Obama DOT pick called ‘underwhelming’

Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx is an “underwhelming” choice to be secretary of Transportation, according to the president of the conservative Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

President Obama nominated Foxx to take over from outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. 

But Jason Stverak, in an op-ed published on the conservative Daily Caller website, called the choice uninspired given problems Foxx has had with transportation issues in his city.

“When President Obama nominated Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to be the next secretary of transportation, he gave the rising politician a chance to become one of the youngest cabinet members in history. But Foxx isn’t qualified for the job,” Stverak wrote. 

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“In nominating Foxx, the president cited the improvements to Charlotte’s airport and light rail system during his tenure,” Stverak continued. “But even a cursory look at Foxx’s record reveals that the mayor has struggled to convince politicians from either party to support his transportation proposals.”

Prior to the announcement of Foxx as his DOT pick, Obama had been under pressure from normally supportive groups like the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to appoint more African-Americans to positions in his Cabinet.

Foxx, who is black, was subsequently selected to run the DOT along with Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), who is also black and was Obama's choice to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). 

Foxx has been seen as rising star in Democratic politics after winning election to be Charlotte mayor in 2009, one year after Obama carried the traditionally Republican state of North Carolina in his first presidential election.

But Stverak quoted a Charlotte Observer article from the day Foxx was nominated that said Foxx's “biggest setbacks have been transportation related: His inability to secure a 2.5-mile streetcar extension and the possibility that lawmakers could shift control of the airport from the city to an authority.”

“Foxx has made streetcars the lynchpin of his plans to improve Charlotte’s public transportation system, but during his four years as mayor, he’s failed to deliver,” Stverak wrote, noting that he is not a fan of streetcars because “they cost taxpayers twice as much as conventional bus systems.” 

When Obama introduced Foxx as his choice to run the transportation department at the White House, he said the Charlotte mayor’s record made him a perfect choice for the DOT. 

"When Anthony became mayor in 2009, Charlotte, like the rest of the country, was going through a bruising economic crisis," Obama said on April 29. "But the city has managed to turn things around. The economy is growing. There are more jobs, more opportunity. And if you ask Anthony how that happened, he’ll tell you that one of the reasons is that Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation in the city’s history."

Stverak said the biggest knock against Foxx was his lack of Washington experience. 

Prior to beginning his political career as a member of the Charlotte City Council in 2005, Foxx worked as a lawyer for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and as a staffer for the House Judiciary Committee.

But Stverak said that was not enough D.C. experience.

“The last four transportation secretaries brought extensive federal experience to the table,” Stverak wrote. “With only a short stint as mayor under his belt — a stint that has been marred by failed small projects and political fights with both parties — Foxx is simply not ready to supervise the Department of Transportation and its $72 billion budget.”

-This story was updated with new information at 1:30 p.m.