I tend to write upbeat stories that are intended to inspire and motivate. That’s not always practical, however. For instance, when your house bursts into flames because the turkey frier got out of hand, that’s probably not the best time to ask your guests if they’d like a bowl of ice-cream. Better than you get up from the table and go outside for awhile, no matter how quick a response time your local fire department can promise.
Sometimes something stupid happens. When that occurs, I often find myself fighting the urge to jot down a few words on the topic. Today is one of those days. Something stupid happened. Actually, something happened that is so stupid it is hard to measure even on an industrial scale.
Consider this. Let’s say the mayor of your town decided it was time to cut costs. Hard decisions have to be made, certainly, and your proud mayor seizes the reins and makes those decisions. Among the first round of cost cuts is the removal of one-third of the traffic signals in town.
Here’s the rationale behind that move. Traffic signals use electricity. Electricity costs money. There is no doubt, not one iota of equivocation that taking down those traffic signals will save money. That’s a fact. Every month the city will hang on to a few dollars it would have otherwise spent to cover the light bill.
Some of the residents are happy, of course. There is always a segment of society that is happy. In this case they’re thrilled to realize they’ll be saving money. Maybe their taxes will go down because of the cuts? Nobody can say for sure. The future is still a mystery. But logic suggests the savings will be a good thing, a wonderful thing, in fact. Finally, the government is taking the public trust seriously and shielding the average man on the street from unnecessary burdens. Yea! Three cheers for the mayor.
Others are less pleased with the plan. That stands to reason. There are always people who are less than pleased with the decisions and actions of others.
The less pleased people are the drivers in town. These are the people who know from experience that removing traffic signals will result in accidents. Some of those accidents will result in serious injuries that will effect the afflicted for the rest of their lives. There will be deaths, too. That’s unavoidable. The man on the street will now run an increased risk of being killed in the street in order for the city to save a few dollars on the light bill.
Admittedly, that scenario sounds idiotic. What kind of a moron would remove safety devices from areas of known risk? Especially when it’s so easy to look to less critical services or costs that could be trimmed or terminated without putting the public’s safety in jeopardy. Well, the federal government would. And they just did, too. You are about to live in a land where you are in greater danger, and intentionally so, because congress and the president can’t seem to get the public checkbook straightened out.
Welcome to the New America where your safety means very little when it has to be balanced against a career politician’s ability to raise campaign funds without undue strain, or buy votes by pandering to interest groups who promise support in the next round of elections.
The sequestration’s effects will go in one ear and out the other for most people. Most, but not all. For some those mandatory cuts, those ill conceived knee-jerk decisions will lead to tragedy, injury, and death. Because the government has just announced plans to close 149 air traffic control towers at airports across this country. That is one-third of the total number of air traffic control towers in the United States.
Some of those closures are at smaller, less used facilities. Others, like Hartford, Connecticut lie right in the heart of the state. Hartford is the capital of Connecticut incidentally. It is also, ironically, the insurance capital of the United States.
Anyone want to risk flying in to Hartford without assistance after the tower is closed? Some will, some won’t. There will be an impact however. At least a portion of that impact will be economic, and negative. Another portion will take the form of an aluminum tube with wings attached coming in contact with another aluminum tube with wings attached, high over the Connecticut River, or downtown Hartford.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to foresee the fallout from that accident.
One of the towers on the closure list sits in on the field at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida. During WWII this was a bomber base, where crews trained to fly B-17 Flying Fortresses before going overseas to sacrifice themselves if necessary to preserve the American way of life and the dream of what America could be. Today it’s a peaceful general aviation airport for most of the year. Sure, there is a public high school located there that provides students with a chance to become pilots or mechanics, at a very low cost. That school currently enjoys a 100% graduation rate, too. Yes, that’s right. There’s no typographical error there. A public high school located on the airport has a 100% graduation rate.
Do you have a high school that gets results like that in your town? No, probably not.
SUN ‘n FUN is located on the field, too. A non-profit organization that pumps well in excess of $1 million per year into educational opportunities for children and adults of all ages, SUN ‘n FUN is known the world over. In fact, it hosts the second largest aviation gathering in North America each spring. For one week a year, Lakeland Linder Regional Airport is the busiest airport in the world. It draws something on the order of 200,000 people to attend the event and has an economic impact on the area that has been calculated to be in excess of $64 million dollars.
Now let’s combine these two scenarios for a thought experiment that just might scare the poop out of you. Let’s imagine your mayor removed all the traffic signals from around the largest and most popular shopping center in your town. And let’s image that like airplanes, the cars can’t stop to avoid trouble. They can only slow down if there’s a problem up ahead. And while they can turn to get out of harm’s way, that turn may very well put them on a path to another equally damaging collision.
Which of us would like to load up the family so we can go shopping at that mall? Who would want to invest in that town? Unless you are in the health care or funeral planning businesses, the odds are good that you’re going to see a drop in business. And if you should get brave and start thinking that Saturday afternoon would be a good time to head on down to do some shopping with the family – you just might end up with a big repair bill or worse.
All of this leads me to a single absolutely pertinent question. Is shutting down one-third of the air traffic control towers in the United States really the best first step in our national cost cutting program? I think not. In fact, I know not.
This is a prime and unfortunate example of cowardice and ineptitude at the highest levels of government. This is what it looks like when politicians put their own careers ahead of your safety.
Thankfully, you probably don’t have anything to worry about – unless you ever fly, or know anyone who flies, or live on the ground beneath aircraft that fly overhead. If none of those things apply to you, you’ll be in good shape this April when the closures start. If on the other hand you are not so lucky – well, let’s hope your constitution is strong and your life and health insurance premiums are paid up. Because your government just sold out your safety in exchange for a better chance at re-election in the Fall.
Congratulations. You’re officially now living through the most irresponsible trade-off in American history – and you’re the sucker on the losing side of the deal.