AOPA President Phil Boyer and
L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas
(photo by Ray O'Connor)
Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas is chairman of the city's powerful Commerce, Energy & Natural Resources Committee, which oversees four city-owned airports including Van Nuys Airport (the busiest GA airport in the United States), and he "gets" general aviation.
During a meeting with nearly 100 AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers at AOPA Expo last Friday, Cardenas gave the volunteers a look at GA issues from his side of the fence. He offered advice on enlisting local politicians' support without becoming confrontational. "Focus on substance and policy, not rhetoric and politics," Cardenas advised. And, he said, "Figure out what moves the elected officials to your side. Not what's in it for you, but what's in it for them."
Cardenas also offered a cold dose of reality. "General aviation is a minority," he said. "You've got 400,000 members nationwide. I've got 500,000 constituents living in the noise area of Van Nuys alone." Because of that, he counseled the volunteers, they need to be patient and "use sugar, not vinegar," when courting politicians.
He echoed comments by FAA Administrator Marion Blakey during Thursday's general session, saying ASN volunteers are like the volunteer firefighters of old, "who smelled the smoke before there was a fire."
At the end of the meeting, AOPA President Phil Boyer thanked Cardenas and praised him for his understanding of general aviation. "If all government officials 'got it' the way Tony Cardenas does, GA would be in a lot better position," said Boyer.
The AOPA Airport Support Network now boasts more than 1,600 volunteers and continues to grow. It was established to help AOPA keep track of issues at local airports and deal with them before they become major problems. As Administrator Blakey noted, the volunteers are the "eyes and ears" of AOPA, providing an effective early warning system that helps protect our nation's air transportation system.
October 27, 2004