Pete Buttigieg Confirmed as DOT Sec

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Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg was confirmed as the next Secretary of Transportation, replacing Elaine Chao, who resigned the post prior to the presidential inauguration in January. “I’m honored and humbled by today’s vote in the Senate—and ready to get to work,” he Tweeted today.

Buttigieg faces multiple challenges as the Transportation Department head, including implementing what has been described as an ambitious infrastructure plan by the Biden administration. He will also oversee an FAA that’s working toward regaining public confidence after the Boeing 737 MAX fiasco. Among the reported initiatives on Buttigieg’s desk are to reverse course on auto emissions standards, which were slackened by the Trump administration, and an infrastructure plan aimed at rebuilding roads and bridges, reported to be a $2 trillion project.

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38 COMMENTS

  1. A political appointee (with no direct experience) who is taking orders from someone suffering from apparent dementia. Just how does this inspire public confidence? It sounds more like the story line from the movie Idiocracy.

  2. Really, you guys? After all the totally unqualified cabinet members of the last administration (Betsy DeVos? Scott Pruitt?), not to mention all the positions that were unfilled for countless months? You want to slam President Biden’s choice?

    And Doug H. – you get special mention for making the gay joke. Really, really funny. You’re a laugh riot.

  3. Well, I suppose since this news is actually political, the instant, knee-jerk comments from the usual quarters were entirely inevitable. Would be nice to see some rationality and restraint occasionally. Maybe even keep it shut and give the guy six months instead of six minutes before passing judgement.

    • In November 2015, he was elected to his second term as mayor with over 80% of the vote, defeating Republican Kelly Jones by a margin of 8,515 to 2,074 votes. In December 2018, Buttigieg announced that he would not seek a third term.

      Yep, sounds like they hated him in South Bend!

    • I think he’ll do well. I suspect there will be a period when the new appointees are being praised for merely being competent as the head facilitators of the talent. Which is half their job. All of those contenders last year struck me as competent and suitable. There is a strange amount of heat in things right now. I’ll be interested to see how much is real and the result of home grown mental health issues and how much is a continuation of those foreign interventions.

  4. As someone who frequently drives through South Bend, I hope Mayor Pete does a better job of running the DOT than he did implementing his “smart streets” in South Bend. Making one-way streets into two-way streets, adding a few roundabouts, and desynchronizing the stoplights increased the average time to get through South Bend by three minutes. Spending more time idling at red lights is apparently eco-friendly, but at least bicyclists have their own lane when the roads are icy and the and the wind chill is twenty-below.

  5. As in any controversy or dispute, emotion clouds reason and logic.
    It pays to have some background about the issues. Since 1966,
    when DOT was created as a separate entity, there have been 18
    Secretaries of Transportation prior to Pete Buttigieg. Of these,
    only two (Alan Boyd and Andrew Card, respectively) were at all
    familiar with the day-to-day operations of that sector of the U.S.
    economy. Boyd came from a railroad family, and later became
    President of Amtrak. Card was trained as an engineer, but was
    primarily a PR executive for GM. Boyd tried to promote trains
    as an alternative to the tyranny of the automobile, but failed.
    Card tried to prevent the government from increasing safety
    standards for cars and tightening restrictions on air pollution,
    and he succeeded. Elaine Chao, who has no qualifications or
    expertise herself, is the heir to a fortune in maritime shipping
    and commerce. Her career as a public servant began in 1986,
    overlapping her decade-long involvement in banking, finance,
    and “maritime administration” at DOT and elsewhere. (She
    married Sen. Mitch McConnell in 1993). All three of these
    individuals represented major corporations, conglomerates,
    and utilities, whose interests and imperatives they did their
    best to advance and fulfill. They were efficient, competent,
    yet totally corrupt. The other 15 were political appointees,
    some with Presidential ambitions of their own (Elizabeth
    Dole), others as rewards for past favors, or because they
    had skill and experience in managing a large agency and
    were unfazed by the size and complexity of bureaucracy
    (Norman Mineta, Rodney Slater, John Volpe). Buttigieg
    fits in with that group. He knows how the machinery of
    government works, even if he has no experience running
    a machine, building highways, or driving a bus or trolley
    car every day. It would be naïve to suppose that he has
    no ulterior motives, both personal and political, but there
    is also no reason to assume that he will show the kind of
    favoritism that his predecessor displayed, and for which
    she came under investigation during her tenure in office.
    Indeed, if Donald Trump had not been impeached (the
    first time), Chao’s problems would have made headlines.
    Instead, they were ignored, set aside, and then forgotten.
    Thus Trump inadvertently saved her from scandal, if not
    conviction on various felony charges in connection with
    the award of contracts, misappropriation of funds, etc.
    The lesson to be learned here is that it is hard to find
    anyone who is both capable and of good character in
    either the public or private sphere. Hence one must
    have no illusions, without losing one’s noblest ideals.

    • Dennis, thanks. The obvious hope is that those with the most enthusiasm and good perspectives in that area will end up in senior roles roles via a merit based rise. Then a competent appointee in the incoming administration will recognize the quality and balance that sensibly against their stated priorities. A lot of departments have been gutted or otherwise emasculated in recent years but Buttigieg appears to have potential.

    • Seriously, Mark. Bozo the clown?
      Graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. Attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. Lieutenant in Afganastan.
      It’s really sad to this old man how low we have sunk as Americans.
      Pogo was a prophet.

      • Yeah a certain individual with a range of problematic personal habits has dignified the concept of base personal attacks in recent years. It was wrong before, now it’s grotesque. I wasn’t sold on John Kerry (aside from his love of windsurfing) but I saw a precursor to the current vile behavior in how his military service was ridiculed as if it was an argument in some debate. That kind of tactic disqualifies a political party IMO.

  6. This man has achieved educational excellence. Voluntary service in the armed forces… bright and articulate. I would be very proud if he were my son.
    You guys might at least allow him to get moved into his office before you deride him.

    • He spoke rather articulate in his confirmation hearing, and even politely answered some of the ridiculous questions he was asked by some congressmen. He also doesn’t appear to be a purely political appointee, unless you count “ran against the current President in the primaries” as something that would grant him favoritism. I look forward to seeing what he does at the DOT, but as I do with all elected officials, will hold him to his promise to do good.

    • Respectfully, that’s a hard argument to make after a Presidency with no experience in governance or constitutional law.
      Cabinet Secretaries have knowledgeable staffers. Success or failure will boil down to leadership and judgment.

      • Respectfully, this is NOT a popularity contest; cabinet members are appointed (not elected). There is no rational reason not to select people who know how to run the agency they are appointed to run. I agree that this illustrates why the founding fathers created a limited federal government with enumerated powers.

        • I said nothing about a popularity contest. Cabinet positions are most often based on the promise of passed leadership credentials.
          The office of DOT Secretary is very broad.
          You want experience in aviation, railroads, maritime, pipelines, intercoastal seaways, transit administration…?
          Good luck.
          Appoint a proven leader and surround them with smart people.

          • So, it’s OK to elect a leader of the free world with no experience but the Department of Transportation is different?
            I’m done with this forum.
            Expected more from Avweb readers.

          • “You want experience in aviation, railroads, maritime, pipelines, intercoastal seaways, transit administration…?
            Good luck.”

            Actually, I’d be thrilled with someone who had meaningful success in ANY ONE of those areas.

            Well, as the Paul Revere and the Raiders said, “Kicks just geep gettin’ harder to find.”

  7. In the United States, the “normal” margin of victory in a Presidential election (popular vote) is about 51% for the winner and 49% for the loser. That means that any new administration automatically takes office with almost half the public unhappy with them. So, expressing displeasure with the actions of a new administration is not unusual. In the case of running a department as diverse as Transportation means there are precious few people qualified to manage all the different priorities, let alone doing so with no alternate agenda. As another poster said, the record of his predecessors in being an effective manager is not very good, so we might want to give the guy a little slack (no pun intended) before we get out the pitch forks and torches. Besides, his role is to implement the direction his boss (aka President Biden) has laid out. And, reading the article leads me to believe the main thrust will be to work on ground transportation infrastructure, deal with auto emissions regulations and “repair” the image of the FAA. Not much to indicate general aviation will be in the spotlight. It would be nice if they selected someone who was a pilot, but I guess that is Steve Dickson’s job.