This is part III of the Realities of Association Politics & PR article…
Our fights of the future to secure access to small fields, lakes and airports will shift from fighting the feds and bureaucracy to small town ordinance management soon. We will see an ever increasing number of citizen and environmental movements which will attempt to shut us out and down by any means necessary to accomplish their goals. Over the next half decade or so, our industry will be affected by thousands of bills, discussed on a senate and congressional level, of which many will “sneak through” causing us great harm and damage. Associations may continue to associate (and go to bed) with anyone perceived to be enough of a superstar to somehow increase public acceptance, yet, I believe there will be no value added to the membership by doing so. They may continue to suck up to corrupt politicians and policy makers to seek this seemingly ever- lasting one who will go “to battle” for what we do and actually represents his citizens in a balanced manner. What they will also do, is to assure that their leaders and managers never go hungry. Yet, the public perception will remain skewed and mislead by an uninformed press, seeking tomorrows headline and more affected by what some town selectman thinks about seaplanes than what we could ever factually prove. Soon, we will see advocacy battles move to the town office, where NOTHING short of our full personal participation will create an awareness within the citizenry. People have no clue about how heavily we are being discriminated against! Nothing short of huge letter writing campaigns will prevent the worst of the worst. We will see social media sites and online discussions become the major concern of trying to protect our minority interests against those who think we are rich, irresponsible, earth-polluting, greenhouse gas causing and arrogant schmucks – who just have too much money. Insulting them will make them more angry because people cannot associate and relate on anything they cannot do themselves. Instead we will have to learn how they think, act and beat them at their own game.
That’s not a threat nor is there a solid question as to “IF” this will happen, but, in my opinion “WHEN” and “HOW”. I have been saying it for years, we are desperately ill equipped to deal with it!
A possible solution
It is time for our associations to change course, not with lip service and pointing out how much fun it is and how much beauty is contained in what we do, but by actually responding to the questions raised by thousands of members leaving them. These members did/do not leave to damage the association, they left because they realized that proxy votes and insider deals on who gets which job, as well as “selective attention syndrome” to the direct NEEDS of their pilot community have made it impossible to bring about ANY positive change nor does it allow for them to take part in innovative and modern solutions to problems that will be solved in a grassroots effort. Not with superstars your general John Doe could ever relate to. (Y)our worst enemy is not concerned with which color of leather seats their new Citation or Mercedes Benz should have, I promise! While at the subject, I’d like to point out (again) that small grassroots efforts (perceived as unfitting to the current way of doing things) cannot get exposure on/ in any of the associations magazines or media channels. Assumption: The fewer people know of different ways of doing things, the better? This is the only logical conclusion I could arrive at, after asking repeatedly to share a word or two with some of the members of such groups.
For seaplane pilots this means: Get to know the other guy/ gal. Join us at seaplaneforum.com to take part in a grassroots effort that deals with (y)our fun, beauty and expertise, but also it’s resulting problems, honestly and in open, unmuzzled dialogue. It will allow you to build connections and make friendships, share advise and guidance and last but not least, develop a communication style that allows us to react to today’s challenges locally, when and where they occur. Ignore the clowns and liars spewing false information and badmouthing our forum, describing it (or myself) as an association enemy. I am not. In fact, the next time I hear such a statement, I will publish it in it’s entirety, with full disclosure of who made it. It’s enough!
I simply believe that our current way of dealing with the preservation of rights and freedoms is not done properly and misses the mark in terms of creating enough awareness within the pilot population. Nobody seems to be aware how much individual effort is and will be required to protect and retain accessible & affordable ways to do what we do. Lets get together, across the board and invite others to the discussion. I am still waiting to see a big, huge roundtable meeting with all the associations and activists getting together to brainstorm and find better solutions to current and future issues. Until this happens, I’ll continue to refuse to support the establishment. I cannot see where they are headed, management & decision processes are not transparent enough. By telling me what I know already (flying is beautiful, amazing, oh sooo nice, blah blah blah!) I have no benefit. Member based organizations enable members to have a voice. Neither do I believe we benefit from seeing smiley faces, handshakes and public shoulder patting. I for one hope we’ll get to it soon, because we are at risk of extinction by “Europeanization”. For those who wonder what that means: Look to Europe to see what a lobby-ism only approach has done to general aviation. Neither more money nor any of the Superstars will make flying more understandable to your regular non flying citizen. WE must do that.
Even as a publisher and editor of a website, I have not relinquished my privilege to have and communicate this opinion. It’s not like I have only critiqued without providing possible solutions, either! We can fix what is wrong and come out ahead of this as a stronger and more balanced pilot community. This community won’t be limited to people who can “pay to play” and neither will it exclude anyone willing to help create it.
We are no longer able to just cut checks to our associations, expecting them to fix things for us. What will we do instead?