This was the first of two straight weeks working in district, giving me an opportunity to spend time visiting with citizens of the Fourth District.
Just days after we received the news from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the control tower at Columbia Regional Airport – part of the cost-effective Contract Tower Program – would be closed as a result of sequestration cuts, I met with Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid and air traffic controllers at the airport to talk about the situation and our shared desire to have the airport expand and thrive in the future.
We discussed the fact that from the perspectives of safety and cost, there is no logic in the FAA disproportionately targeting the contract tower program. This is evidenced by a 2011 report from the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General which said contract towers cost on average $537,000 a year to operate, compared with $2 million for comparably busy FAA-staffed towers. This observation is contained in a letter several of my Missouri Congressional colleagues and I sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
There is no doubt in my mind this was the wrong decision and the FAA needs to reverse it. If the FAA is not willing to listen to common sense, then I will take up this matter when FAA appropriations come up later this year on Capitol Hill. I can assure that as a member of the House Budget Committee I will be working with other concerned Representatives of the people to rearrange the FAA’s budget if it is not willing to do so. Several hard working air traffic controllers in Columbia are scheduled to be furloughed in the coming weeks and public safety is potentially compromised. I am not going to allow this to happen without a fight.
It gave me a chance to visit the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Moberly, which is a large employer in Randolph County and supplies food to Wal-Mart retail stores in Missouri and a number of other states.
I was impressed with the work ethic of the employees and the dedication they have to ensuring food that gets to your local Wal-Mart grocery store is top quality.
In Sedalia, I visited the Tyson Foods Plant which employs more than 1,600 residents of the Sedalia area and provides quality poultry products for retail stores. It is quite an operation that contributes a great deal to the economy of Sedalia and Pettis County.
Finally, I want to share an interview I had with a young man in Boonville. Eight-year-old Michael DeLeon of Hannah Cole Primary School in Boonville sat down with me to discuss the Constitution, government and my thoughts on the role of government in our lives.
I could see Michael’s mother and grandfather beaming with pride as this future reporter asked a series of very good questions as part of a second grade class project. I hope to have some video of Michael’s interview after he presents his project to the class in late April. When I see young people like Michael DeLeon and their interest in our country I am reminded there are many reasons to be optimistic for our nation in the years ahead.
Have a good week and a blessed Easter.