Trucking safety lawyers as well as everyone else concerned about transportation issues needs to pay attention to personnel choices in the US Department of Transportation. You remember the old cliche that “personnel is policy.” Even an humble personal injury trial attorney handling trucking accident cases in Atlanta should be attentive.
President-elect Obama has picked Ray LaHood, a retiring Republican congressman from rural Illinois as his Secretary of Transportation. Here’s what some of the commentators around the country are saying:
Even with firm Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Obama will need help across the aisle. Legislation to upgrade the nation’s air-traffic control system has been stuck in Congress for more than a year and the Bush administration has been fighting airlines over flight rights in New York. Meanwhile, Obama is planning to give states an infusion of funds to create jobs by improving the nation’s infrastructure. . . .
In an attempt to cut through partisan rancor in the late 1990’s, LaHood organized a series of annual retreats — at resorts a short train or car ride outside of Washington — to bring together lawmakers and their families.
* In The New Republic, John B. Judis writes “LaHood and Solis: Second Round Picks”:
Bush’s administration. But they should be important in Obama’s administration. Transportation has a stake in America’s two biggest manufacturing industries, planes and auto. Much of the $900 billion and rising in infrastructure funding is going to go through the Transportation Department. The secretary is not just going to be responsible for shepherding this spending through Congress, but also for shaping what kind of spending occurs. What gets funded–highways, airports, rail, mass transit–and in what proportion will determine what the country looks like well into the next decades. LaHood is being touted as being pro-rail because he didn’t vote against AMTRAK, but I have heard little to convince me that he will bring any kind of vision to the job or that he will able to sell controversial provisions in the Senate.
* National Journal’s Expert Blog on transportation issues includes a collection of comments from figures in aviation, highway construction, etc. There is no end to lobbyists.
LaHood has little transportation record beyond his support for Amtrak, the national passenger train program, and his apparently friendly relationship with the Teamsters Union and other transportation unions, which endorsed and financially supported him during his congressional career. The national Teamseters Union also has endorsed his nomination as Transportation Secretary.
* American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) is the industry organization of companies providing pavement markings, road signs, work zone traffic control devices, guardrail, and other roadside safety features. It issued a statement that it was “is enthused by the selection and recommends prompt confirmation from the Senate.”
* Oliver Patton at TruckingInfo.com wrote that LaHood will “have to hit the ground running: Obama has called for massive public works investments, in the short term for economic stimulus and in the longer term for rebuilding and modernizing transportation infrastructure.”
Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent national seminar speaker for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. He has recently spoken on trucking litigation topics at continuing legal education programs both at home in Georgia and in Nashville, New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago, and is scheduled to do so in San Diego in 2009. A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he was a faculty member for ten years at the Emory University Law School Trial Techniques Program. Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.