Letters for May 1, 2003

Train trouble
I am appalled at the arrogance of the Union Pacific Railroad racing their massive freight trains through residential Chico at 70 mph [“Trouble Ahead?” Cover story, April 17].

I do not live in Chico but visit regularly for shopping and for medical services. As there are no grade separations in Chico, all pedestrians and vehicles are dependent upon mechanical grade-crossing warning gates and train whistles. A malfunction of those gates or a train derailment (even a head-on train wreck on the single track) could lead to a horrible disaster with loss of life!

I hope we do not have to wait for a disaster to correct this travesty. I am sending copies of your article to our senators and our representative in the U.S. Congress requesting a response.

Economies should not be allowed to take precedence over public safety.

George Nolan

The train truth
There are several incorrect items in your article on the Union Pacific Railroad. Let me explain. First, the Surface Transportation Board oversees the operations of the railroads in the United States. The Interstate Commerce Commission, or ICC, was dissolved in the 1980s.

The Staggers Act of 1980 deregulated the railroads. Railroads were finally able to set their own prices and negotiate with customers. The chief competition of the railroad industry is the trucking industry. Trucks can go door to door using a nationally subsidized highway system. However, railroads can be competitive with trucks in certain corridors using private assets. Using a combination of transportation modes, the goal of the UP is to pull truckloads off of I-5. Only those inter-modal freights carrying trailers or containers will reach speeds of 70 mph. They have handling characteristics that allow them to travel at passenger train speeds. At this time, there are four freights that are authorized for that speed. All other freights are limited to much lower.

The Federal Railroad Administration, or FRA, is not as impotent as they portray themselves to be. While the railroads determine their track classification, and therefore speeds, they provide regular reports to the FRA. The FRA has the ability to reduce train speeds if track conditions warrant assessing fines where violations go uncorrected. The key is to communicate with the FRA in Sacramento. Our fire chief should be in regular contact with the FRA rep for our area. The fire chief will be the initial point man for the city should a freight “hit the dirt.”

As a community, we are not powerless. We need to become savvy to the world in which the UP and FRA operate. The Sacramento office of the FRA is not that far down the road.

Chris Boza

What was it all about?
After being bombarded with the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” for months by the Bush administration and the media before the destruction of Iraq, we learn that no such weapons have been found.

So we have discovered some of the “Most Wanted” Iraqi leaders, but what are they guilty of? If no “weapons of mass destruction” are found, the leaders of Iraq, including Saddam, are guilty only of governing and trying to protect their country.

The super patriots will continue to wave their flags, but mine remains half-staff for the devastation of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

Robert Woods
Forest Ranch

Happy home
The Executive Board of Chico Country Day School (CCDS) would like to thank the Chico Unified School District (CUSD) and its Board of Trustees for their assistance and support as we face challenges with our facilities and changes in administration. We want to especially acknowledge Scott Brown, superintendent; Rick Anderson, CUSD board chairman; Randy Meeker, assistant superintendent; and Rob Williams, Bidwell Junior High School (BJHS) principal, for being generous with their time and quick to respond to our needs.

Recently, Butte County determined that the premises where our middle-school students were housed could not continue to be occupied due to numerous building code violations. The owner did not correct the items enumerated within the allotted time, and the cost of the required changes was prohibitive for CCDS. CCDS Middle School had to immediately vacate its facility and find a new home for the remainder of the school year.

With the assistance of CUSD we have a home for our students on the campus of BJHS for the remainder of the year. Our principal, Jeff Plotnick, has been meeting with our middle-school teachers and Principal Williams to ensure a smooth transition for students, parents and teachers. We appreciate the graciousness of Principal Williams and his staff in accommodating us on such short notice.

As we complete our seventh year as a K-8 charter school, the CCDS Executive Board views the recent challenges as stepping stones that will move us forward to new opportunities for growth and change. We look forward to continuing a positive working relationship with CUSD, our charter granting agency.

Pattie Pardini-Barrett
Chair, CCDS Executive Board

Space wanted
If there was any doubt that Chico is run by elitists, it has been dispelled. The bureaucrats are once again searching for ways to allow some of our finest citizens to continue to encroach their yards onto public parkland.

While making encroachment as convenient as possible, city bureaucrats have thrown out yet another democratically arrived plan to provide access trails to Bidwell Park. This marks the third Park Commission plan blocked by the bureaucrats in four years. There will be another “open, public process” to once again gather input, but in the end the planning always gets handed over to “professional environmental and planning consultants.”

The consultants are paid with the money budgeted for recreational improvements, and by the time money is once again available for recreation, it is time to write a new plan. Must be nice work if you can get it. Maybe the new city manager will make a difference. Ah, what the heck, Chico is beautiful.

I make a good living and can always get into my new SUV and drive 60 miles up to Lassen to do trails. I just wonder if those new No Trespassing signs on the city’s Bidwell Ranch property are a harbinger of things to come. Some of us like mountain-biking, hiking, dog-walking and disc golf, and we’ll need more space, not less, as time goes on.

Michael Jones