Yesterday, as Bob von Sternberg put it in today's
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Vice President Biden and I took the
President's plan for the middle class "to the people."
Really, it was 400 people. They had gathered for a town hall session at the New Flyer of America company in St. Cloud, Minnesota. New Flyer makes innovative, low-emissions, alternative-fueled transit buses, and they are actually adding jobs. Also, as financial reporter Tara Perkins points out, New Flyer makes a great example for the stimulus because "money that's put into the company will flow through to the economy quickly." That's exactly what we want in stimulus spending.
My part of the message—I was there with the Vice President as well as Secretaries Duncan of Education, Vilsack of Agriculture, and Donovan of HUD—was about how the stimulus and middle-class task force give us an opportunity to transform the way transportation serves the American people. As I've said before, we need to promote strong and connected communities that provide safe and affordable access to work, medical services, schools, shopping, recreation, and other essential activities.
This is important stuff. Someone commented on these pages the other day about how owning a car was practically a requirement for success in this country—to get to work, to a doctor, to a grocery—and how that becomes a disproportionate burden to the poor. Well, we don't want to take anyone's car away; that's for sure, but we also don't want a transportation system where not owning a car threatens one's ability to get by. If we want to improve the quality of life for middle-class Americans, we have to affect them where they spend, and one of the biggest bites out of a household's budget is transportation costs. I want to do something about that.
Plus, if we make it easier for people to move around publicly, either by walking or biking or taking transit, then we build communities where folks see each other and interact with each other and learn to know their neighbors. That's how we get stronger communities.
The folks at St. Cloud know this. When it was time for questions, the most direct ones came from people who wanted to know when we were going to increase their transit options. How about now?