Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2002

By Staff
Taxpayers should fund Amtrak's revival
To the editor:
As someone who is friends with both Gil Carmichael and John Robert Smith, and as someone who was privileged to be a speaker at the dedication of Meridian's superb new transportation center, I share your appreciation that two of the nation's most important rail figures should live in Meridian (The Meridian Star, Feb. 24.)
But The Star needs to understand that dividing, re-arranging, or otherwise tinkering with Amtrak's structure, without addressing the central issue of funding rail, is just a waste of time.
Amtrak's problems are not due to mismanagement. They are due to poverty, which is a direct result of Federal transportation policies that gave $750 billion to highways, and hundreds of billions more to the air travel system, over the past 30 years, while giving Amtrak only enough to slowly fail.
Certainly, Amtrak could stand some reform. So could any company that has made almost no capital investments in long-term growth, because Congress has denied it those funds. And Amtrak did not "lose" $1.1 billion last year, any more than the interstate highway "lost" money. They are both consumers of tax dollars, because transportation infrastructure requires government (tax) investment.
The Star's statement that "the American taxpayer cannot possibly be expected to fund this effort alone" (a $5 billion backlog in deferred capital investment) begs the question: why not? We have spent hundreds of times that amount for other transportation modes that Americans use. Why not rail? Indeed, if we fail to fund Amtrak and the long distance trains are allowed to die, what will that mean for cities like Meridian, and other small and medium-sized cities of the West and South? Are we truly one country, or just a collection of regions?
In our view, we can't afford NOT to invest in Amtrak, because more than any other time in recent history, we need to be united, and a decent, well-funded national passenger rail system is one of the things that can help unite us.
No, Amtrak shouldn't be killed. But Meridian should indeed be proud that John Robert Smith has been chosen to lead the revival of the American passenger rail system. And having known John Robert Smith for many years, I believe he is the right leader, at the right time, for this daunting challenge.
James P. RePass
President &CEO
The National Corridors Initiative
Boston, Mass.
via e-mail
Saying no to line of credit
To the editor:
The article stating concern of Lauderdale Co. $5 million line of credit from the Ms. Development Bank "may soon be academic" and how "the money is almost gone" is information provided by Bill Barry, executive director of the Ms. Business Finance Corporation which administers the program.
I wish to bring to your attention that the above director is the brother of Richard Barry of the same law firm which represents the Laud. Co. Board of Supervisors. I wish to raise the awareness of the general public as to the finance networking which exists and would raise the question why the board is such a "Johnny come lately" in utilizing the low interest of the Ms. Development Bank when it has been in operation since the mid 1980's and they (the board) has (sic) otherwise chosen to borrow money at much greater interest rates through other sources? Finance of daily operations including repairs should be or become budgeted and not financed much to the displeasure of banking and law firms who become fat of the backs of the working poor. Now was the proper time to say no to secret and ill conceived county government purchasing and operation, as one concerned citizen stated, "If you won't let us know, you can't have our dough!"
W.E. Heidelberg
Meridian
Police should enforce litter laws
To the editor:
Dear Hon. Mayor John Robert Smith:
The members of the Druid Hills Garden Club are concerned; we are concerned that some citizens of Meridian are not engaged in keeping our neighborhoods clean. We realize that money is a concern; however, would it be possible to have our fine police men and women be more diligent in enforcing our litter laws? We feel this would not be an unreasonable request.
Meridian is a beautiful city and a wonderful place to live. It is important to us that everyone sees the value of our community and takes pride in it.
We appreciate your consideration on this matter and will be most happy to work with you any way we can. Thank you for the exemplary job you are doing as our mayor; we are proud to have you in that position.
Members of the Druid Hills
Garden Club
Meridian

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