Ray LaHood, pictured above, is the guy who implemented President Obama’s push for increased motor vehicle efficiency. Since becoming Secretary for Transportation in 2009, he has also championed the rights of air passengers stuck on runways, and defended Obama’s strategy of investment in high-speed rail infrastructure.
LaHood is also a Republican. Representing a solidly middle-American district, he was elected to Congress in 1994 at the time of the ‘Gingrich Revolution‘. He was nominated and appointed Secretary of Transportation in the first Obama administration in 2009, one of just two Republicans in the Cabinet. (Quiz: can you name the other GOP member?-without using Google?)
Earlier this year, LaHood announced his retirement, which will shortly take effect. Despite early skepticism about his credentials, he won plaudits from potentially surprising sources. Peter Lehner, executive director of the National Resources Defence Council, described him as “an unlikely champion of green causes” and added:
“He poured investments into public transportation infrastructure, supported the development of livable, walkable communities, and emphasized regional cooperation on transportation alternatives…”
Should we be surprised? In an era of unprecedented partisan bickering in Washington DC, it appears remarkable when a Republican gives solid support to a Democrat. But everyone benefits from livable communities that aren’t crushed by traffic. For a generation sick of political stalemate seemingly stuck in October 1964, Smart Growth policies for strong towns and communities represent a welcome opportunity for bipartisan consensus. Secretary LaHood reminds us that party affiliation is no barrier to sound policy choices regarding the built environment.
Of course, political affiliation is also no barrier to choosing completely misguided policy positions, and in Princeton we have seen representatives of both major parties argue in favor of policies that underpin the car-dependency of post-war America– policies that have led to the strip-mallification of the Garden State, endless traffic, and climate change. Can the new Secretary for Transportation steer us in the right direction? We’ll take a look at his credentials tomorrow…
Which political party has the best track record on Smart Growth policies? Is walkable development an area where politicians can find common ground? Let us know in the comments section below…