Where are the Bailouts for Surveyors and Engineers?
By: Harry O. Ward, PE
I just read in the New York Times (Aug. 4 & Aug. 12) that Congress approved $26B for states that are fiscally insolvent to remain with their full staffing of government workers, teachers and police. We have 35,000 people in my county and we have 25 sheriff’s deputies, 24 town police and an untold number of state police all keeping us “safe.” We have one 1 teacher for every 20 students. And now they are bailed out to keep this ridiculous level of government staffing in place.
In the meantime, they have stopped all services, new textbooks haven’t been purchased in years and all other supplies needed to teach have been eliminated to the point where the teachers must bring magic markers and other supplies into class on their own dime.
Where is it written that all government jobs must be saved and saved at any cost? So what if we had 23 students in a class--I am guessing the majority of you all had more than that in your classes growing up. So what if we have 1 sheriff for every 1500 residents instead of 1:1200. This county is a rural area, a bedroom community for Washington D.C. There is virtually no crime here.
Look, I know it is a sacrilege to criticize anything regarding teachers or police, but I am going to do it here and now. Why? Because who is watching out for the engineers, surveyors and contractors that read this journal? No one!
Yes we got a bailout, the ARRA funding. Is it really helping us? Not from what I am hearing. It is mostly new stop lights,road signs, traffic enforcement cameras, some rehabilitation projects to repave a road or put lights on a bridge. How many surveyors did that help? I dare say virtually none. I am seeing unemployed surveyors being sent by the state to look for jobs at Walmart! This is a travesty.
Surveying is down to skeleton crews in most firms now. Some are considering ditching their survey department and the costs that go with it and simply outsourcing their work when needed. On paper it may actually make sense. I have written several articles/blogs on this recently because surveyors are not lobbying to keep work or expand their duties. GIS should be certified by a licensed surveyor. Accident surveys and re-enactments should be done or overseen by surveyors. And so on…
You know, I thought we were going somewhere when the initial ARRA money was released. I foresaw the coming of high-speed rail in America. The rest of world has had it for years but our oil and auto lobbies have prevented it. China is heavily investing in high-speed rail and is building over 20 new miles of track each day! I foresaw an improved power grid. Currently we have a manually based power system where the technicians can’t tell if a power line is overloaded without looking at the extra sag in the catenary curves of the lines.
This is shameful. Why aren’t there sensors on all of the electrical lines with a constant stream of data feeding to a diagnostic center? I saw improved roadways to help our cities out of the gridlock we all face each morning trying to get to work or to a client.
Nope, none of this is really happening. And if the Great Recession doesn’t spur it, we are doomed. We wish we could repeat history like they did in the Great Depression. I still see the aftereffects of their government assistance when I look at the Hoover dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Skyline Drive. Our bailouts are nothing more than stopgap measures designed to last one year or so, theoretically long enough to slide us past the recession until America’s economy “comes back”.
Again, I wrote about this a year or more ago, and my position was and still is that the economy isn’t coming back. This is our new economy, one of indecision, uncertainty, huge debt and literally no future. The Apple iPhone and iPad is not what is going to save us, but infrastructure could if we would let it! Look again at the Great Depression and what they accomplished.
I thought health care reform would help save us with the expansion of 40 million people who will have access to health care by 2014, there would be need for many new hospitals, clinics, pharma companies, health related distribution facilities, new teaching facilities to educate health care staff to care for this influx of people.
So considering the flux in the survey world regarding the potential split of the NSPS from the ACSM, I must ask, what are these advocacy groups doing to get us a reprieve?
I don’t believe there is a surveyor or engineer out there that wants a bailout; instead we want to work on rebuilding America’s failing infrastructure. We want work that takes advantage of our education, our skill, our labor and the fruits of that labor. Oh, and by the way, I am equally looking at the ASCE to do its part. It’s wonderful that the ASCE publishes a report to Congress identifying that our infrastructure is rated a D pretty much across the board for roads, dams, airports, bridges, water, power, etc.
We need some heads cracked, professionally, of course!
So to the ASCE, the NSPS, the ACSM and every engineer and surveyor out there, contact your congressman immediately and let them know about the rest of us, who are paying for these absurd bailouts. Let them know they need to redirect their funding to go towards America’s infrastructure or we may not have one left in 20 or 30 years.
Here is a link for contacting your congressperson: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
Here is a link for contacting your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=IL
Here is a link for contacting your Governors and everyone else: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml