Sunday, October 30, 2005

In Oct. 30th Letters to the Editor Sun Herald

Michael Barefield maintains the tracks could be moved without displacing homes. Too bad he is living in La La Land. The GOVERNMENT funded a study in 2000 at taxpayer expense According to the engineers, who one can only hope knew what they were talking about considering the obscene amount of money they received, the median of I-10 is not suitable for railroad tracks 1.) It isn't big enough and 2.) The interstate curves too abruptly and railroad tracks have to go in a mostly straight line, with only gentle curves.He also maintains it wouldn't coast the federal government a dime to relocate the CSX rails there, not true! While the federal government already owns the land and would not have to purchase it CSX has no intention of relocating out of the goodness of their hearts, on the contrary they expect the government to foot the bill for the new rails.

He is also completely ignoring the land that would have to be purchased and the homes that would have to be destroyed in order for the railroad to create spurs to its customers on the coast (you know that industrial park he mentions).He does mention building overpasses and underpasses, but neglects the fact that they could be built at the railroads present location and achieve the same thing. "The trains could cross Mississippi without ever blowing a whistle or reducing speed for crossings." Why everyone is so determined to ignore the possibility of building overpasses or underpasses at the railroads present location is beyond me as this would prevent traffic from having to wait for trains to cross, prevent train-vehicle accidents, avoid delays in commerce and prevent anyone’s home from being destroyed in order to relocate the train.

Perhaps a better question to ask is why the powers that be will not tell anyone where they want to relocate the rails too. They just reply with a vague North of the Interstate, when questioned. Could it be because they fear the huge outcry from the residents who would lose their homes if they choose the route the government study favored? Could it be because they fear the huge outcry from taxpayers when they discover what the cost would be to take these peoples homes away from them by eminent domain?

Monday, October 24, 2005

October 24th Soundoff in Sun Herald

Raise the tracks
• Moving the railroad tracks is not the solution. The only solution to the railroad track problem is by putting the railroad tracks above the ground on a bridge. This is the only way that cars will not have to cross railroad tracks.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Don't Let Dead Snakes Come Back To Life

October 20th, 2005 Town Meeting
South Mississippi is a good place to make a living, it's a wonderful place to make a life. Let's keep it that way for everyone; including those residents who live North of the Interstate.
Jerry St. Pe said, " Don't let dead snakes come back to life--don't expend scarce resources on bad ideas." Relocating the railroad North of the Interstate is definitely a dead snake that needs to be put to sleep for good. When the government study was halted in 2003, they concluded there was nowhere North of Interstate 10 to relocate it too. To spend time and money on this BAD IDEA is a waste of both.
Now that BAD IDEA is out of the way, I would like to mention some of the good ideas.
  1. Public access to coastal waters, public spaces along the waterfront.
  2. Reduced dependency on automobiles, bike and pedestrian paths.
  3. Consider consolidating public services along the region, including a county based school system.
  4. Ferry between Ocean Springs and Biloxi (Great idea as long as it's affordable).
Public Comments made at the meeting.
Becky Gillette is concerned about the ecological impact a reservoir would have on our area and pointed out it is incompatible with our goal of promoting eco-tourism.
Jacob A Mass is concerned about affordable housing. He pointed out that areas of Moss Point were eye sores before Katrina. He also called the Coast a Gumbo (of races and economic levels) and stated that we owe it to ourselves to make sure every seasoning in this Gumbo is tasted. Even though Mr. Mass happens to be African American, he does not see this as a race issue.
Frank Leach(Jackson County Board of Supervisors) is concerned about the railroad relocation, but looks forward to a blending of the communities where we all work together.
As a member of the audience said after the meeting. "Don't railroad people out of their homes in order to relocate the railroad".

Move on to other ideas by Cissy Jordan

Two years ago MDOT hired a consulting group for $4 million to find a route suitable to move the present CSX railroad tracks. After spending $2 million plus of our tax money they ceased the search and this was their conclusion: THERE IS NO PLACE NORTH OF THE INTERSTATE SUITABLE FOR RELOCATING THE TRACKS. NONE.....THERE ARE ENVIORNMENTAL AND OTHER ISSUES THAT PROHIBIT ANY MOVE NORTH OF THE INTERSTATE. Officials with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife have concurred with this conclusion. We have three endangered species in Jackson County alone that would prohibit an intrusion of a relocation of these tracks. Senator Trent Lott has publically stated: "I will not support any expenditure of funds to move the tracks any further north than the Interstate" And he added: Without my support it will not happen. The cost to move these tracks(estimated at $2.2 to $3 Billion dollars) is outrageous." Fact: When this issue came up two years ago the Jackson County Board of Supervisors unamiously voted against moving the railroad tracks as did other government entities. Jackson County depends on the tracks to service industrial clients. Fact: How can you sit here and even think of moving the tracks when it is patently obvious YOU ARE NOT CONSIDERING THE EXISTING CONNECTIONS TO THE TRACKS IN ALABAMA AND LOUISIANA.. So you are saying you want to spend billions of dollars that are needed to rebuild our infrastructure up and down the Coast just to make a silly loop to accomodate some people who have far flung ideas but are not aware of the facts? Fact: No study has ever been made to consider elevating the tracks or creating overpasses and using the roadbed in Harrison County for an East/West corridor. Why not? Fact: By the time such a relocation of these tracks is finished more people will be living north of Interstate than will be living on the Coast, thus such a move will more disruptive than if you leave the tracks where they are and spend this godawful amount of money to help people get their lives restored. In conclusion: Suggesting that the tracks be moved is not like removing your neighbors dog poop from your lawn. There are no locations north of the Interstate where these tracks can be moved.....we suggest you move on to other ideas.

Soundoffs October 23, Sun Herald

Which came first?
• What are all these complaints about houses being built by railroad tracks? The tracks were there before the houses were. It was there before the businesses were there. In fact, houses and businesses were built to be near the railroad tracks.

Geniuses abound
• Remember when Biloxi paid serious money for experts to plan for its future? The experts wanted to move the Lighthouse and dig a canal into downtown and build a harbor there. I put those plans on the same level as moving the railroad tracks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Guest Columnist - Meridian Star

Alawine: Get heads out of sand By BO ALAWINE / guest columnist Meridian Star, Wednesday, October 19, 2005

OCEAN SPRINGS - On a recent visit to my hometown of Meridian, I had the occasion to peruse The Meridian Star. Craig Ziemba's Oct. 9 column, “Defining success in war on terror,” was of most interest to me as a primer on how easy it is to bury our heads in the sand and deny the obvious.Mr. Ziemba claimed, as well-established fact, that “our troops are attacking them over there and disrupting their ability to wage war over here.” His proof? “We've not had another terrorist attack on the United States since Sept. 11.”
Based on this type of reasoning, I can confidently claim my cat Whiskers has been successful at preventing the field mice in the pasture next door from stealing my truck. How can I make that claim? Well, Whiskers is hunting the field mice next door, keeping them tied up, thus not allowing them time to put into action any of their nefarious plans. Plus, my truck is still in the driveway.Mission accomplished!What Mr. Ziemba is trying to pull here is a sleight-of-hand. The original case for military action in Iraq was based on the now refuted certainty that Saddam Hussein possessed vast quantities of weapons of mass destruction, presenting a clear and immediate danger to the United States. In fact, the American people and the rest of the world were told that use of these biological, chemical and nuclear weapons was imminent, either through the state action of Iraq or through surrogate actors like al-Qaida. Thus, the Bush policy of pre-emption.As the Iraqi conflict has continued (long past the “Mission Accomplished” photo op), the justifications for the Iraqi war have changed. A partial list of these changing reasons are:
  • 1. WMD (Not found)
  • 2. Association with and/or sponsorship of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations (Not true)
  • 3. “Saddam was a very bad man.” (Duh!)
  • 4. Restoring human rights and spreading democracy (specious at best)
  • 5. Global War on Terror (which became the Struggle Against Global Extremism)
  • 6. “Fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here.”
  • 7. Stay the course; i.e., we can't cut and run. (Vietnam syndrome)

Suffice it to say the reason we are in Iraq now is not the original reason we were told we needed to be there. In essence, someone either lied or really screwed up. For example, does anyone remember how we were going to pay for this war? Give yourself an A-plus if you answered, “By pumping lots of Iraqi oil.”I am often amazed by the naivete, ignorance or downright intellectual dishonesty displayed by those of Mr. Ziemba's ilk concerning war in Iraq. Mr. Ziemba fails to understand (or refuses to admit) there is nothing cowardly about the calls to stop sacrificing the lives of some of our best and brightest for a policy of “staying the course.” I would go even further by demanding to know if it is even moral. Exactly what is this “noble cause” for which our parents, spouses, children and friends are fighting, being maimed and dying?Critically questioning our leaders is not unpatriotic; in fact, it is perhaps the best type of support we can provide for our troops: holding our leaders accountable for the decisions to send our citizens to war in the first place.The war in Afghanistan was justified but incomplete. The war in Iraq is a mistake and never-ending.To argue otherwise is burying your head in the sand.

Bo Alawine, a Meridian native and 1983 graduate of Clarkdale Attendance Center who currently lives in Ocean Springs, is a computer programmer/systems engineer for a defense contractor

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The People Who Live North of Interstate 10 Matter Too

It never ceases to amaze me that people do not care that in order to relocate the railroad, families will lose their homes. You would think that after so many people lost homes to Katrina they would be less anxious to see more people lose their homes to bulldozers.

October 15th Letters to the Editor (Sun Herald)

Hal Hardaman wants to destroy my community so he can turn Highway 90 into a scenic boulevard. Please!........ What is so great about looking at a bunch of casinos and souvenir shops Highway 90 is a commercial area and should be treated as such. As to saving lives building an overpass/underpass and installing crossing gates at the railroads current locations would save lives, cost a lot less and not involve taking families homes away from them.

I received a very nice e-mail from SUZI GRAVENSTUK explaining she did not realize homes would be destroyed in order to relocate the railroad.

Thank you for explaining patiently to me. I was assuming there was land available, not neighborhoods. Actually, I am used to the rail road and would be willing to continue to accept that burden to your neighborhoods and wildlife would be undisturbed. I was partially in gest speaking directly to Mr. Koonse and his letter of October 8th. If you re read that letter you may actually be a little amused. Mr. Koosne was whining and belly aching about NOT being able to sleep because his railroad was "no more". My point was that rail roads do the same work wherever they are located. They don't have to be located by us to accomplish the work that they do, and, IF, the rail roads were moved I was sure Mr. Koonse could find someone to swap homes with, so he could continue hearing the trains at night, and the new people would not have to hear them. Yours was the kinder of letters I have received. I understand fully where you all are coming from. I advocate moving the railroad , how about to Beach Blvd., or why can't they build a railroad bridge from Louisiana to Alabama and spare us all. Any way, I hear you and apologize for stepping on your toes

At least one person understands how I feel.
Here is her letter, as it appeared in the October 15th Letters to the Editor printed in THE SUN HERALD.

Relocating the tracks would destroy our homes
I am outraged by the people who are using Hurricane Katrina to push their agenda for moving the railroad tracks north of the Interstate. Apparently they do not understand that in order to relocate the tracks people's homes would be destroyed... Or maybe they just don't care.

Before you advocate moving the tracks, consider this, the people whose lives you want to destroy are the very people who are helping the Coast rebuild, through donations and personal assistance.

There is no vacant land north of the Interstate. Expensive new subdivisions are being built every day. My family just built a new home that weathered the hurricane with no damage. We do not wish to have it taken from us by the relocate-the-tracks crowd.

Now is the time for CSX to build overpasses and underpasses at the railroads current location. The engineers said it wasn't feasible before due to the buildings on either side of the tracks. Thanks to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, that is no longer a consideration.

Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage the people whose homes and business were destroyed by the storm surge to relocate north, so they wouldn't have to fear the destruction of their homes when future hurricanes visit our Coast? With global warming we cannot be certain that Katrina is the last or even the worst big storm we will see.

Please do not compound the destruction of Katrina by destroying people's homes north of the Interstate to please a vocal minority who want to move the tracks.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Rebuilding Mississippi

I am appalled the relocate-the-tracks crowd continues to use Hurricane Katrina to push their agenda. Apparently they do not care that people’s homes, homes that withstood the wrath of Katrina, would be destroyed in the process.

The presence of endangered species in the area of Latimer makes relocating the tracks to our area environmentally unsound (see Red Cockaded Woodpecker, Non-Migrating Mississippi Sandhill Crane, Gofer Tortoise, and Quill Wart Grass).

Perhaps you are unaware that there is a petition with a 1,000 signatures on it objecting to having the railroad relocated North of Interstate 10. Jackson County is opposed to relocating the railroad, as are the Ocean Springs aldermen. The government study, which was funded in 2000 and halted in 2003, came to the conclusion there was nowhere North of Interstate 10 suitable for relocating the tracks. Senator Trent Lott has said publicly that he opposes relocating the tracks any further North than Interstate 10, and that the cost (an estimated $2.2 billion) for such relocation, was cost prohibitive and he could NOT SUPPORT SUCH A COST TO TAXPAYERS!

The residents of Latimer have offered help to the Coastal communities that were destroyed by Katrina’s storm surge; we do not deserve to be repaid by having our homes destroyed by the relocate-the-tracks crowd--homes that for the most part survived Hurricane Katrina with minimal damage. Rather then allowing MDOT to take peoples homes away from them by eminent domain, I suggest the railroad build overpasses or elevated tracks at their current location.

Many people live North of Interstate 10, and would be adversely impacted by relocating the railroad to their communities. Communities we moved to because we wanted to enjoy the peace of the countryside.

There is NO REASON that will justify demolishing peoples homes and destroying the peace of our countryside, just to relocate the railroad tracks.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


After eating a lovely brunch at Bayview Gourmet in Ocean Springs. Which is even more crowded then usual due to the scarcity of restaurants, and short staffed to boot, we decided to tour Ocean Springs.

First we drove to the Biloxi - Ocean Springs bridge. Seeing the concrete tossed to and fro like blocks after a toddlers temper tantrum is sobering, and gives you a new appreciation for the POWER of WIND & WATER. Then we drove along the beach in Ocean Springs, seeing homes that were just "gone", yards that had huge sink holes in them where the water had washed the ground away, and memories of someone's life scattered to the wind is depressing.

But there are signs of rebuilding everywhere and the capacity of the human spirt to survive almost anything nature throws at it, gives me hope.