Local politics goes to nation’s capital with ‘turbo’ representation from Huntsville area (Mark McCarter column)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — We were on a rooftop on J Street and apparently the finest set designer from Hollywood was called on to do the backdrop.


A bright sun made the clear blue sky even clearer. The city of Washington, D.C., spilled away from us in a mosaic of green parks, stern gray buildings and others structures that seemed the whimsy of some outrageous architect.

What dominated the scene was the imposing, iconic dome of the U.S. Capitol, looming so close you thought you could reach out and touch it, the way a full moon can make you feel on an autumn evening. It looked too real to be real.

It was a stunning reminder, no matter one’s level of cynicism about the partisanship and disingenuous comments and lack of progress, of the awesome power of this city.

It was the setting for the first event of an annual event led by the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County and its many partners, including the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce.

All politics is local, Tip O’Neill was said to proclaim.

Sometimes local politics has to go national.

There were 170 business and civic leaders and elected officials registered for the trip, on which they’d hear from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby and U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt and an armada of other senators and congressmen.

There were countless smaller huddles, too, from the Pentagon to private offices, all in the interest of doing local politics in the nation’s capital.

It was a pretty good who’s who, from the roster of mayors — Tommy Battle of Huntsville, Troy Trulock of Madison, Don Kyle of Decatur, Bob Joslin of Arab, Leigh Dollar of Guntersville and Carolyn Thompson of Elkton, along with Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong — to business CEOs to BRAC leader Joe Ritch to educators.

“I’m jealous,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md) gushed. “What a great advocacy team Huntsville has here.”

Mikulski later called it “a turbo presence on Capitol Hill.”

Maybe it’s not the most painful sacrifice to surrender a few days to Washington, D.C. in the spring, but it’s also a measure of civic pride and concern that so many companies and individuals invested the resources to attend. This was the largest group yet for this Huntsville-area junket, and it’s traditionally one of the largest Chamber-sponsored groups from anywhere in the country.

“I know Washington is important to Huntsville and the region,” Shelby said.

Vice versa, you’d hope he could add.

That’s the whole point of the trip.

Mike Ward, the Chamber’s vice president for government affairs and the ringleader for the trip, presented Shelby, Sessions, Brooks and Aderholt packets entitled Federal Agenda 2013. It was a list of items for which the Chamber and delegation requested congressional support and action. To wit:

– Repeal sequestration.

– Sustain full funding for space and missile defense

– Full funding for the Space Launch System being developed at Marshall Space Flight Center

– Maintain or increase funding for the genomics-based research being done at Cummings Research Park

– Support a potential National Network for Manufacturing Innovation site in the area

– A laundry list of infrastructure needs to ease traffic and improve roads

Shelby reminded us that “I work hard for you. Senator Sessions works hard for you. I spent half my time working for things in north Alabama.”

Before the trip ended, you’d swear Washington orthopedists would be doing a half-dozen rotator cuff surgeries the way some elected officials were patting themselves and each other on the back for how well they represent us.

I’d suggest that in equally important ways, in non-elected ways (for the most part), in dedication and contribution, the Huntsville area was as well-represented for two days by the turbo presence that took to the road with the politics of local.

Contact Mark McCarter at mmccarter@al.com and

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/04/local_politics_goes_to_nations.html