Part 2: Infrastructure Modernization – A Resilient Infrastructure Checklist

There are times when opportunity and obligation come together. That is the case with the modernization of America’s infrastructure – the built environment that supports our productivity, competitiveness and quality of life. From the little we know about the $1.5 trillion infrastructure improvement plan that Donald Trump has announced, however, there is little new to address the nontraditional but very important opportunities and threats that planners and investors should be considering today. On the contrary, Trump’s emphasis on speeding up the environmental reviews for infrastructure projects combined with his refusal to acknowledge that global climate change is not only real, but also a clear and present danger to the American people, does not bode well for this massive investment to result in a more safe and resilient nation. Much of our infrastructure must last for 30, 50 and in some cases nearly 100 years. So, it must be built with the future as well as the present in mind -- and the future today is arriving much more rapidly than it used to. If we were to design a set

February 20th, 2018|Commentary|

Part 3: Infrastructure Modernization – The Blind Spots in Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

Donald Trump has finally released the details of an infrastructure modernization plan he says would build “gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways all across our land.”  To the Administration’s credit, there are some interesting proposals in the 53 pages of ideas the White House wants Congress to consider. Unfortunately, though, the plan is near-sited. In fact, it is as blind as Trump himself to one of the most important factors in infrastructure investment today: the need to take the impacts of global climate change into account. Before getting into that, the ideas with merit include federal funding of “bold, innovative, and transformative infrastructure projects” in rural America, and permission for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be involved in flood control and prevention, hurricane damage reduction, and environmental restoration in water projects – all of which are now the sole province of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those ideas come close to an admission by the White House that violent weather needs our attention even if it is a Chinese plot. But the plan stops short

February 20th, 2018|Commentary|

Part 1: Important of This Fall’s Election

Republicans and Democrats already are laying the groundwork for the mid-term elections coming up in November, foretelling another summer of campaign ads and debates. Voting without the presidency on the ballot usually does not inspire a lot of excitement. The voter turnout four years ago was the worst in 72 years But this election should be different at the state as well as national levels. If it becomes a referendum on Donald Trump, we will see whether it impacts Republican control of most governorships and state legislatures. That is just one of several important issues that will not be printed on the November ballots, but will be between the lines. Another is whether Republicans or Democrats will control the congressional redistricting after the 2020 census. In most states, the legislators chosen in November will be in charge of redistricting and the governors will have veto power. Election experts will be watching for the not-uncommon practice of gerrymandering, where the party in power draws congressional districts for its political advantage. Earlier this month, a federal court declared that congressional districts drawn

February 12th, 2018|Commentary|

Part 2: What’s Really at Stake This Fall

As Mardi Gras parades took over the streets in New Orleans last February, more than 1,000 people, mostly Millennials, gathered at Tulane University to share ideas about ending corruption in America’s political system. They weren’t talking about isolated cases of shady shenanigans by elected officials. They were talking about systemic subversions of democracy that deny some Americans of the right to vote or that rig the electoral system in favor of one party or another. They discussed how the fabric of democracy is being torn by powerful elites who want to keep the power they have and to gain more. In more formal terms, these perversions of democracy are known as voter suppression, voter erasure, disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, uncontrolled campaign finance, the Electoral College, and “Trojan media” where foreign governments, hackers and other saboteurs disguise themselves to influence the outcome of our elections. By one estimate, there are more than 80 organizations in the United States working to “unrig the system”. Many of them attended the Tulane conference to show solidarity and fire each other up about creating a bipartisan, inclusive

February 12th, 2018|Articles, Commentary|

Part 3: The End of Beautiful Days

If you follow the news coming from climate science, you get the impression that global warming will be the culprit behind all of the undesirable changes in our lives.  Ice is melting; seas are rising; floods are epic; animals are migrating when they are not disappearing altogether; hurricanes are historic; lightning strikes are more frequent; wildfires have never been so intense; trees are confused about when to bud; mosquitoes and their diseases are invading new places; and the swallows aren’t sure when to return to Capistrano. Global warming, it seems, is behind everything with the possible exception of male-pattern baldness, however, that the list of actual impacts is long and diverse because the weather touches nearly everything in one way or another. And while we hear mostly about the big fires, storms and droughts, many of the changes are subtler. They have graduated from the realm of computer models and have entered our personal lives. Here is an exercise. Close your eyes for a minute and conjure up the most beautiful time you’ve ever spent outside. It might be a

February 11th, 2018|Commentary|

Antidotes to the Poison of Campaign Finance

By Timothy E. Wirth Secret and corrupting funding will always try to find a way into politics, but as in the past, our democracy can survive and succeed if citizens and their leaders push back. Thank you for inviting me – it is good to be back with the Conference on World Affairs, where I was privileged to participate for a decade or more. I am delighted to share this platform with David Skaggs; through his work and example, David has done as much as anyone to restore civility and cooperation to our democracy. I don’t know how many of you remember – or are old enough to remember -- exactly what you were doing 30 years ago today. I bet David Skaggs can, because at that date we were both almost certainly raising money for our respective campaigns. David was in a hotly contested primary and happily went on to become our Congressman. I was in the midst of a bruising and ultimately successful Senate campaign that set records for campaign spending and saw some of the earliest independent

June 9th, 2016|Commentary|

Finding Freedom in Restraint

By William D. Ruckelshaus Whether you believe it a moral obligation to care for other living things or an intelligent instinct for self-preservation, we need collectively to constrain our conduct so we don’t wipe out other living things that are completely dependent on us for survival. William D. Ruckelshaus, one of the nation’s most distinguished senior Republican thought leaders, gave the following address on April 20, 2016. Mr. Ruckelshaus served as the first administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 during the Nixon Administration, and led the agency again from 1983 to 1985 under President Ronald Reagan. He also served as acting Director of the FBI and Deputy Attorney General of the United States. During his time at EPA, Mr. Ruckelshaus laid the foundation for many of the nation’s landmark environmental law. Now 83 years old, he serves as a member of the Presidential Climate Action Plan’s National Advisory Committee. He and his family live in Washington State where Mr. Ruckelshaus continues practicing law. Forty years ago I was asked to make a speech on nuclear power and

May 6th, 2016|Commentary|