August in Washington is a month usually referred to as the “Dog Days.” Historically, not a lot happens. Congress goes away as do many agency officials. A lot of people come to the conclusion that someone has hit a big pause button and like the soap operas of old we can pick back up in September as if nothing changed.
But August is underrated, historically, as a month when large events happen. If you look through history a number of important military actions occur or begin in August (Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait is an example of this) perhaps to take advantage of vacations being taken by other leaders.
But in American politics, August has become a key month. Current stories out of Iowa certainly show that. And looking back two years, opposition to the president’s health care bill (and the rise of the Tea Party) really crystallized during the August congressional recess.
That is why we have pushed so hard to have our members and others attend congressional town meetings. Those are hugely important events, and if we want to send the message that we can’t shut the FAA down again, it is a perfect opportunity.
More than that and precisely because I am VERY worried Congress will neither agree on a long term bill nor to an extension before the current one expires on September 16, I have written to congressional leaders asking them to pass a two year extension of current law and I am asking each of you to go to those town meetings and ask the same thing. We cannot allow the FAA to shut down again, the economy took a big hit, and we need the certainty of a long term extension. Tell that story; let’s be sure Congress comes back determined to set the FAA on a stable course!
A final, sad, note: one of the real pleasures of this job has been to work with airport board and commission members. These men and women perform this important work with little or no compensation. They do it because they understand the airport to be a critical economic engine and they want to preserve and enhance that.
One of the most passionate commissioners has been Charlie Lombardo of the Bob Hope Burbank Airport. Charlie’s passion for his community, airport and the industry was impressive and contagious. He had an endless supply of ideas to improve the industry and to improve our organization. He was vice chair of our Commissioners Committee, set to become chair in a few months and join our board. He had invested so much time and energy.
Charlie did all this even while battling the effects of prostate cancer that had spread. There were a couple of occasions when he thought he had gotten through it; I remember my wife and I speaking with him for an hour one night at ACI-NA’s annual meeting in 2009 and how happy he was to have gotten a good report on his health and how hopeful he was.
Even another round of bad news and treatment didn’t dampen his enthusiasm and commitment. When we talked at our Commissioners Conference in May of this year he again thought he was in good shape going forward and had a lot of ideas for his upcoming chairmanship of the Commissioners Committee, including hosting the meeting next spring in his community. He was also excited to have been considered (he wasn’t selected) to replace Gilbert Godfrey as the voice of the Aflac duck.
This past Sunday, Charlie went to his back yard to relax in a lounge chair and never woke up. I will miss his passion, energy and optimism, as will all of us who worked with him. News of his death hit our office hard and in talking with Burbank’s director, Dan Feger, I know it hit with devastating impact out there as well.
Charlie, we’ll miss you and never forget you! RIP.