Friday, May 16 (Dena Gaskin, B/CS Chamber of Commerce)
Well, after planning this trip for almost a year, we are already back home. It’s kind of like Thanksgiving…you cook for days and within 30 minutes everyone is done! For those of you have not had the opportunity to go to DC with the Chamber, I will give you all a brief idea of what you missed.
As Steve and Jordan mentioned in their blogs, we left Easterwood at 5:35am. We at the Chamber preach buying and using local goods and services so obviously we fly out of our local airport. I don’t know if you have ever counted the seats of a Continental flight out of Easterwood, but they are pretty limited and when you need 31 of those seats for our trip, negotiating flights can be quite a challenge. Hence the 5:35am flight time….apparently, no one wants to take this flight! We arrived at
We arrived at the Donovan House Hotel, a newly renovated “
Tuesday morning comes pretty early and the group heads for the hill. Appointment after appointment, the group shares the key issues: continued airport funding at the current level, Community Block Grand Development funding at the current levels, wellness and prevention incentives for business to assist them in lowering their costs for healthcare to their employees and vocational skills training initiatives.
The whole delegation rejoined in the afternoon to hear from Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Unbelievably, their staff was wonderful enough to schedule 30 minutes out of each Senators extremely busy schedules to spend with our group. I don’t think many people realize how amazing this really is! Tuesday evening wrapped up with dinner at Tuscana West and everyone getting to really know each other much better.
One of the best things about this trip is spending 4 whole days with each other. Mayors, council members, county officials, small business owners, university representatives, transportation & energy experts….the list goes on and on. We spend the down time, not only enjoying each other’s company, but talking about business problems, successes, what we hope to accomplish and so on.
Wednesday is more of the same. One of the groups, deviate from the hill and hit different agencies. Commerce, Transportation, Aviation, Agriculture; this group targets those who are around from year to year and manage funds delegated to them by the hill. We end that day much the same as Tuesday with a group meal at Zola.
Thursday is used to follow up on any last minute appointments and an hour of so of sight seeing. Then it is time to catch the bus and head home.
I am sorry this entry is so long, but I really want to try and convey as much as I can just what this trip entails and how hard everyone works. People ask why join the Chamber? This is one huge reason to join! People taking their time to personally interact with those who are penning legislation effecting us for years to come. If you think that a few people can not make a difference, I beg to differ. After 8 years of making this trip, I can not count on all hands and feet just how many elected officials themselves say that this is the way to get things done. Those they know will show up year-after-year are the ones they listen to. If you don’t show up…guess what, they don’t listen. Funny how that works!
Now that we are home again, I will take tomorrow off to rest. Being in charge of 36 people in
Thursday, May 15 -- 10:30 a.m. ET (Steve Fullhart)
Sorry we didn't get a chance to blog yesterday. We were trying to put together about four stories for yesterday and today. It was certainly busy from the hotel room.
We spent the morning on the Hill with Congressman Edwards, who once again gave of some precious time to speak with the locals. There were a number of votes that kept popping up throughout the day, so all the congressmen and congresswomen were running around. I believe I heard later in the day that John Carter, who used to represent B/CS until redistricting, had to run to a vote when delegates were due to meet with him. Carter's legislative assistant began the late afternoon meeting, but in came Rep. Carter a few minutes later after rushing to get his vote in.
I've heard nothing but good things when it comes to the meetings this year as a whole. From my experience here last year, there are some legislative assistants (with whom the majority of meetings take place) who simply sit with delegates, take a few notes and say they'll pass the info along to the representative. This year, delegates say they've been lucky and blessed to get some engaging LAs who are very in tune with what's happening in Congress and what their boss thinks on the issues. To have a two-way conversation rather than a one-way speech means something to your local leaders, and it means something to you, too.
As I think I'll note in my story for tonight, the congresspeople and senators have repeatedly said this is a huge deal for them, and that if the B/CS leaders aren't bringing their community's needs to Capitol Hill, another community's leaders are. I'm certainly skeptical at times about the importance of this all. I think that's natural, but promoting issues that matter to B/CS and the entire state -- even the country -- gets seeds planting that could reap benefits for our area in the years to come. With these folks paying out of pocket to do this, I don't think there much of a downside for Bryan and College Station out of this deal.
Thanks for reading...
Tuesday, May 13 -- 11:45 p.m. ET (Steve Fullhart)
Quite the long day for the entire delegation today, including us, though we're not complaining by any stretch.
This morning was the epitome of the typical visits while the delegates are in Washington, though important nonetheless. We were with Team 5 as they marched through the Sam Rayburn building. Legislative assistants from Congressmen Lamar Smith and Ralph Hall met with us. I think Jordan and I were especially impressed with Rep. Hall's LA (to use DC lingo), as he was quite the talkative guy who seemed to have his legislation down. The 28-year representative seems to share a lot of the same ideals as the representatives even though he quite a long way away in North Texas, so his office will likely be fighting on a lot of fronts that local leaders need fights fought on.
Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn were quite responsive to the Chamber's items in the short, but critical meetings that took place mid-afternoon. Both were kind enough to stop by and talk to us for a little while, and those interview should make it to KBTX.com at some point Wednesday. Both senators seem to be up to speed on the issues that B/CS faces. Both talked of their familiarity with Easterwood Airport and CDBG grants, the latter of which we focused on in our piece that aired at 10. Those few dollars in the grand scheme of the nation's budget mean so much to the local leaders, and they're fighting tooth and nail to try and retain consistent funding for those low-to-moderate income housing, among other projects.
Monday, May 12 -- 11:00 p.m. ET (Jordan Meserole)
Wow, what a day. Normally I'd complain about waking up at 3:30 a.m. and still not in bed by 10:30 p.m., but the day has been exciting enough to keep me motivated and awake. Although much of what I've seen in Washington D.C. has been from behind a camera, it has still been amazing to see places like the White House and Capitol up close and personal.
So I've decided that while I'm up here near those lawmakers that help shape our country, I'm going to do a little lobbying. In my years of traveling, I've noticed a disturbing trend of Cinnabon stores disappearing from airport terminals. There was always something comforting about getting a good whaft of that sweet, fresh cinnamon roll smell before an early morning flight, or especially after getting off a long cross-country trek. Easterwood Airport didn't have much to offer this morning in the form of breakfast, but then again I'll let them off the hook since it was 4:15 a.m. I was holding out hope for Bush Intercontinental Airport, however, to only be let down. An attendant at Starbucks looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language when I asked for directions to the Cinnabon. I don't know if it has to do with the economy, gas prices, diet fads, or even bin Laden, but I cannot stand for this any longer. I'll only be here until Thursday, so make sure to get me your signed petitions by then....I think I've seen "School House Rocks" enough times to know how to get a bill passed quickly.
But I wasn't let down in another area that always brings me joy while flying: SkyMall magazine. It combines the perfect mixture of cool gadgets with useless stuff that looks like it might work for about 3 seconds. Here's some high- and lowlights from the latest issue:
-- Under the cover fan: It's a fan that slides beneath your top sheet near your feet, that keeps the air circulating. If anyone else has a spouse like I do that seems to emit nuclear level heat (even with the A/C at 56 degrees), this is something that could make dreams much sweeter.
-- Marshmallow Cannon: I made one of these when I was younger out PVC pipes, but this one looks much cooler (and probably works a lot better too). And the great part to it is you always have a tasty snack if you get bored playing with it.
-- Waterproof iPod Station: it's like an iPod docking station for your pool. It has two speakers, guarantees to protect your iPod, and has a place to hang it in the shower. Somehow Apple keeps finding ways to steal my hard earned money...
-- Toppik: Just when you thought all those great hair infomercials had disappeared (I'm not just the president, but I'm also a client!), Toppik keeps it going. For only $21.95, and in 8 different shades, you can make your comb-over look like...well, like less of a comb-over.
-- Hollywood Diet Cookies: Debbie L claims she "...lost five pounds in three days...". The cookies claim to have 13 vitamins and minerals, as well as being packed with fiber and protein. The ad neglects to mention the taste however...
-- Animal Hitch Covers: You can choose between five animals (deer, bass, hog, duck, dog), that shake and flash LED lights when you stop. Yet another reason to be annoyed while stuck at a stop light.
That's all I have for tonight. Be sure to check out the Eye on You section for all the photos we've been taking.
Monday, May 12 -- 10:30 p.m. ET (Steve Fullhart)
What a day, what a day, what a day!
Here's the Cliff Notes version. We got to Easterwood Airport around 4:45-ish a.m. to fly out, then went through Houston to get to Baltimore-Washington International Airport around 11:30 a.m. ET. Both during and after our drive to Downtown Washington and our hotel near the White House, Jordan and I worked on the two stories that aired Monday evening.
After that came a real treat. Congressman Chet Edwards invited the delegation up to the Capitol for a behind the scenes tour of the place. Jordan will be posting some pictures to Eye on You, which you can access through the B/CS in DC page, but we went onto the House floor (no pics there, sadly), the old Senate Chamber, under the capitol rotunda, into the old Supreme Court chamber, and to the balcony at the current Senate, where they were still in session.
I've lived in the DC area three times, so I'm a big fan of all the American history that surrounds this place. So is Rep. Edwards, who could easily make a career as a tour guide at the Capitol when his House tenure comes to an end. From the room where Harry Truman found out FDR had died, to the six-toed Native American in a painting in the rotunda, he gave us a very cool look at the history in that magnificent building.
Very busy day coming up tomorrow. Senators Cornyn and Hutchison on the agenda in the afternoon...we'll be booking it around town to get stuff pictures and sounds back to you.
Sunday, May 11 -- 2 p.m. (Steve Fullhart)
Well, we're about 15 hours from taking off out of Easterwood Airport and getting on our way to the District of Columbia. I'm pretty stoked about heading back to Washington for another year of B/CS in DC, and I know the members of the delegation are excited, too.
It's a lot of hard work and a few long days for these folks, but having talked to a number of them, they are very passionate about the issues they'll be talking about with the leaders in DC. If you want to read up on them, there's a link in our B/CS in DC section to the Legislative Action Plan on the right hand side of the page.
Last year, I had my good buddy Jon Burke handling the photojournalist duties, but he didn't want to put up with me again, so the victim this year will be Jordan Meserole. He says he wants to blog with me this year, so I may allow him to type a few words here, so long as they don't portray me as the cruel reporter that I am...not.
I've been kidded by a number of delegates who were on the trip last year because my appendix decided to rebel against me five days before the trip, and in the wee hours of the morning, I had to have it removed. This year, all organs are functioning properly, thank you very much (somewhere, Crystal Galny is reading this and making a crack that my brain is most certainly not functioning properly, but that's OK...she may be correct).
Much more from DC throughout the week, so check back here often. Thanks for reading.