Joe Biden has announced plans to nominate Pete Buttigieg as his Secretary of Transportation. As Mayor Pete re-enters the national fray, I have a number of policy suggestions for his consideration.
Mayor @PeteButtigieg is a leader, patriot, and problem-solver. He speaks to the best of who we are as a nation.
I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because he’s equipped to take on the challenges at the intersection of jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 16, 2020
1o Policy Suggestions For Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg
I view Buttigieg as a patriot for his service in Afghanistan and certainly enjoyed listening to him espouse well-reasoned and nuanced policy positions during the Democratic polices, even if we did not always agree.
I have high expectations for him in new role as Secretary of Transportation. He seems to be a fast-learner, but being Mayor of South Bend is a lot different than heading a federal department. Nevertheless, I think he has the distinct possibility of excelling in his new position.
Here are 10 things I would like to see from Secretary Buttigieg:
1. Mandate All-In Pricing For Hotels
A deceptively-low base price that can often more than double once taxes and resort fees are added creates unnecessary consumer confusion. Transparency should the right of a consumer and the obligation of a company that wants to do business in the United States.
2. Pursue Smart Infrastructure Programs
The outgoing administration promised robust infrastructure spending, but failed to make it a priority. Without wasting tax dollars on boondoggles, linking more airports to city centers will help airlines, help consumers, and help the environment. It goes without saying that many roads, highways, bridges, and interstates are also in desperate need of repair.
3. Promote Open Skies
Consumers benefit and carriers are held to a higher standard when they must compete openly not just with their domestic peers, but international peers. The more international carriers that serve the USA, the better. I’d even like to see foreign carriers enjoy permission to operate domestic segments in the United States.
4. Close the Emotional Support Animal Loophole
“Psychiatric Service Animals” may soon be the next generation of “emotional support” animals. Secretary Buttigieg should ensure that nefarious passengers cannot take their misbehaved dogs onboard for free by calling them “service animals.” The latest rules require further tweaking.
5. Be Highly Skeptical Of Any Proposed Airline Mergers
There is more to flying than the price of a ticket and in my humble estimation, consumers always ultimately lose when airlines merge. COVID-19 will likely be seen as a great impetus for further mergers and acquisitions, but the DOT should scrutinize any such action very carefully before even entertaining the thought of further consolidation.
6. Federal Mandate On Masks That Exempts Young Children
Airlines hide behind CDC guidance when asked to defend why a toddler must wear a mask. It’s time for federal standards across all airlines that will stop terrorizing families with young children. We could look to the United Kingdom or Germany for guidance on how to do mask mandates in a smarter way when flying.
7. Protect Consumers Who Book So-Called “Mistake Fares”
The line between what constitutes a “mistake fare” is too tenuous to hold consumers responsible for knwoing. If an airline issues you a ticket, it should not be able to attempt to revise that price upward later on if it later has seller’s remorse.
8. Penalize Airlines For Not Issuing Refunds In A Timely And Transparent Fashion
We’ve seen consumers wait, wait, and wait for refunds during the pandemic. Money should go back out to a consumer just as quickly as it was charged.
9. Tackle Amtrak
My policy prescription is vague, because I just don’t know what to do about Amtrak. On the one hand, Amtrak serves a public good and has great potential. On the other hand, it just loses money…how long should it be subsidized? I don’t have an answer here, but we need a thoughtful but smart approach on Amtrak.
10. Better Regulate Smoking At Airports
I realize this has traditionally been a state issue, but all across the nation I am so sick of having to endure second-hand smoke when I step out of an airport terminal. The DOT should mandate that smoking on curbs is banned but explicitly preempt local ordinances and allow airports to install indoor or outdoor smoking lounges inside the airport. These protect others from second-hand smoke as well as the dignity of those still fighting that nasty habit.
There are many things I like about Mayor Pete…and some things I do not. But my differences will not stop me from supporting him in his new role. I wish him well and hope that he will promote accountability and innovation in his new position. No matter your political affiliation, we should wish the same for all of our national leaders.
image: Gage Skidmore