"Infrastructure Week" – In Case You Missed It

Real Estate and Land Use, Water Law, Environmental

6/16/2017 by Janet Neuman

For those of you who may have been distracted by other events in the news, let me recap the Trump Administration's "Infrastructure Week" for you.
Monday, June 5: President Trump kicked off the week with a formal East Room signing ceremony, complete with a military band, souvenir pens, and a photo op. What did he sign? Was it his promised trillion dollar spending proposal to rebuild the nation's highways, bridges, dams, and water facilities? No—just a letter to Congress that advocated privatizing the air traffic control system. Even that did not represent a new proposal, but simply expressed support for a bill initially proposed several years ago by a Pennsylvania representative in Congress—a version of which died in the Senate last year. The LA Times called it "the latest example of a pattern of the administration claiming to have sent Congress fully constructed policies when it has provided only facades..."
Tuesday, June 6: Instead of staying on the infrastructure message when reporters were invited into a White House meeting with GOP leaders, Trump made references to the Russian investigation and to how his son-in-law Jared Kushner was becoming "more famous than me—I'm a little upset at that."
Wednesday, June 7: The President gave a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio which was supposed to emphasize the importance of the inland waterway infrastructure to the nation's transportation of goods. But the President "veer[ed] off script" and spent time instead criticizing ObamaCare and "obstructionist" democrats, while praising the king of Saudi Arabia. The New York Times described the speech as "a wandering assortment of self-defenses, attacks and non sequiturs that bumped into one another like untethered barges." Meanwhile the needs of the actual barges were apparently ignored.
Thursday, June 8: The White House hosted a summit with mayors and governors to talk about infrastructure, and the air traffic control proposal was heard by the House Transportation Committee. But those events were completely overshadowed by Jim Comey's testimony at the other end of the Capitol.
Friday, June 9: The President visited the U.S. Department of Transportation and proposed creation of a new "council" to help contractors navigate the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects. As reported by the Associated Press, to emphasize his remarks he "dramatically flipped through binders that he said contained pages of 'nonsense' paperwork for an 18-mile road in Maryland, and then tossed them onto the floor."
There you have it. You didn't miss much after all. And that's too bad, because Trump's infrastructure pledge was one proposal that was supposed to rally bipartisan support. But the opportunity may have already been squandered—not only by the competing news of the week—but also from the President's lack of focus and the absence of a concrete proposal with actual dollars attached. The behind-the-scenes discussion of the President's "plan," which is attributed to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and adviser Peter Navarro, actually proposes only $200 billion in federal cash and tax credits—with some of this perhaps coming from cuts to existing state and local funding—and the other $800 billion supposedly coming from the private spending that would be stimulated by the federal money.
Meanwhile, water systems and transportation infrastructure are still waiting for attention.