obama’s secretary of transportation pick

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repost from bike portland http://bikeportland.org/2008/12/17/obama-makes-pick-for-transpo-secretary-its-not-who-you-think-it-is/

Obama makes pick for Transpo. Secretary (it’s not who you think it is)

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Editor) on December 17th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Introducing Ray LaHood, your

next Transportation Secretary.

On Friday, President Elect Obama is expected to make the formal announcement that Ray LaHood, a retiring seven-term Republican congressman from Peoria Illinois, will be his Transportation Secretary.

LaHood is a long-time friend of Obama and has worked closely in the past with Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Back in May, we (and others) speculated that maybe former Portland City Commissioner and now Congressman Earl Blumenauer would get the nod. That rumor evaporated pretty quickly, but then New York City’s shining transportation star Janette Sadik-Khan became the hot rumor. Other names on the short list included biking’s political founding father, Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar.

Not surprisingly, the potential of any one of those picks had biking and livable cities advocates partying in the streets.

But judging from initial response from the LaHood news, there won’t be any partying after all. Or, maybe the party will just have to be postponed.

LaHood’s transportation record is mixed. He is certainly not as progressive as a Sadik-Khan or Blumenauer (an understatement), but he has supported stronger fuel standards for cars and has put political weight behind continued funding of Amtrak.

A quick read of some comments on various articles about this news shows a range of reactions, from downright anger to a “let’s wait-and-see what he does” tone.

The optimists hope that Obama will still hold true to his campaign promises of forging a new paradigm in America’s transportation culture (he hailed Portland’s bike lanes during a visit last May). They see LaHood’s appointment as a decision to strike a bi-partisan tone in what is sure to be a transformative conversation about how to make a massive new investment in our infrastructure come 2009.

A member of our Facebook page responded to the news with hopeful optimism,

“I was also disappointed… but LaHood would be more of a project management guy, hopefully he’ll work like Bloomberg and appoint people like Janette Sadik-Khan.”

In 2004, LaHood was honored by

Illinois bike advocates at the

National Bike Summit.

(Photo: League of Illinois Bicyclists)

Others are not so optimistic. Over on Streetsblog, commenters have pointed out LaHood’s conservative voting record and low score from the League of Conservation Voters (he’s never surpassed 50%) as causes for concern.

Besides being on the Congressional Bike Caucus, there are some bright spots that at least LaHood has biking on his radar (that’s a huge improvement from our current Transportation Secretary). LaHood was a co-sponsor of the Bike Commute Tax Benefit, and in 2004, he received a “Certificate of Appreciation” from the League of Illinois Bicyclists at the National Bike Summit.

LaHood seems to have come out of nowhere. Will he bring the “change” that so many were hoping for? We’ll be watching the formal announcement on Friday very closely for more information.

– Ray LaHood on Wikipedia. For more analysis, check out this article on LaHood published a few hours ago on Bloomberg.com. A good variety of comments and response to this story can be read on Streetsblog and on the Caucus Blog at NYTimes.com.




I really, really wanted to see Janette’s name in this article.”

That was one of the first comments on the Bike Portland blog, which I echo. But, given Obama’s support of biking, walking and transit in his platform I have some hope for LaHood. As Obama said, he sets the vision, these folks execute that vision.


Here is Obama’s letter to Transportation for America (www.t4america.org):

Dear Friends,

I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts with the members of Transportation for America about our nation’s transportation future. Thank you for sending me your petition, and for supporting investment in infrastructure.

You’ve hit on one of the central challenges facing America now – how to convert this moment of crisis into a moment of opportunity. And I think you’ve identified an important part of the answer as well. Our economy is slowing down, we need to stimulate it. Jobs are disappearing; we need to create new ones. At the same time, our infrastructure is crumbling and we need to rebuild it.

Now is the time to invest in our future and strengthen our core infrastructure. You said we must build to compete in the global economy and fix what’s broken, and I agree. I’ll put two million more Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems – because it is time to build an American infrastructure for the 21st century. Early in this campaign, I had already proposed creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, funded with $60 billion over 10 years, to expand and enhance, not replace, existing federal transportation investments. Now, with unemployment rising, these investments are even more important.

You said we need to invest in green technology, and I agree. I will invest $150 billion over the next decade in renewable sources of energy to create five million new, green jobs – jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced; jobs building solar panels and wind turbines and fuel- efficient cars; jobs that will help us end our dependence on oil from Middle East dictators.

I support Amtrak funding and the development of high-speed freight and passenger rail networks across the country. As you may know, I cosponsored the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act in the U.S. Senate, and supported the successful effort to get this important legislation to the President’s desk this year. And I’m pleased that the President signed this bill into law just last week. I will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. I’ve worked to improve transportation access to jobs for people with lower incomes since my time in the Illinois State Senate, and I will continue this work as President. And I will further promote transit by creating incentives for transit usage that are equal to the current incentives for driving.

As you know, all of these measures will have significant environmental and metropolitan planning advantages and help diversify our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Everyone benefits if we can leave our cars, walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. I agree that we can stop wasteful spending and save Americans money, and as president, I will re- evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account.

I will build upon my efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks. And as president, I will work to provide states and local governments with the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable communities.

I encourage you to look at my positions and record versus those of Senator McCain. He has consistently fought federal support for Amtrak, including a vote against the package containing the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act that even President Bush was willing to sign this week. For decades in the Senate and as Chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee, McCain opposed capital funding for Amtrak time and time again and wanted to dismantle Amtrak entirely.

My running mate Joe Biden and I will provide better leadership that supports the priorities of your members, and we hope to have your votes on November 4th. Thank you again for the opportunity to share these thoughts with the members of Transportation for America. Together, we can create the changes we seek.


Barack Obama


Bicycle industry hopeful in new transportation secretary pick: http://www.bicycleretailer.com/news/newsDetail/2160.html

brian j

Here’s a post from an Illinois political site about LaHood and his record on transportation. I think the quote at the end is important to understanding the pick–the fight will be highways v. mass transit (especially rail), and LaHood has already broken ranks on the issue, and could serve as a bridge-builder between the parties.

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