It's nice to know that when you need a friend in your corner, there is someone you can depend on.
Alpena has one of those people in U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, who, over the years, has been a very visible cheerleader for Alpena. There are a number of issues he has championed for us during his years in public service, but the two that stand out most noticeably these days are the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.
Both issues have been in the news in recent weeks.
Expansion of the sanctuary's boundaries was a need Levin understood quickly after the sanctuary was established, and within the last year he has babysat the legislative process necessary to see that occur. While official expansion of the boundaries still is months away, every week that goes by now is one week closer to that eventual event.
That certainly will be positive news for Alpena, and all of Northeast Michigan, but even more important perhaps was the muscle Levin recently exerted on U.S. Air Force officials. Faced with budget cuts to the 2013 U.S. Defense bill, Air Force officials initially had proposed making the majority of the needed reductions to Air Reserve and National Guard units.
In Michigan, the proposed reductions would have had an adverse impact to Selfridge Air National Guard and Battle Creek Air National Guard Base by eliminating aircraft and personnel. Subsequently, the trickle down also would have impacted Alpena and Grayling. In Alpena, had the proposed cuts taken effect, it was anticipated that up to 50 jobs might have been lost.
Last week, Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, secured the support of the ranking Republican on the committee - Sen. John McCain of Arizona - to approve a Defense spending bill that spares the Air Guard and Reserve units.
Specifically, the Air Force is prohibited from implementing proposed cuts to Air National Guard aircraft or personnel.
"The Air National Guard performs an extremely important function," Levin said, "and its capabilities should not be casually or precipitously changed. The Air Force proposal, which disproportionately affected the Air National Guard, was ill-conceived and unjustified. Our bill rejects the Air Force's proposal and takes steps to prevent a repeat of such poorly thought-out proposals."
During a recent visit to Alpena, Levin and I discussed the proposed cuts at the CRTC and his work to preserve the jobs there. At the time the Armed Services Committee was beginning hearings with Air Force officials to learn more the criteria used in making the original recommendations. Obviously, by last week's announcement, committee members believed the criteria was flawed and without merit.
Also quick to point to Levin's influence in the CRTC issue was fellow Sen. Debbie Stabenow in her visit with us this week.
"I want to commend Chairman Levin for leading the effort to stop the Pentagon's proposed cuts to the Air National Guard that would have had a devastating effect on the mission and personnel at Selfridge, Battle Creek and Alpena's National Guard bases," said said. "These bases play a vital role in our nation's defense, and I am very pleased the jobs of the hundreds of men and women serving in Michigan will be preserved."
So am I.
It seems that job expansion always is the "sexy" news that gets the greatest play, yet equally as important is job preservation.
In this instance, 50 local jobs were preserved for our region. Fifty families will continue to live here, play here, go to school here and spend their money here.
That's cause for celebration.