New Partners: Earl Blumenauer and Mary Landrieu
Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, whose district includes Portland, joined in a roundtable discussion. Blumenauer had strong words for the Bush Administration on its transportation policy, especially the recent commission report, where language in favor of increasing the gas tax was cut out.
Blumenauer: the commission was set up by Congress because the Administration was dragging its feet and wouldn't agree with their own experts. So Congress tried again, but the Administration redacted a bunch of things like streetcars, which upset a lot of people including [his] conservative friend Paul Weyrich. The Secretary of Transportation said we really don't need to increase the gas tax, which we haven't increased since 1993. They really completely punted on this, and [Blumenauer thinks] even his Republican colleagues would say this is the most anti-infrastructure administration in history.
We have to cut loose of the theology and take advantage of the growing movement, so the reauthorization of TEA-4 [the transportation funding bill] is a "green TEA", a "strong TEA." Jim Oberstar [who was invited to the panel but could not attend] wanted to tell everyone at the conference that the reauthorization needs a powerful plank dealing with land use, because if we don't align land use and transportation policy, we're doomed to failure.
Landrieu: The governors and mayors have the political muscle to make this happen in the next Administration, by presenting this to candidates before the election and getting their commitment ahead of time. When Clinton became President, governors stood up in favor of education funding, and it became a national issue.
Blumenauer: We're in a situation now where local governments are four steps ahead of the Federal government. 768 cities aren't waiting for Kyoto and going ahead with their own climate change policies. City after city has put together regional plans for transit. One guy got really upset with [Blumenauer] when he talked about light rail in SLC in 1991, and now they're putting it in. There is $400 billion of investment along the rail line that won't even open until December. He challenged conference participants to mobilize their energy to put this on the national spotlight in the next six months. He hopes people can work with the debate commission to have a debate about infrastructure. "You can do that," he said, invite the Presidential candidates to a forum co-hosted by the truckers assocition, the bicyclists, the Sierra Club, the women's federated gardening association, transit...
Q: Why hasn't any Presidential candidate talked about this at any point in any of the debates? Blumenauer: the consultants who run the campaigns tell candidates not to get involved in this. If Al Gore had talked about what's in his mind or his heart, he wouldn't have had to worry about hanging chads. But the consultants don't know how to come into this issue. It's about more choice, not less choice. [Blumenauer suggests] a conference on livable communities for political pollsters, campaign managers, the people who shape and misshape the campaigns need to have a dose of what the conference participants deal with every day. At the core, there's a reason the Fed gov runs away from raising the gas tax or raising new funds for transportation, but in region after region people are stepping up to raise funds for local projects while people in Washington think it's toxic.
Landrieu: On an bill she carried to build better public facilities, she hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to do some polling. He came back shocked, shocked to say that in Republican circles, with Chambers of Commerce, one of their major issues is livable communities. People want to live in places where the place knows what it wants to be, where they can walk to the theater or opera and their kids can have good ballfields. Luntz was surprised. Landrieu told Luntz, I wish you'd go tell the Republican caucus about this. There are some good folks, she said non-partisanly of the Republicans, but for many of them, for as soon as you talk about property anything they can't see past the end of their nose.
Blumenauer: The Federal government needs an urbanization policy in its foreign policy. The world population will be 9B by 2050, and the new 2.5B will all be in urbanized areas. We just passed the point where more than half the world population is in cities. Meanwhile the Republican colleagues zeroed out the urban program in USAID, which was only the cost of 4 cruise missiles. The CIA suggests that urban instability is one of the greatest threats to our long-term security. If these foreign nations develop the way we developed, it will provide such stress on water, air, and energy that we'll tip over the edge. If everybody in the world had the same resource footprint as the US, it would be the equivalent of 96 billion people. We have to figure out how people live together, move, use new energy technologies, manage water resources, and that must be a long-term plank in our foreign policy.
- Bikeshare is a gateway to private biking, not competition
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools
- Long-term closures: A solution to single-tracking?
- Metro policy for refunds after delays falls short, riders say
- M Street cycle track keeps improving, draws church anger
- Cyclists are special and do have their own rules
- O'Malley announces first projects using new gas tax money