Former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretaries Ray LaHood, Norm Mineta and Mary Peters spoke to NSSGA members at the General Session of NSSGA’s Annual Convention on March 6. NSSGA President Mike Johnson noted that Americans had a Democrat who worked for a Republican president (Mineta), a Republican who worked for a Democratic president (LaHood) and only the second woman to serve as DOT secretary. All agreed that Congress must act now on legislation to fund the nation’s surface transportation network.
Perhaps LaHood said it best,
“We are in a crisis. America is one big pothole.”
Peters contended that Americans must stop saying “no” to everything and talk about what the country can do together. Further, she said, “An efficient transportation system is essential to a growing economy.” She also said grassroots efforts are needed – on a local basis.
“You need to go to your communities and tell how important (transportation) funding is for where you live.”
Mineta commented that “compromise” had become a dirty word on Capitol Hill and had grown to mean that you must agree with me, rather than how we can meet in the middle. He noted that transportation bills used to enjoy easy passage.
“But the Highway Trust Fund needs financing,” he said. “And we can’t seem to get from voicing opinions to action. Hopefully, grassroots efforts will impact this.”
Each of the former secretaries said that grassroots action was key to success. LaHood said, “You need a game plan when you go to Congress. With your blueprint, you can make a difference.” He challenged each individual to get involved and to meet with their lawmakers. Only when they hear from their constituents will members of Congress be moved to action.
All three former secretaries said the time for action is now. “Thank you for continuing to fight,” said NSSGA President Johnson. “We have our marching orders.”