Nov. 18 2008 12:00 AM

A delegation from Lansing leaves to try and convince Congress to lend a hand to the Big Three

At a pre-flight press conference at the Capital Region International
Airport Monday night, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero joked that he was
taking a tent to Washington, D.C., so he can sleep outside the U.S.
Capitol until the federal government approves a bailout for the Big
Three automakers.

The proposed bailout, or "bridge loan" as proponents prefer
calling it, is to the tune of $25 billion and would go to No. 1, No. 4
and No. 12 automakers (in terms of production), respectively: General
Motors Corp, Ford Motor Corp. and Chrysler LLC.

As part of that $25 billion, Bernero said, he wants $1 billion to go
to communities affected by the slowed auto industry and for extending
unemployment benefits for laid-off autoworkers.

Bernero's schedule will include efforts to meet with Republican
senators in the hope of flipping "10 or 12" in favor of voting for
the bailout. Bernero didn't yet know which politicians he would be
meeting with.

Bernero, whose flight left at 6:40 p.m. Monday, was joined on the
trip by City Council Vice President Derrick Quinney, a former auto
worker and state AFL-CIO official, and Randy Hannan, Bernero's
deputy chief of staff.

Also accompanying Bernero - and who appeared with him at the press conference - is East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis, Delta Township Supervisor-elect Kenneth Fletcher and Delta Township Manager Richard Watkins. The UAW is sending Mike Green and Brian Friedline, presidents of locals 652 and 602, respectively.

Bernero will be joined in Washington by mayors from Toledo,
Shreveport, La., and Arlington, Texas.

Bernero's tone was forceful at Monday's press conference, never
missing an opportunity to chide those would let the Big Three
dissolve. He called the beneficiaries of that $700 billion bailout a
few weeks ago "a bunch of paper shufflers" when compared to the
gritty backbone of America: the auto worker.

Bernero said that the recession and crisis within the financial
system struck at a time when the Big Three were just about to "turn
the corner." Meaning, he said, the companies were making concession
breakthroughs with the United Auto Workers Union and had just begun
to start making cars people wanted to buy.