Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tell Our Good Story to Your Representatives

(from the April/May Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

I’ve got a friend in the asphalt industry who gets excited about seeing celebrities. I don’t want to embarrass him by throwing his name down in print, but it’s as if the celebrity has some superior element about him or her that non-celebrities don’t. I’ve got another friend who says he could never visit his Congressman because the guy is too “official”. Too important in the world. It’s as if the Congressman has some superior element about him or her that we non-Congressmen don’t.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we ignore the authority of an elected official’s position, but I’d like to remind everyone that our representatives are people just like us. We gave them their jobs when we voted for them, so we shouldn’t be intimidated when it’s time to sit down and visit with them; especially when that visit is over something as important as infrastructure funding.

This is the last issue of AsphaltPro that you’ll receive prior to the May 19 through 20 legislative fly-in to Washington. Can you afford not to send someone from your company to discuss the importance of transportation funding with your representatives? (Visit for details on the fly-in.)

Let me tell you who will fill the void you leave if you don’t participate: multiple members of special interest groups with extreme anti-infrastructure ideas. When Former Speaker of the House Trent Lott spoke to the audience at the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) meeting in San Diego in January, he informed us that for every couple of construction representatives calling him to promote safe roadway funding, he could have at least a dozen overly exuberant folks calling for an end to more roads and what they perceived as urban sprawl.

That’s one reason why the good environmental messages of the asphalt industry are so important to get across to our representatives as we make our case for reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). As recently as March 31, Mike Acott, president of NAPA, sat before the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation to brief members on the technologies of asphalt recycling, warm mix, Perpetual Pavement and porous asphalt that offer a sustainable future for the transportation grid of our nation. Acott told representatives: “Within five years, I believe you will see full deployment of warm mix, much higher rates of recycling, and development and application of Perpetual Pavement and porous asphalt technologies leading to a substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental and economic benefits within the asphalt pavement sector.”

As you can see, there are myriad talking points, but the main point is we should each be talking.
For the article “Spread it Around: Black is the New Green” on page 24, industry leaders discussed different safe and sound practices they’ve tried or seen for enhancing air quality, improving neighbor relations, reducing carbon footprint, etc. For the article “Asphalt Proves Correct Choice for LEED Project Credits” on page 20, we show how asphalt products can gain points for engineers designing projects eligible for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighborhood Development certification. And, my personal favorite this month, in “When It’s the Right Thing to Do” on page 28, the S.T. Wooten family shares their experiences setting up an ecological masterpiece in Southwest Florida. These are the kind of positive stories and ideas we should be sharing openly and often with not only legislators, but also with the public in general.

Jay Hansen, vice president of government affairs for NAPA, has asked that, even if you can’t make it to the legislative fly-in in Washington, make it a point to meet with your representative in your district office, away from the distractions of D.C. Make it a point to share with representatives that asphalt products can help in mitigating the impact of transportation infrastructure on the environment. Make it a point to let your representative know that environmental issues matter to you as a member of the asphalt industry that can help support economic growth and safe corridors for transportation in this nation.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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