Monday, February 16, 2009

Dear President Obama,

OK, I was a little hurt when you didn't even ask me to be Secretary of Transportation. Yeah, I'm sure you figured rightly that Christine and I wouldn't be interested in leaving Issaquah to move to the "other" Washington and maybe my plan of making every three block radius around a public school be a car-free zone is too "radical" for America to think about right now. But I still support you on the whole tire inflation issue and some of the other stuff you're trying to do. I know you've got a lot on your plate right now and even though you might be thinking "Hey, this guy could be a good Commerce Secretary!" No, I won't take that post either. Sorry.

Now I know some folks might say that running a non-profit used bike shop in Seattle doesn't qualify me to give financial advice, but I was smart enough to take over managing the shop right as the price of gas was hitting four bucks a gallon. And even when gas prices went down in September and the economy crashed when everyone suddenly realized that if you can't pay the $2,500/month mortgage payment on your 4,000 square-foot home then you really don't "own" it, folks still managed to buy bikes and parts at our shop. 2008, which was a disaster if you were counting on your half-million dollar bonus from Smith-Barney, was a pretty good year if you're comfortable living in 800 square feet and make your living refurbishing bikes and teaching folks how to fix their own stuff. Bike Works had it's best year ever.

So, that economy, yeah that's a bummer. Can we retool plants that made Humvees into plants that make XtraCycles? Or railroad cars? You know that you can move more freight or people cheaper on a steel rail than an asphalt road. Maybe we should build some more rail lines or at least maintain the ones we've got. I remember we used to make things out of steel in this country, things like rails and bike frames. It would be worthwhile to do more of that.

It seems kind of silly that in a lot of places it's perfectly normal to have an acre of golf-course grade grass and a long driveway but if you have a few chickens or a goat or raise vegetables in your yard you're viewed as some kind of unsophisticated hick. I think we should listen more to the hicks and less to guys like Bernie Madoff. Back in World War Two almost everybody had Victory Gardens. It worked then, it could work again.

I know a lot of people are writing you now, asking for this or that part of the bail-out money. You've got a tough job and I don't envy you. But America is a country full of smart people (and a few morons, of course!) but we'll do OK. From what I'm seeing out here, smart folks have not stopped spending money, but they are spending it in smarter ways.

Those silly looking light bulbs Al Gore is always talking about, yeah they do cost more at the store, but our power bill is down. And I'm still buying tools and spending time and money to learn how things work and how to fix things. A bicycle is cheaper than a health club membership and it gets you places. I know a guy who started riding his bike and lowered his blood pressure to the point where his doctor told him he could stop taking his expensive blood pressure medication. His bike more than paid for itself in savings and he used some of the money he saved to become a life-member of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. That's good economic and good health-care policy.

I know you're going to be giving your State of the Nation speech and you'll tell us that times are tough. That's OK, we're tough, too.

I hope you're still liking your new job. My best to you and your wife and kids. Don't forget that you still owe the girls a puppy.

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA
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