CruiseMates newsletter

10.25.2007

Politicians Try to Axe the Delta Queen
I would normally never talk politics in this newsletter, but if you are like most Americans, there is nothing more annoying than a meddlesome politician who takes an action that literally makes no sense, and claims he is doing solely "for the good of the public."

The New York Times reports today that a Minnesota Congressman; Representative James Oberstar (D) is blocking permission for Delta Queen, this country's oldest working steamboat, to continue cruising on our nation's rivers. This permission has been granted every two years by congress since 1970 - without question. But suddenly the rep. is worried about the vessel's safety, even though nothing has changed on the riverboat and its safety record is as good as it gets.

Delta Queen isn't just a river boat, she is on the National Registry of Historic Places - the only floating vessel listed. She is a symbol of national pride, of an era when this young country had only waterways for highways. The congressman's statement is "It's a revered and historic structure — but it's wood. I see no compelling case that can be made to move an exemption."

The fact that the vessel has been sailing for the last 37 years under the same exact exemption he is blocking seems compelling enough to me.

And yes, the vessel is wood - above it reinforced steel hull. It is fire-prevention treated wood on a boat that is rarely more than 200 yards from land, and usually much closer.

The "exemption" in question was the result of herculean efforts by a regular citizen, Bill Muster (father of the SATW travel award), who back in 1970 got Congress to pass a bill allowing the Delta Queen to keep sailing although her structure does not fully comply with the SOLAS (safety of life at sea) Act.

Since the devastation of Katrina in New Orleans, life along the Mississippi River has not been the same. Just a few years ago New Orleans was the number two tourist destination after New York City. Delta Queen is a symbol of all that is good about river life, which this country has lost in needless suffering.

Why this congressman would choose this year to take Delta Queen away is just another blow to American pride in my opinion. A needless and callous blow.

And there is more. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, (D) of Hawaii and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is also opposing the Delta Queen. Inouye is the same senator who made it possible for NCL to operate in Hawaii with all kinds of exemptions to federal laws. I applaud what this senator did for NCL. But my question is, "why the double standard?"

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Anytime a politician gives something to someone but denies it to someone else, what else can you possibly think except "politics in action?" Like an anonymous polical action committee didn't send his envelope on time.

Inouye created new laws and exemptions for NCL that were unprecedented in U.S. history, yet all Delta Queen is asking for is to continue the same status it has enjoyed for the last 37 years. But the senator is taking it away. Why? We don't know because he refuses to comment!

Refuse to comment on this? Are we children who blindly do what we are told, or did we elect Sen. Inouye to work on our behalf. Do we not pay his salary? If I had an employee who took something away from me and refused to comment, I would fire him.

Politicians who don't respect public opinion - without comment. Is there anything more irksome than that?

Grass Roots Efforts Pay Off

There are now other, more intelligent congresspeople who have introduced NEW legislation to get Delta Queen another 10 years of service. Representative Steve Chabot, a Republican from Cincinnati, the Delta Queen’s home port for 37 years is behind this new stand-alone bill.

This is due to the efforts of John Lewis, the mayor of Bridgeport Alabama, and Vicki Webster. Vicki is a member of the new Save the Delta Queen Task Force. A young White House staff member at the time, she worked closely with Bill Muster on the successful 1970 effort to save the boat. Between them they have persuaded other congressional representatives to draft this new bill.

What Can You Do?

If you are anywhere near Cincinatti, there is a rally to SAVE THE DELTA QUEEN. Tomorrow, October 26, a press conference will be held in Cincinatti at 12:30 PM at the National Steamboat Monument, by the big paddlewheel. People are invited to arrive as early as 11:00 and bring signs and banners to "Save the Delta Queen." Mayors from nearby towns and other people are especially encouraged to attend and show their support.

If you don't live near a river city Delta Queen visits then you may not care about any of this. But people from New Orleans to Memphis, St. Louis, St. Paul, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh who grew up watching this grand boat "coming down the river" know exactly why this is so important.

Have some pride America! Hold on to what made this country great. Maybe you haven't heard that in awhile, and maybe it's time you heard it again.

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