Oberstar’s defeat: Reactions, a look back, and a note of thanks

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Rep. Jim Oberstar visits Beach Elementary School -11

Oberstar, seen here during a recent visit
to Portland, helped craft and pass
the nation’s first Safe Routes to School
(Photos © J. Maus)

A big surprise from last night’s Democrat drubbing at the polls is that 35-year Congressman Jim Oberstar lost his race to Republican Chip Cravaack. Oberstar lost by just 4,000 votes out of 273,000 cast.

Oberstar’s loss means he will no longer be the Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a position he has held since 2007. Rep. John Mica will assume leadership on that committee.

“No elected official has done more for bicycling than Jim Oberstar.”
— Tim Blumenthal, President of Bikes Belong

But beyond the immediate politics, Oberstar’s loss signals the end of an era for America’s bicycle movement. Oberstar was a titan of non-motorized transportation. The President of the League of American Bicyclists, Andy Clarke, said this morning that, “we lost a star player in yesterday’s elections.”

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Oberstar on T-bill: Despite rough seas, “We are sailing forward”

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Oberstar this morning.

U.S. Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) has thrown down quite a gauntlet in his public standoff with the Obama administration about the prospects of a new transportation bill.

Oberstar released his bill earlier this week (he’s Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) and he (and other House members) has rebuffed Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s proposal to extend the current bill by 18 months.

With a draft version of his Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 2009 in hand, Oberstar addressed the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit today. His remarks made it clear he has no plans to delay in pushing his bill forward.

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Oberstar releases full transportation bill: New federal office would study cyclists’ rights

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“Over reliance on automobiles can have adverse impacts on public health, both through lessened physical activity and from increased pollutants.”
— from the bill’s description of the Office of Livability

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has released the full text of the federal transportation bill. Calling it the “Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009,” the 775-page document lays out every facet of how the United States manages its transportation system.

Last week we speculated what the bill might include and now we’ve got the real deal. I’ve been combing through it and looking for bike-related bits. So far, the most interesting section is the full description of the new Office of Livability.

If established as drafted in this bill, this new Office could be a very exciting step for biking in America.

The 20-page description of the Office of Livability begins by laying out the case against the status quo:

“Since the creation of the Interstate System, American surface transportation has been defined by the use of personal motor vehicles. The focus on automobiles has afforded Americans increased mobility and interconnectivity; yet has also lead to increased congestion, higher greenhouse gas emissions, and a reduced focus onother modes of surface transportation.”

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Oberstar’s $500B T-bill would establish livability office, U.S. bike route system

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National Bike Summit 07

Rep. Jim Oberstar speaking at the 2007
National Bike Summit.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Today — the man who just two years ago stood in front of 2,000 Cycle Oregon riders in lycra shorts (after he himself battled the day’s grueling climb) and told them he would “thread the language of bicycles into the federal transportation bill” — got his chance when he submitted The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

U.S. Congressman James Oberstar, who is Chairman of that committee and a towering figure in the American bike movement, has presented the proposal along with House colleagues Peter DeFazio, John Mica, and John Duncan.

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Blumenauer in NY Times: A “bicycle evangelist”

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Blumenauer in front of his
office in D.C.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The New York Times has published a profile on Portland Congressional Rep. Earl Blumenauer. The story, A Bicycle Evangelist With the Wind Now at His Back appears above-the-fold on page two of the paper’s weekly “Science Times” section.

Unlike the recent anti-bike comments by Rep. John Boehner that got national attention, this story paints a more positive picture of biking as a political issue.

Here’s how the Times characterizes Blumenauer’s work:

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Politico: Blumenauer, Oberstar on short-list for Transportation Secretary

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Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN)
(Photo J. Maus)

Politico published a story today about who might get cabinet-level appointments in a Barack Obama presidency (if he’s elected on Tuesday night of course).

Politico reporter Ben Smith and ABC’s Jonathan Karl (who used “well-positioned Democrats” as sources) have put two familiar names in the running for Obama’s Transportation Secretary — Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN).

Back in May we wondered out loud whether Blumenauer (who campaigned for Obama) might get the nod, but this is the first time I’ve heard Oberstar’s name come up.

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Oberstar looks to history, future, during conference keynote

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Rep. Jim Oberstar addressing the
Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference
in Seattle.
(Photos © J. Maus)

In the closing address of the 2008 Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference in Seattle on Friday, bicycling’s Grand Man in Congress, Jim Oberstar, shared a history of America’s bike movement, and inspired the assembled crowd with his trademark energy and bravado.

For nearly two decades, Oberstar (D-Minnesota) has been one of bicycling’s most effective champions. He was present at the inception of the modern bike movement in the late 1980s when he began to lay the groundwork for ISETEA (the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) in 1991. Prior to that transportation bill re-authorization, Oberstar is credited with laying the groundwork of the bike movement’s presence on the national political stage.

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Snapshots from the last night of the “Best Summit ever”

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This story is part of my ongoing coverage of the 2008 National Bike Summit. See the rest of my coverage here.

Tonight, among the high ceilings and dramatic architecture of the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, was the Congressional Reception; an event where Summit-goers could finally relax after two full days in bike advocacy boot camp.

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Oberstar and DeFazio rock Cycle Oregon

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DeFazio and Oberstar seemed
more like running-mates
than Congressional colleagues.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

Last night’s ride report was cut short and I didn’t get a chance to share more thoughts and photos of Congressman Oberstar and Representative DeFazio from last night.

The two members of Congress joined Cycle Oregon for a grueling climb yesterday and then spoke on the Main Stage after dinner.

DeFazio spoke of his admiration for Oberstar and told us about opportunities for bicycles in the Federal Transportation Bill despite, “being saddled with Bush.”

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