KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Wednesday, President Joe Biden made his first trip to Missouri since winning the White House.
Biden landed at Kansas City International Airport before traveling to the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to deliver remarks on the $1 trillion “Building a Better America” deal.
The decision to hold Biden’s visit at KCATA was to promote federal investment in local public transportation but also connect with people — like KCATA workers — who stand to benefit from the injection of money.
“He brought America back just in time. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the President of the United States and former school bus driver Joe Biden,” said Eskew Jackson, the man who introduced Biden on Wednesday.
Jackson, a Class A service worker with Local 1287, does maintenance on the buses that the Biden administration plans to eventually transition to fully electric. The signs around the KCATA garage, specially made for the President’s visit, were also union made and put together overnight.
See photos from Biden’s visit to Kansas City in the gallery below.
Biden, well known for his affinity for public transportation, expressed his appreciation for Kansas City’s system.
“Creating good union jobs, they’re good for the environment. And they’re making them free for all riders. Mayor [Quinton Lucas], you’re helping regular riders save about 2,000 bucks a year. That’s a big deal for someone making $50-60 grand a year,” Biden said.
The federal money going to Missouri and Kansas, more than $10 billion as a part of the recently passed infrastructure law, was touted by Biden to have far-reaching impact — fixing roads, bridges and sewers and increasing access to broadband internet.
“In the 21st century in America no parent should have to do what many had to do last semester, and that is sit in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant so that children could use the internet to get their homework done. This is the United States of America for God’s sake,” Biden said.
Jackson said he’s cautiously hopeful.
“What it means to me could be a lot of things, depending on how it’s handled and how its managed and if it’s done properly and fairly and correctly,” Jackson said.
“And hopefully those jobs that are created offer living wages, and they do allow them to spend time with their family and not be committed to extremely long hours where all they do is work and sleep — they can have actual lives,” Jackson said. “Work 40 hour days and their job is just a small factor of their life and not an adjective or describer of them, you know?”
“He’s not the bus driver. He’s the man who drives the bus. It’s a big difference,” Jackson added.
At the start of his comments, Biden also shared a brief tribute to the late Kansas U.S. Senator Bob Dole, calling him not only a courageous figure and but also someone he didn’t always agree with but, through it all, a friend.
Protesters and supporters
Not everyone could get inside KCATA Headquarters when Biden was speaking, but many still wanted to be part of the President’s visit.
Some gathered in the historic 18th and Vine District to show support, voice opposition or just hoping to catch a glimpse of the President.
As Biden made his way down the Paseo, cheers from people with different causes came out of the crowd.
“Blue dots in a red sea, but there are many of us out here and I think that just by being here hopefully he sees that he has support and also he sees that he has support for what he’s doing,” said Jae Moyer, a Biden supporter.
“It’s really cool that he’s here,” Rachel Gonzalez said. “I got to see him back in March right before the pandemic and got to shake his hand and meet him.”
But others were there to send a strong message to the President.
“We want them to stop supporting that terrorists organization, and we want them to stop sanctioning Ethiopia,” said Henol Tekeste, an Ethiopian American activist.
Several Ethiopian Americans came out to urge Biden to revisit his foreign policy in Ethiopia.
“If President Biden does not stop torturing, just helping this terrorist organization and stop sanctioning we will make him a one-term president,” Tekeste said.
Some supporters of former President Donald Trump were also in the crowd, but those FOX4 talked to didn’t want to speak on camera.
You can rewatch Biden’s full remarks in the video player below.
Building a Better America
Biden unveiled a new slogan for his $1 trillion infrastructure package on Wednesday, but his overall message is staying largely the same.
Biden rebranded his Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework as “Building a Better America” during his weekslong tour to put greater focus on the planned spending for roads, bridges, water systems, broadband and greater resilience against climate change.
The economy has revived since Biden took office, but high inflation, political polarization and the inability to fully break free of the coronavirus pandemic have all hurt his popularity.
The new slogan for his big, just-passed infrastructure package says the president’s bipartisan deal will improve the country in ways well beyond repairing its aging roads and bridges.
“We’re talking about rebuilding America, investing in America, building a better America,” Biden said.
The White House launched a website Wednesday that asks Americans to record videos about how the infrastructure spending will help their own communities, part of a search for grassroots support as the administration seeks greater recognition for its achievements ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The infrastructure law will fund upgrades and repairs to roads, bridges, mass transit and water systems nationwide, along with a shift to electrical vehicles to help ease the effects of climate change.
“It’s time to stop just kind of repairing our grandparents’ infrastructure — it’s time to start innovating,” said Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat from the nearby state of Kansas who spoke at the event.