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.”
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.
A weak choice. What exactly are his quals?
Ah, the Illinois Political Machine strikes again. This is definitely the downside to having a president from that state…
Well, since his economic policy for averting another Great Depression is to throw money at infrastructure spending like it’s a foreign war, it stands to reason an connected Illinois political operator is going to be the one to head-up the disbursement of all that largesse. There’s just too much money to be scammed to let some bike geek from the tiny population state of Oregon to be in charge of it all.
This is appalling. Thank you Obama for the most base and foolish tokenism. I voted for Democrats because I wanted an executive branch populated by Democrats. I’ve had enough of Republicans running transit policy or any other policy. Why am I surprised by this?
Under the guise of bipartisanship we are being sold out. Cooperation with a party of greed and violence is no act to be celebrated, even if the specific member is less objectionable then some.
so much for “Hope”. At least you have a cool spoke card out of it all.
I am confused by all the uproar of Obama’s tremendously terrible cabinet picks.
Ya’ll got what you voted for. A right leaning corporate shill, mainly funded by the coal and nuclear industries. Why the uproar and surprise?
There are neo-conservative hacks on both sides of the aisles and now again in the White House. The next war with Iran should be fun, huh?
The Dems are immune from greed and violence? Both groups are equally guilty and both are needed to govern as long as a two party system exists and is influenced by private money.
Peace on Earth.
There’s a great deal of separation between the political machine in Chicago and what happens in the rest of the state (“Downstate”). Rod Blagojevich is governor on the strength of his connections with the Chicago machine (his father-in-law was a former alderman), but he’s the first Democratic governor in 30 years in Illinois… really the State government is pretty detached from the political machine in Illinois. Any time you’re talking about a political machine, it’s Chicago or Cook County, not the state. That’s not to say there isn’t corruption at the state level, it’s just that the governor doesn’t have nearly as much power as the mayor of Chicago has, which is exactly why Blagojevich got his hand caught in the cookie jar.
All this is a long winded way of saying the LaHood has nothing at all to do with “machine politics” in Illinois. He’s a Republican on the Congressional Bike Caucus, which means that he must have a real interest in bikes, because he damn sure isn’t getting pressured by his constituents in Peoria to take care of cyclists. His record may not seem spectacular, but it seems like he’s pro-bike and pro-rail, so why don’t we wait and see what he’s got in store for us before we start bitching and moaning.
As an aside, I’m personally glad that Earl didn’t get tabbed for this position, Oregon’s a small state, having a senior Rep like Earl in the House does us a whole lot of good.
I don’t know what to think… other than deep, vast disappointment. This is from his biography…
“Ray has led efforts to enhance Illinois’ infrastructure. He has worked to secure funds to improve local highways, such as the reconstruction of Interstate 74 in Peoria, the expansion of U.S. Route 67, and the completion of Route 336. Ray has been a proponent for improving local airports through securing funds for new construction and expansion, while also working with officials to increase air service. ”
What kind of transportation policy do you expect to come from a rural Republican political insider with a BS in Education and Sociology and whose “greatest collaborative achievements include the establishment of a federal health clinic in Peoria, the creation of the Peoria/NEXT business incubator, and moving forward with the construction of the Peoria Riverfront Museum.”
He must have a good jump shot.. I can’t imagine what else he’ll bring to the “team”..
Oh.. and the Obama sign just came down.. and promptly thown in the recycling bin.
This is the “new politics”?
His appointee for Interior Sec. Ken Salazar is fantastically terrible as well. Not to mention the Agricultural pick Tom Vilsak. Ugh. And Hillary, my god. And keeping on Bush’s Defense secretary, what the f@ck??
And do do not get me started on his Chief of Crap Rahm Emmanuel, one of the sleaziest politicians of our time.
Yup, this is truly change YOU can believe in.
You sheep who keep bleating about how we should all just give him some time are starting to sound beyond naive.
I’m cautiously willing to take a “wait and see” viewpoint, but I have to say that the Cabinet appointments announced in the last 24 hours seem less than visionary. On the one hand, I know Obama is going to have to play the Washington game if he wants to get anything done. But the former governor of Iowa (ground zero for Genetically modified foods, Monsanto, and the ethanol hoax) for agriculture secretary does not inspire any belief in the radical shift away from farm subsidies and towards local food sustainability our country needs. And Salazar (friend to mining and ranching) heading the Dept. of Interior, while better than what we’ve got now, is hardly a signal for a new day for our public lands in the west. Now this…
Ha! I love the “Certificate of Appreciation” It’s like they felt bad because everyone else had an award.
I think this is a pragmatic choice.
LaHood is exactly the kind of guy that Obama needs in order to jump-start those New Deal-esque programs that we probably will need to restart our economy. He has connections and no small amount of power to make things happen.
While it’s not going to make the bike geeks happy (and I’m one of them, so be nice), it’s going to give Obama FAR more political capital than an Blumenauer appointment would have.
Plus, LaHood supports rebuilding passenger rail, and for that alone I can breathe a sigh of relief.
There is a VERY big picture going on here, one in which change will take a VERY long time to effect. Anyone who can push the river even a foot towards rebuilding our nation’s rail system is going to help make some positive trickle-down happen along the way. I’m not ecstatic, but being something of a pragmatist myself I get it.
Wow, judging from the political viewpoints from this forum Barack might as well resign now! I knew when I voted that Obama was a pragmatic realist who was not going to perform miracles! I think overall his cabinet is really good. What do you people want? This country has been driven into the ditch and it is going to take a long time to get out of this. Obama is the brightest guy we could hope for and to start trashing this soon is pretty depressing? What progressive did you people have in mind that could have been elected? The transportation secretary is a pretty minor post and I too would have liked Blumenauer but you can’t have everything. Give Obama a chance to at least take office before you start bitching about his presidency. Is this bikeportland or the fox news network?
I’m truly taken aback that many thought “change” was actually going to happen on a huge scale. I think everyone got caught up in the uproar. It’s Washington people, favors are paid back, backs are scratched. What did you expect some neo-liberal agenda?? I saw through this looong ago, that’s why I didn’t jump on the “change” bandwagon. I voted for Obama but I certainly didn’t believe all his bull. Earl for Sec. of Trans…. get real, never did I think he would be tapped… not a chance.
Don’t get too excited about the LIB’s endorsement — outside of Chicago, cycling in Illinois is truly pitiful. In my experience, LaHood’s region around Peoria and the rest of downstate Illinois is easily the least friendly region for bicyclists in the United States. LaHood has no idea what a truly bike friendly region looks like.
I am trying to withhold displeasure about BHO’s admin until 2010.
However, when the country is in a ditch, one would hope that would be the time for dramatic initiatives and big changes. Seems like we are headed for more of the same. woohoo pragmatism.
maybe nader will run again in 2012 ;).
Downstate Illinois is the “least friendly region for bicyclists in the United States?” On what do you base that, Fritz? You probably have never bicycled there or maybe you just had one bad experience. And incredibly, you know enough about every other region of every other state in the country so that you can compare all of those, too? And from among all those regions and states, you classify “downstate Illinois” as the worst? I grew up in downstate Illinois and had lots of positive experiences cycling. I prefer the situation here, but your classification of virtually an entire state is beyond belief. Give us a break, Fritz!
I started getting concerned when Obama voted for TARP. Each cabinet announcement has made me more and more worried. Since the announcement of who he’s picked to head the SEC (a top brokerage regulator who would have had to be in a coma to not notice what Bernard Madoff was up to), I’m finished with “Hope”.
No, I don’t know much about Ray La Hood, but given the incredible crooks that Obama has chosen so far, it’s pretty obvious what this guy is likely to be.
To West Couger (#4):
Unfortunately, you have said it right. There is much at stake here; and us bike geeks are still a very **tiny** minority in this country.
I am taking a wait and see approach.
Meanwhile, I can continue to be a bike geek who glows in the dark . . .
sounds like we have reached the emerald city and looked behind the curtin
La Hood has been a champion for two important programs: Transportation Enhancements and CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality). Both TE and CMAQ have vital to my state for funding bike/ped and transit projects.
beth h (#16) sums it up pretty well. At least there is a chance for rail.
Besides, nothing would have galvanized opposition to new views on transportation and public space than Sadik-Kahn or Blumenaur.
Wow, Steve is really the ionly realistic person on this forum. The rest of us are really stupid. I just know that Nader or Kucinich will get elected next time.
I understand the need for ‘consensus politics,’ especially after the shut-out tactics of the current administration. The Cheney administration was so horrible, in large part, because they used the majority and the White House to steam roll anything they wanted through the halls (and under the halls and through secret passageways…). Overall Obama is making some very wise choices by picking from both sides of the aisle, but that being said, I REALLY wanted Earl in a stronger transportation position. Some things can’t wait, and a new approach to personal mobility – a taken-for-granted right in most folks eyes – needs to happen as quickly as possible. I don’t think we’re in for very many important changes with the LaHood pick. I would love to proven wrong.
I would also like to say that I am happy Earl’s still working for us in the House, but Congress hasn’t shown much of a spine at all since the 2006 elections. I can’t express in writing how disappointed I am in the last two years of Dem ‘control.’
Wow, I’m truly amazed by the reactions I’m reading here. I guess when some folk voted for ‘change’ it was for the ability to instantly ‘change’ their attitudes based on names and not deeds. No shot at redemption for anyone! If you weren’t a dyed in the wool progressive for your whole life you’re going to be unable to make any useful and important differences, EVER! I’m interested in watching Obama display his leadership qualities and position his cabinet to be advocates for improvement for the American people. Lord knows there’s been a distinct lack of leadership in the White House for the last 8+ years. Let’s just throw out the bathwater for now eh? Let’s worry about the baby later.
#8 Lukas – I know the Republican party doesn’t have a lock on corruption and greed. Working in politics I’ve seen both sides play rough and do ugly things. It seems that at a time like this what is needed is a clean break from the current Republican machine. LaHood is outside of that to a point, but it still concerns me. Bipartisanship is not an inherent good and the concept reinforces the notion of a bi-polar political spectrum.
There are far worse choices Obama could have made, even within the Democratic party. Unfortunately I think this choice signals that transportation is not a priority. One of Obama’s talents up to this point has been to surround himself with brilliant people, his campaign team was stellar and many of his cabinet picks are top thinkers. This choice seems to be a case of tokenism on an issue that we can ill afford to ignore.
I do not envy these people going into the cabinet, it is a brutal and often thankless job. One thing a do hope to see from Obama is a commitment to his people. Watching Joycelyn Elders and others being thrown under the bus by past administrations troubles me. We need to work to ensure that advancing progressive agenda doesn’t turn into endless recriminations and sackings of key people.
Earl was never a consideration….most anyone here who is disappointed that “their guy” didn’t get tapped…had their head in the clouds. I know everyone wants to cheer for the hometeam, I get it…
but Obama has larger aspirations than pushing Oregon-based bicycle legislation…..I would love to see high speed rail built in this country…shore to shore…because after the oil is gone or too expensive to extract, how do you think people are going to travel between our two coasts? the age of the airplane may very well die during our lifetime.
the man hasn’t served a day in office and already people are jumping ship…pretty sad…you voted him…then you voted for trusting in his decisions…let it play out for 12-18
months then get out the political noose if you don’t like what you see..
Here’s a little note about LaHood’s record from the Oregonian:
“However, Ed Barsotti of the League of Illinois Bicyclists has been spreading the word that LaHood played a helpful role in beating back a 2003 effort to wipe out a big chunk of federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
Barsotti noted that in a floor speech defending the federal money, LaHood said:
As we are encouraging people all over the country to exercise, to be fit, to eat right, to exercise and to do things that will continue to make people healthy, there is no better way to do it than to have this program.”
He seems like he has a decent record with regards to cycling legislation, I don’t see why people are so upset about him.
“the man hasn’t served a day in office and already people are jumping ship…pretty sad…you voted him…then you voted for trusting in his decisions…let it play out for 12-18 months…”
A-freaking-men. Let the man get inaugurated, can we? The funny thing is, until yesterday I bet 99% of the people reading this thread, myself included, had no idea who LaHood was. But, now that we’ve read his wikipedia entry, well, we’re judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one, boy howdy!
Change you can believe in, my a**.
@jrep: I lived (and commuted by bike) in Champaign County eight years. And yeah, I’ve been around.
It could be worse. I lived in Colorado in 1982 when 40 inches of snow fell on Denver. The mayor interrupted his vacation time in Texas to call in and tell the city not to spend money on removing the snow from the streets. There were still impassible streets when the grass was turning green and the daffodils were blooming. His other claim to fame was the Denver airport boondoggle. This demonstration transportation expertise earned him an appointment to Secretary of Transportation.
“…because after the oil is gone or too expensive to extract, how do you think people are going to travel between our two coasts?”
According to the US Air Force, by planes fueled by next generation (cellulosic) biofuels.
a.o…I’ll believe it when I see it…
that’s a LOT of corn…
I’m old enough to know a lot of “next generation” promises never come true..
cyclist (#9, #32): hear, hear. Thanks for presenting a rational attitude. I can’t believe there are 38 comments about this – almost all negative – about someone I bet most everyone here knows nothing about (except maybe what’s on other blogs or papers). All speculation.
And I agree, we need Earl continuing to publicly represent our interests, not hidden away in administration.
It’s not corn, it comes from cellulose. They’re spending billions, trillions on the R&D because they know that if they don’t have a domestic fuel source in the age of scarcity they will lose their ability to indefinitely maintain air superiority.
The exact budget is classified, of course. But this is the strategic weakness in all energy strategies that can only be met by a new liquid fuel source. They’ve already considered and rejected electric planes, liquified coal, fuel cells, and nuclear-powered planes.
I’m not saying cellulosic ethanol will or will not be a major fuel source in the future, but that’s the consensus among the Washington insiders (which Obama seems to think are the best qualified to be members of his Administration) and they are spending enough money so that, if it is technically feasible, they will make it a reality.
FWIW, I prefer the bullet train too.
there’s cellulose in corn…
got any proof of these here accusations of secret jet gas?
first I’ve heard of it….and I just learned last week to not believe everything I read on the intraweb…
Cellulosic-based ethanol will come from genetically-modified algae or other microorganisms, not from agricultural crops. People call it “second generation” biofuel. It’s the only cost-effective form, or will be, soon.
There are lots public documents, e.g., reports and testimony before Congress, about the Air Force’s interests in biofuels for strategic reasons. The interwebs allow you to learn about these things using a technology called “google”.
Here’s one example. Note especially p. 3:
My practice involves representing biofuel manufacturers, so I read a lot more about this than most.
Anyway, if they keep throwing money at it like they are, there is broad consensus in the industry that in the near future it will be a viable fuel for vehicles that cannot run on electricity, e.g., planes.
The main problem with high-speed rail is that it requires exercise of eminent domain authority, which really pisses people off. Very expensive and politically unpopular. Even if you use the existing lines, you have to deal with the frieght-movers and, as we know, they get what they want from Congress. Planes running on biofuels do not have that problem.
To Steve, Red Hippie, Donna, etc., I get it now. There is a reason George Bush won twice. I guess nobody can be as pure as you. Obama has not even taken office and already he has failed. Transportation policy is better under the current administration I guess if you don’t get exactly the person you support. Do you want another 8 years of what we have or could you cut Obama just a little bit of slack. I think some people would just rather sit around and bitch about who is in charge instead of working to make things better. I worked on the Obama campaign so I am biased, but it took a lot of work to get 52% of the vote in this country. We could have a transportation secretary chosen by Sarah Palin! I am done with this forum, it is just too depressing.
Hey Dan – LaHood notwithstanding, I can assure you that I was not the one who nominated a pack of crooks for cabinet positions. There’s only one person responsible for that, and it’s not Steve or Red Hippie either.
I was totally gung-ho for Obama before the TARP vote, and even then I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he had to have been completely clueless about the financial industry & the credit markets to vote yes for that abomination. (Because the alternative explanation is that he is owned by the financial industry. I didn’t want to believe that of him.) He really had to go out of his way to lose my support.
Donna, I wasn’t going to respond anymore but I couldn’t help it if Jonathan will print this. You people are just crazy! One vote you disagree with and he loses your support? What do you want? Again I ask what progressive do you support that could get elected? LaHood will be better than anybody any Republican would nominate so what is the point? You are the reason we get get George Bush!
Barak is in bed with money, and the money controls you. Cyclists should be glad the Trans. Sec. did not turn out worse. It’s no shock to me he has a bigot, anti choice preacher giving the sign in prayer. Barak is behind separate but equal. He gets a marriage certificate, and gays get domestic partnership.
There is cellulose in every plant, it is the basic structure of cell walls. What I have been hearing about is that the feedstock for cellulosic alcohol will be corn stalks and other agricultural wastes, and that the end byproduct will be used as fertilizer. I have also heard that genemod poplar trees are in line for the feedstock, but I’m not ready to believe that one. Grasses and stuff like that have a higher proportion of cellulose and grow much easier than trees.
As for the efficiency of aircraft, well turbojets are bad but piston engines and propellers are pretty efficient when combined with next-gen airframes at speeds around 200 knots. It becomes a time vs energy tradeoff then. Turbofans are better than straight jets, enough so that there aren’t any subsonic straight jets in production, and darn few in operation. But they do use more fuel than pistons for the same distance, in exchange for about twice the speed.
And if you’re not in that big a hurry you can ride your bike. I do lots of city to city trips on my bike for trips under 100 miles. I have “done lunch” with a friend with a 200 km round trip. but that is my upper limit for a day trip. If there were dedicated bike highways that had frequent places to stop and refuel, like car highways have, then I could see “doing lunch” with a 200 mile round trip. A 4 lane bidirectional bicycle highway could be done for the same cost as a 2 lane road without shoulders…
That one vote, Dan, is most likely going to cost us the value of our currency and national solvency. That’s because there’s going to come a point soon when no one will lend us money any more. When that happens, there won’t be any stimulus packages, New Deals, trains, or government money invested in alternative fuels. There won’t be a whole lot of anything. I truly wonder how much of that Americans will be willing to take.
I’m the reason we got George Bush? My goodness, you certainly make a some interesting assumptions about me and my voting record based on my pointing out the crookedness of much of Barack Obama’s cabinet. I’m not sure how they’re connected, but I guess you managed to make a connection in your head.
For as long as I can remember Chicago has allways ben the “armpit of America”. Now those same Chicagobutts are going to run our country? Except for the big guy who is going to “Rule”. All hail the chosen one
Ray LaHood is not from Chicago. Peoria is to Chicago as Lakeview, Oregon is to Portland. Generally, state politics gets split between the Chicagoland area and downstate, though of course LaHood has been a US Rep for 27 years now, so that doesn’t really affect him.
It just frustrates the hell out of me that people here are passing judgment on a guy who they know nothing about. The fact that both Democrats and Republicans in the House say that he is a solid, honest man doesn’t seem to mean a thing, the fact that he’s supported pro-bike, pro-walk legislation or that he’s a member of the Congressional Bike Caucus doens’t even seem to register. It’s just amazing to me that he’s being written off without a second thought.