[Dixielandjazz] Delta Queen under attack--AGAIN
eupher61 at hotmail.com
Tue Nov 20 12:58:11 PST 2007
Unfortunately, I don't have links, but I think a search of "Save the Delta Queen"
would give the petition and video and the original article.
this is from the Minneapolis Star Tribune
steve "never been on it, but it's a beauty!" hoog
Could Oberstar sink the majestic Delta
Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune
For decades, the Delta Queen's tall stack has been a
familiar sight in St. Paul and other river towns such as
Red Wing and Winona. Children wave and a vintage steam
calliope plays as the elegant 81-year-old steamboat
majestically makes her way down the Mississippi, bound for
ports including St. Louis or Hannibal, Mo.
The Queen is the last steam-powered riverboat still
carrying overnight passengers on American waters. With her
Tiffany lamps and rare Siamese ironwood floors, she
recreates a bygone era -- down to a bell from the steamboat
that carried Mark Twain as he researched his "Life on the
But the Queen's fabled jo! urneys are apparently coming to
an end, thanks to one powerful man in Washington, Minnesota
Rep. Jim Oberstar.
The Queen must cease her long-distance voyages in November
2008 unless an exemption can be obtained from a federal law
forbidding wooden superstructures on vessels that carry 50
or more passengers on overnight trips, according to
Majestic America Line, which owns the boat.
Since the law went into effect 40 years ago, Congress has
repeatedly exempted the Queen. But this year, Oberstar,
Minnesota's Eighth District congressman and powerful
chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee, has blocked it. In previous years, and as
recently as last year, Oberstar has voted at least twice to
support the Queen's exemption.
Majestic blames special-interest politics. When the company
bought the Delta Queen last year, it refused to negotiate a
contract with the Seafarers International Union.
The S! eafarers union previously represented most Delta
Queen workers! . The union had supported the exemption in
the past, but now opposes it, says Joseph McCarthy, general
counsel for Ambassadors International, which owns Majestic.
The company believes this played a big role in Oberstar's
decision. "We were shocked and dismayed that the influence
of a union could change this exemption," says McCarthy.
He adds that the union told Majestic that it "could help
change" Oberstar's mind if the company agreed to support
Oberstar, who is recovering from surgery, maintains through
a spokesman that safety is the only issue. Spokesman John
Schadl emphasizes that the Coast Guard opposes the
exemption, as it has in past years.
In October, Oberstar told the New York Times that it is
"immoral" to "say that I would negotiate a deal to put
people's lives at risk in return for a contract for a
union." The union never approached the committee about the
exemption, Schadl says.
Officials at the Seafarers union co! uld not be reached for
comment Wednesday. But a statement on the union's website
adamantly denies that it "could or would" guarantee
approval of the waiver. The statement said the union makes
"every effort to assist our contracted companies" and
potentially could "present a persuasive argument"
concerning the exemption because of its safety expertise.
Dennis Shenk, who recently retired as the Delta Queen's
chief engineer, says that the boat is "absolutely safe --
safer than hotels and the office building you're sitting
Though its decks and superstructure are wood, its hull is
steel. The boat's state-of-the-art fire safety system can
instantly pinpoint any problem and is monitored 24 hours a
day, he says.
The safety law was written with oceangoing vessels in mind
and "shouldn't even apply to the Delta Queen," adds Schenk.
It is certainly hard to see why, after granting the Queen
an exemption for decades, Congress has suddenly discovered
a sa! fety threat.
The very real threat to the Delta Queen's future has
provoked an outpouring of support from her legions of
devoted fans. "She is a true American classic," says
Jonathon Tschiggfrie of St. Paul, who has posted a video
about the issue on YouTube.
Click here to see Save the Delta Queen video .
An online petition to save the Queen is gathering
signatures, and more than 100 cities and towns have passed
resolutions calling on Congress to extend the exemption.
Rep. Steve Chabot, R.-Ohio, has introduced a bill granting
a 10-year extension. Its 17 bipartisan co-sponsors include
DFL Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota's First District.
But these efforts are up against a powerful current. House
members may hesitate to cross Oberstar out of concern about
getting approval for their own pet projects in his
Katherine Kersten kkersten at startribune.com Join the
conversation at my blog, Think Again, which can be found at
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