A Conversation with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood: MAP-21 and What’s Next for Urban Transportation Funding

December 6, 2012


The 2012 UIC Urban Forum is an annual gathering of the various and diverse communities who work together in pursuit of enhancing the urban condition. With approximately 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas and producing approximately 85 percent of GDP, cities are the backbone of the nation’s economic vitality and have been challenged by the Great Recession unlike any time in the post-War era.

This is the closing conversation of the 2012 UIC Urban Forum. The discussion is facilitated by Steve Schlickman, Executive Director of the UIC Urban Transportation Center.

Ray H. LaHood became the 16th Secretary of Transportation on January 23, 2009. In nominating him, President-elect Obama said, “Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant that I’m asking to lead the Department of Transportation.” Secretary LaHood’s primary goals in implementing President Obama’s priorities for transportation include safety across all modes, restoring economic health and creating jobs, sustainability—shaping the economy of the coming decades by building new transportation infrastructure, and assuring that transportation policies focus on people who use the transportation system and their communities.

As Secretary of Transportation, LaHood leads an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a $70 billion budget that oversees air, maritime and surface transportation missions. Secretary LaHood said he would bring President-elect Obama’s priorities to the Department and see them effectively implemented with a commitment to fairness across regional lines, across party lines and between people who come to the issues with different perspectives. Before becoming Secretary of Transportation, LaHood served for 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives from the 18th District of Illinois (from 1995-2009). During that time he served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and, after that, on the House Appropriations Committee. Prior to his election to the House, he served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Congressman Robert Michel, whom he succeeded in representing the 18th District, and as District Administrative Assistant to Congressman Thomas Railsback. He also served in the Illinois State Legislature. Before his career in government, Secretary LaHood was a high school teacher, having received his degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. He was also director of the Rock Island County Youth Services Bureau and Chief planner for the Bi-States Metropolitan Planning Commission in Illinois. LaHood and his wife, Kathy, have four children (Darin, Amy, Sam, and Sara) and nine grandchildren.

About UIC Urban Forum: This year’s theme, “Metropolitan Resilience in a Time of Economic Turmoil,” features discussions on coping with economic challenges in the Chicago metropolitan region and the other urban regions of the nation, improving government cooperation, collaboration and efficiency, spurring economic growth and development, strengthening social safety nets, and addressing the cities’ infrastructure and pension systems. The 2012 Forum examines the strategies and best practices for improving metropolitan regions in these challenging economic times. Featuring top federal and state officials, mayors and city managers from across the country, academic experts in various areas of urban policy and thought leaders in the non-profit, private and foundation communities, we hope today’s discussions will inspire governments and citizens to work together for an improved future for our cities.

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has hosted an annual Urban Forum since 1995 when the first Forum convened under the auspices of the Great Cities Institute. Called the Winter Forum, it featured scholars, public intellectuals, policy makers and elected officials from the Chicago region and other parts of the country. Between 2005 and 2010, UIC in partnership with the City of Chicago, hosted the Richard J. Daley Urban Forum, which was designed as a collaboration aimed at convening key public, private and non-profit leaders in an academic arena to discuss, analyze and propose pragmatic and innovative solutions that will enhance the lives of city-dwellers around the globe.

The UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA) is the primary internal partner for the Urban Forum. The academic strengths of the College allow the Urban Forum to conduct policy-relevant research, examine possible policy approaches to improve the condition of urban regions, conduct public symposia, engage policy officials and academic experts and provide training to the next generation of urban leaders. Key to this partnership is the way in which CUPPA embraces the space between theoretical and conceptual understandings of urban regions on the one hand, and the daily problems and expectations that confront frontline elected city officials on the other. CUPPA scholars theorize, evaluate and propose solution sets to cities, in dialogue both with the broader intellectual community of UIC and other universities, as well as policy analysts, government and non-profit manager and civic association professionals throughout the Chicago metropolitan region. For more, visit: www.uic.edu/cuppa

For more Forum history, 2012 speaker bios, and to download the 2012 White Papers, visit: uicurbanforum.org.