“He has not only helped rebuild our landscape, he’s helped beautify it by creating opportunities for bikers and runners to enjoy our great outdoors.”
— Obama on LaHood
Congressional Quarterly has the full transcript from today’s press conference where President-elect Obama introduced his choice for Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood. Below are some key excerpts interspersed with my thoughts…
This is Obama giving some background (emphasis mine):
“…Our economy boomed in the 20th century when President Eisenhower remade the American landscape by building the interstate highway system.
Now we need to remake our transportation system for the 21st century. Doing so will not only help meet our energy challenges by building more efficient cars, buses and subways, or making Americans safer by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, it will create millions of new jobs in the process.”
And about LaHood’s transportation background:
“Throughout his career, Ray has fought to improve mass transit and invest in our highways.
But he has not only helped rebuild our landscape, he’s helped beautify it by creating opportunities for bikers and runners to enjoy our great outdoors.”
This bit is perhaps an attempt to mollify critics who are scratching their heads over LaHood:
“Ray’s appointment reflects that bipartisan spirit, a spirit we need to reclaim in this country to make progress for the American people, and a spirit that Ray has embodied in all of his years in public service.”
I think Obama realizes he disappointed some people with this choice. But I also think Obama understands (and has experienced) the tremendous amount of power he’ll have to make big changes if (and only if) he can unite the entire political and social spectrum of our country
And now, Mr. LaHood:
“President-elect Obama and I share the same philosophy on infrastructure.”
Does that mean he agrees with Obama’s statements in Portland back in May? I hope so.
Back to LaHood:
“As a nation, we need to continue to be the world leader in infrastructure development, Amtrak, mass transit, light rail, air travel, and our roads and bridges all play a vital role in our economy and our well-being as a nation.”
That sounds good. Nice to hear he thinks of Amtrak, mass transit, and light rail first…and doesn’t mention “highways” (a dirty word to sustainable transportation advocates) or, God forbid, “freedom machines“.
“We cannot stand by our infrastructure ages and crumbles. We must pursue solid policies that allow our states and communities to address their transportation needs…
I’ve served on the House Transportation and infrastructure committee as we reauthorize the Federal Highway Bill [some are dismayed he calls it the “Highway” bill.] I understand first hand what good infrastructure and transportation means to communities, and understand it is the local folks who know best their transportation needs. We’ll bring that same approach to the Department of Transportation.”
That “local folks” remark is sure to win applause from many in the transportation field who want federal dollars put into the hands of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (like Metro in our region for instance), and not doled out by state Departments of Transportation (who tend to be more old-school and highway-centric) like it is now.
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and move forward.”
Sounds good Mr. LaHood. So are we. See you in March.
— Read the full transcript here.