Pete Buttigieg to talk with Sacramento Press Club about Biden’s $1T infrastructure bill

Politics

WASHINGTON (KTXL/AP) — Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary who holds the purse strings to much of President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package, will join the Sacramento Press Club Thursday to discuss what the recently passed legislation means for California.

Buttigieg will be interviewed by FOX40’s Nikki Laurenzo and the Los Angeles Times’ Chris Megerian.

The interview will be shared on Facebook and begin at noon.

Buttigieg talked with reporters back in November on the bill’s impact — the promise of more electric cars, intercity train routes, bigger airports — when a pointed question came. How would he go about building racial equity into infrastructure?

The 39-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate laid out his argument that highway design can reflect racism, noting that at least $1 billion in the bill will help reconnect cities and neighborhoods that had been racially segregated or divided by road projects.

“I’m still surprised that some people were surprised when I pointed to the fact that if a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a white and a Black neighborhood … that obviously reflects racism,” he said.

Quickly endorsing Biden after abandoning the presidential race, Buttigieg now stands to become one of the more powerful brokers in Washington, handling the largest infusion of cash into the transportation sector since the 1950s creation of the interstate highway system.

In all, about $120 billion of the $550 billion in new transportation spending in the bill would come in the form of competitive grants that give Buttigieg discretion in how the money is used.

Anthony Foxx, who was Obama’s transportation secretary from 2013 to 2017, said a big challenge will be the massive operational details in the department, where Buttigieg is supported by veteran hands. Many programs are new, requiring clear guidelines to states and localities on what they are eligible for and how the money is to be awarded.

“They will be managing multiple plans with very high dollar figures, creating pressure on administrative staff,” Foxx said.

As a mayor, Buttigieg was attuned to calls to fix roads and potholes. He relished talking about state-of-the-art sewer system. Now that message will be national with the stakes far greater.

“The currency of politics is exposure, and he’s getting a lot of exposure,” said Larry Grisalano, who was Buttigieg’s advertising consultant.

Nina Smith, Buttigieg’s former traveling campaign press secretary, said as Biden’s top lieutenant on the bill, Buttigieg has the opportunity to lead an effort to “eradicate past injustices.” Buttigieg during the 2020 campaign was never able to win over large shares of Black voters.

“That’s an added responsibility that I think he’s very much aware of and making a central part of the work,” said Smith, a Democratic political consultant.

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