Boy was I wrong.
I neglected to take into account that most of them are white Republicans, so they are conditioned to opposing everything, by their Republican leaders in Washington and by their Tea Party leaders, who ignored facts and relied on misinformation to propel like minded folks to office in the recent election.
It worked in the election. It didn't work last night.
Most of the questions asked by the public have already been answered either at other public forums or in the Environmental Assessment that has been available for several weeks.
But they haven't read that. And from talking with several of them, they don't intend to. They act as though reading 500 pages is an impossible task, and maybe for some of them it is.
Incidentally, there are several thousand people in McCalla, and there were less than 100 at this meeting protesting the facility. A noisy minority, like, again, the Tea Party.
Several of the people asking questions made it a point to blame Bessemer for their problems.
"Is the City of Bessemer represented?" asked the first person. Part of the road from the interstate to the proposed entry to the hub is owned and maintained by Bessemer. and apparently that part of the road needs some repair, and widening.
The next person to ask a question actually said, "The problem is Bessemer."
I do agree that the City of Bessemer should have been represented at the meeting. This is a huge project that promises to bring hundreds or thousands of jobs to the city. Wake up Bessemer, get on board!
One of the men on the panel answering questions did mention that Bessemer has new leadership and the people from Bessemer that frustrated them for the past few years are gone, so they should approach Bessemer again about upgrading the road. (Maybe they should wait a month or two until some of the dust settles at city hall).
But the most ridiculous question award goes to the man who, with kids in tow, asked for a "100% guarantee" that nothing would happen at the facility that could harm his children. Judge Art Hanes, the moderator, didn't even let the question get to the panel. He said, "No," that they can't do that and that nothing is 100%.
"Then why risk it?" the man replied, and the McCalla hub-bubbas applauded.
My questions to that man, and to those who applauded are these.
1. Is the school bus that you put your child on every day 100% safe? Then why risk it?
2. Is the school room that your child sits in every day 100% safe? Then why risk it?
3. Is bringing a child into this world 100% safe? Then why risk it?
I overheard one lady who had concerns about terrorism and security. Norfolk Southern's security will be state of the art as far as access to the facility. But I would hate to live in such fear as some of these people seem to do. Muslims, terrorists, gays! Oh my!
Here are some things that have been ignored by the anti-progress people.
Norfolk Southern will spend $100 million dollars ($97.5 million actually) on the facility. That's a lot of money being invested in west Jefferson County.
Hundreds or maybe even a thousand or so jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project. A few hundred jobs will be created at the facility once it opens and thousands of jobs at warehouses and distribution facilities will be created also.
Over the next 10 years the economic impact is estimated to be $4 billion.
As a result of the facility there will be fewer emissions (by trucks) and less wear and tear on our highways and a smaller carbon footprint.
Here is system engineer for facilities for Norfolk Southern Charlie McMillan explaining the security aspects of the facility.
Norfolk Southern public relations head Rudy Husband explained to the group why Norfolk Southern cannot make promises about community enhancements at this point in the process.
Speaking of the process, this was the third public meeting, and now the concerns brought up will (once again) be addressed and by December a final approval by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration should be set.
And here is the project schedule. Site work could begin in May of 2011 and the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility should be complete by October 2012.
Hey McCalla - I hear the train a comin'.
Here's the best railroad song written.
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues