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Blowing Smoke 

Editor:

I thought the article about the fantasy train idea was great; local journalism at its best. I also thought it treated Mr. Barnum, if not his plan, with rather surprising respect, since Barnum seems to be entirely in either denial or the dark about the plausibility of a project involving the expenditure of billions of dollars that currently don’t exist to build a railroad to serve a need that probably never will exist. Sure, it’s nice that people have nostalgic dreams about the Golden Age of Railroading, but I don’t think that qualifies them as transportation planners.

So when I saw the letter from Ms. Bonino (Mailbox, May 31) accusing the NCJ and the reporter of being biased and untruthful, and just “not lik[ing] the railroad,” I felt moved to respond. Ms. Bonino’s main points seem to be that the article unfairly slammed Mr. Barnum for his immense knowledge of “people, ideas, truth and happiness” -- a level of insight the NCJ can “only dream” of achieving -- and that railroads cause less damage to the environment than other transportation options. Both claims seem beside the point. Thus, while Mr. Barnum may well be more admirable than the ink-stained wretches at the NCJ, if Jesus himself came down from Heaven and proposed that we all take up shovels and dig a canal from here to Albuquerque so we could run excursion boats, I’d be opposed, even if Rob Arkley himself was heading up the opposition. And I’m crazy about canals, and recognize how efficient they can be in some situations, just like railroads. Unfortunately, according to the very convincing case made in the article, we’re not  in a situation where the railroad in question makes any sense, because there is no money to build it or run it, or customers to use it, and building and running a train through forest land would be enormously destructive.

Given the practical absurdity of the plan, and the fact that it is supported by a hard-headed billionaire who will go unnamed for possibly for the first time in NCJ history, my cynical response is that Mr. Barnum and others are being used by pro-development forces who don’t intend to spend one cent of their money on the railroad, but are pushing the idea in order to make responsible politicians like Mark Lovelace come out against it, thereby leaving them open to the charge that they’re environazis who hate the working man. Or maybe it’s all a joke, and Mr. Barnum’s name is intended as a clue that we’re being flimflammed in fun.

Bill Hassler, Mckinleyville

 

Editor:

William F. Barnum complains (Mailbox, June 7) that rail advocates are being ridiculed by reporter Ryan Burns, but he then goes on to dismiss detractors of the imagined rail as "troglodytes" and characterizes those who question the logic behind the scheme as people who oppose "any proposal that might increase economic activity and prosperity."

If Mr. Barnum's proposition had real merit, he might not be so thin-skinned about "practical objections."

Joel Mielke, Eureka

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