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Don't Forget About Local Politics

September 27, 2010
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Kyle Gargaro

Politics is on the minds of a lot of the industry people that I speak to these days. In fact, I cannot remember when I have heard so much chatter for a mid-term election. I suppose that is the result of a still-struggling economy and the polarization of our political discourse.

Some are worried that a return to Republican Party power would be bad for business as they remember the collapse of the economy on George Bush’s watch, while others are worried that President Obama and the Democrats are bringing us towards a European model of government and long for the days when Bill Clinton liked a different kind of European model. And some that pay attention to the Tea Party are hesitant to throw in with all their ideas - they are looking at you, Rand Paul.

It does not matter if you are Democrat, Republican, or a member of the scrappy upstart Tea Party, people are going all out to make sure their voices are heard.

This is especially evident in the HVAC industry and has been showcased in The NEWS recently. On this editorial page in the Aug. 23 edition, California contractor Matt Golden and Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) President Paul Stalknecht debated the merits of the currently proposed Home Star legislation. Golden is on board, while ACCA has some concerns about the program.

And just last week, Talbot Gee from Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) used his guest editorial space to talk up the extension of the $1,500, 25c residential tax credits.

Just like the guest editorials before him, Gee made solid points on how the legislation would help the HVAC industry.

And just like the guest editorials before him, Gee made it a point to suggest readers reach out to their U.S. senators and representatives and have their voices heard. That is sound advice, and I am always an advocate of communicating with the people who represent us.

STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

I am not trying to talk you out of any stance on an HVAC issue, or to have you put your chips down on either the elephants or the donkeys. Frankly, I would have a better chance talking Tiger Woods into remarrying without a prenup. However, I do urge you not to forget other levels of government.

It is all fine and good to contact politicians on a national level, but they make very few decisions that affect a contractor’s life, while your state government and local city council can have a direct impact to your bottom line.

Take the state government in Florida, which has a residential air conditioner rebate program that started in August and has no money. It’s not because it has already been handed out, but rather because the legislators seem to be unable to agree on anything. In Michigan, there has been talk about adding a service tax that would include HVAC. How would that change the bottom line? And don’t get me started on the power of the local government. Its ability to update laws on licenses, codes, and certification should motivate all contractors to keep at least one eye on their local politicians.

And not only does local government have more of an impact on your business life, but you can have more of an impact on it. While the city manager might get two-three letters or e-mails a week about a particular issue, and I bet McCain gets hundreds if not thousands a week on any particular issue of the day, your one letter to the city manager holds a lot more weight than your e-mail to Sen. John McCain.

So keep being involved in the national scene like the leaders of ACCA, HARDI, and other organizations recommend. But don’t forget about the local folks - you might be surprised how pleasant or unpleasant they can make your life.

Publication date: 09/27/2010
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