their last respects to Charlie Bunting. The service was delicate and spiritually uplifting, and Doc Egan gave a moving eulogy which sounded as if his very heart was speaking. I don’t know what inner strength he drew upon, but his words meant a great deal to a great many of us.

After the service there was a reception, and after the reception several of us retreated to Ray’s house to remember Charlie and the good times we’d had. We talked late into the night, and I promised to come back to Chicago sometime when the times weren’t so rough.

Sunday morning Jill and I were up by five, gone by six and at O’Hare by seven. Jill went back to DC by way of a day in Cleveland, and I flew west to Las Vegas to kick off another week of Facrep Training.

I missed my connection and didn’t get into Vegas until five pm, stepping out of a cab as Greg Llafet was stepping in. At seven I hosted our welcome reception for class attendees, which is really the prime time to corner me and get questions answered. Jim and John from the NY TRACON bought some barley-pops, and before you knew it my laid-back little social turned into a real party!!! The hotel moved us towards the door at around ten to set the room up for another function the following day, but everyone had a great time.

Monday morning I got up at seven am…East Coast time. Four o’clock in the morning is a great time to get things done, though, and I wasted no time answering e-mail and East Coast pages.

At nine I opened Facrep Training for forty-two fresh faces, and spoke for a little more than an hour. I think interaction with the leadership is some of the most important time I can spend, and it’s equally important that the leadership in the field know they can count on the leadership in DC. The trip to Las Vegas reinforces those ideals and provides all of us with an opportunity to interact, brainstorm and problem-solve.

From there it was off to the airport. I use most of my airplane time to write MOUs, responses to letters and the like so the time is never wasted. I finished up a pair of projects I’ve been working on for submission to the agency this trip, and I landed in DC around eleven pm. I was home by midnight.

The time change didn’t whack out my Tuesday too bad, which is a good thing considering how busy I was to be. I start almost every morning with the obligatory 0630 email check, and the office seemed to fill up faster than normal. No wonder…the Communications Committee is in town, and these guys get in early, stay late, shout and scream a lot, have way too much fun, and get way too much done.

I walked over to the Capitol Hilton for breakfast with ABC’s Lisa Stark and her producer Dennis Powell. Doug Church has been facilitating these meetings, and always joins with me to keep the focus on our strategic messages.

We had a very productive conversation, and Lisa is well versed in our issues. She has been covering transportation (among other things) for ABC for a while and knows the beat. Again I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the relationships we are building in a town that is built on relationships. Doug has been key to nurturing these contacts, and for that I thank him. We are blessed with many motivated, self-starting individuals in our organization who know how to take the ball, run with it, score a touchdown, and act like they’ve been in the end zone before. Doug’s one of them.

Back at the office I got Bill Peacock on the blower to discuss some items of mutual interest, and then it was off to the Bi-weekly Director’s Meeting.

We welcomed Jose Ceballos to the National Office as our new Policy Director, and he has jumped right in with both feet. Other matters covered during the meeting were some upcoming hearings on the Hill we will be testifying at, information for a new Memberhsip directory we’re putting together and our new recruitment campaign.

Courtney, who has been busier than she’s ever been, briefed us on the Communication Department’s workload, which includes 6 ads in AOPA Magazine, 4 ads in Roll Call, the new CNN commercials, Lobby Week, Communicating For Safety, the Newsletter, and a myriad of other tasks great and small.

Susan briefed us on the status of legal matters ranging from logo issues to MEBA retirement billing to the recently completed NMI Meeting. We are going to explore refinancing our building in light of recent rate drops, and if the Fed drops the rate again this month we might move on it.

Everyone had something to offer at the meeting, and I’m still new enough to be encouraged that we’re all sharing information and working together. It’s not the Brady Bunch and there are disagreements, but your National Office team is just that…a team.

From the Director’s Meeting it was off to the Staff Meeting, where we bought pizza and pop and got the entire staff together for our monthly information exchange. I had the privilege of giving Ben Phelps his 5 year plaque, and Cheryl Cannon and Fran Bowman their 10 year clocks. Ten years! In an organization that is not yet fourteen years old, that’s an incredible accomplishment. We’re glad to have them. We also hoisted a Diet Coke to the Krasner Building. NATCA celebrated our first year of occupancy on February 28th.

The NEB Telcon normally held on Monday was moved to Tuesday, and straight from the staff meeting Ruth and I retreated to our respective offices to join the rest of the Executive Board. We hired a new Labor Relations Representative, approved many new activists on work groups, and also discussed the status of pending issues including ETAP, TTAP, our retirement specialist, and many, many others.

I met with Susan, Ruth and Mike after the telcon to discuss some personnel issues and to brainstorm ways of implementing our performance appraisal system in time for this rating cycle. We’ve agreed to proceed with our plans, and we will be training the Directors to insure everyone is working together as we transition to a system of rating employee performance.

Ken Montoya and I then drove over to the Mayflower Hotel for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Dinner. The place was packed, and we spent time with ten or fifteen different Senators. We talked at length with Max Cleland, who will be introducing our CSRS bill. He’s a great American and a super, super person. When he gets into the tough race he expects, I hope we can help him out with everything we’ve got.

I dined with Senator Rockefeller, and when they announced the night’s take at 5.3 million dollars, he whistled and clapped along with all of us. We spoke with Senator Reid, Senator Dayton, Senator after Senator after Senator. Ken is working overtime to get us cosponsors for our legislation, and we are of course making sure our position on privatization and commercialization is clear and unambiguous.

The Senators piled into two buses for the ride back over to Capitol Hill to hear the President speak, and I thought it was a rather odd transportation arrangement for half of the United States Senate. Ken took me back to the office, I grabbed my wheels and I was home just barely in time for the President’s speech at nine. Watching it was like “Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire” for some people, and “Survivor” for others.

Wednesday started like they all do, with me banging away on the PC. At seven-thirty a courier brought over the rough cuts of our new commercials, and we watched them once before I had to leave. Ruth, Courtney and the Communications Committees and Department worked together to pass feedback to the producers for final editing.

Ken and I shared a cab over to the Capitol where we met Congressman Mica, R-FL, in the Members Dining Room for breakfast. For those of you who think we only work one side of the aisle, think again! Of course…it doesn’t hurt that Cong. Mica is Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, either. We had a very lively discussion of privatization, STARS, errors, equipment, and new runways and infrastructure improvements.

Congressman Mica will be holding a hearing on STARS in two weeks, and we will be sending John Shea as our attendee to provide expert testimony. We really did hit it off, and both of us couldn’t believe the time when nine-fifteen rolled around. We were both late for appointments.

I took a cab over to the FAA Building, and joined Bill Peacock in combing over our script for this morning’s video shoot. We made some last minute changes, and then went down to the FAA studio to tape our spot. I don’t want to give too much away, but when you have a chance to see the tape I hope you’ll enjoy it, and take it’s message to heart.

The taping made me late for my next appointment, which was lunch with Jane, Monte, Peter, Bill, Phil and Fuse to discuss the NAR MOU. The parties have reached the end of the negotiating cycle with respect to this particular MOU, and the agency must make a determination early next week on which course of action they will pursue. We feel we have made a very good case for our proposal, and we will let you know the outcome late Tuesday.

I finally made it back into the office as reports of an earthquake in Seattle started trickling in. I traded pages with Carol to offer whatever assistance we could and worked with the agency to account for our people.

My day was starting to evaporate, but I took the time to return calls from Blackie, Tony Yushinsky, Mike, Mark Hood, Ruth, Don Ossinger, Andy Cantwell, Kevin McGrath, Carol several times and probably a dozen others I didn’t write down.

I also put a call in to Carol Hallett from ATA, who I had breakfast with just last week. Ruth had asked me to energize some of our contacts in light of the President’s publication of his “five points” out of his budget speech the other night.

I spent the latter part of the afternoon doing callback interviews with the Washington Post, the Airline Financial Times, USA Today and Forbes Magazine. Each one of these takes thirty minutes or so, and viola! It’s after six. When I say, “my day is starting to evaporate,” I mean it. Jill had left work sick and was grateful to see me when I got home.

Thursday morning the Communications Committee started leaving town. They managed to get NATCA.net,com, and org switched over to the new system, but the transition is not without difficulty. The team is working incredibly hard to juice up the system and get everything operating, but your patience is appreciated. Believe me, nobody hates it more than I do….it’s after midnight on Friday, and I know the net’s gonna be down when I’m ready to post this…but the new home of our information will be stable and expandable and permanent.

All of which is to say…I got in to the office around six-thirty….and had NO EMAIL. Hmmmm. You know that feeling you get when you step on an escalator that’s not moving? And you stop and stare at your feet, and it feels funky and queer because it’s supposed to move? OK. That’s how I felt without my beloved email inbox stuffed to the gills at six in the morning. Lucky for me Adell and Ruth soon came in to bail me out with talk of regular mail, press issues, and other errata.

I walked over to breakfast with Doug and Matt Wald from the New York Times. Matt has had controllers on the front page of the Times more than I can count, and he knows our stuff as well as we do. He’s balanced, fair, and accurate. We had a great conversation and I look forward to working with Matt often on air traffic control stories.

Back at the office I caught up on paperwork. There’s a boatload of it, and I know I’ve described for you the glee Adell gets from dropping off a fresh load of it. She filters more than I ever see, though, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

I went over to the Pentagon around noon for lunch with Neil Planzer, formerly of the FAA and now in charge of Defense Department aviation. We spent over two hours of exceptionally productive time together, discussing everything from the MAC (on which he sits,) to the COO position to the current privatization debate to some military facilities. I like Neil and look forward to working with him on scores of issues of mutual interest.

After lunch I coordinated with Ruth on a couple of items and spoke with a few folks I needn’t mention here. I also got wind of a press release just issued by the Air Transport Association (ATA) that I’d like to share with you here, in it’s entirety:

“MAJOR AIRLINES DENY SUPPORT OF FAA PRIVATIZATION

Denying recent press reports of support by major airlines for the privatization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control (ATC) system, Air Transport Association (ATA) President and CEO Carol Hallett stated today, “Whoever is claiming that the major airlines support ATC privatization clearly has not spoken with the airlines’ chief executive officers.”

Speaking on behalf of the member airlines of the Air Transport Association, whose board of directors met today in Washington, Hallett continued, “There are many tasks that need to be implemented to modernize the government’s ATC system, to make it more business –like and efficient, and to equip it to meet the demands of our economy-privatization is not on that list.”

“Although a number of carriers contributed to the work of the Reason Public Policy Institute’s publication How To Commercialize Air Traffic Control, statements and assertions that the major airlines are “proponents” of ATC privatization are inaccurate,” said Hallett. “Furthermore, the policy conclusions contained in this publication should not be interpreted as endorsements of its findings by those airlines.”

“Our nation’s ATC system, in addition to aviation infrastructure in general, is falling further and further behind in its ability to meet public demand for air transportation. Although last year’s enactment of the AIR-21 law provides the necessary funding stream and revenues for capacity enhancements, we must now set real, achievable priority targets to rapidly address system inadequacies. What we do not need is another protracted debate among academics and theoreticians about the merits of a privately run air traffic control system,” Hallett said.

The Air Transport Association is the nation’s oldest and largest airline trade organization, with 22 U.S. and five international members. ATA member airlines transport over 95 percent of all passenger and cargo traffic in the United States.”

I love it when a plan comes together.

And here it is Friday, although there’s no telling when I’ll be able to post this. I traded pages with Adell on scheduling issues, traded pages with Don Ossinger on airspace meetings, and talked to Chuck in Hawaii about some training for our new bargaining unit.

The stories of heroism coming out of Seattle are truly inspiring. The controllers performed with grace under fire, and the engineers have been performing with courage and strength ever since. SeaTac tower is a goner, and Boeing Field tower isn’t much better. The TRACON is back in operation, and a temporary tower has been set up.

Brian Schimpf, facrep of Seattle Tower, has done ABC World News Tonight, MSNBC with Brian Williams, NBC, Fox, and a slew of newspaper pieces. I saw Brian tonight, holding up a shard of glass the size of a dictionary. Hundreds of these rained down on our people as they calmly and professionally worked the traffic they had, until the last transmission was made.

Brian was humble and well spoken, and damn if he didn’t look handsome on national TV with that NATCA hat! He said it was something any controller would have done, and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. Thanks, Brian, for the classy quote.

Lew Zietz in Membership has started a recruitment drive called, “Member, Get a Member!” Materials will be mailed to the facilities on how to participate, and it’s really quite simple: We’re going to be giving prizes for the current members who recruit the most new members between now and May 1st.

There’s never been a better time to join our organization than now, and increased membership will mean increased visibility, clout and respect. For those of you reading this who are members, thank you for your confidence and your participation. We appreciate your contributions to your future and the future of your profession.

For those of you reading this who are not members, isn’t it time you joined NATCA? We will welcome you into the house of labor with open arms, and your voice added to ours will broadcast our message loud and clear, from the break rooms to the boardrooms, from Death Valley to Capitol Hill.

NATCA’s going places. I sincerely hope you’ll join us.

Until next week,

John


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