Interesting news item on lead pipe and paint removal

In the midst of all the falderol about the former president’s last Chief of Staff, something good is happening. Part of the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill will help with lead pipe and paint removal. This has been a festering problem and not just for the folks in Flint, Michigan.

In an article called “Harris announces Biden administration’s new lead pipe and paint removal effort,” by Kevin Liptak and Kate Sullivan of CNN, it speaks to why this is a concern and what is going to happen.

“Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday announced a new administration push to eliminate lead from water pipes and homes in the next decade using billions in new funding allocated through the new bipartisan infrastructure law.

‘Here’s the truth, and it’s a hard truth: Millions of people in our country, many of them children, are still exposed to lead every day,’ Harris said at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations in Washington.

The vice president said many parents across the country have told her they were worried ‘that every time they turned on the faucet to give their child a glass of water that they may be filling that glass with poison.’

‘The science is clear about what drinking water from a lead pipe can do to the human body,’ Harris said. ‘For adults, it can cause an increase in blood pressure and decreased kidney function. In children, it can severely harm mental and physical development. It can stunt growth, slow down learning and cause irreparable damage to the brain.’

Through the administration’s new Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, agencies will take a number of steps meant to remove the toxic metal from places where people live, work or go to school. Harris said the push would focus on communities that have “historically been left out or left behind.”

The Environmental Protection Agency will begin the process of writing new regulations that would protect communities from lead in drinking water; the Department of Labor will form technical assistance hubs to fast-track removal projects with union workers; agencies will commit to removing lead service lines and paint in federally assisted housing; and a new Cabinet group will focus on lead removal in schools and child care facilities.”

The Infrastructure Bill is about ten years over due in my mind. It has long been supported by the US Chamber of Commerce and the labor unions, as it helps invest in America and creates jobs. And, it has always received bipartisan support. Ironically, the last former president spoke of improving infrastructure during his 2016 campaign, but missed a chance to address it during his term.

This aspect of the bill is vital as it is addressing something that is harming our children. And, that is certainly a very good thing.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/white-house-to-announce-new-lead-pipe-and-paint-removal-effort/ar-AARSxCE?ocid=msedgntp

It is all about The Donald

Yesterday, the former president was giving a speech during which he again lambasted thirteen Republican representatives who voted in favor of the infrastructure bill. One of those thirteen, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York was in the audience. According to news reports, she was visibly shaken, as she probably knows what it means for the former president to rile up his base.

I called her for a second time this week, on top of my call to thank her for her vote and political courage. I also wanted to thank her for putting America’s interests ahead of those in her own party or at least those of a vocal and fervent base. The second call was to reiterate her courage and ask her to hang in there. We need more people to vote for what they believe is in her constituents better interests and not fewer.

Here is what I also told her. The former president forgets he campaigned in 2016 to pass an infrastructure bill. This is one of the few things I agreed with him on. So, did Democrats and folks like Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders welcomed discussion on infrastructure. Yet, the former president chose to try and take people’s healthcare access away first and foremost. Over four years, nothing on infrastructure happened after making a campaign promise..

Now that he lost the election because he got fewer votes overall and in key states, he is targeting anyone in his party who, in his mind, is helping the opposition. This in middle school behavior, saying I am not going to like you, because you like him. He is siccing his fervent base on them and some use vile threats against this group. Those targeted know this and still voted like they did. Now, why would they do this?

But, back to the infrastructure bill which will be signed Monday. Most Americans want the bill to happen. In fact, the Senate had nineteen Republican votes on top of the thirteen Republican representatives who voted in favor of the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for it saying this week it is a “godsend” to the people of the state of Kentucky. Mind you, he did not see this is a pretty good bill for his constituents. He said it is a “godsend.” I will take that as an endorsement.

This former president is reacting like he usually does through the lens of an enormous and fragile ego. How does this bill’s passing affect me? Using a line that can be used with any narcissist, but applies here – it is all about the The Donald. America’s and Americans’ interests are always secondary to that of The Donald’s. That is why extorting other countries for gain and “burning it all down” as his niece said he would to overturn the election are so easy for him to consider and do.

And, for those who believe I am all wet, consider these two things. Why would a person in a leadership position have rallies in February, 2020 when admitting to Bob Woodward on February 7, 2020 that he knew of the dangers of COVID-19. He had several rallies of his most loyal followers, lambasting COVID-19 as a Democratic hoax (that would go on to kill 750,000 Americans), and without letting his most ardent followers know they may be in danger. If that were not enough, he had a big party at the White House later in the year, where about a half-dozen folks caught COVID-19, which may have been where he contracted it.

Why does he do these things? It is an easy answer – the adulation. Full stop. It is all about The Donald. And, Representative Malliotakis and the 31 other Republicans who voted for the infrstructure bill (not just twelve others), thank you for your service to our country.

Two posts on infrastructure worth a look this morning

As I was fumbling around for the subject of my post, I saw a post that intrigued me. To be frank, the subject was less important, but the author was our friend Jill who has been missing from the online blogging world as she recovers. She has been missed.. It is truly a delight to see her words again.

Her post and that of fellow blogger Annie are related to the passing of the infractucture bill. late Friday night. Rather than repeat their blog posts, I will provide links below. Please read their words on their blog and comment accordingly. I am going to put one of my comments here to emphasize how important it is to highlight this accomplishment.

“I thought his (President Biden’s) words yesterday were well done. And, he was ebullient. I did call the thirteen Republican representatives who voted for the infrastructure bill, thanking them for putting our country ahead of party. As an independent and former Republican (and Democrat) voter, this bill is more than three months over due; it is ten years over due. And, contrary to what is being portrayed by some Republicans, this was a bipartisan bill that also passed 69 to 30 in the Senate, including a vote in favor by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

Not to belabor the point, but the US Chamber of Commerce and union leadership for ten years have been pleading for Congress to act. Yet, the only substantive change made was to reload funding for the Highway Trust Fund. How many bills get support of the unions and business leaders?

So, this is good news for America and Americans. We can now fix and improve things that are outdated and in disrepair and build better infrastructure to serve our needs going forward.”

Friday Foibles and Follies

Happy Friday! With no clear cut subject in mind, let me wander through a few foibles and follies this Friday morning. In no particular order.

There is a long history that can support the following assertion, but when leaders lie, people tend to get harmed and too many die. Putin has lied about the dangers of COVID in Russia and people are suffering. Trump also lied about the COVID danger and more people have and still put themselves at risk. And, too many have died. Bolsonaro lies as much as the other two, coming up with National Enquirer type inanities, and people in Brazil are in danger. Leaders owe us the truth. Hold them accountable.

I left a message with two Democrat Congressional representatives, one of which is Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Please do something and pass the two bills. The infrastructure bill passed the Senate in July. It is well over due. As for the other bill, of course, it won’t have every thing people want in it. Get something done. I recognize fully Republicans are primarily motivated to do nothing except rationalize the untruths of the former president to keep his followers engaged. They would rather win a battle than have Americans actually benefit from a change. But, Democrats have lost their momentum and will suffer for their inability to do something. Again, get something done.

US Representative Liz Cheney, who has been ridiculed by her own Republican party for daring to tell the truth, has responded to Tucker Carlson, the talk show entertainer from Fox for pushing a documentary that the January 6 insurrection was a false flag operation meant to discredit Republicans. This is a bolder attempt by Carlson and other Trump sycophants to white wash what happened that day. Republicans are being discredited, but they have the former president and his cohorts to blame for instigating this insurrection. We can never let something like January 6 happen again and it highly offends me that some legislators want us to look the other way.

While Carlson is pushing this bogus narrative telling us not to look behind the curtain, The Rolling Stone (yes, that one) has done some excellent reporting that notes seven Republican members of Congress had a role in the insurrection. That is worse than those who stormed the place. I would like to remind people that Carlson’s employer, Fox News, said under oath in court that Carlson’s opinions should not be considered as news as he is not part of their news reporting team. Like Trump, Carlson’s opinions tend not to built on a foundation of truth. Believing them is truly a fool’s errand.

Finally, the current president is off to a climate change summit which is good. It is nice to see a president actually taking seriously the biggest threat, along with our water crisis, facing our planet. The former president announced to fanfare on June 1, 2017 that the US would leave the Paris Climate Change Accord. Ironically, the former president made this announcement the day after Exxon Mobil’s shareholders voted that management must inform shareholders of progress toward fighting climate change, the third fossil fuel company to vote that way in May, 2017. Biden is not perfect and has made some mistakes, but pushing for more climate change action is not one of them. The US government must help lead the way, matching what is happening at local and regional levels and in several industries.

That is all for now. Let’s help save our planet. Read multiple news sources to know the truth, use fewer plastics, eat less meat, drive less, and walk more. And, get vaccinated for COVID.

Letter to Editor on Wedge Issues

The following letter I sent in to my local newspaper was published in its entirety, which is rare. Please feel free to modify and forward if you like the message.

It amazes me how so much time can be spent on created wedge issues for political gain and so little on real ones. The global (and US) water crisis and need for accelerated climate change action are key environmental issues. Investing in deteriorated infrastructure while also reducing the US deficit and debt are at odds, but both are needed, so we must be judicious with spending cuts and revenue increases, as both are needed to solve the math problem.

And, we must stop this degradation of civil rights that were long fought for. Attacking the right to vote under the guise of staged and unproven election fraud claims is abhorrent in the eyes of this independent voter and should be in the eyes of more elected officials.

Letter from my Republican Senator who voted for the Infrastructure Bill

The following response from Senator Richard Burr was after I thanked him for his vote and encouraged him to see this thing over the finish line with his advocacy.

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684). I appreciate hearing from you. 

Please know that I understand your thoughts on the historic infrastructure package that recently passed in the Senate. As one of the 22 Senators who helped negotiate the framework of the bipartisan bill, I believe it is a major investment in America’s economic future. It provides the largest core infrastructure investment in our nation’s history and it does so responsibly – without raising taxes. While no compromise bill is ever perfect, I’m proud to have worked with my Senate colleagues to find common ground on an issue that affects all Americans. 

This bill is particularly important for growing states like North Carolina. As more families and businesses call North Carolina home, we have to have the right infrastructure in place to meet the needs of a growing population. Poor roads and high traffic areas cost commuters and businesses a not insignificant amount of money each year. This legislation will provide $9 billion to update, expand, and repair North Carolina’s roads and highways. It also invests heavily in airports, bridges, rural broadband access, and our clean water supply. 

America’s aging infrastructure poses a risk to our economic growth and our ability to compete globally in the 21st century. Modernizing our roads, bridges, railways, ports, waterways, broadband capabilities, cybersecurity, and more will help lower the costs of doing business, create more jobs, and spur innovation. 

For these reasons, I voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on August 10, 2021. It is my hope that the House of Representatives will quickly pass this historic investment in our nation and that President Biden will stick to his commitment to sign H.R. 3684 into law. 

Again, thank you for contacting me. Should you have additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to let me know or visit my website at http://burr.senate.gov. 

Sincerely, 

Richard Burr

United States Senator

Infrastructure bill – letter to the editor

I am very pleased the US Senate passed an infrastructure bill. Here is a letter I sent into my newspaper this weekend. Let’s see if they publish it, but I at least wanted to let others see it, in case they do not.

I applaud the sixty-nine US Senators who approved the much needed Infrastructure bill, including the 19 Republicans (Burr, Tillis as well) who voted for it. The bipartisan push for this bill is very encouraging for this independent voter and shows we can remember how to work together.

This bill is about ten years overdue as our infrastructure is of great concern. Many may not realize we did not get the Chicago Olympics because our airport, train, communication and highway infrastructure was severely outdated. And, that decision was made several years ago. Let’s encourage our legislators to do more of this and cease the tribal politicking that will be our demise.

Bipartisan House group proposes an infrastructure solution

With the latest talks between President Biden and the Republican Senators on an infrastructure bill falling apart, I took some encouragement from a House caucus of 58 members evenly split between the two parties. In an article called “Bipartisan caucus endorses its own proposal after infrastructure talks fizzle” by Jacqui Heinrich and Edmund DeMarche of Fox News, it notes progress from the group.

Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the entire article below.

“Shortly after talks on President Biden’s infrastructure plan fell through on Tuesday when talks between the White House and Republican senators fizzled, there was significant movement on an additional bipartisan effort to come up with a deal.

The House Problem Solvers Caucus voted and endorsed its own proposal: an 8-year package that comes with a $1.249 trillion price tag, including about $500 billion in new spending. (The actual new spending is $761.8 billion over the timeframe, but an aide for Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the Democrat co-chair of the caucus, made an error. It is yet to be seen if the revised number becomes an issue going forward. The error does not affect the total price tag.)

The 58-member group, which consists of 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans, came up with the proposal called, ‘Building Bridges: Bipartisan Physical Infrastructure Framework.’ The bill calls for $587 billion for highway and bridges, $160 billion for transit, $24 billion on electric vehicle infrastructure among other initiatives. The endorsement requires that the group votes as a bloc, should the bill formally take shape and come to the floor.

GOP lawmakers offered a $928 billion infrastructure proposal that included roughly $330 billion in new spending on related projects. Biden had proposed a $1.7 trillion spending plan funded by tax hikes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans. 

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, the Republican co-chair of the caucus, said in a statement that the group worked ‘tirelessly to put together this bipartisan framework that is both responsive to local needs and worthy of the public’s trust. Infrastructure investment can and will deliver real benefits to every American and additionally, has the unique power to unite us as a nation. An investment in our roads, rails, bridges, IT infrastructure, and electrical grid is an investment in our nation, our economy, and our families,’ he said.”

Since I wrote again recently urging legislators to stop worry about keeping their jobs and start doing their jobs, I wanted to report this excellent progress. Collaboration is the way forward in this time of tribal politics. Hopefully, something will happen on this topic as it has been needed for about ten years.

Bipartisan caucus endorses its own proposal after infrastructure talks fizzle | Fox News

The Wednesday Wanderer

In all fairness to Dion who sang “The Wanderer” back in 1961, this wanderer is not the womanizing man defined therein, but someone whose thoughts are wandering about. It is not unusual for some great tunes to be about not desirable folks (think “Every breath you take” by The Police).

So, let me play gadfly and wander around with a few thoughts.

I have seen graphic data which reveals vaccines are making a huge difference in cutting the rate of COVID-19 infections. The news by President Biden should be well received, but we also need to help places like India whose population is four times that of the US and too many live too close together, increasing exposure.

Speaking of vaccines, I get my second one on Saturday and my wife and son will be finishing theirs later in May. The only side effects have been with my wife, who was extra tired and a little nauseous. These are small prices to pay to be safe. It is only your life and that of your family. As my Air Force veteran brother-in-law noted, it is not like you are being asked to storm a beach at Normandy.

I did notice there is one night time opinion host, whose veracity is consistently in question, advising his viewers to go up to children who are wearing masks and tell them they will call the police on their parents. Really? This is malfeasance in my view, as someone will get hurt, either the revved up person or the target of the revved up person. It is similar to the former president being responsible for inciting an insurrection that ended up with seven people dead and over 400 charged with a crime all because his fragile ego could not handle losing.

I remain dismayed how politicians can avoid working together so as not to be seen working together as that will not sit well with the base. Really? You will avoid solving problems, which people want you to do, because it will look bad to your tribe? Let me be frank – get off your duff and go make it happen. Be a leader. I do not care who gets more credit, please do something and stop the posturing.

In this vein, I have said for four years, the previous president had a golden opportunity to push through a needed infrastructure bill. He campaigned on it and Democrats were ready to discuss it.. Plus he had a majority in both chambers. He could have set sails on his presidency with a bipartisan bill out of the gate and it could have changed the course of his presidency. Yet, he chose to try to take something away from people as his first mission all because it was nicknamed for his predecessor – Obamacare. After months of god-awful legislation and process, that effort was defeated. And, that failure better defined his presidency.

That is all for now. Let me know your thoughs. They call me the wanderer, the wanderer..

Pay me now or pay me later

Seeing what is transpiring in Texas with the lack of advance planning, it reminds me of painful history lessons. There is an age old problem in governing and public service. When things hit the fan, it is often due to problems that were not fixed due to budgets and were left to linger.

Politicians are good at blaming others and asking how can you let that happen? They tend to overlook their role in the process. Here are a few real life examples:

When some one in a social worker’s care has a horrible episode, the fact the social worker is serving 160 people versus the best practice 16 to one does not get enough consideration as a root cause. Think about it, due to budget cuts, one social worker is serving 10X the number of people which is ideal. That is drive by social work, not counseling.

When a train wrecks on an old trestle bridge, the fact the bridge has never been fixed and is only patched up does not get enough consideration as a root cause. When the next train derails, read the fall out from politicians and dig beneath the finger pointing at the actual causes, not who did what.

When Katrina devastated New Orleans, people forget the Army Corp of Engineers said the levees could not stand a direct hurricane hit a few years before. Nothing was done about it and the levees failed. We should also remember the Houston area has flooded twice with one-hundred year hurricanes that were four years apart.

And, In Texas, the vulnerability of their independent electricity system is a festering problem. So, when the system is overwhelmed like it has been with the icy storms, it fails.

Avoiding disasters by planning is a rare commodity in governance. No one wants to pay for it. Plus, so-called leaders do not get sufficient credit for pre-planning like they should. They get more credit for fixing a problem later after the fall out, if they ever get around to it.

As we speak, we have thousands of car and train bridges in need of repair, we have antiquated electrical grids, we have poor water piping (think Flint), etc. When the Olympics was not awarded to Chicago a few years ago, it was due to our aging infrastructure, even then.

A good example of pre-planning occurred in my home city of Charlotte. The city built an Intermodal distribution facility which was placed on the property of the international airport. Easily accessible to this facility are train and truck distribution centers and highways for trucks. They took advantage of shipping in/ out by plane, train and truck.

This is the kind of planning that is needed with infrastructure improvements. The fixes have to be holistic in evaluating the problems and hopefully make the process better in the end.