Make This Election Work for You

Cade Clark 2019 Fall

Engaging with candidates builds relationships that matter.

Ah, campaign season in America—isn’t it grand? With the amount of media and attention focused on the November 2020 elections, you may be excused for thinking the presidential elections were right around the corner. Although watching other recent international elections shows that it isn’t just America that enjoys a good campaign season with exciting political results.

Your status as a voter provides you with a ticket to a prime-time event. Campaigns are vying for your attention. Politicians looking for a new job, or looking to keep their existing jobs, want you to know all they can and will do for you. Proposed solutions to civic problems both large and small are being passed out like candy at a parade. Oh, and if you could spare a few bucks for the campaign, that would be wonderful.

With the holidays upon us, I know there is plenty to do—holiday parties, tables loaded with goodies, and family fun. But don’t lose sight of what’s going to affect you and your business long after the tree is dragged to the curb: the elections. Deciding who will be our elected leaders is your opportunity to voice your position.

Providing Accountability to Government

Do you get a little impassioned watching your favorite sports team? I’m not going to point fingers, but in my house, when my favorite college team keeps dropping the ball and visits the end zone about as frequently as I shop in the vegetable section of the grocery story, somebody expresses a great deal of displeasure. My displeasure comes from my inability to have any impact on the team and change their course—well, that and their terrible play calls.

Well guess what, in election season (and beyond), you can have an impact on your team and your voice can be heard to impact the course of policy. Stop yelling at the television and get involved yourself!

Every election seems to be the “most critical” or “most important” election ever—because it is. Elections give voters the opportunity to look back on the record and decide if they like what they see. Elections serve as the people’s referee. If public policy is headed in the wrong direction, elections serve as the means of installing new politicians to fix the direction or signaling to elected officials to change course. They’re a critical tool in ensuring that representatives determining public policy hear the will of the people.

Ensuring Sustainability for Our Industry

What does all of this have to do with our industry? Well, if you make your living from helicopters, it should mean a great deal. Congress is currently debating issues that will impact our industry, such as integration of drones into the National Airspace System, the role that state and local government should play in regulating aviation in their airspace, workforce development, and noise.

In October 2018, Congress passed the FAA reauthorization bill, which tasks the FAA with a number of important mandates, some of which have a direct impact on our industry. In late September, the House held the first of many oversight hearings to explore how well the FAA is implementing congressional orders spelled out in that bill.

We support the FAA and have a strong working relationship with the agency that regulates our industry. With that being said, it’s important that Congress provide accountability and oversight for the agency. And closing the circle, elections are our opportunity to provide accountability and oversight to Congress about its handling of aviation issues.

In his President’s Message in Summer 2019 ROTOR, HAI President and CEO Matt Zuccaro discussed how a safer industry will also be a more sustainable one. Matt commented on improving safety within the industry and noted the perils of not doing so: “In light of recent high-profile accidents, legislative and regulatory initiatives have been proposed that would prohibit access to critical airspace, restrict or close essential heliports, and further limit helicopter operations.”

Reflecting on that statement, I suggest that a more engaged industry will also be a more sustainable one. Congress is certainly engaged on general aviation issues and has shown a willingness to introduce legislation that would severely affect the helicopter industry.

Elections provide a unique opportunity to educate candidates about our industry and how we serve our communities. Through this process, we also establish important relationships and channels of communication, an important yet often overlooked benefit.

Elections produce a winner and a loser. Yet building a relationship with candidates doesn’t need to have a win–lose outlook; it’s possible to have a win–win scenario.

Make sure to reach out to candidates from both parties. Those who lose don’t necessarily disappear from the political landscape. They may run again, run for a different position, or end up in some other political job. Don’t burn your bridges. Investing the time to discuss with candidates the issues confronting your company and explaining how legislators can help craft public policy that supports the helicopter industry is time well spent.

Producing Results

One such example of time well spent with legislators can be found in this edition of ROTOR. On page 24, you’ll find a great article by Morrie Zager and Chuck Street, representing two of our California affiliates, the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association (PHPA) and the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Operators Association (LAAHOA), respectively.

Zager and Street’s article provides an overview of how they’ve reached out to their local elected officials and worked with the community on noise issues in the Los Angeles region. They’ll be the first to admit that they haven’t discovered the silver bullet, but as you read their article, you’ll find that they’ve come up with some very simple, innovative methods for addressing noise issues.

The PHPA and LAAHOA found ways to help elected officials address issues with their constituents. Trust me, there’s no better way to endear yourself to elected officials than by helping them demonstrate their effectiveness to the people who will eventually decide whether they can keep their jobs. By working with officials on the noise issue in the Los Angeles Basin, the PHPA and LAAHOA have positioned themselves as a resource for legislators.

Getting Started

Election time is here. Let’s use this time to reach out to those who wish to serve us as representatives. Don’t feel like you know enough to even start? Well, we have a resource for that.

HAI has expanded its advocacy resources for members. When you visit rotor.org​/​​initiatives/​​advocacy, you’ll find our new Legislative Action Center. There HAI members can log on to explore the Washington Update—insider news and perspectives to help them understand what’s happening in Congress. We also have a Legislative Resources tab with helpful infographics on the elections and other legislative issues. HAI frequently updates this page, so be sure to check in often.

As we head into a presidential election year, think about another important way to make an impact on our government: your local and state elections. Talk to the candidates, get involved, let your voice be heard. Get yourself a front-row seat for 2020 by engaging with the campaigns now.

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