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James Oberstar challenged by Delta Queen supporter Michael Cummins

Jul 22, 2008

Delta Queen supporter Michael Cummins has been nominated to run for the congressional seat currently held by James Oberstar in the 8th District of Minnesota (

Showing his support for the Delta Queen, Mike Cummins wrote in a letter to Time magazine, responding to its recent cover story featuring Mark Twain:

"It is ironic that you have chosen Mark Twain as your cover story of the week at a time when an institution for which he had little respect — the United States Congress — is on the brink of destroying the only remaining link to the era that inspired his greatest work.

The Delta Queen, the last authentic steamboat carrying overnight passengers on our inland waterways, is on the brink of being put out of operation because Congress is cowering before James Oberstar, the all-too-powerful chairman of the all-too-powerful Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who for reasons of his own wants to destroy this National Historic Landmark.

(…)  It amazes me how we have gotten to the point in this country where we are willing to allow our historical icons to fall by the wayside for political gain. That is not the America that I love and appreciate.

If we do not protect our treasures in this country from special interests, then we are basically removing history from the hearts and minds of the American people. We need to stand up for America and we need to stand up for those who need our help and, yes, that includes steamboats. (…)"



9 Responses to “James Oberstar challenged by Delta Queen supporter Michael Cummins”

  1. Captain Michael R. Williams Says:

    As the former Captain and longest serving crewmember of the Delta Queen, I can only say that I was surprised and somewhat angered at Oberstars comments about the Delta Queen. I have struggled to remain detached from the political discussion about her for both personal and legal reasons.I have to question his statement that he has never communicated with any organized labor groups in regards to the Delta Queen: does this include any staffers or associated personel within his office? Perhaps a Freedom Of Information application into this matter would bear fruit.It should be noted that both unions involved have denied this. I do know that he is either grossly misinformed or purposely distorting the facts in regards to the Delta Queens safety… I personally supervised the 5 year, COAST GUARD APPROVED installation of a totally modern and superior sprinkler and smoke and flame detection system on the Delta Queen. His comments about recent generator problems or small engine failures on the Delta Queen and other affiliated vessels failed to mention that such events are not uncommon on vessels (especially foriegn flag cruise ships who have have many more such incidents in the last few years than American flag vessels)Regardless, all systems have functioned as designed and have protected the vessel, indeed, the U.S.Coast Guard Machinery Branch in Washington ,D.C. APROVED the current fire dection / sprinkler system on board the Delta Queen, I know, because I was the liason who struggled and worked to insure that our systems met or surpassed every Coast Guard and Fedral guideline in regards to fire detection and suppression. Is the Delta Queen perfectly safe? I cannot and will not guarentee that… No vessel is totally safe; but due to her constant proximity to shore and her Approved fire protection systems she is as safe as any on the rivers today. Regardless, if a 747 airliner is deemed unsafe, they ground them all immediately; if the Delta Queen is such a great hazard, and Oberstar is so concerned with safety, why is she still running now?

  2. The Woodwose Says:

    It seems odd to me that our beloved US Congress would jump into protect us from a steamboat that has safely operated in the 42 years since the stupid Safety of Life at Sea Act was passed but the same idiotic institution.

    Lord help us if these idiots ever attempt to do something serious like lowering the price of gas, or micro-managing the economy.

  3. JS Says:

    Oberstar is a moron and he knows it. Apparently he had a miserable childhood and a currently miserable life.


  4. Charles Adamek Says:

    It’s not “Congress” – some disembodied genral institution that is threatening the Delta Queen. It is one man. And, quite frankly, unless you happen to live in and vote in his district in Minnesota, he doesn’t much care what you think. In fact, even if you DO live there. if you are not a member of a union, he doesn’t care what you think. This is just one isolated example of what happens when a politician becomes entrenched is a position because his district is so solidly “red” or “blue” that he never needs to worry about getting re-elected; all he has to worry about is whether or not those PAC contributions keep rolling in. Michael Cummins is doing the right thing – the only thing – that can change the situation. Unfortunately, his quest is probably quixotic.

  5. Taylor G. Abbott Says:

    On the sbuject of Unions: The Delta Queen Steamboat Co. had many wonderful captains and crew in it’s union. A friend and captain Bobby Powell from Poplar Bluff, Missouri lost his job when the Majestic America Line took over. Not only was he a skilled and loved pilot, but an asset to the company. He, along with Captain Gabe, another five-star captain, are now gone-Thanks to Majestic. Capt. Powell rose through the ranks to become Captain and even worked with my great-grandfather Reuben Thomas who was a Chief Engineer. I and my grandfather knew how great of a captain he was for the D.Q.S.C. and still is, but not for M.A.L. Its a shame to lose those who helped get us here and keep the tradition of steamboating alive…

  6. Chuck Garwood Says:

    I have seen the Delta Queen several times when I’ve been in St. Louis when it docked next to the Arch and loaded/ unloaded passengers and took on supplies. It seems at this time that we need to put efforts into getting rid of Jim Oberstar in Minnesota since he seem unwilling to change his mind. Possible a major advertising campaigne in his home district would have some influence. We need to put all our efforts in this last bit of remaining time.

  7. Rick Bolsinger Says:

    I remember President Carter coming through Guttenberg, IA in 1978 on the Delta Queen. I have so many great memories of the Delta Queen coming through Lock and Dam 10 in Guttenberg, you would hear the music and everyone would run to the park and to the locks. I remember passengers on the Queen would throw money and matchbooks from the ship to the people who came out to see it. I never knew that it was used to bring people back from Pearl Harbor, that alone is worth saving a true national treasure.
    We must save the Queen!!

  8. John Perry Says:

    Wasn’t it in James Oberstar’s state the the I 35 bridges in Minneapolis collapsed into a heap. Isn’t this the same congressman that is involved in the current dismantling of the transportation infrastructure all over America. And wondering why our roads are turning to garbage, the bridges collapsing, etc and some guy like that continues to get elected for the last 34 years

  9. David Jayroe Says:

    The Delta Queen should be saved. I too am sick of seeing our national treasures destroyed because those in power do not care about our past. Saving the Queen will not cost the taxpayer a penny. If granting the exemption would cost a few billion dollars I would bet the congressman would be eager to spend the money and save the Delta Queen. I would hope the people of his district send him packing.The delta Queen is a great teaching tool like any other museum piece except that this is not a static display but a living example of a once common transportation system from our past that still carries passengers.