2023 August Special
August 8, 2023
Registered Voters – Total -> 874,980
Ballots Cast – Total -> 334,864
Voter Turnout – Total -> 38.27%
FTA/ In addition to pro-Issue 1 campaign events, LaRose challenged his opponents in the Republican race for U.S. Senate next year to donate to the campaign. LaRose called for Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and Northeast Ohio car dealer Bernie Moreno to pony up $1 million each to the fight for Issue 1. Moreno’s campaign said he’s already given six figures to the campaign and offered to match LaRose’s donations dollar-for-dollar. LaRose’s campaign responded by saying he is not as wealthy as his opponents and has put “sweat equity” into the campaign by appearing at more than 60 pro-Issue 1 events. /From The Article: https://woub.org/2023/08/02/libertarian-party-of-ohio-secretary-of-states-pro-issue-1-stance-violates-hatch-act/
As many have observed this is a speech issue.
And here is the thing, the Ohio and US Constitutions place restrictions on _govt_ regarding speech, not residents.
Frank LaRose is the Ohio Secretary of State. There are issues regarding the upcoming elections where Frank’s opinion has the force of law. Whether it’s spoken to staff, written in a memo to county Boards of Election, or posted to Twitter, his statements influence the levers of power he controls.
There is not a magic hat that Frank can take off that stops him from being the Ohio Secretary of State. He raised money from donors, ran for public office, gained a majority of votes for that election and swore an oath to uphold and defend the Ohio Constitution. This should not be a surprise to Frank.
Frank is literally Mr. Govt.
In the privacy of his home, or at private events, Frank is a private resident with freedom of speech.
In public, anywhere in public, even Twitter, and not just at his desk at 180 E Broad St, Frank is the Ohio Secretary of State, a walking extension of govt and he must abide by the restrictions that we have placed on govt, and, in some cases, he helped become law.
When Frank is campaigning for himself, to get elected to another office, he can say whatever he wants about himself, or his opponents. All other issues on a ballot are off the speaking list.
We didn’t make these rules, and we often opposed them when they were created, but Frank is no hero to break this rule, no modern scofflaw or dark knight.
He comes across as just another corrupt politician showing us in public how they really act in private.
From The Article: https://woub.org/2023/08/02/libertarian-party-of-ohio-secretary-of-states-pro-issue-1-stance-violates-hatch-act/
Since 2013, Ohio Libertarians Have Known All Too Well That “Two Faced Frank” Will Do Whatever It Takes to Get Ahead
– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –
COLUMBUS, OHIO –– August 1, 2023 –– As the unprecedented, unnecessary and expensive special election approaches on August 8, the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) still stands with over 200 other organizations against Issue 1. But now the LPO is taking things further by filing a complaint against one of Issue 1’s biggest proponents, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.
On Monday, the LPO filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, saying that LaRose violated the federal Hatch Act as a public official by receiving federal funds for elections, while also using his office to affect an election. LaRose first earned the LPO’s scorn by voting for SB 193 when he was a state senator in 2013, which gutted minor parties’ ballot access.
“It’s clear that LaRose’s use of federal funds for elections and his support of Issue 1 place him in direct violation of the Hatch Act,” said notable ballot access attorney Mark Brown, who filed the complaint on behalf of the LPO. “By supporting Issue 1 as Ohio’s Secretary of State, his official actions will affect the result of an Ohio election and are not protected by the First Amendment.”
“For someone who is using Issue 1 to campaign for federal office, LaRose should probably be more familiar with federal laws while administering federal funds,” said LPO Communications Director and former Libertarian candidate for governor in 2018 Travis Irvine. “Libertarians have known all too well since 2013 that ‘Two Faced Frank’ will do whatever it takes to get ahead.”
More info about the LPO can be found on their website, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.
The Franklin County Libertarian Party of Ohio Executive Committee voted to approve joining this complaint and fully support this action.
In this third installment, I intend to come to a close with commentary on the East Palestine train derailment and put it in context with some of the larger issues American society is dealing with today. It is not without a sense of irony that I chose the title for this three-part series. Train Wreck is an apt description for many different industries and institutions in our country.
By way of review of the East Palestine incident, let me first state what I think can reasonably be considered as facts. First of all, there seems to be no dispute that the original derailment was caused by a broken axle or wheel bearing failure as evidenced from fire seen from video footage recorded by a doorbell camera on a home about a mile and a half ahead of the derailment. Secondly, some expert opinion suggests that the hazardous material clean up could have been handled differently, and better. Third, this is no time to be complacent about railroad safety in general. Statistically, it is not getting better. Among other things, the number of derailments is unacceptably high.
The problems in the US railroad industry are not confined to safety. To most people, US railroads seem stuck in the past. The rest of the world seems to have no problem providing high speed passenger rail service. While other nations are getting more service from its railroads, we are getting less. As stated in the previous columns, American railroads are eliminating track, not building more except in extremely rare instances.
The railroad industry is not alone.
The American steamship industry is an industry that has suffered a permanent decline from 50 years ago. There are less than 200 U.S. flag merchant ships out of the roughly 40,000 that serve the U.S. every year. Most of these are operation within U.S. territory. The shipyards that build merchant ships are all in other countries. Some of these problems are self-inflicted. Our maritime law has been outdated for generations, but Congress has been unable to act.
While the safety record of regulated passenger airlines has not deteriorated, there are signs of cracks in the foundation of our air transport system: flight delays, cancellations, and near misses on runways. The underlying cause appears to be a shortage of pilots and air traffic controllers. The other often overlooked problem is regulatory inefficiency and capture. The FAA has drug its feet on ADS-B, on a Remote Tower Pilot Program that is well advanced in Europe, the NOTAM infrastructure, and reform of the Passenger Facility Charge. The money is available, but it is often awarded to contractors who want to build the old technology which is currently profitable instead of systems that will take us into the future. Many of these programs have been pushed in Congress since the Clinton Presidency.
Our national highway system is straining under the weight of a growing, more mobile population. Most Americans are familiar with stories of bridges collapsing. New, more stringent hours of service regulations have been imposed on truck drivers while rest areas have become overcrowded leaving them with no place to get the required sleep. Even water mains and natural gas pipelines are underbuilt and deteriorating.
There is no question that misallocation of resources is a major factor in this disfunction. The Congressional infrastructure bill was more of the same problem that has occurred for decades. We get less with more. Originally, replacing the Brent Spence bridge over the Ohio River was supposed to cost 1.2 billion dollars. Under the infrastructure bill it came in at 1.7 billion. An extra $5 billion is a lot of money.
Complex systems are fragile. Our transportation system and infrastructure, even our whole economy that is based on purchasing goods manufactured overseas and being delivered to the door, is a very complex system. Once one piece breaks down, the rest quickly falls apart.
Do we have the intellectual capital in this country capable of running these complex systems? I was speaking to some relatives on my wife’s side of the family this week. The oldest daughter, going to be a junior in high school, is getting multiple letters from colleges because of her 4.3 grade point average and high early SAT score. She is also a fantastic athlete, but the rules don’t allow athletic departments to recruit her just yet. She told me, “I don’t read books”. Now, I understand, she and her parents are incredibly busy between attending school and her athletic pursuits, but I had to ask. How do you get such a high-grade point without reading books? The answer, of course, was the internet. It makes me wonder though. Do the teachers still read books, or is all their teaching from the internet or tik-tok?
Do corporations have high standards anymore? Diversity, equity and inclusion, DEI, is not just a talking point on social media. It is real. I have read dozens of annual reports from corporations that have sections devoted to DEI. On the surface, DEI seems aimed at laudable goals, but as an alternative value system to measure corporate success, they fall short. Understandably, merit itself can be subjective. For the college educated entering the work for the first time, who determines what is the right college? Is the grade point average really the best indicator of future success? DEI is even more subjective, and any measurement of DEI doesn’t necessarily correlate to the commercial success of a business. In many corporations DEI has become an end to itself and on that basis, the corporation deserves to fail. Has the movement for DEI gone too far in replacing corporate goals that have real social utility with goals that encourage employees concern with their own self-interest and not the interest of the company which pays their salary? Ultimately, the success of the company is measured by its success with its customers. Have we forgotten how to measure true merit within a company and in society at large? Which approach does a better job encouraging customer satisfaction? How can DEI better perform the function of success than financial measurements of income growth and profitability?
What about greed? Certainly, it’s across all levels of society. Corporations have merged, consolidating industries to the point that no competitive alternatives exist. Greed exists in government, which will soon manifest in a push for increased taxation, but currently is showing itself by the creation of money out of thin air, which is driving costs up across the board, not to mention the entities with their hand out for more and more money, such as universities, defense industries and the medical establishment. The more subsidies they get, the more they raise their prices. Greed manifests itself in government when bills are passed to spend more money on projects than is needed, not just enhance a project beyond simple utility, but to reward friends, donors and families of politicians. Greed manifests itself in corporations when they destroy their competition, and then oppress their customers and employees with high prices and poor service when they have no place left to turn. We have to understand that our country depends on its railroad system for its prosperity and even survival. If it becomes clear that Vanguard and Blackrock are destroying the infrastructure of the railroads they own for short term profit as opposed to long term viability, does the government step in?
I am a minimalist Libertarian. George Washington said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” It is clear from other writings that Washington thought government was necessary, but it also seems abundantly clear that he would prefer the least government possible, and that he would have agreed with Thomas Paine, who wrote, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”. What is the least government possible? It depends on the citizens. We are at a time when we have to answer a question that America has had to answer numerous times throughout its history. Can we govern ourselves? Let’s hope we will be able to prove that we can, once again. To do so will require the highest level of commitment and competence from its citizens.
John Stewart – At-Large Member, FCLP
Issue 1 is a bad amendment that would make bad law.
If the Ohio Assembly was actually concerned about “protecting” the Ohio Constitution from “out-of-state” interests they would increase the threshold for their own favored amendments, not just citizen initiatives.
Demand more than “good intentions”, demand good outcomes.
Learn more: Ohio Issue 1, 60% Vote Requirement to Approve Constitutional Amendments Measure (2023) https://ballotpedia.org/Ohio_Issue_1,_60%25_Vote_Requirement_to_Approve_Constitutional_Amendments_Measure_(2023)
Correction: The proposed amendment will require that any proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Ohio receive the approval of at least 60 percent of eligible voters voting on the proposed amendment. (Emphasis ours.) https://www.ohiosos.gov/globalassets/ballotboard/2023/certified-ballot-language-for-issue-1.pdf
The Franklin County Libertarian Party believes that local governments should exist to protect individual rights, not turn those rights into a punishable crime.
Columbus City Council and Mayor Ginther recently passed ordinance 0680-2023 that would ban the sale and possession of firearm magazines with a capacity of 30 rounds or more within the city limits starting on July 1. With this piece of legislation, city leaders sought to “effectuate common sense gun reform”. City Attorney Zach Klein said that the ordinance “gives the individuals who currently own high-capacity clips a grace period to turn in those high-capacity clips […] to police.” When asked why the city chose 30 rounds as the legal cutoff point, Klein said, “Looking at what the size of clips could be, and looking at previous case law around the United States, we felt comfortable with 30.”
Mr. Klein’s repeated failure to understand basic terminology around firearms demonstrated by his use of the word ‘clip’ instead of ‘magazine’ should bar him from making a legal judgment of any kind on this issue. To be clear, this legislation will have no effect on the rising gun violence in Columbus. The city does not face a growing threat of homicides and assaults being performed by people carrying AR-style rifles or handguns with a drum magazine. Columbus city leaders are unwilling to address the sources and conditions that lead to violent crime. Their only interest appears to be virtual signaling to their voting base while simultaneously ignoring the rights of law-abiding residents.
What the legislation will do is create criminals out of otherwise peaceful citizens who own a completely innocuous piece of plastic. The ordinance does threaten those people who keep a standard-capacity magazine in their home with a mandatory minimum of 180 days in jail with no opportunity to continue working. In addition to jail time, these completely non-violent residents will be guilty of a misdemeanor and will be forced to pay a $1500 fine.
The Franklin County Libertarian Party believes that local governments should exist to protect individual rights, not turn those rights into a punishable crime. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. Private property owners should be free to establish their own conditions regarding the presence of personal defense weapons on their own property. We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.
The opinion letter published last month covered the state of the current rail industry and the factors
which would lead to the East Palestine derailment and the “1000 derailments a year” mentioned by the
current DOT administrator. This month I’ll focus on the disaster response and then summarize what this
incident symbolizes for our nation as a whole and its economic health.
Was the East Palestine incident handled properly?
The fiery derailment occurred Friday, February 3rd . On Saturday, February 4th, East Palestine Mayor
Trent Conaway declared a state of emergency, citing a “train derailment with hazardous materials”, and
requested residents evacuate. Air quality was being monitored throughout a one-mile evacuation zone.
On Sunday, February 5th, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued an "urgent evacuation notice" to anyone
who had not yet evacuated within a mile of the train derailment. The warning was issued after a
dramatic temperature change was noticed in a rail car in the wreckage of the crash. 1.)
On Monday, February 6 th , fire impingement to the VCM tank car exterior caused the liquid temperature
to rise near the boiling point. To prevent a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE), crews
began a controlled release of the liquid VCM. VCM was released from five rail cars into a trough that was
then ignited, creating a large plume of black smoke over the village of East Palestine. After completing
the controlled release, crews began the "wrecking" process, in which the empty tank cars were moved
off the tracks and relocated to a safe area nearby.
A link to a podcast posted March 7 th with chemist and safety professional Stan Siranovich is included
here: https://rumble.com/v2bh75i-the-truth-about-new-palestine.html. Please take the time to listen
to it when you can. I will try to summarize.
As I understand it, Siranovich is saying that the drastic action taken by the response team could have
been avoided, specifically the act of burning the VCM in a trough next to the tracks, which released it
into the atmosphere and the water table. What should they have done?
The accident happened on Friday, February 3 rd . During that first day, they should have laid out
containment booms and absorbents around the cars to contain the liquids. If they could not get enough
absorbents, they could have used dirt to absorb spilled material and hauled the dirt away later. Then they
should have begun spraying cars with water to get the fire out and the temperature down.
The residents could have been evacuated on Saturday; not wait until Sunday. The one mile radius was
appropriate. They should have told the residents it would be for four or five days before the cleanup
was done. Clean up would have been nearly complete after those four or five days, as opposed to the
long drawn out process it has become now.
Stan Siranovich is implying that the approach taken by the NS and Ohio authorities was taken in haste
with a lack of planning and training in a bit of a panic. The VCM did not have to be released into the
atmosphere or water table because the containment measures and fire mitigation would have taken
place immediately. You do not have to panic from the threat of BLEVE if you understand the basic
characteristics of the chemicals involved and you take the right steps at the right time with a sense of
There should have been a method available to drain the tanks. The best cleanup for the VCM would
have been to haul it away, preferably in rail cars if possible, and either sent to be incinerated or sent
back to the manufacturer to have it processed for future use. Pouring on the ground and burned into
the atmosphere was not the best choice if the right steps taken early on Saturday, In order for that to
happen, a game plan would have had to be already in place, and there needed to be a person on site
who knew what to do. The hot bearing took an hour before anyone noticed, but the disaster happened
quickly. It is not obvious that there was someone on site immediately who had the experience to know
what to do and the authority to do it. The cleanup was more costly and less efficient than it could have
been. The chemicals are now disbursed in such a way that they will stick around in the environment for
Stan makes additional comments that go right to the heart of the matter. It tracks closely with the
actions taken on the ground during the entire East Palestine debacle. He has noticed a degradation of
expertise in the industry as a whole; a lack of quality in professional education, a lack of experience from
the ground up in the leaders of today’s industry.
There is misallocation of resources throughout the American economy today. If we were truly a wealthy
country and we didn’t waste it, infrastructure would be at the top of the list. We do not have logistics
and supply chain operating at 21 st century worthy excellence. VCM is a material of ordinary commerce.
Millions of pounds are shipped every year Unless we want to go back to the stone age, we need to learn
how to handle it and live with it. We also need to train and properly compensate those who will carry
out the mission. We need faith and trust in the men and women who operate the businesses every day,
whether they are union or middle management.
Is corporate greed at play here? It would certainly look like it could be a factor, but let’s not leave
government greed out of the equation. Too often, our government representatives are not public
servants as much as extortionists extracting money from industry and constituents that they spend on
pet projects elsewhere. There is a great deal of simple, sometimes ordinary but sometimes
sophisticated, corruption. Let’s also not forgot that the worst corruption and disasters occur when
corporate greed and government creed feed off of and support each other. This is termed fascism, and
it's not the way we want to describe our country.
I sit here today composing this opinion piece one month after the East Palestine derailment. The story
has stayed in the news. On March 2 nd , it was reported that rail workers involved in the East Palestine
clean up are coming down sick from the toxic environment. This news came after several days of
political stunts designed to ensure people that the water and air is safe. Last night, another Norfolk
Southern train derailed in Springfield, Ohio, in Clark County, less than a four hour drive from East
Palestine. News reports were aired on Columbus television news of a derailment in Delaware County
that happened months ago but which still hasn’t been cleaned up. Norfolk Southern derailments in
Michigan and Alabama have also just been reported. Yes, this story does not seem like it wants to go
away. I don’t think it should. This story should stay in the news and our consciousness as long as it
takes to fix the problems it represents. We need to demand better.
Some references for this article:
www.trains.com/trn/train-basics/abcs-of-railroading/the-people-who-work-on-trains… Train Basics
ABCs Of Railroading The people who work on trains
John Stewart, At-Large Member, FCLPO
The derailment of hazardous waste material in East Palestine is a story that will not go away. There are
many who wish it would. Pete Buttigieg, head of the US Department of Transportation, tried to brush it
off as “there are a thousand derailments a year” implying, why is this one special? Tom Zawistowski is
normally a pretty radical guy who airs a political podcast every Saturday. This time he takes, for him, an
unusual position. He states that it is important to support our institutions, without which our country
would disappear. He also contends that the people of East Palestine love their city. They don’t want to
have to abandon their houses. They don’t want to have to start a new life elsewhere. They don’t want
to see the reputation, home prices and economy of East Palestine damaged by politicizing the incident
and blowing it out of proportion. He doesn’t state all the institutions he is trying to protect but suggests
they are people like the mayor and first responders of East Palestine. The governor of Ohio naturally
has a similar position. He has said that the city is safe to live in and the water is safe to drink. Even the
President appears intent to ignore the disaster and hope people eventually move on as the problem gets
lost in the daily onslaught of news stories. I mean damn, there are wars to fight in eastern Europe! Of
course, the Norfolk Southern railroad officials want to assure the public that railroads are safe and
everything is under control.
Who else is trying to suppress the story? It was stated that the two largest shareholders of Norfolk
Southern are the Vanguard and BlackRock investment companies. Certainly it is in their best interest for
the stock not to take a hit, let alone the pension funds that have BlackRock and Vanguard in their
portfolios. There is a lot of money at stake. Vanguard and BlackRock have so far been left out of the
story but the very fact that they are not in the news may lead one to suspicion. These institutions
certainly have enough clout and experience at spinning positive PR. Could they be working behind the
scenes, giving guidance to the Norfolk Southern executives?
Are they right? Should we just move on?
“1000 derailments a year” is not a reason to claim this story doesn’t matter. Quite the contrary. It is a
serious problem. It is in fact, more than 1,000 derailments a year. According to the U.S. Department of
Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there have been a total of 54,570 freight and
passenger train derailments, averaging 1,705 each year between 1990 and 2021.
On December 2nd, 2022, Biden signed legislation passed by Congress stopping railway workers from
going on strike and imposing contract provisions the rail workers had not agreed to. Out of 12 unions
representing about 115,000 rail workers, eight were in favor of the provisions. Four were not, but all 12
would strike in solidarity with the four holdouts. The sticking point with the other four was failure to
approve an increase in the number of days of paid sick leave. One of the four that was not happy was
the group that takes care of the tracks, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees.
Another group of people will not let this story go away.
Sherrod Brown, Senator from Ohio, is an old school Democrat with a network of union support. He is up
for re-election in 2024 and has been keeping this incident front and center in public perception. It has
not been easy for Democrats to win in Ohio over the last few years, but this incident fits like hand in
glove for Brown’s brand of politics. He has been quoted frequently in the press and on television. “My
job is always to fight for the dignity of work, to fight for these workers, to fight for these communities,
to make sure this never happens again”, he says. He and fellow Ohio Senator, Republican J.D. Vance,
have been sponsoring legislation with those goals in mind.
There is a political blogger, a young part time journalist and bartender from West Virginia, who has been
reporting extensively on the East Palestine debacle. The name of his blog is John Russell from the
Holler. His world view is like that of Sherrod Brown. He comes across as a throwback Mother Jones
type progressive who supports unions and blue-collar workers.
Unsurprisingly, his take on the East Palestine train wreck is that it is a tale of corporate greed. His
railroad worker contacts are upset with Norfolk Southern for adopting a new management philosophy
known as Precision Scheduled Railroading, or PSR. PSR was pioneered at the Illinois Central Railroad by
a gentleman named E. Hunter Harrison when he became CEO in 1993. He turned the ICR so profitable
that it was acquired by Canadian National Railroad in 1998. Harrison implemented PSR at the CN
Railroad just as successfully, and then was recruited by Canadian Pacific, where he also implemented
PSR. He was again recruited by another Railroad, CSX, in March of 2017 where he implemented PSR
before his death 8 months later. The Norfolk Southern implemented their own version of PSR starting in
February of 2019.
The old railroad management depended on unit trains, hub and spoke operations and individual car
switching. Unit trains didn’t start moving until they were full. Hub and spoke operations meant trains
were waiting for connecting cars before they could move. Individual car switching was caused by the
philosophy that the more cars hooked to a train the better. This obviously slowed down operations in
PSR, on the other hand, is a simple concept similar the techniques implemented by Southwest Airlines to
revolutionize passenger air travel. Trains operate under strict schedules with point to point routing
networks. To maximize volume per train, all cars going from point to point were hooked in to the train,
regardless of type. (This is why the East Palestine wreck had fewer chemical tanker cars than required
to classify the train as hazardous). When sticking to the schedule became the first principle, other
management issues are simplified. Inventories of freight cars and locomotives were reduced and fewer
workers employed for a given level of traffic. Trains could be operated on fewer and fewer tracks with a
higher volume of trains each day. The result is vastly improved operating ratios. Norfolk Southern has
always been known as a profitable railroad, but their profitability was based on connections between
coal fields, power plants and steel mills. However, coal traffic has been declining over the last decades.
PSR provided Norfolk Southern a way to maintain their profitability, providing impressive profits to
shareholders, estimated to be $2 billion in 2022.
What commitment to safety has Norfolk Southern shown since PSR was instituted? Much has been
made of the fact that today’s trains can be a mile and a half long or even longer with only a two-person
crew. For most of the 20th century, freight train crews consisted of five men: a conductor, two
trainmen or brakemen, and engineer, and a fireman. Today, most road freights operate with just two
crew members, a conductor, and an engineer (www.trains.com/trn/train-basics/abcs-of-railroading/the-
people-who-work-on-trains). Surprisingly, this decision is not regulated by the government. Instead, it
is negotiated into union contracts.
The rail-men John Russell knows do not like PSR. A train crew operates on their own without direct
supervision for hundreds of miles. They must be able to handle a broad range of potential problems at
any point in time. Train crews represent a diverse set of skills and experience. For example, a significant
source of train derailments is when an engineer allows slack to develop between cars, which creates a
dangerous condition. Faulty rolling stock is another major cause of derailments, as are issues with the
Remember, there are 12 unions representing rail workers representing a broad range of skills, from
running a train to maintaining track to maintaining operating equipment. Another important safety
concern is faulty running gear on a car. According to the NTSB report, the likely cause of the East
Palestine train derailment was a wheel bearing in overheat failure. Sensors showed the bearing
overheating nearly 30 miles west of the crash site. Surveillance video from a local resident showed the
bearing on fire before the crash. The responsibilities of the engineer and conductor include seeing and
reacting to faulty equipment before an accident. The NTSB has declared that accident was 100%
preventable. A properly run safety program must have a philosophy that all accidents are preventable.
Otherwise, what point is there to having safety supervisors? How was the scheduling for the East
Palestine train crew? Had they been worked to the point of exhaustion for such a demanding job? Was
it an experienced crew? What was their safety record? How effective was their training? How effective
was the maintenance procedure for the equipment on this train? Has the NTSB too soon ruled out
conditions of the track being a contributing factor?
There is a constant pressure from the railroad industry to reduce labor. Management that negotiates
the union contracts is also adamantly opposed to government regulation. Note this quote from the
American Association of Railroads (https://www.aar.org/article/freight-rail-crew-size-
regulations/#:~:text=No%20Safety%20Justification.), “Efforts to require at least two-person crews,
including via regulation, lack a safety justification; ignore the decades of safe and successful use of
single-person crews at some U.S. freight railroads and in passenger and freight rail systems throughout
the world; upend meaningful collective bargaining, and undermine the rail industry’s ability to compete
against less climate-friendly forms of transportation.” Somehow this demonstrative statement rings
hollow when we know there are thousands of derailments each year.
We know that railroads have been very profitable over the last few years. Profit and cost cutting go
hand in hand. Of course, there are tradeoffs to be considered. All of us in the Midwest are familiar with
tracks being torn up, the railroad ties being sold off as landscaping timbers and the steel being sold off
for scrap. The idea is to run more traffic on fewer tracks. Today’s railroads operate on thousands of
miles less track than they used to. Equipment is operated with less down time. Is Norfolk Southern
sacrificing safety for profit? Does the physical property the railroads are selling off belong strictly to
their stockholders, or does the public have a say in the in the disposition of property that is an essential
part of the foundation of our modern, industrial economy?
The East Palestine disaster is a symbol of something bigger, the de-industrialization of America. Some
have called our period of history “the end of the American Century”. In the Midwest, we are familiar
with manufacturing moving overseas. We have seen entire factories torn down and entire industries
disappear, the machines and parts boxed up in crates and loaded on ships destined for other countries.
It’s a story as old as American business. Buy a company where you see value in selling off pieces, while
running the rest of it into the ground.
So how was the hazardous response? Was it acceptable? In a word, no. Next month, we will compare
the proper hazardous response with the one that took place in East Palestine. We will consider the
implications from this incident and what they symbolize for our nation’s infrastructure as a whole, and
the ramifications to our country’s economic health.
Some references for this article:
ABCs Of Railroading The people who work on trains
John Stewart, At-Large Member, FCLPO