My Word: Rail a win-win for Humboldt Bay

railmeister Local Letters to the Editor

By PETER CRESS – Eureka Times Standard, December 8, 2018.

 I encourage local leaders to boldly support the East-West Rail and Green Port Project. My perspective on the project is shaped by two key influences. First, as a sergeant in local law enforcement I see the consequences of hopelessness every day. Second, as one who was born and raised in Humboldt, I care deeply for this community. A robust economy is necessary to do good to the people of our community and Humboldt Bay is, and has always been, the sustainable economic driver for Humboldt. I encourage local leaders to support the East-West Rail and Green Port project. The public purse has little to lose and the community has everything to gain. 

 I see the consequences of pervasive social decay in Humboldt every day. However, crime and listlessness are just the symptom. The problem is hopelessness. An entire generation of our community wakes up every morning not expecting anything good to come of the day. We don’t do well as people when we live in hopelessness. Though money is far from the sole solution to hopelessness, a strong economy is a critical component to hope in any community, ours included. Connecting the western hemisphere through Humboldt County would be a game changer for our community. I believe a rail and port is the only use of Humboldt Bay that can ever generate economic growth of the magnitude necessary to bring a sense of hope to our community. 

 Unfortunately, hopelessness may have crept into many of our local leaders. Opposition to the East-West Rail and Green Port project almost always boils down to the same hopeless argument, “It can’t be done because it can’t be done.” The project is seen as too big, too risky, too complicated. It is big, it is risky, it is complicated, but the consequence to our community of not trying is far greater. It bears noting that we have things going for us that no one else does. We have a deep-water port, closer to Asian markets then most, appropriate zoning, state support, and large-scale private investors willing to take the risk. 

 I do not doubt for a moment that local leaders recognize the need in Humboldt County. I’m sure leaders would relish the opportunity to robustly fund the critical public services and infrastructure that is lacking in our community. I’m sure leaders recognizes that families with healthy household budgets support the arts, sports, recreation and natural beauty of our community. It would be profoundly disappointing to me if leaders succumb to the “It can’t be done because it can’t be done” attitude that sometimes rears its head in our community. I encourage leaders to be bold. Support the project. In reality, there is very little risk to the public because the project is privately funded. If it is too big then it is the bold men and women who invested who will suffer. 

 I don’t believe the project is too big. I do believe that the biggest obstacle will be convincing some of the local public that the project can, and should, be done because the circumstances are ripe and the need is great. That’s why we need bold leadership. Though I believe the numbers support the project, my correspondence intentionally favors broad concepts like hope and boldness because facts in the hands of the bold change communities. I encourage local leaders to be bold. 

Peter Cress resides in McKinleyville.