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Delta Queen: a public and political affair?

Mar 1, 2008

There is some arguments going on in the background whether the Delta Queen issue mainly is a private problem of a cruise ship company or whether we see a political and public scandal going on here. That is, do we have the right to fight for the Delta Queen, address politicians, call for action to support a bill to save the Delta Queen, blame Unions and other organzations for being negatively involved in this situation?

Let me give you some arguments why I think it’s a highly political issue we’re talking about here:

There is a Representative, namely Rep. James Oberstar (Minnesota), claiming to represent the people of the United States. Being the Chairman of the House’s Transportation Committee, Mr. Oberstar is blocking a bill to exempt the Delta Queen from the Safety at Sea Act in this very committee, not allowing the full House to vote on it at all. Did I mention Mr. Oberstar receives a good share of his fundings from Unions (see Opensecrets.org for details)?

I shoud have, because one of these Unions, the SIU, claims to have nothing to do with the Delta Queen issue, while you can read between the lines in their press release from November 2007 that they very well seam to be involved in this. SIU: "This union has the only pool of unlicensed mariners with special training and a long history of meeting the needs specifically associated with the Delta Queen". Our comment: From many former DQ employees we know that the SIU did not train the majority of the crew – actually most of them just signed their Union contract in the very moment they started working on the boat. SIU: "Our role in helping safely operate the vessel is one reason why the waiver had been granted in years past". Our comment: Now, as they don’t hold an exclusive contract with the operator of the boat any more, their role obviously is a different one, while it’s still the job of the US Coast Guard to make sure the boat is being operated safely, not the job of the SIU.

Rep. Oberstar has discredited himself several times by claiming that his opposition is only based on safety concerns while comparing the Delta Queen with Boing 747 airplanes and a 1904 excursion boat (the General Slucum, which without needing an exemption could still run today, by the way). His comments are demonstrating more than clearly that he has no idea about the DQ’s safety status and features nor does he care much about such details.

Rep. Ron Kind (Wisconsin) in the first place did support Rep. Steve Chabot’s initiative to safe the Delta Queen by co-sponsoring bill H.R. 3852. Just a few days ago, all the sudden, he backed out (according to the LaCrosse Tribune). The reason he is giving for this is "safety concerns", but he doesn’t specify what concerns these are which he must not have been aware of when he signed up to co-sponsor the bill. Fact is, Rep. Kind, like Rep. Oberstar, has been very well funded by the Unions over years (see Opensecrets.org for details).

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has accepted a 2008 nomination of the Delta Queen for the list of "America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places" and also has chartered the Delta Queen for her potentially final voyage in November 2008. But the National Trust is not using its full power to support saving the Delta Queen, so far. Is this because the President of the National Trust, Richard Moe, is a close friend of Rep. James Oberstar and therefore prevents the Trust from taking any further action on behalf of the Delta Queen? We’ve got this information from one single reliable source from within the National Trust, so we must treat it as not much better than a rumor so far, though.

This is not just a private issue!

These are just a few examples of why I think this in fact is a political issue and why I even think this is a high-ranking political scandal.

Where is this country standing in terms of democratic principles when the influence of a Union and/or one single man from Minnesota can decide for a whole nation, by-passing the elected representation of the people?

The foundation of the United States Constitution is the principle of devided powers. Don’t give any single person the power to make decisions on behalf of this country just on his own. Having a well-balanced system of powers in the political system is one of the basic ideas of this Constitution.

If someone tells me that it’s not our business to do and try everything we can to save the Delta Queen, how can he/she look in the mirror the next day? Isn’t one of the basic ideas of this country to defend our freedom, against all odds, no matter what? Isn’t it also about the basic principles of this country to stand up and fight if something is going wrong? That’s what we’re doing here.

We simply don’t accept that dirty political games are the reason for grounding the Delta Queen, a national historic Landmark, an important part of American history, a last-of-its-kind treasure. We only ask for fairness: Let the elected representatives of this countries’ people vote, let them do their job, let them represent the interests of their constituents. That’s all we’re asking for.

Yes, it’s a political issue, no doubt.

7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Delta Queen: a public and political affair?”

  1. David Dewey Says:

    Amen!!! But it is also a preservation issue, for which I will now start bugging the National Trust about. The National Trust also purports to represent ALL of the American people, not just a few! I would also encourage all to FAX James Oberstar (he won’t accept emails except from residents in his district) to encourage him to allow the Democratic process to go forward and to shame him for abusing his powers! His office’s FAX number is (202)225-0699
    SAVE THE DELTA QUEEN for America’s sake!
    Steamcerely,
    David Dewey
    PS, I’m glad the spam protection wasn’t a question like: “Two steamboats leave Memphis traveling in opposite directions. . . . .”

  2. Elaine Santangelo Says:

    If we really consider this a political issue, we need to also look at the Unions and their leadership and expose them as the dirty players they are.

    As a former crew member and thus a former SIU member, I can tell you flat out- they never provided the help I needed. When I was fired unfairly, a union representative was not present. When I asked about that later, they brushed it off. When I had medical expenses as a result of working on the boats, the union also disallowed my claim and ignored my repeated requests to review the matter. When it was suggested to me that I needed a lawyer, the union could not help me there either.

    When I received training on the boats in safety matters, it had little to do with the union. The Coast Guard did regularly come on board and do additional drills and checked safety standards. The Delta Queen ALWAYS passed every test including having me (a 55 year old female) turn on the hose on the upper deck and prove I could manage it.

    So, I agree that the issue is not safety- it is politics. And that makes me want to rethink fundamental ideas about unions and politicians. I don’t want either to receive any money from me- directly or indirectly.

    And when I check off NO on my tax forms or when I ask a political candidates about how their campaigns are funded or when I don’t buy that union label brand of clothing, or when I turn down the union job despite making less on the other job offer,-I am trying in a very small way to say, stop the nonsense. If I lived in Minnesota, I would be assisting the campaign of whomever runs against Oberstar.

    We need a good fighter- where is Jessie Ventura when we need him now?

    And if the unions really are NOT manipulating the politicians- prove it publically! Makes me want to say- so what did happen to Jimmy Hoffa?

    There is something fundamentally wrong with the issue not even getting to be voted on. That is also a statement.

    However, my local representative has refused to acknowledge my emails and just sends me SPAM.

    One other personal connection- my aunt was one of the 90 souls lost at sea on the Yarmouth Castle Fire. She was vibrant, creative, relatively young, and a fighter- she would have been a passenger on the Delta Queen in time. Her daughter (my cousin) and I still talk about how we can manage to plan a trip together on the Delta Queen. The past few years have been so difficult for both of us financially, we just cannot afford a vacation-any vacation- much less a cruise on the Delta Queen. But if we do get the exemption granted, we will find a way.

    The Delta Queen is safe!

    Elaine Santangelo

  3. David Dewey Says:

    Elaine,
    I have a list of most of the Representative’s FAX numbers, if you FAX them, they have to pay for the paper to print it, and someone has to briefly read it, so it is more likely to be responded. Just email me, I’d be glad to see if I have the number you need. Also I have Oberstar’s number too (202-225-0699), as he only (as do many of the reps)only accepts email from his district. We need to swamp his office so he knows he’s in the wrong! A thank you to Chabot (202-225-3012) might be in order too.
    S’
    David Dewey
    djdewey@cncnet.com
    PS, Hey Franz, I could do this math problem too–but you’re at the limit of my capabilities!! :)

  4. Bruno Krause Says:

    Since last August when the spit hit the spam, my wife and I said publically and loudly that we believed this was an issue with a very jilted union working with a company that also wasn’t too crazy about this majestic ol’ lady. We weren’t sure how the unions, Rep. Oberstar and Majestic America Line got in step together with a suddenly created, suddenly appearing safety issue but it wasn’t much of a stretch to put 2 and 2 together. We have since been convinced that SIU and the Representative from Minnesota are definitely holding hands on this issue, and for that matter I suspect that the SIU was the “coach” and “instigator” in this nasty little issue. And my wife and I can’t really blame the union, they are just looking out to save their hide. But Representative Oberstar, shame on you…do you really think we are that stupid that we wouldn’t eventually find out that you are on the take? And the sad thing about this crock is that Representative Oberstar’s “take” is mere pittance in comparison to the lost tax revenue, lost jobs, lost history, lost enjoyment, lost livelihood if the Delta Queen is silenced. Now as a personal statement to Representative Oberstar (and for that matter Sen.Inouye also as this will apply to him also): As staunch Democrats that were thrilled with the change of Congressional control in 2006, you are an embarrassment to us. You are THE example of what my Republican friends talk about when they discuss the lack of ethics, the hypocracy in the Democratic party. Are you proud of that? And we have a bit of advice, sir…your statements comparing the Delta Queen to the FAA and 747’s makes absolutely no sense. Let me educate you, the level of safety equipment on a 747 depends on age of the airframe, not all 747’s have the same level of safety equipment, sound familiar? Have you done ANY research at all, concerning the Delta Queen’s safety equipment? Or a 747’s for that matter? Have you even seen the Delta Queen up close? I’ll bet money you haven’t done any of the above (both of you…).

    Concerning Majestic America Line, we’re very glad that they saw the light, whether recently or the whole time, that is immaterial now. It is good to see that the company also loves the Legendary One…As for the safety, this boat is safer than my house, your house, anybody’s house and the Safety of Lives at Sea Act should never been applied to the Delta Queen…

  5. Forrest Wilkinson Says:

    Hello all,

    Representative James Oberstar was in Saint Paul last week. So naturally I did the morning chores early, showered up and went into town. (I wore my old navy pea coat, it fit well.)

    He was speaking before a joint (MN. house/senate) transportation committee.
    He was there to talk about things Federal related to transportation.
    (and to praise the Legislature for overriding the Governors’ veto of a gas tax/license fee and sales tax hike.)

    He was also talking about raising federal highway user fees. (read; gas tax.. no more of that irresponsible bonding for roads.)

    I button-holed him afterwards. Had my “Minnesotan’s for the Delta Queen” name tag on.

    I asked him to identify his safety concerns related to the Delta Queen.

    He just looked down at my very snappy business card with the Delta Queen right there on it and said
    “ahhh the wonderful Delta Queen, there’s nothing we can do.”

    That’s it.

    {you should have heard all the things he thinks the feds CAN do. Sheesh.}
    I just HAD to make an appearance! (he’s totally intractable)

    I have met the enemy and he is ours. (sadly)

    Forrest
    http://www.mn4dq.org

    P.S. The local Fox affiliate; channel 9, covered the Delta Queen/Oberstar story quickly (about one minute) the next day here in Minnesota.

  6. Mrs. Bettie Russo Says:

    Sadly Ladies and Gentleman, I believe this is very much a public and political affair…but, most of all, it has appeared to be an affair of the checkbook. Patriotism seems to be the last thing on their minds when it comes to the protection of our American History in the beloved Delta Queen. I have personally handed out over 2000 color copies of the flyer to the general public in the Northwest. I have found the public to be completely ignorant, and immediatly indignant at the thought of the politicians not protecting this beloved boat. I have sat on hold for endless hours when calling them, I have been lied to, and spoken too in patronizing, condesending tones regarding the issue of the Delta Queen. I have been promised that a Representative will return my call…all lies. I have faxed them all, emailed them all, and as of today, sent all of them 8×10″ color flyers and copies of the White Paper in large yellow manilla envelopes via the US Post Office. I have payed the postage and printing for all out of a profound sense of love and respect for the Delta Queen. Even when these packages arrive, and will most likely be tossed out…I will at least know, in my heart, that SOMEONE had to see them. And in receiving the mail, the name of the Delta Queen will have entered their mind. Even if it is just long enough to register, and just maybe, someone will care enough to try and stop this travasty of National Loss. I have tried, and will continue to be annoying and persistant where the Delta Queen is concerned. After all is said, and done, May God have Mercy on our Beloved Delta Queen, that she may receive her exemption, and allow her to ply our Nations rivers for future generations. We can only continue the fight, and continue to pray.

    ” Bettie Belle”
    past passenger and Southern American

  7. Donna Mrogan Says:

    Hi Folks,

    On Apr 24th, when Steve Chabot tried to force a vote to bring the bill to the floor, 11 republican congressmen voted Nay! 15 republican congressmen didn’t bother to vote at all. Had only 5 of them voted Yea then the House would have been able to vote on the bill.

    I have contacted each of the congressmen who voted nay, asking them to explain their vote.

    You can see the final vote results here:
    http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll222.xml

    The more these congressmen are contacted, the more they will realize that the American citizens are watching how they vote. More now than ever before.

    Donna Morgan
    North Carolina