I found the Town Hall meeting on Aug. 27, held by Congressman Danny Davis, to be very disappointing. When River Forest residents and Village President Cathy Adduci asked Davis to help with their repeated appeals to Union Pacific Railroad for solutions regarding safety and noise and aesthetic concerns, the only response Davis offered was mentioning a possible solution that would use funds from three different public sources (village, state, and federal) but would contain zero funding from Union Pacific. 

Why was Rep. Davis not asking Union Pacific to pitch in? And why was he not pressing UP on their thinly veiled and questionable claim that their “scientific” data (the interpretation of which is challenged), indicated they had no responsibility to mitigate railroad noise? What was going on?

As a Democrat, Davis seemed to be completely out of step with the prevailing wind in his party, where Elizabeth Warren and other presidential contenders can’t say enough about how the current system is working for huge corporations and the super-wealthy and well-connected, but is not working for the average person. These leaders in Davis’ own party want to put an end to a system where companies and wealthy individuals spend billions every year to influence Congress to put their interests ahead of the public interest.

This doesn’t mean corporations like Union Pacific should be vilified. There are many, many great people working for Union Pacific, and railroads are integral to the supply chain. Residents commute on those rails, and many of us own shares of UP through funds in our retirement accounts. We will work with Union Pacific. But it must be mutually beneficial. They don’t get a free pass on real costs like noise. Residents are asking for the railroad to be honest and responsible for those costs rather than externalizing those costs to residents. When Union Pacific had an annual net income for 2018 of $6 billion partly by having rails through the village, can they really not afford a few thousand dollars for noise abatement?

After the Town Hall, I looked online and found that opensecrets.org (The Center For Responsive Politics) is reporting on their website (https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?id=D000000118&chamber=H&party=D&cycle=2018&state=IL&sort=N) that Davis received $2,000 in contributions from Union Pacific in the 2018 election cycle. Think about that. How would you feel if you approached a leader/mediator for help with an important issue, and you received essentially no help, and then you found out that the supposed mediator had been receiving contributions from the other party in the dispute? 

That system simply does not make for free and clean and clear decisions. If this is not intrinsically corruption, it certainly leads to corruption. How am I to know whether Mr. Davis’ unwillingness to challenge UP at that meeting was affected by the contribution he received from them? This is why Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats are taking the lead by denying contributions from PACs or any kind of federally registered lobbyists.

I would like to see Rep. Davis send that $2,000 back to Union Pacific to clear the slate, and then to make another attempt at helping concerned constituents and leaders in River Forest press Union Pacific for common-sense, basic respect alterations for a project that has negative quality-of-life and economic impacts on his constituents.

John Grant is a resident of River Forest.

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