Letters to the Editor

The right thing to do?

We may know already before publication of the Camden News the federal jury’s decision in Boston, Massachusetts whether the convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should receive the death penalty or life in prison for his part in the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. What we don’t know is if Tsarnaev’s parents, who live in Russia, will be allowed or even enabled, to visit their remaining son in prison before he is executed or at all during his life sentence.

How we as Americans handle this continuing question may demonstrate publicly the character of our minds and hearts towards individuals and family in such terrible circumstances.

John Bispala,
Webber Camden

Railroad changes effecting Camden

There have been a lot of articles in newspapers and Internet media about the negative effects of changes in routes proposed by the railroads. Several people in Camden told me I’d better oppose them. I thought it best to get accurate info first.

The best info I can find (and City of Minneapolis staff admits it is probably the best) is from the Department of Transportation. They indicate that if the planned rerouting of CP Rail trains through Golden Valley takes place the number of trains going through the Camden tracks (roughly along 46th) in the future will be reduced from 24 per day to 12 per day. The number of trains going through Golden Valley would be increased from 2 to 14 per day. That is roughly equal, and seems much more fair to our residents. Therefore, I don’t oppose the shift of rail traffic from our neighborhoods to theirs. The one thing that should happen is that there be a separated grade crossing in the area near Crystal so emergency vehicles can get through.

Some people say that the railroads may want to send more trains through our area in the distant future. That is something we can’t stop because they have federal preemption rights over state laws. However, if the shift goes through as planned now, there is a much better chance that any increase in rail traffic in the future will go at least as much to the Golden Valley route as to the Camden neighborhoods route.

The other issue being mentioned is the danger of train derailments with oil from North Dakota. (I’m told a lot of the present traffic is coal from Montana, etc.) There have been a lot of train spills and fires, and some explosions. I checked with both the Department of Transportation and the head of a large railroad workers union (who is vigilant about safety for his members). They both said the only instance of a spill causing fires in a city beyond the actual track area was in a small city in Quebec. There are a lot of spills and fires from derailments in the countryside, but not cities. They tell me the reason is that the trains go so slow in cities. That’s an inconvenience for us when we are waiting for them, but it is for our neighbor’s safety.

We Democrats have several safety proposals. We would provide many more separated grade crossings where cars are on a bridge over the tracks, and more effective gate-arms at level crossings. We would also provide better training and equipment for first responders and more quiet zones. We would pay for it by two new taxes on the railroads. First, by including the locomotives and train cars in the personal property of railroads that we tax. Second, by an assessment on each railroad for the amount of track they have in Minnesota.

As always, if you have suggestions or questions, feel free to contact me at 651-296-4262 or  rep.joe.mullery@house.mn.

Joe Mullery, State Representative