Felix Rohatyn and Bob Herbert Speak at Common Cause Conversation Hosted by Kelley Drye
May 1, 2009
"The nation is falling apart—literally. America's roads and bridges, schools and hospitals, airports and railways, ports and dams, waterlines and air-control systems—the country's entire infrastructure—is rapidly and dangerously deteriorating." These are the opening words of Felix Rohatyn's new book, Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America and Why It Must Rebuild Now.

On April 29, 2009, Mr. Rohatyn, an investment banker and former U.S. Ambassador to France, and The New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert, visited Kelley Drye & Warren LLP as part of the Common Cause Conversation series.

Mr. Rohatyn was CEO and partner of the investment bank Lazard Freres & Co. As a former governor of the New York Stock Exchange and chairman of the New York Municipal Assistance Corp, he is frequently referred to as the banker who solved New York City's financial crisis and saved the city from bankruptcy in the 1970s.

In a thought-provoking discussion, Mr. Rohatyn and Mr. Herbert advocated the need for the United States to invest in its infrastructure. Mr. Rohatyn's book notes, "Three-quarters of the country's public school buildings are outdated and inadequate. More than a quarter of the nation's bridges are obsolete or deficient. It will take $11 billion annually to replace aging drinking water facilities. Half the locks on more than 12,000 miles of inland waterways are functionally obsolete."

Both Mr. Rohatyn and Mr. Herbert endorse the creation of an infrastructure bank to provide capital funding for major projects. They both support President Obama's stimulus package to help cure the nation's economic woes, also expressing the views that the country needs to do more. Mr. Rohatyn compared today's economic crisis to the challenges faced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s. Both speakers said in addition to support for banks and the financial system, bold investments in job creating, infrastructure projects are needed to keep the United States globally competitive.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, non-profit advocacy organization, founded in 1970 by John Gardner, to foster citizen participation in the political process and to hold elected leaders accountable to the public interest. It has approximately 400,000 members and supporters in 36 state organizations. The organization is hosting a series of conversations on issues of the day with prominent civic leaders and authors.

Kelley Drye hosted the Common Cause Conversation, as part of a series of discussions on today's pressing issues. Partner Frederic A. Rubinstein and his wife, Susan Rubinstein, are active members of the non-profit organization. Mrs. Rubinstein is co-chair of Common Cause NY which has helped secure public campaign finance reform in New York.

(From left to right: Felix Rohatyn, Mary Holloway, Co-Chair of Common Cause NY, Bob Herbert and Susan Rubinstein, Co-Chair of Common Cause NY)

Common Cause event