The 2009 Capitol Hill Streetsies: Meet the Winners!
Policymaker of the Year: He didn't always deliver the message that reformers wanted to hear (remember the proposed 18-month delay of the next transportation bill and the "Cash for Clunkers" kickoff?), but Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood did more this year to bring the concept of livable communities into the mainstream than anyone else in the government.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-OR) and Shelley Poticha, chief of the Obama administration's sustainability effort, got a healthy number of votes in this category. But with hopes still high for the White House's high-speed rail project and a U.S. DOT change of heart on the timing for a new transport bill, LaHood rose above the competition ... for now.
Idea of the Year: This one wasn't even close. In a year that saw unprecedented success as well as frustrating setbacks for climate legislation, the concept of giving clean transportation a guaranteed share of the revenue from cap-and-trade emissions limits proved enduring and popular. The bill known as "CLEAN TEA," sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (D-PA), won major kudos from Streetsblog Capitol Hill readers and a place in the Senate environment committee's climate bill.
Disappointment of the Year: Frustrations were running high over "Cash for Clunkers," but Congress' failure to take up a new six-year federal transportation bill was the clear winner in this category.
Despite Oberstar's best efforts to draw attention to the nation's crumbling infrastructure and road-centric decision-making, lawmakers showed little to no willingness to debate a way to pay for the House's groundbreaking (though imperfect) $500 billion measure.
The latest extension of 2005's unfortunate SAFETEA-LU law expires at the end of February, but there may be no end in sight to the delays for a better replacement bill. All 535 members of Congress, as well as key players in the administration, have a share in this dubious victory.
One reader summed up the case against the Republican senators who "boycotted" consideration of the chamber's climate bill: "They seem to beg to be immersed in crude oil, and their efforts to gum things up on all policy fronts warrants a royal tarring and feathering."
But in the end, McCain snuck away with a close win. After all, no other senator has shifted so rapidly from strong support for emissions limits to a dismissal of even compromise efforts as "horrendous"?
And just for good measure, McCain threw in an out-of-left-field attack on bicycle and pedestrian safety programs. Perhaps his lump of coal this year will inspire another shift in 2010.