Dodd Vows to Pass Livability Bill Amid Skepticism From Rural Senators

Even as the Obama administration ramps up its work on a sustainability initiative that treats transportation, housing, and energy efficiency as interconnected aspects of development policy, the effort remains without an official congressional authorization — a situation that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) vowed to fix yesterday.

dodd_working.jpgSenate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) (Photo: The Washington Note)

During an appearance in his home state with Ron Sims, chief of the administration’s inter-agency Office of Livable Communities, Dodd vowed to work for passage of his legislation authorizing $4 billion in grants for Sims’ work.

"I only have about eight to 10 months," he said, according to the Hartford Courant. "My goal is to see the Livable Communities Act become law before I retire."

Dodd, whose panel has jurisdiction over housing and urban development, is working with that 10-month deadline as he anticipates retiring from Congress at year’s end. His push to create a long-term foundation for the administration’s sustainability effort also could run into resistance from rural lawmakers whose states have tended to benefit from a transportation spending system based on road-mile formulas.

The first stirrings of rural skepticism came on Thursday, when Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) questioned the administration’s move to emphasize "multi-modal" transport projects that would combine roads, transit, and bike-ped access.

Begich asked the U.S. DOT’s No. 2, John Porcari, to make sure that rural states are "not lost in the mix." That sentiment was echoed later in the day by Sen. John Thune (R-SD).

"It seems to me that [the Office of Livable Communities] is a program that’s going to overwhelmingly focus on urban areas," Thune told Porcari during the latter’s appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee, asking if rural states such as his own would "get some assurance or guarantee of funding."

Porcari assured the senators that the administration plans to include rural areas in its sustainability plans, describing the program as an opportunity to restore the "quality of life" once associated with small-town America. Nonetheless, the concerns raised by Begich and Thune could signal more requests for livable communities grants to be distributed among all states, as opposed to the more competitive process the administration has outlined for its first $150 million of funding.

The most significant test of Dodd’s ability to marshal support for his bill authorizing the livable communities office may come later this spring, as lawmakers consider the administration’s request for about $530 million in 2011 funding for the effort. Congress assented to the White House budget request for $150 million in sustainability grants for 2010.

  • Erik G.

    It is always fun to see a politician from Alaska complain about transportation spending on “other modes” when you consider the millions of dollars that are spent each year on the Alaska Marine Highway (Ferry Service), the Alaska Railroad and the subsidized Essential Air Services. Alsaka EAS gets $12 million!

    South Dakota, which has just over the population of an average congressional district in California, got $3 million last year for EAS, and is the state with only a little 1000 people per mile of interstate.

    California has 15,000 people per mile of interstate!

  • Erik G.

    Somehow this got posted to the D.C. version of Streetsblog:

    ‘Tis always fun to see/hear a politician from Alaska complain about transportation spending on “other modes” when you consider the millions of dollars that are spent each year on the Alaska Marine Highway (Ferry Service), the Alaska Railroad and the subsidized Essential Air Services. Alsaka EAS gets $12 million!

    South Dakota, which has just over the population of an average congressional district in California, got $3 million last year for EAS, and is the state with only a little 1000 people per mile of interstate.

    California has 15,000 people per mile of interstate!

    Oh, I forgot, South Dakota is the only state in the lower 48 that has never had Amtrak service.

  • Erik G.

    OY! I wanted this to go to the L.A. page. WASSSUP Streetblog comments department??

  • jns

    Yes, it’s going to focus “overwhelmingly” on urban areas. You know, where the “overwhelming” number of people live, and the “overwhelming” contributions to our country’s economy are created. Where the “overwhelming” need for infrastructure dollars is… That’s the GD point.

    Why can’t we just say these things? Mr. Sims? “You’re either urban or you’re not.”

  • Tim Evans

    41 percent of Alaska’s population lives in Anchorage, the state’s largest city. That’s a pretty big chunk of the state’s population right there that wouldn’t count themselves among the “rural” residents on whose behalf Senator Begich is presuming to speak.

  • Bolwerk

    Yes, it’s going to focus “overwhelmingly” on urban areas. You know, where the “overwhelming” number of people live, and the “overwhelming” contributions to our country’s economy are created. Where the “overwhelming” need for infrastructure dollars is… That’s the GD point.

    A lot of sheer political stupidity happens in the United States because, probably starting with Nixon, the political establishment has been telling car-dependent people who live in sparsely populated areas, which then probably included many suburbs, that they personally hold the country up on their shoulders (like Atlas! *shrug*) – in fact, the political establishment even believes it themselves, with the Demokrats even in big cities taking the myth hook, line, and sinker. Hence the NYS Assembly’s fear of allowing fees for use of the “free” bridges – even they would benefit nearly everyone whether they drive or not.

    The phenomenon also explains the Teabaggers. They think they are being taxed to pay for welfare queens in Chicago and New York. It probably would blow their minds to learn that, if anything, it’s more or less the opposite that’s true.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Dodd’s Livability Bill Earns Praise from Local Governments

|
With financial reform nearly complete, the Senate Banking Committee turned its attention today to one of Senator Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) next priorities, the Livable Communities Act. Local government came out strong for the initiative to promote sustainable and integrated regional planning, with representatives of the nation’s cities, towns, counties, and regional planning organizations testifying in favor. Among committee members, […]

Dodd and Dorgan Retiring: The Consequences For Transportation Policy

|
In a surprising one-two punch, Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan (ND) and Chris Dodd (CT) have let slip their plans to leave Congress at the end of this year. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) is set to announce his retirement today. (Photo: Daylife.com) Dodd’s retirement is much less troublesome for Democratic leaders than Dorgan’s […]

Livable Communities Act Clears Senate Committee

|
The Senate Banking Committee voted 12-10 yesterday in favor of the Livable Communities Act, legislation that would bolster the Obama administration’s initiatives to link together transportation, housing, economic development, and environmental policy. Shaun Donovan, Ray LaHood, Lisa Jackson: Together forever? The Livable Communities Act would codify the partnership between HUD, US DOT, and the EPA. […]

Dodd and DeLauro Vow to Get Infrastructure Bank Done This Year

|
Supporters from every corner of the transportation universe joined Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) today at a press event aimed at jumpstarting a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB), which the two Connecticut lawmakers vowed to steer to passage this year. Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), above, founded BAF with […]

In the Works: Senate Bill to Promote Sustainable Development

|
In Washington politics, the term "kumbaya moment" is used to describe those rare occasions when self-interested stakeholders join hands to support a set of reforms. And today’s appearance before the Senate Banking Committee by the chiefs of three Cabinet departments — Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency — definitely qualified for […]

Senators Propose $4 Billion for Transit-Oriented Development Grants

|
Making good on a vow first reported in Streetsblog Capitol Hill, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) and three colleagues today offered a bill authorizing $4 billion in grants to help states and cities pursue transit-oriented development, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and other green transport projects. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) (Photo: […]