Monday, March 25, 2013

People Start Revolt Against Disaster Capitalism Coups? No More Safe US Airports: We Are Soooo Screwed (FAA To Close 149 Air Traffic Towers Under Cuts)

Pro-Democracy Movement Rises Against 'Disaster Capitalism' in Detroit

As new 'emergency manager' Kevin Orr takes over in 'bloodless coup,' community plans revolt

- Jon Queally


James Rhodes, center, 57, of Detroit, and others cheer as a speaker condemns the city's 'emergency manager' Kevyn Orr scheduled to begin his tenure on Monday. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News) 

Community and pro-democracy activists in Detroit have no intention of rolling over and playing dead for Kevyn Orr, the city's new 'emergency manager' appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who will begin his contract to run the city as a one-person government on Monday.

Called a "bloodless coup" by some, the appointment of an 'emergency financial manager' (EFM) will allow Orr to take full control over the city's resources now that the city council and school board have been stripped of their governing powers.

Justified as a tool to 'bring the city back from the financial brink' by its proponents, critics of Orr's position say the whole reason for the emergency manager is to further gut the city by carving off public assets to the highest private bidder.

“Over a decade of experimentation has shown that the emergency manager model is undemocratic and it hasn’t worked," said John Philo, director of the Sugar Law Center, which has taken legal action against Michigan’s emergency management model. "The stated goal is to balance the books and the emergency manager model fails to deliver that in the long term. What it does do is force privatization of public resources and guts the public sector unions. But that hollows out your tax base and the city continues in a downward spiral."
"The people of a city need to decide how to get out of a financial mess and how to prioritize necessary sacrifices," he continued. "Do they want to sell a park or eliminate a tax break for some business? These are policy choices that residents, not technocrats, should decide.”
From the New York Times:

The Republican governor’s decision to install an emergency manager for the Democratic-controlled city had been widely expected for months. Still, the reality of a state takeover of its largest city has left many here shocked and visibly nervous about the future.
At the City Council’s last meeting before the takeover, some residents vented their anger, while Council members wondered aloud if they would have any statutory powers at all once Mr. Orr took office.
“I am angry, like so many thousands of other residents of Detroit,” said Kathy Montgomery, 64. “Angry that our governor and mayor decided we need an emergency manager. We must oppose them.”

The emergency-manager law gives Mr. Orr extraordinary powers to reshape the city, including eliminating Council members’ salaries.
“I don’t know what kind of role we can have,” said Brenda Jones, one of nine City Council members. “I feel that we are just sitting here as a symbolic symbol right now.”
Mayor Dave Bing, who chose at the final hour not to oppose Mr. Orr’s appointment, will not publicly discuss what happens next. At a news conference on Friday on new police initiatives, he declined to answer questions about Mr. Orr.
But on Saturday, angry Detroit residents vowed to resist.
"We've waited long enough. We need action around the law because it's anti-democratic," said the Rev. Charles William II, pastor at Historic King Solomon Baptist Church where hundreds of Detroit residents gathered on Saturday to mark their disgust and plan their next move.
"We fought too hard. We marched too long. Too much blood (has) been shed for us to turn around," the Reverend said.
As the Detroit News reports:

At least 500 residents attended the meeting at the church, where they were encouraged to engage in protests and civil disobedience to voice their anger and disgust over Orr's appointment earlier this month.

The National Action Network has been mounting protests in the run-up to Orr's first day on the job, which marks the beginning of the state takeover of City Hall. Gov. Rick Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing and Orr have said they want to notch some early victories to help convince Detroiters that an emergency manager is the best option to get the financially troubled city back on track.
But the residents attending the church meeting Saturday couldn't have disagreed more.
"If it (the emergency manager law) happened anywhere else than in Detroit, this would have stopped years ago," said Gwendolyn Peoples, who attended the meeting with her daughter and granddaughter. "Emergency managers do not work. They are supported by big banks and by big business to steal public services."
On Monday a group will be busing to Cleveland to protest outside of the law firm Jones Day, where Orr was a partner. Buses are scheduled to leave at 8 a.m. Monday from Eastern Market.
Another group plans to meet in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue near the City County Building at 11 a.m. Monday to protest Orr's appointment.
Other protests were also planned, including more freeway protests like those earlier this month where slow-moving traffic clogged I-94 during rush hour.
And the Detroit Free Press adds:

The speeches focused extensively on how the appointment of an emergency financial manager circumvents democratic principles.
The Rev. David Bullock of Change Agent Consortium, a social justice activist group with an office in Detroit, said he was there to "stir the pot."
"For the Christians, it's Holy Week," he said referring to the week leading to Easter. "For the emergency manager, it's hell week."
Bullock told the crowd that an emergency financial manager is not there to protect the city's assets but actually to take away control from Detroiters. Orr has indicated that "everything is on the table" as he looks to stabilize the city's finances.
"Don't sell your birthright," Bullock told the crowd.
Calling the EFM scheme a "bloodless coup," political activst Greg Bowen—who helped lead the fight against the state law which allowed for such city takeovers—was unequivocal in his condemnation of Orr and what his tenure represents:

No invading army of Communists is at the door. No terrorist insurrection has occurred. No horde of barbarians is at the gate. Yet more and more of our fellow Michigan citizens fall under the growing shadow of one-person rule with an emergency financial manager.
Generations to follow will look back on this time in amazement. They will wonder how democratically elected governors could create laws to strip other people of their own locally, democratically elected governments. They will scratch their heads in disbelief.
How can a democratically elected ruling party ignore the will of their own constituents, who voted to successfully repeal the Emergency Manager Law, and revive it weeks later? How is it possible that an elected body can vote to affirm the idea that one person should rule a community?
Looking at the rising resistance and the demands put on the city and its people by the crisis, Shea Howell — a community activist and professor at Michigan's Oakland University — describes the positive aspects of the situation even as she called it a moment of anguish "beyond words":

As the [EFM] moves into the corridors of city hall, we need to deepen our relationships on the corners and sidewalks in our neighborhoods, block clubs and places of worship. We need to create opportunities to educate one another, to share ideas, strategies, and tactics for improving our daily life in the places where we live, walk, work, and pray.
We need to remember that the bus boycott grew out of a community of people that had long practiced democratic actions without any right to vote. They built churches, colleges, hospitals, schools, businesses, civic associations, and recreational centers. They developed strategies to call upon the U.S. government to live up to its highest ideals.
This history can guide us as we develop new democratic forms to create real participatory power, flowing from people making our own decisions about how we will live.
And in conclusion, Howell writes: "The only solution to this assault on our city is for each of us to take responsibility for recreating community life, based on respect for one another and the earth that sustains us.

"In loving community, we can build a new democracy that cannot be stolen."

FAA to Close 149 Air Traffic Towers Under Cuts

Mar 22, 2013


(AP) In this March 9, 2010 photo, an American Eagle flight waits for release from the air traffic...
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CHICAGO (AP) - Under orders to trim hundreds of millions of dollars from its budget, the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday released a final list of 149 air traffic control towers that it will close at small airports around the country starting early next month. 
The closures will not force any of those airports to shut down, but pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers. Those procedures are familiar to all pilots.

Since a preliminary list of facilities was released a month ago, the FAA plan has raised wide-ranging concerns, including worries about the effect on safety and the potential financial consequences for communities that rely on airports to help attract businesses and tourists.

"We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.

Airlines have yet to say whether they will continue offering service to airports that lose tower staff. The trade group Airlines for America said its member carriers have no plans to cancel or suspend flights as a result of the closures.

The FAA is being forced to trim $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. The agency said it had no choice but to subject most of its 47,000 employees, including tower controllers, to periodic furloughs and to close air traffic facilities at small airports with lighter traffic. The changes are part of the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect March 1.

The airports targeted for tower shutdowns have fewer than 150,000 total flight operations per year. Of those, fewer than 10,000 are commercial flights by passenger airlines.

Airport directors, pilots and others in the aviation sector have argued that stripping away an extra layer of safety during the most critical stages of flight will elevate risks and at the very least slow years of progress that made the U.S. aviation network the safest in the world.

One of the facilities on the closure list is at Ogden-Hinckley Airport in Utah, where air traffic controllers keep planes safely separated from the F-16s screaming in and out of nearby Hill Air Force Base and flights using Salt Lake City International Airport.

(AP) In this Feb. 25, 2013 file photo, a twin-engine airplane flies past the air traffic control...
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"There's going to be problems," said Ogden airport Manager Royal Eccles. "There will be safety concerns and ramification because of it." Opponents of the closures are also warning of possible disruptions to medical transport flights and flight schools training the next generation of pilots.

The 149 air traffic facilities slated to begin closing on April 7 are all staffed by contract employees who are not FAA staffers. There were 65 other facilities staffed by FAA employees on the preliminary list of towers that could be closed. A final decision on their closure will require further review, the FAA said.
The agency is also still considering eliminating overnight shifts at 72 additional air traffic facilities, including some at major airports like Chicago's Midway International and General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee. There was no word Friday on when that decision will come.

The targeted towers are located in nearly every state.


(AP) In this Nov. 26, 2012 photo, the air traffic control tower is seen at Southern Illinois Airport in...
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Hundreds of small airports around the country routinely operate without controllers. Pilots flying there are trained to watch for other aircraft and announce their position over the radio during approaches, landings and takeoffs. But the overall air system's safety is built on redundancy. Taking away the controller's extra set of eyes is like removing stop signs or traffic lights from city intersections and forcing drivers to be more vigilant and cautious, said Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

"That's what the pilot is going to have to do now," said Rinaldi, whose group represents nearly 15,000 FAA-employed controllers as well as some staff at privately run contract towers. "A pilot is now going to have that extra duty of making sure that everybody seems to be doing the right thing on a crowded" radio frequency.

Some aviation experts say overnight shifts should have been eliminated regardless of the sequester at facilities that don't see enough traffic to justify the expense. The budget cuts being forced on the FAA could provide the agency with political cover to make some of those changes.

"There's a tendency over time to have Congress direct more money to small airports than would probably be economically justified," explained Robert Poole, an aviation analyst at the Reason Foundation think tank.

(AP) In this Dec. 9, 2009 photo, an Air Choice One flight taxis past the control tower after landing at...
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He said his own initial review of the list released Friday showed that many of the towers are at airports with few or no scheduled passenger flights, suggesting there will be little effect on airline service. Rinaldi acknowledged that "just maybe there are some that don't warrant" air traffic control services.
"But I would bet the vast majority of them do," he said.

In Dallas' northern suburbs, local officials plan to put up the $315,000 needed to keep the tower open for the next six months at Collin County Regional Airport in McKinney, said airport Director Kenneth Wiegand.
That will drive the airport into a deeper operating deficit, but it is worth it to keep the dozens of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the area happy and the local economy healthy, Wiegand explained.


(AP) A Cessna aircraft is parked near by the air traffic control tower at the Collin County Regional...
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"These businesses aren't going to fly a $70 million airplane into an airport that doesn't have positive control," he said. "They don't want to mix it up with the smaller aircraft." In New Mexico, officials in the state capital of Santa Fe said they were concerned about the impact on tourism.

In just the past few years, the mountain community has won back commercial jet service. For now, Mayor David Coss remains optimistic the airlines will continue to fly in, adding that the city cannot afford to pick up the $60,000 a month cost of operating the tower without federal funds.

"None of them have indicated otherwise," he said. "Our airport manager has contacted all of them, and they have all said they didn't have any change in plans right now."
Associated Press writers Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and Jeri Clausing in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.

FAA statement on tower closures with list of affected airports:

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