D-Day for air traffic control towers (5×8 – 3/22/13)

The air safety equation, a constitutional test by the side of the road in Eagan, same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court, what if they lived, and the public radio show bracket.


This is the day we find out for sure how the Federal Aviation Administration plans to cut the number of air traffic controllers and towers. Flying Cloud in Eden Prairie, Crystal, and St. Cloud towers have been among those towers targeted to be closed under the so-called sequester. I won’t go into a lot of the background — having already written about it here and here — but it will be a signal to how — or if — the sequester cuts will affect people in ways not previously imagined.

The transportation department, in particular, has been aggressive in predicting calamity while not providing specifics. Today, we may get some specifics.

Writing on the aviation site, AvWeb today, Jason Blair, who heads a flight instructors organization, explains the math :

The FAA even assigns “explicit dollar values…to the prevention of fatalities and injuries, and time saved.” In 1990, when this report was written, a single fatality was valued at $1.5 million and a serious injury at $640,000. Adjusted to today’s dollar value, this would be equivalent to about $2.59 million and $1.1 million, respectively. I know assigning a dollar value to life is tought to stomch, but for objective analysis, you have to do the math.

But we aren’t talking about the establishment of new towers; we are discussing the discontinuance of tower operations. The FAA addresses this too, as follows: “When considering discontinuance of a tower, a site-specific analysis will be performed that would include consideration of:

Assurance that factors unique to the location such as weather and topography, are properly accounted for;

Potential use of the site to provide capacity and training relief for a hub airport;

Impact on adjacent facilities;

Operational factors otherwise accounted for by the benefit-cost analysis;

The possibility of significant changes in traffic activity attributable to local conditions;

and military requirements.

But the FAA does acknowledge that “for tower discontinuance, however, we do not normally know, nor can we ascertain the site specific likelihood of collision occurrence in the absence of the tower.” This is more difficult to calculate, but one could imagine it would not be too dissimilar to the establishment criteria.

Blair, like the FAA and many controllers, predicts a ripple effect on airline passengers. Airlines aren’t necessarily buying the idea it needs to happen. Airline lobbyist Nick Calio tells FoxNews the feds are making air travel “the poster child for sequestration, ensuring that the 2 million people and 50,000 tons of cargo that fly every day are impacted by projected delays caused by arbitrary cuts.”


Are the people who stand by the side of the road and wave you toward their business expressing protected speech or are they a convenient way around sign ordinances in cities?

Maybe a pizza store in Eagan will provide the test. WCCO reports the city is preventing the pizza shop from putting two young men near the street, waving at passersby. But the city said it violated the law. So it moved the men into a parking lot. That violated the law, too. So it put the men outside the front door, greeting customers. That ran afoul of the city, too.

“I just want my job back,” one of the employees said.


Next week will be the biggest news week at the U.S. Supreme Court since the health care law went to the justices a year ago next week. Two same-sex marriages cases will be heard by the High Court.

Nina Totenberg provides a great interview with Edith Windsor, previously written about here. She’s the woman taken on the government when the Supreme Court hears arguments over the Defense of Marriage Act, which declares marriage is between one man and one woman.

The other case before the court is California’s ban on same-sex marriage — Proposition 8.

The same-sex marriage debate traces its history to the city clerk’s office in Minneapolis, where two men tried to get a marriage license in 1970, and paid a steep price, Linda Greenhouse writes in a New York Times op-ed:

The local fame that came Jack Baker’s way after the failed marriage-license application made him even more of a campus figure at the University of Minnesota than he already was as the founder of a gay student organization. He was elected and then re-elected student body president and went on to graduate from law school. His partner was not so fortunate. Mr. McConnell wanted to be a librarian, and had been offered a job at the library of the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. When news about the marriage-license case broke, the university rescinded the offer. Mr. McConnell sued in Federal District Court and won. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned that ruling in an opinion by its chief judge, Roy L. Stephenson.

While noting that Mr. McConnell “apparently is well-educated and otherwise able” (he had an advanced degree and relevant job experience), Judge Stephenson observed that the plaintiff was not seeking simply “clandestinely to pursue his homosexual conduct.” Presumably, staying in the closet might have been acceptable. But the court said the problem was that Mr. McConnell was asking for “the right to pursue an activist role in implementing his unconventional ideas concerning the societal status to be accorded homosexuals and, thereby, to foist tacit approval of this socially repugnant concept upon his employer, who is, in this instance, an institution of higher learning.” The opinion, McConnell v. Anderson, concluded: “We know of no constitutional fiat or binding principle of decisional law which requires an employer to accede to such extravagant demands.”

The two men are still a couple.

More legal: NDSU officials say abortion ‘gag rule’ could stall research (Forum)


Some of the saddest words are these two: “what if?”

If you’re going to make an anti-hate campaign. This one, released this week, is the one to make:


It had to come to this sooner or later — an NCAA bracket-style matchup of public radio shows.


Bonus: Amish raze old West St. Paul greenhouses, only to raise them again (Pioneer Press)


A 12-year-old boy was arrested this week after police say he falsely reported a shooting at New Prague Middle School. Some dozen law enforcement agencies responded to the incident only to find that it was a false alarm. Students were sent home for the rest of the day. Today’s Question: What is the appropriate punishment for a 12-year-old student that calls in a bogus bomb or school shooting threat?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – A panel of nonprofit leaders will look at the state of charities and nonprofit organizations in Minnesota.

Second hour: Contract employees.

Third hour: The North Korea nuke threat.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Personal technology advice from ABC and Yahoo! News technology reporter Becky Worley and technology editor Quentin Hardy of the New York Times.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – The innovation pioneered by Grand Central Terminal.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Maggie Gallagher founded the National Organization for Marriage and is an ardent opponent of same sex marriage. She resents being considered the equivalent of a racist because of her principled objection that same sex couples can’t offer children the parental foundation they need. NPR provides Maggie Gallagher’s point of view.