More MWAA Hijinks

Sardinia? Seriously, dude, let’s party! Dennis Martire image from his Facebook page.

Is this really a guy we want on the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority right now? Dennis L. Martire, a senior executive with the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), has racked up $38,000 in expenses attending five conferences in 2010 and 2011. Writes the Washington Post editorial board:

In May last year, for instance, he took a nine-day trip to attend a 36-hour conference on the Italian island of Sardinia, best known as the Mediterranean haunt of supermodels and Russian billionaires. He brought along a companion, as he did on previous trips to conferences in Prague and Belgium; the authority did not pay the companion’s expenses.

Mr. Martire’s ostensible purpose in Sardinia was to take part in a forum, at a luxurious seaside resort, that was sponsored by the Airports Council International, an industry group. However, the forum’s focus — small regional airports in Europe — was a tangential topic for U.S. airports, to put it mildly. Of the 160 or so delegates who registered for the event, he was almost the only American, according to conference organizers. And no wonder: The forum was irrelevant to U.S. airport executives.

On returning from his Sardinian adventure, Mr. Martire filed an expense claim for $10,586, most of it for a business-class air ticket. … He also wrote a brief trip report, noting that smartphones can be useful tools for airports to communicate with passengers.

In a statement, Mr. Martire defended the trip as “directly relevant to my duties as a Board member” and “fully legitimate and absolutely consistent with [airports authority] policies.” However, he did not explain how it was relevant or answer any of our specific questions — for instance, why he chose to attend a conference in Sardinia when the same sponsor holds almost 20 conferences and seminars in the United States and Canada each year.

Martire, who was appointed by former Gov. Tim Kaine, pushed for a mandatory Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on Phase 2 of the Rail-to-Dulles project that would require the prime contractor to hire through union hiring halls in an arrangement that also would funnel thousands of dollars into various union funds. MWAA determined that his involvement did not represent a conflict of interest.

It’s a positive sign that in response to questions about board travel practices, Chairman Michael Curto announced last week that he has suspended international travel. Curto, it appears, is less tone deaf than his predecessors. Good for him. But the real issue remains ensuring that Phase 2, estimated to cost $2.7 billion, is built for the least amount of money possible. Soliciting bids under the current board policies, which would give a major edge to contractors using PLAs, could limit the number of bids and lead to a low bid potentially costing millions of dollars more.

The revelations of Martire’s expense-account extravagances may have other ramifications. When Virginia and Washington, D.C., amend the interstate compact governing MWAA governance — assuming that D.C. does amend it — Gov. Bob McDonnell and other appointing executives will have the power to replace board members “for cause.” One could argue that pushing pro-union PLAs was a policy matter, not sufficient to justify bumping Martire from the board. But taking junkets to Italy could give McDonnell just the reason he needs to replace Martire with one of his own people.


Oh, and one more thing… LiUNA accountants might want to take a close look at expenses that Martire has filed with the laborers’ union. If I were a LiUNA member, I’d like to know what what he’s doing with my union dues.

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  1. larryg Avatar

    When I look at this guy – and hear of his exploits – his union leanings have no bearing because he could be a right-wing tea-party guy and the way that MWAA was created and operates would allow anyone, regardless of their political leanings to do the same thing.

    But we continue to demonize people here instead of the atrocity that MWAA itself is.

    tsk tsk

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Well, Jim – you have a point on this one. Sardinia is the Maui of Europe. Any thrip there is a vacation or a boondoggle. Either way, it shouldn’t be paid for with public funds. Had Martire and his friends had the simple sense to hold the conference in Barcelona it would not raise eyebrows. Barcelona is very nice – not quite as nice as most of Sardinia but very nice. It also has the advantage of being a major city rather than a tourist destination. Kind of like substituting San Diego for Maui.

    As for LarryG’s comment – nothing more than the usual pap. The MWAA is what Vriginia and DC created. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s also interesting that one guy everybody seems to have the most trouble with was appointed by the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond.

    So, what should the MWAA have done when Dennis Martire was appointed by the sitting governor of Virginia? Refuse to seat him? The arguments on this board are laughable.

    Has anybody asked DC about amending the charter? We’re now in June and the Virginia law to amend the charter will go into effect on July 1. However, I’ve heard no date for DC to amend the charter.

    Now, I know that people like Ken Cuccinelli don’t really care about Rail to Dulles or transportation in Virginia or unions. Cuccinelli cares only about his path to become governor and how he can “out-stupid” Bill Bolling and thereby curry favor with the Tea Pots who vote in Republican primaries (or caucuses). Bashing “evil accursed unions of any and all stripes” is a tried and true way of enhancing Tea Pot credentials. So, Cuccinelli will bash.

    Bob McDonnell is another story. McDonnell never had to win a primary in order to run for governor. Therefore, there was nobody to “out-stupid”. In fact, McDonnell spent the entire election either appearing to move to the center or actually moving to the center. In retrospect, I think he actually moved to the center. Now he looks toward national politics and must stay in the center.

    Why isn’t Gov McDonnell working with Mayor Gray to get DC to amend the charter?

    Is he trying to preserve some ammunition for the upcoming “stupid-off” between Bolling and Cuccinelli? Does he even support Cuccinelli?

    Let’s say that McDonnell has the minimal sense to know that Cuccinelli is unelectable in a general election even if he is a Tea Pot hero. And let’s say that McDonnell would like to see the Republicans hold the governership of Virginia for the four years after he leaves. What a poor boy to do?

    Cook a private deal with Gray. Then, send Bolling to “negotiate”. Maybe roll back the Phase II union guidelines to the same level as Phase I. Phase I seems to be working so why not?

    Bolling walks out a hero. Money saved, union extremeism defeated, jobs “created”. In southern Virginia he can play the, “I beat the unions and Kaine’s union buddy” card. In Northern Virginia he can play the, “I saved Phase II” card.

    McDonnell can then work with Tom Davis to find cause for replacing Dennis Matrire. Anybody boondoggling in Sardinia with a companion is generating lots of reasons for dismissal. Replace Martire with Jim Bacon. Send Jimbo up to National Airport to work with DC, Maryland and the Feds. Then, every time Jim leaves the DC area to go back to the Richmond area I’ll be able to say that the average IQs of both cities went up.

    1. I have it from one source speculating that D.C. will amend the interstate compact but doesn’t want to act first, so it is waiting for Virginia’s law to go into effect before approving the amendment… Yeah… maybe. I called McDonnell’s press office for answers but got no response. So, who knows what’s going on?

  3. larryg Avatar

    ” replacing Dennis Matrire” will not fix the problem if you don’t change the basis for the abuse. You’ll just get another guy/gal doing the same dang thing except they likely won’t be one of those dang union types.

    this is what I hate about the partisanship these days. each side points out PEOPLE on the other side that has violated the law, ethics, etc but neither side is willing to put a stop to it so that no matter the political leanings, the abuses are stopped/restricted.

    there are no people interested in good/better govt anymore.. just whatever flavor of mud they can heave at the other side.

    Tell me which politician has promised to clean up MWAA (as opposed to “getting” some alleged bad person on MWAA)?

  4. Elected officials won’t do much to clean up MWAA because MWAA is the agent for the big contractors building the Silver Line and the big landowners getting massive increases in the value of their land due to the rezonings enabled by the arrival of the Silver Line. This is a prime example of crony capitalism and transfers of wealth from the middle class to the upper class in the name of addressing transportation problems. This is enabled by the compliant media; the pseudo business community, most of whom depend on government contracts; and residents so wrapped up in themselves that they sleep through being pick-pocketed.
    Spending other people’s money and “doing something” is regarded as progress. No one asks questions until things are done. People simply believe that adding traffic and bike lanes and especially railroad tracks means things will get better. Only a few are interested enough in seeing public dollars being spent to provide real benefit. Dulles Rail is good because Dulles Rail is good. Few bothered to consider the restrictions placed on Metrorail because of the Potomac River tunnel’s limited capacity. Few bothered to wonder why the feds didn’t want to fund the line. because of a weak cost-benefit ratio. Few cared that the bulk of the costs would be placed on DTR drivers. Few cared about the price elasticity ratio for the DTR and where those drivers would go.
    We get what we deserve.

  5. larryg Avatar

    Bob McDonnell could make a REAL statement about his supposed displeasure with the way MWAA does business, but alas.. he’s just yet another Pol working the levers…

    He did not deal with MWAA… he just wants HIS guys running it.

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Why don’t you send ME to Prague! Only $4,500 and I’ll write several blog posts.

  7. Peter, will you also post some pictures with your posts? It’s been a while since you’ve livened up the place with imaginative images.

    1. And just what do you mean by “imaginative”? Help Peter along here. You need to be a little more explicit.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Here is my personal favorite example of Peter’s use of graphics to communicate insight …

      2. DJR has it right. That is the type of imaginative images I had in mind.

  8. DJRippert Avatar

    TMT and Jim Bacon both have good philosophies but no practical approach to implementing those philosophies.

    Both demand sweeping reforms before any incremental change can be undertaken.

    In Virginia, that is a guarantee of nothing happening – ever.

    Gentlemen, please remember that Virginia is a state that has the Commonwealth Transportation Board structured to the population distribution of 1935. A law proposed in the General Assembly session this year would have re-structured the CTB to today’s population. That law was abandoned by the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond.

    Now, if the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond can’t bring the CTB past its pre-WWII configuration, why (in God’s name) would you think that the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond will:

    1. adopt an effective ROI system for transportation systems,
    2. implement anti-sprawl zoning regulations,
    3. properly manage transportation funding,
    4. de-evolve local road maintenance to localities and,
    5. implement a fair and equitable “user pays” system?

    By making even some of these reforms a pre-requisite to any forward progress you are effectively banning forward progress.

    I can’t tell whether the two of you know you are asking for far more than the Clown Show can deliver so that you can oppose all transportation spending (and the associated taxes) or you’re just naive.

    Your philosophy regarding Clown Show progress would be like me saying, “I’ll start going to Redskins games after they win three consecutive Super Bowls.”. If I were more forthright, I’d just say, “I am never going to a Redskins game.”.

    Be honest gentlemen – you don’t have a realistic plan for forward progress in Virginia. You have a pipe dram of massive reform which, in reality, is a recipe for total stagnation.

  9. I agree that it will be exceedingly difficult to persuade the General Assembly to enact the kinds of thorough-going reforms I’d like to see. The best we can realistically hope for is incremental change over the course of a generation.

    Here’s the problem I have with continuing to pump money into business as usual: So much of the money will be totally wasted. We’re financing transportation for 20th century human settlement patterns, not 21st century patterns. I have a big problem with throwing away billions of dollars all so the politicians can say they “did something.”

  10. larryg Avatar

    well.. having the CTB in charge of settlement patterns is a problem anyhow and the 1922 boundaries are a meaningless charade also because at the end of the day – the locality lobbies their CTB rep to build road infrastructure for them.

    If you devolve roads to the localities you break the CTB connection which would be a “good”thing.

    If you devolve roads to the localities – you put them on the dime for settlement patterns – instead of VDOT. Cities and Towns already work this way and it’s a win-win because Cities and Towns get to decide priorities as well as phasing instead of VDOT’s way of deciding “logical termini” which often results is a bigger, longer-time frame, more expensive road that was quite often not timely-funded… languished for the 6 year plan, then essentially stranded when funds ran dry.

  11. The “peasants” are revolting against the great Silver Line, wondering why it is not fixing the traffic problem as was previously advertised. From the Fairfax Times.

    Published: Friday, June 1, 2012
    Tysons transportation plans raise concerns for longtime residents by Kali Schumitz
    Staff Writer
    Residents of several neighborhoods on the south side of Tysons Corner came out in force Thursday night to voice their objection to a proposal to add more access points into Tysons from the Dulles Toll Road.

    Fairfax County transportation staff are considering the ramps as part of the overall effort to plan infrastructure to support anticipated growth in Tysons in the coming decades.

    The concept is that the ramps would tie into other major roads on the new city street grid planned for Tysons Corner, giving drivers more access points than just Va. 7. The options include placing ramp connections at Boone Boulevard, Greensboro Drive and Jones Branch Drive.

    The county is trying to collect feedback on three different variations adding one, two or three new access points.

    “All of these options have impact. Some of them may be more; some may be less,” said Seyed Nabavi, a planner with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

    The biggest point of contention for residents of the communities off of Old Courthouse Road in Vienna is the planned extension of Boone Boulevard, which would be a four-lane “avenue” in the new street grid. The ramp and road extension could affect Raglan Road Park and other environmentally sensitive areas adjacent to the park.

    Residents also are concerned that the new road would bring urban development closer to their suburban neighborhoods, which are slated to be preserved under the comprehensive plan for Tysons.

    “This never should have been on the table,” said Pam Monday, president of the Greater Tysons Green Civic Association.

    The approximately 200 people in attendance at Thursday’s meeting expressed strong support for what they took to calling “option zero,” adding no new access points into Tysons Corner. Many said that they don’t understand the need to accommodate more car traffic.

    “The Metro was to help bring less cars,” said John Reiter, a resident of Higdon Drive, which would run parallel to the new Boone Boulevard. “I guess that is just a disconnect for me.”

    Dan Rathbone, chief of the county’s Traffic Planning Division, said traffic models indicate that the amount of development coming to Tysons in the coming decades will require road improvements at the same time the county is trying to get more people to use transit.

    “It’s in all of our interest to minimize impact as much as we can … but we also have to make transportation work,” Rathbone said.

    Planning for the proposed ramps still is at a very preliminary level. After completing the community input process, transportation staff will make a recommendation about the ramps this fall, and then the preferred option will be studied in more detail, including environmental studies.

    Ultimately, the transportation plans for Tysons Corner will be approved by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

  12. HardHatMommy Avatar

    TMT – thanks for sharing this. What a crummy turn of events for the residents of Vienna. The county is doing the bidding of the big developers who want to shift the traffic into the beautiful woodlands that currently serve as a buffer between the metropolis of Tysons and the old, quiet Vienna neighborhoods. There’s no good reason for that road. If it were truly needed for the overall good of the region, then fine. But it is not necessary and is a gift to the developers to shift ugly cars off their dreams of making rt. 7 walkable.

  13. larryg Avatar

    I would surmise that you’d need more roads in Tysons in the future even if you did not have METRO because Fairfax would/will continue to approve more and more dense development.

    what is going on is the basic realization that METRO is not affect traffic relief but rather modal choice during rush hour. Basically it gives people options for mobility rather than actually impact traffic volumes.

    As long as Fairfax and Loudoun (and other exurban counties) continue to approve development – and cars are used to go from home to work and’re going to need more roads.

    I’m a bit of a skeptic in terms of “blaming” developers. Look how far developers get in Facquier. The locality has to say YES instead of NO and Fairfax (and Loudoun) do not say NO (at least very often).

    anyone disagree with that? so kicking developers might feel good but it misses assignment of actual responsibility.

    The good people of Fairfax apparently are “ok” with their elected doing this..right?

  14. According to the Federal Transit Administration (2009), there will only be 10,000 new transit users on the Silver Line. That’s a bit more than 1000 per year. The rest of the rail passengers will already be taking transit. I believe the page reference is A-35.
    Hello Greece.

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