ARTA directors absent in condemning locomotive vandalism

The opening sentence of the Guest Commentary by David Banks on Nov. 7 (“Train advocates, stop the attacks”) is both interesting and ironic. Mr. Banks could be referring to several recent articles by North Country Public Radio reporter Brian Mann on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, and online commentary that ensued by both rail and trail supporters. Banks seems to be angered, assuming rail contributors are using words such as “bully” and “delusional,” and by the assertion that news reports by Mann are slanted.

I have a different view of what an “attack” looks like. I have watched these pages for several weeks, hoping to read firm but professional prose from the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates writers, denouncing the vandals who sabotaged an ASR locomotive just weeks before Mann’s expose on the ASR. “Train advocates, stop the attacks” – is this all you have to say in this forum, where a constant monthly rotation of ARTA directors bloviates on schedule in the Guest Commentary column, repeating the same talking points promoting the destruction of an active rail corridor? Is it possible your letters published here helped fan the flames of extreme activism for your cause? “Train advocates, stop the attacks” – over verbs and adjectives, really?

Several of the news reports of vandalism also present the aggressive opposition to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad that your association is spearheading. Instead of answering this uncomfortable relationship in your commentary, you use the opportunity to take a jab with one sentence that scolds railroad supporters for their opinions in online forums concerning slanted reporting that select news organizations project about the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. In fact, in the referenced NCPR blog, no fewer than seven of 10 directors of ARTA contributed to the discussion. It is no secret that ARTA’s treasurer and director, Lee Keet, is also a director of the North Country Public Radio Executive Council; Mr. Mann’s use of the words “community” and “friends” to describe this relationship is interesting.

Ironically and notably absent by this time is an official public statement by your vocal directors condemning such vandalism and felonious acts to damage control circuitry that is primary safety equipment on a railroad locomotive.

Thankfully, the very skilled and conscientious ASR crew members, performing a safety check of the equipment, prevented this act of sabotage from injuring children and parents. Had the conspiracy been successful, many of these families could surely be neighbors of your members.

Said locomotive power is also a key component to the revenue-generating ability of the ASR, occurring just weeks before an important revenue weekend. The vandals clearly knew what they were doing. Did these cowards also know how important this income was to the ASR, especially since you attempt to make financial matters a point in your repeated attack on this productive tourist railroad operator? The posting of a weak disclaimer on a Facebook page, frequented mostly by ARTA supporters, does not pass muster when your organization uses this newspaper almost weekly to eschew the exaggerated potential of a dirt road path, using seriously flawed methodology in reporting economic impact analysis, among other questionable assertions.

Your commentary also lacks acknowledgement of the inflammatory remarks made by trail supporters and directors of the ARTA (whose commentaries have appeared in this column) on other online forums, including the ARTA Facebook page, shamefully suggesting the acts of vandalism to the ASR locomotive were self-inflicted, and many other caustic comments. By failing to address your own followers for the same actions, or worse, you present yourself and your organization as hypocritical. David Banks, shame on you.

You and fellow directors of the ARTA have engaged in a public relations war with the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, using this newspaper as a sounding board to gain support from the general public for your agenda to dismantle existing railroad assets under the guise of enhanced recreation. Over and over again, ARTA writers proselytize readers with columns falsely claiming inexpensive or almost cost-free conversion and trail maintenance. By subtle use of the word “visitor” to describe all trail users, your authors purposely mislead readers that hundreds of thousands of people will suddenly descend on your towns with new revenues. Rather than produce meaningful personal income data for citizens to consider for your plan, ARTA uses ginned-up user projections in a study bought and paid for to ensure the favorable outcome. Your citizens, weary from the lingering effects of years of economic recession, have accepted your teachings with trust, turning away from common sense and easily obtainable facts that illuminate your director’s diatribes as deceptive scripture in their quest to return portions of the rail corridor to a wilderness preserve.

Mr. Banks, you missed an opportunity to take the high road. You missed an opportunity to speak for your organization here and decry the brainless act that could have resulted in injury to children and families from your community, enjoying a Halloween train ride. You missed an opportunity to display civility in a discourse that has become vile, and to have sympathy for neighbors you disagree with, doing good work in your region. Instead, you devote little more than 5 percent of your commentary to blasting the railroad supporters who speak out in frustration about misinformation and jaded reporting from the press. The remaining content of your scripted words are designed to continuously feed the itching ears of the public who have bought your story, and the political audience you hope to persuade.

David Banks and the ARTA “doth protest too much, methinks.”

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

James Falcsik lives in Irwin, Pa.