Survey Says, Secret Fees, Secretary Buttigieg
Beyond candidate races, the midterms were a battle of ballot questions. V breaks down the impact these results will have on communities across the country, from capping power in the highest courts to consolidating law enforcement in local counties. Plus, are you frustrated about all the fees you pay when you buy concert tickets? You’re not alone — your president’s fed up, too. Then, V is joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg! On the first anniversary of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the two discuss the changes the country has already seen and everything that’s coming down the pike. Buckle up, ‘cuz we’re talking planes, trains, and infrastructure bills.
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V Spehar, Pete Buttigieg
V Spehar 00:00
Hey friends, it’s Tuesday, November 15th 2022. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V SPEHAR. And today, Kansas voted to do what? In the midterm election? I’m going to tell you what, plus the stories behind other ballot questions from around the country. And what do Ticketmaster and Shen Yun have in common? An experience you might not be prepared for when you buy a ticket, that’s for sure. Then we’ll be joined by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Wow. Big guest for today. All that more on today’s V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. Well, friends, it has been a full week since the midterm elections and for good reason is still all anybody is talking about. In some places, though, the chatter isn’t all about the runoff. So the recounts it’s about ballot questions. So which states legalized marijuana? Well, first, Maryland, which will now allow you to possess up to 1.5 ounces or two marijuana plants beginning July 1st 2023. Missouri has removed existing prohibitions on marijuana and allows adults to purchase and possess up to three ounces and grow up to six flowering plants at home. Voters in Arkansas rejected issue four which would have allowed for the purchase of up to an ounce of marijuana from licensed retailers, North and South Dakota also voted against any form of legalization. Now, when it comes to abortion rights at time of this recording, Vermont, Michigan, Kentucky, and California all voted to protect abortion rights in their states. We are still waiting on other states to finish counting ballots and for those states attorneys general to make moves to enact the law. But what about everything else? There were over 100 other ballot measures to vote on across the country. And they’ll have a direct impact on the people in those areas. Now, as you might have heard, multiple states took this opportunity to amend their constitutions and explicitly outlaw slavery.
V Spehar 02:21
Yes, in the year of our Lord 2022 We had to vote on if slavery should be illegal, and that is more relevant than you might have realized. Even in states like Vermont that had already outlawed slavery centuries ago, there were clauses in their constitutions that said that there would be exceptions, exceptions to slavery. Specifically, slavery was deemed acceptable if a person owed deaths or was being punished for some reason. So to be clear, the 13th Amendment did not end forced labor without pay slavery for people who were incarcerated. People have pointed out the parallel between slavery and prison labor for decades, and you really can’t argue when they’re side by side in the Constitution. Now, removing all constitutional protection for forced captivity or labor won’t change things overnight. But as a start, it gives legal teams leverage. If an incarcerated person is threatened for not performing free labor, for example, that is now grounds for a lawsuit. A handful of states like Colorado and Nebraska had already made this change in recent years. And now Alabama, Tennessee, Oregon and Vermont have joined the ranks. Here’s something that sucks though. Louisiana voted against it voted against ending slavery. Now, to be fair, the representative who proposed the amendment was one of the loudest voices telling people to vote no to his own bill. His goal was to remove the language that allowed the state to force prisoners to work for free, but by the time it hit the ballot after being drugged through dozens of rounds of edits, other pro prison labor legislators had added language to it, and they basically ruined the bill. The added language said this all quote does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of Criminal Justice, which is just vague and terrible and could have made things much worse. Over in Kansas, people voted to amend its state constitution for a totally different reason. There was previously some wiggle room for its 105 counties to choose how their local legal system was run. If they so desired, they could convert to what is called a consolidated law enforcement agency, instead of the standard setup where the sheriff is the top dog, Kansas constitutional amendment too, propose to get rid of this choice to lock counties into a system where they have to elect a sheriff and it passed. But that doesn’t mean they’ll never be a sheriffless county in Kansas. Because the amendment had a funding clause when it passed. It made it constitutionally required that all counties have a sheriff only if they already had one as of January 2022.
V Spehar 05:05
And as of January 2022, there was one county that didn’t. Riley County, home to about 70,000 people abolished the role of county sheriff all the way back in 1974. And they’ve been using the consolidated law enforcement agency for almost 50 years. So with the passing of this amendment, Kansas was basically like, hey, we know you folks in Riley county are doing your own thing, but the rest of y’all, you keep it moving. If you have a sheriff, you are stuck having a sheriff, what a weird thing to be like, trying to like force. I don’t even know what the point of this was. Can you imagine, like your one county being called out on the ballot and seeing people vote on whether or not they get to do a thing that you’ve been doing for decades. Riley County just stands alone in Kansas, when other communities around the country looked at their neighbors, though, they gave into peer pressure. For example, in the vast majority of states, the highest level court is called that state’s Supreme Court. But in Maryland an New York, they use a different terminology. Their highest court is known as the Court of Appeals. Now Maryland caved this election season to the national fashion and they voted to change the courts name that people have spoken. And it will now be known as the Supreme Court of Maryland. But New York will remain the only state with the Supreme Court that is known as the Court of Appeals. It’s all kind of confusing, but New York has never been one to bend to the trends they make them over in Wyoming, its own Supreme Court will see a different kind of change. One you might not have known was needed. Wyoming voted to keep its mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices. Who new states even had those I’m kind of into it. In fact, most states have it. I don’t know why we don’t have it at a national level. But here we are. I was thinking judges were just out here like serving for life. Well, I mean, in Vermont, it’s effectively the same thing their retirement age is 90. But back to Wyoming. The mandatory retirement age for state supreme court justices is set at 70 years old. The aim of constitutional amendment B was to bump it up to 75. But that failed to pass. So Wyoming’s state supreme court justices will continue having to retire at 70. No extra years in office for these folks. But it will be just four years before the states go back to the polls to vote on stuff like this all over again. And for the folks that were like it’s a red wave, a red wave is coming. There wasn’t a red wave in this election. But there was a rainbow wave a record 678 LGBTQ identifying candidates were on the ballot this November, according to an October report released by the political action committee, LGBTQ Victory Fund, that marks an 18.1% increase from the 2020 elections. So who are some of these folks? Well, let’s meet some of the ones that are the highest profile right now. Maura Healy is the first lesbian Governor ever elected; she will be the governor of Massachusetts. Becca Balint is the first woman and first LGBTQ person elected to Congress from Vermont. James Roesener is the first trans man ever elected to a state legislature in US history. And in Connecticut, Eric Russell won the race to serve as treasurer of the state’s becoming the first ever black out LGBTQ candidate elected to statewide office in US history. Harvey Milk would be proud.
V Spehar 08:28
Our next headline a criminal ring gets wrong with all the talk of the midterms, you might have missed another big story and that is the catalytic converter in your car is now less likely to get stolen. Three Cheers, everybody. street parking is finally safer. Maybe, we’ll see. The Department of Justice announced that they busted a nationwide ring that had been peddling stolen catalytic converters. These thefts have been a major problem for drivers. And this was a major breakthrough. How could it not be when these steps accounted for a half a billion, billion with a B, dollars in illegal trading. Now maybe you don’t know a thing about cars, maybe you hear catalytic converter and think hey, wasn’t that that thing from Back to the Future? No, that was a flux capacitor, but I get it, it all kind of sounds the same. As a driver, there are a few things you should know about catalytic converters for one, your car will be super loud without one and your emissions will be super dirty. A catalytic converter is a pipe on the underside of the car that cleans the exhaust just before it gets spit out. It is an important part of the vehicle and it can cost hundreds if not 1000s of dollars to replace. None of that is really relevant to thieves though they’ve got other things on their mind, like the fact that catalytic converters are made of rare metals, and they’re super easy to saw off the bottom of the car, apparently. Pandemic supply chain disruptions made converters even more valuable since there were fewer to go around and so, theft has ballooned in the last few years. In 2021, there were 14,000 catalytic converter thefts, just three years before in 2018, there were only a little over 1000 per year. The numbers for this have truly gone off the charts. And in recent months, news outlets have circulated a list of cars that were being targeted the most. It tended to happen more to fuel efficient cars, since they might actually have two catalytic converters on the underside, and cars that sit higher off the ground. Those ones are easier to steal from so think like SUVs rather than low riders. frequent targets have included Jeep patriots dodge challengers and several Kia models.
V Spehar 10:46
Hopefully all these drivers can sleep a little better at night with this new crime bust. So who was the Grinch at the center of all of this? It was a single auto shop in New Jersey, a single auto shop in New Jersey was allegedly behind a coordinated system that spanned the country, and 21 people have already been arrested in connection with it. So the takedown is expected to put a stop to a lot of the swiping that we’ve seen. The owners of the main auto shop allegedly sold converters to a metal refinery for over $545,000,000 and 3 people in the ring allegedly made $38 million from selling converters to the shop in the first place. The timeline for the trials has yet to be confirmed. But for now, no more stealing in mass at least until the next Grinch comes. Speaking of holiday traditions, what’s on your gift list, maybe a mug for mom a hoodie for your brother just shouting out that Lemonada has dropped some fabulous options for both of those things on our website, lemonadamedia.com, go get some swag. But if you’re more of an experienced person, I get it. There are plenty of options out there. And if you’re gonna go that route, the experience maybe take folks to a show kind of route, I implore you to make sure you do some research. Specifically, if you plan to buy a ticket to a theater performance, you might want to check that it isn’t you know, a performance that is affiliated with far right groups that reject science and facts. Since 2006, there has been this theatrical performance called Shen Yun. It combines dance and storytelling, and it’s advertised as a celebration of traditional Chinese culture. And you’ve probably seen the ads before especially if you live in the city. It’s a poster in subway cars that have been around like forever, you know, the ones I’m talking about, like try and picture it in your mind and has like a dancer doing a split midair with super long sleeves. Yeah, that’s the one. Shen Yun has specifically been getting a lot of ad space in a newspaper called The Epoch Times. And for those who aren’t familiar, the Epoch Times is a far right publication that, for example, maintains that the 2020 election was stolen. You with me? It also publishes a ton of inaccurate transphobic stories I could go on. But you know, they do plenty of that already. In short, it is largely thought of as propaganda.
V Spehar 13:07
And as it turns out, the Epoch Times, and Shen Yun were born from the same organization and that organization has a ton of influence a lot of channels to reach people and a lot of money. That organization is called Falun Gong. The movement pretty quickly clashed with the Chinese government. And a few years later, the founder brought his teachings to North America, he found more of a receptive audience here and its headquarters is now in upstate New York. Lucky me. Over the decades, it has amassed millions of followers and many, many donations. Shen Yan paints a picture of how life in China could flourish in the absence of the Communist Party. I mean, look no further than the subtitles of Shenyang China before communism. And if you go into the shengyuan website, you might expect to find a schedule or like a Buy Now button. Sure, you’ll find those things, but you’ll also find a tab called challenges we face. Okay, and then inside that is a long illustrated timeline of the tension between Shen Yun and the Chinese Communist Party. There’s the whole graphic labeled the CCP is systemic attempts to sabotage Shen Yun. It uses phrases like quote, horrific abuse, and it describes its belief that the Chinese government is trying to turn the world against Falun Gong. Now, many sources have documented how the Chinese government has violated human rights. And there have been external reports of persecution of Falun Gong members specifically, however, experts have found it difficult to substantiate Falun Gong’s, claims of persecution, and even if they are true, that doesn’t mean that Falun Gong or any of its offshoots is in the right by default, Falun Gong’s principles are traditionalism so the organization has historically been linked to homophobic and anti-scientific values. Even though the group has denied these beliefs. The Epoch Times publishes hateful speech and disinformation. And reviewers have noticed similar themes in Shen Yun performances.
V Spehar 15:05
So friends, it is important to know who you’re supporting. And when you spend your money who you’re spending it with, then you can feel informed and confident when you make the purchase. And you can be proactive about it to what’s an organization or group that you do want to support or who’s making stuff that aligns with your values. Just remember friends, lead with your heart and be smart, and buy yourself a hoodie at Lemonada Media. It’s a woman owned company; you can’t go wrong. Now on the topic of tickets on this fine Tuesday, you may be waiting in line to buy presale tickets to a one Miss Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour or you may be more of a Carly Rae Jepsen guy. At any rate, it has become common to set alarms and wait in virtual lines and coordinate with your friends to make sure you’re able to get tickets to upcoming shows. And in the process, you probably have a few things on your mind, excitement, nerves, and cost. Picture a hypothetical ticket buying scenario, there’s the price of the ticket, of course, and it could be steep. I mean, you know, these are artists. But to make it worse, you might not even know how much it costs until it comes time to purchase. You might wait in the queue finally get pushed in, click on an open seat and only then learn that the nosebleeds are gonna cost you 130 bucks. There’s an even worse fate. If you don’t make it that far. Let’s say everything is sold out, you’re forced to buy resale. Now everybody hates this. I mean, maybe not the resellers, but the fans, and tons of musicians.
V Spehar 16:34
As an example, I will talk about my girl Taylor Swift, not just because she’s my girl, but because she’s done a decent job of improving the experience in both the surprise department and the resale department. As I mentioned, Taylor just announced a tour and writing the announcement alongside the dates and opening acts where the ticket prices, she and other artists have also made a habit of rejecting resellers. They commit to selling their tickets through a verified fan sales process. Fans register ahead of time they get a unique code and then they are invited to join the sale once it goes live. Now, if you were reading this story, you would see that the term verified fan was in quotes, because this is an official process coined by ticket master. And this is where things get a little gloomier because of who’s ultimately in charge of most ticket sales. price transparency aside, you might still get hit with a surprise at checkout. And that’s because it’s not until checkout that you know the cost of the taxes and fees and my friend, that can be a total crapshoot. The nonprofit more perfect union reported a wild statistic recently, they reported when you check out through Ticketmaster 78% of the total cost of that ticket might just be fees, and you can’t really escape it. Ticket master controls 70% of ticketing for live venues now that it’s combined with Live Nation, 70% That figure only includes tickets bought firsthand, but Ticketmaster also operates its own resale platform, so worry not. They make money on resold tickets too. And they’ve been known to jack up the fees even more on the resell. Enter grandpa gel, My guy Joe Biden pops into the scene with the aviator’s and vowed in a recent address to reduce or straight up eliminate what he is calling junk fees, which is such a Grampa term, we gotta love him for it. In this vision he would scrap or cut down on any hidden fees from banks, cable companies, Airbnb and yes, ticket sellers, since any changes would require help from the Federal Trade Commission. It’s anyone’s guess when they might happen. But Biden made the announcement in late October which funny is exactly when Taylor released her album and a mere week before she announced her tour. We already knew that we had a fee fighting ally in the White House, but it looks like we might also have a Swifty. After the break, we’re gonna chat with Secretary Pete Buttigieg he is talking trains, planes and automobiles and we’ll learn about the guys using sledgehammers daily to keep a certain bridge operational. We have got to fix that and we will right when we get back.
V Spehar 19:33
Welcome back friends. I am so excited for our next guest. He is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Pete Buttigieg, now serves as the 19th secretary of transportation. His focus as secretary is to deliver the world’s leading transportation system for the American people and economy. He has worked to achieve organizational excellence in the department’s operations and to focus the department on five policy goals. Safety, jobs, equity, climate and innovation. In his first year at the department he prioritized supporting the development and passage of President Biden’s signature, bipartisan infrastructure law. Since the last passage, Secretary Buttigieg and his team have focused on effectively delivering the investments provided by this legislation, enabling the most significant improvements in US transportation and infrastructure in over a half a century. He’s also chastens husband, a father of two and a Capricorn. We love and ambitious sign in the cabinet. Secretary Buttigieg it is such a pleasure to have you. Thank you for joining me today.
Pete Buttigieg 20:39
Same here. Thanks for having me on.
V Spehar 20:41
So I have to ask, before we get into the hard questions, were you trains and trucks kind of kid? Like, did you ever even imagine that you would be here now?
Pete Buttigieg 20:48
I was mostly about airplanes when I was a kid. So yeah, being able to do transportation professionally is great. And we’re just now getting to the stage with my kids where they’re getting excited about anything with wheels, so very much ready for that to happen while I’m on this job.
V Spehar 21:04
Very cool. During your first year as transportation secretary, you supported President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, the five year $1.2 trillion law that passed a year ago today, November 15. Why is this transformational law happening now? What is it about this moment that made it all come together?
Pete Buttigieg 21:24
Well, we’re in a moment where America really needs it. You look at our roads and bridges, our airports and ports, our trains and transit systems, and they’re ready for a historic level of investment. That’s exactly what we’re doing. This is more than America has ever done for public transit. This is the most we’ve done for passenger rail since Amtrak was created. It’s the most we’ve done for roads and bridges, as a country since the Eisenhower administration when they got the interstate highway system up and running. So a lot of historic investments that are going to help America compete for the rest of the 21st century. And importantly, one thing that was not considered certainly when they were building the interstate, is this is also a moment to do this work, because every transportation decision is a climate decision. And part of the fight against climate change is getting our transportation system right for the future.
V Spehar 22:15
When you have all of these projects, all of these needs in front of you. I mean, the bridge in Chattanooga is just as important as the lakes in Buffalo. How do you decide what is gonna get funded first?
Pete Buttigieg 22:28
Yeah, it’s tough because even with this historic level of funding, we get way more applications coming in, then we can say yes to sometimes it’s like a 10 to one ratio. So we really focus on the projects that we think are going to have the biggest and best impacts are going to create jobs, that are going to help equitably with economic opportunity that are going to make a difference with climate. Safety is a fundamental thing for us. So for project can demonstrate that they’re going to make a community safer, or driving safer or flying, whatever it is, that’s something that tends to score well. But also, the way the model works is there’s one set of funds that we use, where we really are picking and choosing projects, as applications come into us. more dollars than that are going out through the states and then the State’s Department of transportation decide exactly how to use them. And one reason I mentioned that is for people listening, who care a lot about how these dollars are going to be used, you should know that a lot of the decisions about that are actually closer to home. And it’s worth being in touch with your state or city leaders to see how they’re going to use all of the federal funding that we’re sending out. That’s coming from this building. But we’re not directing in a very micro kind of way that there’s really a lot of flexibility and range for different communities to handle it differently.
V Spehar 23:46
So who is sending in the application?
Pete Buttigieg 23:49
Sometimes it’s a state, sometimes it’ll be a transit authority think, you know, the MTA or Bart in the Bay Area. Sometimes it’s a city we have certain sets of funds that communities can directly apply for because sometimes the city and the state don’t see things exactly the same way. I know this from having been a mayor and being able to come directly to the US Department of Transportation, say, hey, we’ve got this great project that’s going to transform our streetscapes and make them safer and easier to navigate. Or, you know, we want to set up a lane for bus rapid transit, that’s going to create new opportunities for people who live here, we want to hear about those ideas. And wherever we can, we will find them. Sometimes we get an application from an airport sometimes from report. Now we’re running dozens of programs. Some of them are completely new set up by the President’s infrastructure package. Some of them were there before but they just got a lot bigger so we can say yes, more often. Now the bottom line is we’re going to be touching every state and territory in the US with the funds and the projects that are possible through this package.
V Spehar 24:44
A lot of times with big pieces of legislation like this, the little guy can feel lost, right? Like the idea of conceptualizing trillions of dollars or even billions of dollars is like okay, how do you get your mind around that but one place that we can all understand is the seat size on airplanes, which recently they just did a survey, we have 26,000 people asking them is the seat size too small? overwhelmingly people said yes, it is too small, do you have a plan to give us more elbow room while experiencing the miracle of flight?
Pete Buttigieg 25:11
So you know, I’m a very frequent traveler, as you might imagine. And so I experienced this personally, seat size has shrunk quite a bit over the years, we’re taking a look at it from a safety perspective. And we have responsibilities in that regard that have to be based on research about any impact that might have on safety, for example, in an evacuation, but they’re beyond the kind of what I would consider to be the bare minimum, which is safety. There’s a bigger customer service picture here, I think. And so part of what we’ve been trying to do with the airlines is press them on their customer service and make a lot of information available to passengers and go to our website right now, on issues like cancellations and delays, which had been a big issue this year. You can now see airline by airline; we’ve put up a comparison chart so you can see how the different airlines will treat you. If you get stuck, will you get a voucher for a hotel? Will they book you on another airline, that kind of thing. And what we found is just by putting that information out there, we’ve actually gotten the airlines to change. When we decided to put up this website a few months ago, I sent a letter to the CEOs said, hey, in a couple of weeks, we’re going to put this website up. So you might want to look at your customer service commitments. And within a few days, we went from zero out of the top 10 airlines to I think 9 out of the top airlines promising that they would at least do a hotel or a meal. So we’re working both in the official sense of setting rules, but also the unofficial sense of just putting information out there that people can use to try to make sure that the passenger experience is better. And again, I’m right there with you. For anybody who’s flying a lot. I’m definitely sharing that experience as a passenger, not just as a policymaker.
V Spehar 26:49
And staying on Airlines for just a second because again, this is the place that everyone can really understand with the holiday season coming folks are, you know, back out traveling a little bit, what are some of the grants that airports have gotten to better that customer experience with support from the government.
Pete Buttigieg 27:05
So this is one of the things I’m really excited about in this infrastructure bill, improvements that are going to airports across the country, I was just in Orlando, they’re working on a whole new terminal, and set of gates there. Other places, it’s a little more back a house Denver, they’re updating their baggage handling system, it’s not sexy, but it means you’ll get your bag quicker, and they can handle more flights more efficiently. So whether it’s passenger facing things that that you’ll see a new gate terminal escalator, bigger security checkpoint zone, things like that, or whether it’s a little bit under the hood, maybe we’re improving the taxiway, the apron, the towers, things like that. We’re working on all kinds of airports across the country and of all sizes. So I was just in Los Angeles, LAX has this famous, they call it the horseshoe when you’re when you’re dropping somebody off or arriving, you gotta go through kind of nine terminals worth of things. So we’ve got 10s of millions headed out there to help improve that road, all the way through to a place like Chamberlain, South Dakota, they have a general aviation terminal right now it’s a mobile home, and we’re funding them with a little less than a million dollars to have a permanent building.
V Spehar 28:07
Do you see there being an opportunity to reopen some of the smaller regional airports, is that something you’re working with the carriers on bringing accessibility to these small towns?
Pete Buttigieg 28:16
Yeah, this can be really important for smaller communities. You know, I come from a small midsize community, South Bend, Indiana and where I live now Traverse City, both really depend on their airline connections to bigger airports. And that’s even more true, true and very small rural areas. Or to take an extreme case out in Alaska. There are a lot of communities that don’t have any roadway connections at all. It’s literally the only way that you can link into the rest of the country and the rest of the economy. So we have a number of programs to support that we will even help fund those routes to make sure that even if it’s not immediately profitable, when we know it’s a good economic choice, we can support the gap to keep an airline serving those areas. And that’s something that has a lot of support in Congress. And I think it’s going to continue.
V Spehar 28:57
I hope so it sure does help, especially for the folks like where I grew up. We had one little Regional Airport, and if it went away, I mean, that would really significant. You’d have to drive into Manhattan, and I’m telling you people aren’t excited to do that, to go to wherever else they have to go. Now, you said that the investments that are being made prioritize underserved communities. What kind of projects are you looking to do to fix some of the harm that had been done by past transportation projects?
Pete Buttigieg 29:22
Yeah, I’ll give you an example. We were in Detroit recently. They have a road i-375. That cuts almost like a gash. It’s kind of depressed, it’s down below. So you need a bridge just to get across and when that was put in, it largely removed African-American neighborhoods, Paradise Valley and Black bottom. And it divided the largely black neighborhood on one side from the downtown where all the most of the economic opportunity is on the other side. So we’re funding 100 million dollars to help the state and the city. Take that roadway and bring it back up to surface level. Make it a boulevard and something It’s actually going to connect rather than divide. All around the country. There are examples here where the way a road or a railway or an interchange was built, wiped out Black or Brown neighborhoods, or it served to create an economic or racial barrier in a city. It’s why we have the phrase wrong side of the tracks, if you’d stop think about that. And so what we’re doing is doing both directly in terms of trying to help in some of these areas where that happened, and looking to the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again, doing a lot of work there. So, for example, in South Carolina, right now, there’s a roadway project that’s going forward there. But we worked with the state DOT there to say, Okay, if you’re going to have to do this expansion, if anybody’s housing is going to be impacted, what are steps that you’re going to take to make sure that they have good alternatives that they come out ahead compared to before and that there’s community oversight throughout the process, we don’t have to make the same mistakes that were made in the past. And we’re working very hard on getting it right. And while we’re at it, also paying attention to the jobs that are being created. So you know, if an investment is finally coming to an underserved neighborhood, let’s make sure that workers who get good paying jobs being part of delivering that investment are more likely to come from that neighborhood. So we have programs like when we call local hire, basically means you can be first in line for those good paying jobs in the building trades. If you’re actually from the area where these investments are happening.
V Spehar 31:20
How do people apply for those jobs? How do you find maybe in your area? How you can get LinkedIn?
Pete Buttigieg 31:26
Yeah, well, you definitely want to get connected with the building and construction trades unions in your area, because a lot of them are hiring like crazy, they have apprenticeship programs, a lot of people don’t realize that you can, you will work your way towards six figure incomes in these building trades, whether you have a degree or not. It takes a lot of skill, but not necessarily a university degree, and they can work with you to build those skills. I should also mention we’re hiring, I mean, just running these funds, you know, obviously takes a lot of talent. And so I would definitely encourage people who want to be part of that future to look at USAjobs.gov. Or look at our Department of Transportation website. Because we need people in all kinds of jobs at every level, it’s pretty much any skill you could imagine. We need it. Just think about what it takes to mobilize, and we’re talking about a trillion dollar investment that’s happening across the country, about half of that’s on the transportation side. It’s going to put a generation to work and hopefully give a generation that, that life defining experience of being part of a major national undertaking.
V Spehar 32:25
I like President Biden, I’m a train girl, I love the train, the trains are my favorites. Can you tell me a little bit about what we’re going to do to better connect Americans through the train system and using the rail system?
Pete Buttigieg 32:36
Yeah, so first of all, we got a bit make better use of the system we have, if you’ve ever taken a long distance train trip, you’ve probably been delayed, the delays are frequent, and they’re extreme. It turns out, the biggest reason that happens on Amtrak isn’t Amtrak, it’s the freight lines. So by law, the freight lines that own most of the railroad in this country, have to give priority to passenger trains. But in practice, that hasn’t always been happening. So we’re pushing to change that and using some legal authorities to push the freight railroads to help the trains run on time, so to speak. We’re also making upgrades in the system. So if you look at the Northeast Corridor, for example, that’s the most heavily used train system and in the country, going from DC up all the way through Boston, that needs major repairs. And this bill contains the funding to do that repairs that are going to make it more reliable. Take care of old infrastructure. I mean, if you go through, for example, we just broke ground recently on the portal north bridge that’s in New Jersey, something like 200,000 passengers a day go over that bridge on trains, it’s a swing bridge, which means it rotates out in order for water traffic to pass by. When they swing it back into place. Sometimes workers have to take sledge hammers to make sure the rails align just right. This is 100 plus year old bridges from the Teddy Roosevelt administration, we’re finally replacing it. So big capital projects like that small tweaks along the way, new equipment, all of those are going to help us have a better experience of passenger rail, whether you’re making these long distance trips, or whether you’re zipping up and down the northeast,
V Spehar 34:13
you had talked about how this plant is also going to impact clean energy. And I saw that there was a grant for a Port and Salem to expand offshore wind. Can you talk just a little bit about what that even means to people?
Pete Buttigieg 34:16
Yeah, so this is a great example of how everything is connected, right? The manufacturing of wind turbines, the strictly speaking doesn’t sound like transportation policy. But these aren’t the kinds of things you see in those big blades, the kind of equipment this isn’t the kind of stuff you can just put in a shipping container and, and book on an ocean liner or, you know, pop onto a truck. And so New Port infrastructure is needed to support the construction in the maintenance of this offshore wind power equipment. That’s going to be an important part of how we get domestic clean energy. And one of the things I love about being in this administration is we’re very intentional about cooperating. So working with the Department of Energy, whether it’s something like this or the work we’re doing on electric vehicles, we’re teaming up working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on things like what’s called transit oriented development others, building neighborhoods and city plans and buildings in a way that is thoughtful about how your subways and bus lines are going to operate. And putting it all into one big picture as you develop a strategy called a dig once, which means if you’re going to dig up a trench or tear up a road to make room for water pipe, or internet access through fiber optic cable, make sure if you know the next year, you were planning to replace the road anyway, just line it all up and do those things together. So there’s a lot of cooperation going on to deal with these kind of crossover opportunities where transportation touches another area of policy like energy.
V Spehar 35:54
We’ve seen a lot of push for the e-vehicle market, there’s so many folks who are excited about this and excited about the potential for there being chargers around, I myself have driven in e-vehicle in New York City and then had to like drive out to the airport to try and charge it. What are we doing to help make EV accessible to people.
Pete Buttigieg 36:11
So there are two things we really need to do we make, we need to make them more affordable to begin with. And we need to make them easier to charge. And we’re working on both of those things. The inflation Reduction Act that just passed, which is major climate legislation includes tax credits that reduce the cost of an Eevee. And importantly, it includes used EVs to that’s how Chaston and I got our first plug in hybrid electric vehicle, it was a used Ford C max, it ran about 20 miles on charge, and then it would go over gas. And it was great. But you know, we could afford it because it was used. So we’re working to make it more affordable. And even now, depending on the model, we’re getting pretty close to the point where even if your car payments going to be higher compared to a gas car, you’ll save so much on, on fueling it and on maintenance, that you tend to come out ahead, we’re approaching that point in our economy. The second thing is charging. So the truth is charging a car probably has less in common with filling up a gas car than it does with charging a phone. And what I mean by that is the bad news is it takes longer. The good news is you can do it in more places. In fact, in rural areas or suburban areas, most people already have charging infrastructure in the form of a plug in their wall if you have a single family home. But if you’re in a place like New York City, it’s a little bit different. And so we’ve got to make sure especially in order to reach underserved communities, that if you’re in an area building a neighborhood where it’s not automatically profitable to have a charger, we still need to get those chargers in there. And that’s why we’re putting federal funding toward making that available in cities. And we’re also putting funding towards setting up a network across our highway system. So in the same way that if you decide to take a drive from New York to Indiana, you know, there’s going to be a gas station along the way anytime you need one. We got to get the same way with chargers, and we’re funding the states to do that.
V Spehar 38:19
Now, we’ve talked about planes, trains, automobiles, all of that for the for my walkers and my bikers. Is there anything coming for them?
Pete Buttigieg 38:28
Absolutely, yeah, one thing we’re doing is a lot of funding of projects that follow the approach called complete streets. The idea being that a road isn’t just about moving as many cars as you possibly can, as fast as you possibly can. In especially in our cities, but even in small communities. You know, making sure that you have good sidewalks and bike lanes and that it’s safe, you got enough crosswalks, that’s a good environment for small businesses and wheelchair users. That’s something that was really missed in the last wave of road building that happened half a century ago. But we’re working to get that right now. We’re supporting active transportation, meaning, you know, walking, biking, because it can be good not just for climate, but also for congestion. If you just think about how much room you take if you’re on foot or on a bicycle, compared to in a car, and I’ll tell you if you’re in a place like Washington, DC, where I’m sitting right now, sometimes being a bike is legitimately quicker to get across town than driving us. I’ve had that experience here. So it’s an area where we’re making a lot of investments and we want to make sure that it’s safer and more comfortable to bike or walk. Because if it is more people will choose to do it and then there’s a positive virtuous cycle because the more people are our pedestrians or cyclists, the more drivers notice them and the safer it becomes.
V Spehar 39:48
Absolutely. This sounds like a lot of stuff to have had to try to learn before you came into being Transportation Secretary especially came from being a mayor. Did you use like the Harvard cramming study style of your youth to learn all of this stuff. What was your first couple of weeks like?
Pete Buttigieg 40:03
Yeah, it’s intense. So that, you know, the good news is when you’re a mayor, you deal with a lot of transportation issues, anything from, you know, from roads, to commuting to airports that that was something I was very used to. And I even dealt with the US Department of Transportation as a mayor. But there are other things from our oversight of the US Merchant Marine Academy to licensing commercial space launches that are part of the job that obviously were completely new to me. So when you come in as a cabinet member, they set up a transition team of volunteers, some of whom have worked at the department before, some of whom are just experts in the field. And it is kind of like a like a crash course, we had endless meetings, mostly Zoom’s where they would walk me through everything from budgeting to the organization of the federal rail administration, both to help me understand what was going to be asked of me in this job, and tell prepare me for my confirmation hearings, because you only get to take a seat like this if the Senate votes for you, and they give you a pretty good grilling in the committee. And so there’s been a lot of that, and there’s a lot of on the job. I think in any high profile public job, a lot of it’s on the job training, but that’s where you depend on a great team, there are 55,000 people who work here at the Department of Transportation, every one of them is more of an expert in whatever it is they do all day than I am. And so I know not to think I’m the smartest person in the room, and I know to look to them for guidance and advice.
V Spehar 41:30
And you are so visible. I mean, I would say I don’t, I can’t even name another transportation secretary. I mean, Elaine Chao, of course, he was just the transportation secretary. But what is important to you about being accessible to the public and being visible in this role?
Pete Buttigieg 41:44
Yeah, that’s another instinct that comes to you as a mayor, I think you’re used to people, you know, grabbing you at the grocery store, or the football game and bringing whatever issues they have. And you’re very close to everything. And so I’ve tried to preserve that as much as I can, even though it’s obviously different when you’re in charge of a policy area for the whole country. There are some areas like we talked about, about airlines where I have the same experience as everybody else, and I can put it to work. There are other things where I’m never going to know what it’s like to commute across some town that I’ve never been to. But I still need to be able to try to make decisions that will help. That’s where we try to have a good relationship with local government with Congress and just get out there travel, listen to people, we have a lot of sessions where I’m just listening to people affected by our decisions from a roundtable we just did in New York with members of the Asian American and NHPI communities about incidents they’re having on transit and how to make sure that they feel safe to session I just kicked off yesterday with Women in Trucking because we need more truck drivers. And women are underrepresented. If we can make it a better job for women, we can help deal with that issue. And plus, it’s the right thing to do. And so you spend a lot of time listening, not just talking in this job. And that’s really important to me.
V Spehar 42:58
I love that you’re meeting with the women truckers, we call them the diamonds of the highway. And I think it can be such a great job for women. And so I’m glad to hear that y’all are recognizing that. Speaking of things that need to be recognized, there’s a lot of Republicans who have petitioned to bring that money home and use it on infrastructure packages, even though they voted against the bill. How has that process gone with folks?
Pete Buttigieg 43:19
Well, look, it’s hard not to chuckle when you get a letter from a member of Congress, or a senator who said it was against this whole bill that this is wasteful spending, this is socialism, this is terrible. And now they’re suddenly saying, hey, you know, we got this opportunity in our district, this road needs to be fixed, this bridge needs to be done. And, and they’re asking for funding that they voted against. But I’ll say, you know, even though it makes my eyebrows go up a little bit, when a letter like that comes in, you know, we touch projects on the merit. And so we’ve got projects going to Republican, Independent and Democrat areas, we don’t care how you voted, you know, if you’re an American, then you need a new bridge, or a road or port or whatever it is, your team does a really good job of evaluating what these ideas are going to mean for safety and for the economy for all of our goals. And, you know, my hope is along the way, we’ll turn some of those skeptics into converts. It sounds like a lot of them have already changed their view of the bill. And now that they see how much it’s helping people.
V Spehar 44:21
Is there anything about the bill that isn’t getting a ton of attention that you’d really like people to know about?
Pete Buttigieg 44:26
Are there all kinds of things in there that maybe people don’t realize? Some of it sounds a little obscure, but it means a lot in a certain area, for example, in the North Pacific Northwest for everybody from tribal communities to a fishery and agricultural economy. It’s really important for the fish to be able to get to where they’re going. Famously, there’s a lot of salmon out there, they run upstream, and it turns out the way a lot of roads were built, there’s a problem with culverts. That’s what they call where the water passes onto the road. And it can block the fish passage and it’s a huge issue. So there’s a fund within this Infrastructure package to improve, restore or remove those culverts, we’ll probably do hundreds, maybe 1000s of them. Over the next five years, not something a lot of people sit at home thinking about, at least not in other parts of the country, but very important in the Pacific Northwest, and a few other places. We have funding for wildlife crossings and non-animal crossing, wildlife crossing. And the reason that’s important is because there are a lot of injuries and fatalities, I think, especially in the West, where people are likely to strike large animals like elk that have no way to get across the roadway. And they’ve actually found ways to engineer this that will pay for themselves in terms of the investment because you’ll have fewer collisions. So stuff like that doesn’t get as much attention. But I think it’s really important. Third thing and last thing I would mention, we have a lot of funding in here for resilience, we’re seeing more and more extreme weather. And there are situations where you know, a road gets washed out by a flood and what used to be fine, but it’s now a flood zone. They fix it. And then the next year it gets washed out again, are we really just going to fix it every year, we can actually move it and change it. So we have over something in the neighborhood of $7 billion to work with states to say okay, what are your biggest resilience needs? How do we make sure your transportation infrastructure is safe from the next wildfire, hurricane, flood, droughts, mudslide earthquake, whatever it is you’re up against. And I’m really looking forward to putting those dollars to work so that our infrastructure is designed for the future.
V Spehar 46:28
Secretary, it has been a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you for stopping by and helping us to understand this massive piece of legislation that you’re helping to oversee. Thank you again, so much.
Pete Buttigieg 46:37
Same here. It’s a pleasure.
V Spehar 46:42
What a nice guy. I mean, they aren’t kidding when they say Midwest. Nice, right? I think he’s out here building bridges and cities and states building bridges across the aisle and for the wildlife. Did that little bit about the fish crossing? Oh my god. I loved that. We’ve got another Indiana connection coming up this Friday, where we’ll be talking to Alison teal, who was known as the female Indiana Jones. For all her adventures out in the wild. You won’t want to miss that. Don’t forget to leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550 Follow me at @underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. And guess what friends? There is more V INTERESTING with Lemonada Premium right now there is a limited time discount on our annual subscription between now and Monday, November 28. It’s just 2949 that is nearly half off, and you’ll get access to all of Lemonada premium content, including behind the scenes clips from my visit with President Biden. So subscribe now in Apple podcast right where you’re listening to the show, and be sure to do it before the sale ends on November 28.
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