Here's a forwarded copy of a letter to columnist Jennifer Koski from a reader regarding DM&E:
I as well as others respect your opinion and your right and obligation to inform the public. Your opinion is particularly important since it in turn shapes public opinion which means you bear a heavy burden to be sure you are both informed and unbiased. You of course ultimately will be held responsible when the implications to Rochester of the DM&E proposal either do or do not come to pass. I have to admit that I am puzzled as to why you believe approval of the DM&E proposal will benefit Rochester and Olmsted County when:
1) The proposed expansion of the DM&E does not benefit the nation. Existing railroads have excess capacity and are able to move to market any projected increase in production. Therefore, approving the DM&E adds no value and in fact subsidizes a railroad that is unable to compete in a free market environment
2) There is no business case for the loan. A $2.5 billion load to an enterprise whose total value is less than $200 million dollars is simply irresponsible. No private enterprise would consider such a loan on its own merits since it is virtually certain it will never be repaid. This of course means your and my taxes will subsidize the expansion of the DM&E
3) The primary advocate of the DM&E proposal in Congress was a paid lobbyist for the DM&E. This individual sees no conflict in his arranging for one of, if not the largest political earmark in the history of our country for his former employer.
4) The DM&E has the worse safety record of any railroad in America.
5) The Mayo Clinic and Rochester have created a culture that welcomes people in need. Approval of a railroad that places the health of the sickest and neediest in jeopardy is unconscionable. Your picture in the paper seems to indicate that you are in good health which means you can rapidly move away from the danger zone that would occur if a DM&E had one of its many accidents within the city of Rochester. Sick people who are hospitalized at St Mary's or Rochester Methodist will not have that opportunity. Their lives will be in serious jeopardy if they cannot be rapidly evacuated which experts indicate will be virtually impossible. Due to the severity of their illness, the risk to the many people in the Mayo ICU's will be even greater.
8) The DM&E presently owns tracks that enables the proposed trains to take a more direct route to the Midwest markets that they seek to serve. That route is far less populated and does not bisect a major medical center. They choose not to use that route apparently because they are concerned that it will require additional scrutiny which they avidly wish to avoid
7) Health care centers such as Mayo are under tremendous financial pressure. Due to its core value that the needs of the patient come first and its commitment to excellence and value, Mayo is one of the few health care centers in the United States that has remained financially sound. Anything that undermines Mayo's ability to deliver the highest quality medical care or endangers the safety of its patients threatens Mayo's very existence.
8) Mayo is the largest employer in southeast Minnesota. The economic viability of Rochester is dependent on the economic viability of Mayo. However, as a responsible journalist if you truly believe that having the DM&E bisect Rochester is in the best interest of this community, then the risk of economic devastation and the loss of your and my jobs should not dissuade you from expressing your opinion in print. However, I presume since your credibility as journalist is on the line, you will carefully consider the basis for your support of the DM&E. I also presume you will check the facts that I have state above. If you do so and conclude that your support of the DM&E is inappropriate and you state this in print, I and many others will admire your honesty and courage. If you confirm the accuracy of the above statement but do not acknowledge them in print, then you have embarked on a path that is unlikely to result in either professional satisfaction or success. I wish you well in your deliberations. Few of us can truly make a difference. In this instance I think you can. Good luck
So, the assertions that jump out at me:
-- Mayo's "very existence" is threatened by the DM&E project.
-- Existing railroads have "excess capacity" -- that's not my understanding of rail capacity from coal country to Midwest markets, but we'll check that.
-- DM&E hopes to avoid more "scrutiny" by not explicitly diverting trains south through Iowa.
-- Jennifer's opinion on DM&E may, in the end, cost her her job because of the economic devastation the project would cause.
If nothing else, the heat being generated by the Rochester Coalition's push to block the FRA loan to the railroad is generating some interesting mail.