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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg's Remarks in Atlanta on the American Jobs Plan

Friday, May 21, 2021

I appreciate your joining us, and I’m really grateful for the company that I get to keep today. I’m joined by Senators Ossoff and Warnock; Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who was so admired in the community of American mayors; Representatives Williams, McBath and Bordeaux; and all of the leaders here today. It's a real honor and treat to be in Atlanta.  
Yesterday, President Biden signed a bill into law to help address the disturbing rise in anti-AAPI hatred and violence across the country, including in this community. And I just want to acknowledge how this community was touched by that—losing eight lives in the horrific shooting in March. I also want to acknowledge the extraordinary leadership and resolve of this community in response to that. 
It's one of many reminders that have come in our time that our commitment to equity has to be at the heart of everything that we do. And that certainly includes transportation. 
We just had a terrific meeting with local leaders—including leaders from MARTA, from the Atlanta Regional Commission, and the Partnership for Southern Equity—about ways that we can promote equity through our transportation decisions. Because as the people of Atlanta know so well, the fight for racial equity has always been inseparable from conversations about transportation policy.  
This is, after all, the birthplace of Dr. King, the home of John Lewis, and many others, whose great accomplishments include the desegregation of public transit. Transportation is a civil right. At its best, it is an engine of opportunity. But at its worse, it can be a major source of inequity. That's why it's so important to be intentional—as Atlanta's leaders are doing right now—about ensuring that all of the city's residents are sharing in the benefits of transportation investments.  
That is at the heart of the philosophy behind the President's American Jobs Plan as well. The idea of the Jobs Plan is to create a generational investment that will make America more competitive, more equitable, and more ready for the changes that the future will throw our country—with an ambitious vision to create millions of jobs, the majority of which are available to Americans whether you have a college degree or not.  
It includes fixing 20,000 miles of roads, 10,000 bridges, modernizing airports, seaports, and ports of entry. And looking at resilience, so that what we build is actually going to last for the next 50 or 100 years, and not simply repeat what we've been doing for the last 50 or 100.  
It will trigger an electric vehicle revolution, and make sure that electric vehicle revolution is made in America. And it doubles funding for public transportation while addressing the repair backlog that we face as a country. 
It has $20 billion to do some of the work that the leaders I’m surrounded by have been doing right here in Atlanta: to reconnect and restore neighborhoods that were sometimes divided by highways or other infrastructure choices.  
And I want to emphasize: At least 40% of the climate and clean infrastructure investments here will go to underserved communities, in line with the President's commitment. 
It was great to get out on the ground and see firsthand some of the great infrastructure work that we think we can play a role in supporting. 
I've traveled by many modes of transportation. But this is the first time I traveled by crane—as they lowered a steel cage with a few of us into the tunnel that is being constructed in Atlanta International Airport, which by many metrics is the most economically significant air travel hub in the world.  
Now, when I was the mayor, in my community in Indiana, the airport was not under the direct authority of the mayor. But here, of course, the airport is overseen by the city. And under the Mayor's leadership, it has been doing extraordinary things—as it has from the beginning, when the very construction of the airport helped create a thriving Black middle class: yet another example of where equity comes into play in transportation.  
We also got to see Atlanta's connection, literally, through MARTA, public transit and transportation. And MARTA has big plans for expansion: from their vision for potentially adding street cars along the Belt Line, to the announcement recently that MARTA was going to support affordable housing along their routes—a theme that I discussed with Secretary Fudge in front of the Senate just yesterday, because we think it's so important to conceive of transit, transportation, and housing, together.  
The people of this city have stepped up. In 2016, they voted for a half-cent sales tax to support MARTA’s expansion, because voters understand that investing in transit pays off and creates jobs. Now we’ve got to make sure that we're doing that as a country too.  
We rode on MARTA to East Point from the airport, and had a chance, with Mayor Ingram, to visit the East Point Exchange Development. We saw a soccer field built in partnership with MARTA by an organization called Soccer in the Streets—demonstrating what's possible when community assets are a source of value for all. Maybe most importantly of all, it shows kids that they, too, have ownership of our shared public assets. That it belongs to them. This exemplifies yet one more way to think about transit oriented development.  
So I'm delighted to be here in a place that has so much to show for these commitments—but also has so much to gain by what we could be doing if we invest, as the President is calling on Congress to do, in an American Jobs Plan that will make the early 2020s go down in history as the moment that America decided to win the future. 
And with that, it's my pleasure to turn it over to my friend, Senator John Ossoff