U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, head of the U.S. Department of Transportation, spoke at the Boise City Club Friday afternoon. Topics and questions from the audience covered a broad range of transportation issues, including reauthorization of the federal transportation bill, transportation security, safety, highway congestion and public transportation.
A full report of his visit will be included in next week's Transporter.
President George W. Bush appointed Mineta, a former 10-term Democratic member of Congress, to his current position on Jan. 25, 2001. Before that appointment, Mineta became the first Asian American to serve in the Cabinet when he was appointed by President Clinton to the position of Secretary of Commerce. Mineta was the first Cabinet member to move directly from a Democratic to a Republican Cabinet.
Among the major agencies under the U.S. Department of Transportation jurisdiction are:
He was intimately involved in creation of the Transportation Security Administration in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He considers creation of the TSA among his greatest successes, along with the enactment of tougher national drunken driving definition that lowered the legal blood alcohol limit to .08 percent.
During his first four years as secretary, the U.S. achieved the lowest vehicle and rail fatality levels ever recorded. Secretary Mineta also has overseen the safest three-year period in aviation history.
From 1975 to 1995, he served as a member of U.S. House of Representatives, representing the heart of California's Silicon Valley. As a member of Congress, then Rep. Mineta was known for his dedication to the people of his district, for consensus building among his colleagues and for forging public-private partnerships.
Mineta's legislative and policy agenda was wide and varied, including major projects in the areas of economic development, science and technology policy, trade, transportation, the environment, intelligence, the budget and civil rights. He co-founded the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and served as its first chair.
Mineta served as chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee between 1992 and 1994. He chaired the committee's aviation subcommittee between 1981 and 1988, and chaired its Surface Transportation Subcommittee from 1989 to 1991.
During his career in Congress, he championed increases in investment for transportation infrastructure and was a key author of the landmark Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), which shifted decisions on highway and mass transit planning to state and local governments.
ISTEA led to major upsurges in mass transit ridership and more environmentally-friendly transportation projects, such as bicycle paths. He also pressed for more funding for the department's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
After leaving Congress, he chaired the National Civil Aviation Review Commission, which in 1997 issued recommendations on reducing traffic congestion and reducing the aviation accident rate. Many of the commission's recommendations were adopted by the Clinton administration, including reform of the FAA to enable it to perform more like a business.
Mineta and his family were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry forced from their homes and into internment camps during World War II. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Mineta joined the Army in 1953 and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea.
He joined his father in the Mineta Insurance Agency before entering politics in San Jose, serving as a member of its city council from 1967 to 1971 and mayor from 1971 to 1974, He was the first Asian Pacific American mayor of a major U.S. city. As mayor, he favored greater control of transportation decisions by local government, a position he later championed in ISTEA.