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Rep. Bobby Scott in conversation with Mike Allen on the Axios stage. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Last Thursday, Axios Co-founder Mike Allen hosted a series of one-on-one conversations on hometown issues, including affordable housing, infrastructure and education.

Rep. Bobby Scott, Virginia
  • On the relationship between student debt and the housing market: "Student debt is a major problem...You can’t sell a house to a young person because they already have a mortgage. You're reluctant to start a family because you get to people with significant debt... It is a financial burden that is life-altering."
  • On fixing the student loan forgiveness system: "Many of those programs are in total disarray... the public service loan forgiveness plan started about 10 years ago and people are just coming up to 10 years and applying for their discharge. And the Department of Education is denying 99 percent...The program has a problem and we need to fix it."
Ray LaHood, Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation
Former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood discussed the impact of the bipartisan gas tax in Illinois, as well as the need for more investment in infrastructure at the federal level.

  • On the bipartisan decision to raise the gas tax in Illinois: "There are no Republican roads. There are no Republican bridges. There are no Democratic roads or Democratic bridges. Infrastructure has always been bipartisan. And so I'm proud of what happened in Illinois."
  • On raising the gas tax at the federal level: "The Senate will never do that unless [President] Trump sends a signal. If Trump sends a signal...We'd have a bill in Washington. That's what happened in Illinois...That could happen here with leadership from the White House, and it would happen very quickly."
  • On the state of American infrastructure: "America is one big pothole...our infrastructure has been decimated.”
Susanne Slater, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C.
Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C.'s CEO Susanne Slater. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Susanne Slater, Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C.'s CEO, highlighted the role of local leadership in critical decision-making around affordable housing and development.

  • On the impact of city and state-level leaders: "The leadership of the local jurisdiction can make all the difference in the world. The policy priorities of a mayor, for example, influence how developers build."
  • On gentrification in Washington, D.C.: "It’s one of the most gentrifying cities in the country...you want a booming economy...you are displacing small businesses and you are making housing virtually unaffordable...the economic engine has its costs and Habitat [for Humanity] is trying to catch the people before areas gentrify."
Nick Johnston, Editor-in-Chief, Axios
Axios Editor-in-Chief Nick Johnston in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Axios Editor-in-Chief Nick Johnston reflected on the themes of the year's Hometown Tour and discussed the issues that engage people outside of the Washington, D.C. media bubble.

  • On the topics that matter around the country: "Let's talk about these broader trends that are really important: How are people gonna be able to afford to live? How are they going to get from one place in the community to another? And how are we training a workforce for the 21st century, which uniformly folks say we're not?"
  • On scaling up successful community-level programs: "How can we get these good ideas and get Congress to act to create a much broader national infrastructure instead of doing this piecemeal? "

Thank you Wells Fargo for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations were "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 7 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand, which were later lifted.

7 hours ago - World

North Korea launches 4th suspected missile test this month

A news broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of an apparent North Korean missile test on Monday morning local time. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired "two suspected short-range ballistic missiles" eastward from Pyongyang on Monday morning local time, per South Korean and Japanese officials.

Why it matters: The fourth such launch since Jan. 5 comes days after North Korea's military warned of "stronger" action if the U.S. moved to have more sanctions imposed on the country.