Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama's Secretary of Transportation Candidates in the Bullpen

In Transition: Transportation Secretary

November 25, 2008

The Washington Post
Copyright 2008

Mortimer Downey

Current job: Self-employed transportation consultant and chairman of PB Consult.

Credentials: Deputy secretary of transportation under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001, making him the longest-serving person in that job. Assistant secretary of transportation under President Jimmy Carter. Former executive director and chief financial officer of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Former transportation budget analyst for the House Budget Committee. Held various planning jobs at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. A key adviser to Barack Obama and currently leading the president-elect's transportation transition team.

What he offers: Extensive experience running the Transportation Department; highly regarded in transportation circles and on Capitol Hill; strong background in private and public sectors; national stature; seen widely as a "wise man" choice.

Vetting: Downey has been repeatedly vetted for Senate-confirmed jobs.

Quote: "Our infrastructure needs more investment. It is important, it is crumbling, and other countries are doing more. We've got national issues we need to deal with, and transportation is a critical tool for doing that."

Jane F. Garvey

Current job: Head of U.S. public-private partnerships at J.P. Morgan Chase.

Credentials: Appointed by President Bill Clinton to become the first female administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and served from 1997 to 2002, including the period of the Sept. 11 attacks. Former acting administrator and deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, also under Clinton. Former director of Logan International Airport in Boston and a former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Works.

What she offers: Garvey has an extensive background in air and highway transportation, understands the structure of DOT, and ran two of the department's biggest agencies. She is well known and liked in Democratic circles and is on the Obama transition team for transportation issues. She would bring diversity to the Cabinet as a woman and as a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid.

Vetting: Garvey's recent work at J.P. Morgan Chase may cause concern among skeptics of public-private partnerships who worry about a proliferation of such projects at the federal level

Quote: "Probably for anyone in Washington, you have to be somewhat thick-skinned. It's easy in these jobs to think about where you want to be. I have to remind myself to stop and look at how far we've come. You really do take these jobs on to make a difference, to move the ball forward."

Steve Heminger

Current job: Executive director, San Francisco Bay area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Credentials: Member of a congressional commission that analyzed U.S. transportation policy and recommended ways to strengthen it over the next decade, including reorganizing the Transportation Department and raising the federal gasoline tax to 40 cents in the next five years.

What he offers: Through his work in the San Francisco region, Heminger befriended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who appointed him to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. The work helped Heminger cultivate congressional ties and gave him an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the Transportation Department. Heminger would be an outside-the-Beltway choice for a president-elect who says he wants to bring fresh ideas to Washington.

Vetting: Not well known outside transportation circles.

Quote: "The inefficiencies and under-investment that plague the nation's transportation network aren't just about concrete, asphalt and steel. They jeopardize our national security, damage our ability to compete in a global economy and harm our enviable quality of life. We simply cannot afford to pass this problem on to the next generation. The time to act is now."

James L. Oberstar

Current job: Congressman for Minnesota's 8th District since 1975; chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Credentials: The powerful Democrat and aviation expert has served on a presidential panel that reviewed aviation safety after the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. As chairman of the transportation panel, he will write a reauthorized highway bill that will shape billions of dollars in road, bridge and transit expenditures.

What he offers: Oberstar has what admirers say is a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the federal transportation program. He has built extensive congressional ties over his House career, is well respected by road and transit industries, and was an early Obama supporter.

Vetting: Oberstar is unpopular with enthusiasts of the budding space tourism industry because he thinks the FAA should formulate minimum safety and health standards for passengers and crews aboard commercial spaceflights.

Quote: "While the U.S. transportation network remains the envy of the world, we are losing ground. Without a renewed commitment to providing the vision and leadership needed to rebuild and expand this network, congestion will worsen, goods will move more slowly, air quality will continue to deteriorate, the number of roadway fatalities and injuries will continue to stagnate, and our quality of life will be diminished."

© 2008 The Washington Post: www.washingtonpost.com

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