Delta Queen Struggles


The New York Times published a great article about the Delta Queen’s situation on October 25, 2007. It provides a great overview:

New York Times
A Riverboat Could Be Cruising to the End of the Line, by Sean D. Hamill

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As the struggle for Congressional support to allow the Delta Queen to continue to operate continues, let’s get involved!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Contact your U.S. Congressman and the two Senators that represent your state. Call, write, fax, email, go down during their August break and see them (or their staff) at their office in your district. Congress is up for reelection in November. It’s that time of year when they at least have to act like they care what you think.

Let them know:
• There is a bill to save the Delta Queen in the House (HR3852) and one coming in the Senate.
• Fears that the Delta Queen is unsafe are unfounded. More info HERE.
• Any possibility of Union influence impacting the exemption is unacceptable.
• If they have any questions to contact me at www.DeltaQueenHistory.com. I am glad to find answers to their questions. I will gladly come to Washington and meet or give a presentation.

Thank you for your interest and support in Saving the Delta Queen.

–END–

Here’s some recent positive developments on the legislative front.

HOPE: LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS

LATE BREAKING NEWS
On August 2, Vicki Webster of the Save The Delta Queen Campaign issued a press release announcing that after Congress reconvenes after Labor Day, Ohio Senator George Voinovich will introduce legislation to continue the Delta Queen’s exemption. That same day, a representative from Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s office came to visit the Delta Queen in Pittsburgh. I gave Stan Caldwell a tour of the boat and he had very positive things to say about the future possibilities to Save the Delta Queen.

We all look forward to watching this American drama unfold.

Will Voinovich develop a strategy and garner enough support to push the exemption through?

Will the Delta Queen be purchased by new owners committed to saving her and continuing her cruise operation?

Will individual Americans collectively voice their concern and support to lawmakers and corporate owners in such a chorus that history can be changes?

Stay tuned…

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The Delta Queen needs Congressional legislation to be allowed to continue to operate. The historic boat also has been offered for sale. Tough times. But I will continue to look for the more hopeful developments.

HOPE: MEDIA COVERAGE

The Delta Queen’s struggle has received significant media coverage including The New York Times, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Louisville Post-Dispatch, The Pittsburgh Review-Tribune, National Public Radio, a recent profile on FOX NEWS with Britt Hume, and much more, including dozens upon dozens of local papers, radio and television.

Of course, we need more. We need to pursue every possible contact and opportunity. We need help delivering an alert to the situation and education about the issue to individuals (voters!), organizations, chambers of commerce, visitors centers, municipalities, and Congressional representatives across America.

We need a big voice. We need a talk-show host like Oprah Winfrey or Ellen Degeneres. Even as polarizing as he can be, Rush Limbaugh right now might get the issue some attention. He’s from river town Cape Girardeau and he might enjoy an opportunity to vilify James Oberstar since he’s a Democrat. In a much more positive tone, I’d love to see Garrison Keillor do a show about (or from) the Delta Queen. What about Hal Holbrook, the quintessential Mark Twain? Jimmy Carter rode the boat back in August 1979 and often is a voice of reason. Volunteer efforts to contact and involve persons like these have as yet been unsuccessful. But somebody out there knows how to make it happen. It’s a great story of the struggle to save an American icon, the last remnant of a remarkable chapter in American history as it fights for survival against corporate indifference, economic challenges, a Congressional struggle that at the least includes a misunderstanding of the boat’s safety, and includes the additional drama of partisan politics, and alleged Union influence.

Check back for frequent additions of links to media coverage about the Delta Queen’s plight. Also check the “Media Coverage” category on the side.

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in recent posts, I have been detailing the Delta Queen’s struggle with Congress to be allowed to continue to operate. To make matters worse, current owners have placed the boat up for sale. For many of us Delta Queen fans, these are really tough times. So let’s turn our attention toward the more positive aspects of this hallenging time. And there are many. This much to give us hope.

HOPE: INCREDIBLE SUPPORT

IS THERE ANY HOPE?
Absolutely. Following are a few things in which to take solace and a few terrific developments to fan the embers of your passionate hope.

INCREDIBLE SUPPORT FOR THE DELTA QUEEN
Corporate Events: Majestic America Line committed to host 27 events, one for every port of call during the Delta Queen’s 2008 season. These events provide an opportunity to thank the cities for the years of hospitality they have extended to Delta Queen cruise guests. The events also provide an opportunity to inform citizens about the Delta Queen’s struggle and encourage them to contact their representatives.

Onboard Awareness: Onboard talks and handouts inform cruise guests about the historical significance of the boat, its legislative struggles, and offers guests information about how to get involved.

Grass Roots Support: A volunteer group unified under the name Save the Delta Queen Campaign continues to promote awareness through events, media coverage, and Congressional lobbying. Many organizations and municipalities also have voiced their support:

USA Today, Nov. 1, 2007
“More than 100 cities and towns, mostly in Middle America, already have passed resolutions calling on Congress to extend the boat’s long-standing exemption to a 1966 U.S. Coast Guard fire safety rule.”

As an example, here is the recent proclamation we received from the City of St. Louis:

WHEREAS, the City of St. Louis is proud to join in paying tribute to the Delta Queen; and

WHEREAS, the Delta Queen is an American icon that has traveled the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers since 1927; and

WHEREAS, originally built in 1926, this world-famous riverboat entered service with Delta Queen Steamboat Co. in 1947; and

WHEREAS, without Congressional action, the Delta Queen – the last steam-powered stern-wheel riverboat offering overnight passenger service in the United States – will no longer be able to operate cruise voyages; and

WHEREAS, the City of St. Louis recognizes the storied tradition of the Delta Queen riverboat and extends best wishes for a successful 2008 season.

Now, therefore, I, Francis G. Slay, Mayor of the City of St. Louis, do hereby proclaim August 12, 2008, as:

“DELTA QUEEN DAY”
IN THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the seal of the City of St. Louis, this 12th day of August, A.D. 2008.

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In the previous posts, I’ve written quite a bit about the Delta Queen’s Congressional struggles to be allowed to continue operation. To make matters worse, the Delta Queen also has been put up for sale.

THE DELTA QUEEN OFFERED FOR SALE

Congressman Steve Chabot’s April 24 defeat [see previous post] was quickly followed on April 29, 2008 by Majestic America Line’s announcement to offer for sale the Delta Queen (and all six other vessels in their fleet) and cease operation of those vessels by 2009.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN TO THE DELTA QUEEN?
Majestic America Line Press Release, August 1, 2007
“The company is continuing to evaluate the best way to preserve her legendary spirit and her esteemed place in American history for future generations.”

Joe Ueberroth

Joe Ueberroth

Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2007
“Joe Ueberroth, president and chief executive of Ambassadors International in Newport Beach, which bought the boat last year, said it may see service abroad or become a floating hotel and museum.”

From the May Ambassadors Earnings Conference Call
President and CEO, Joe Ueberroth, said: “There are a lot of interested parties — some who want to operate [the vessels] traditionally like we have, but there are some who look at them for other uses, and foreign buyers could offer them on [other] rivers. … We even see some interest … as floating hotels.”

LESSONS LEARNED BY MAJESTIC
Travel Weekly, May 12, 2008
Joe Ueberroth: “We have learned the hard way that our product is not about trumpeter swans [the company logo] or high thread counts…But instead it is about a great heritage, small American towns and its people, Mark Twain and that underlying seduction or pull to the river.”

In an interview after the earnings call, Ueberroth reiterated that his advice to future owner(s) would be to “understand the history of this product, listen to your customer and really embrace its tradition.”

Keep visiting back to this blog for updates on the sale of the Delta Queen and the other boats in the fleet.

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This post continues from our previous discussion of the Delta Queen’s Congressional struggle to be allowed to continue operation…

THE RECENT STRUGGLE

AND THEN…A NEW BILL WAS SUBMITTED

Steve Chabot

Steve Chabot

In October 2007, Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot introduced House Resolution 3852 to extend the Delta Queen’s exemption.

BLOCKED BY OBERSTAR

James Oberstar

James Oberstar

Congressman Chabot’s bill has been consistently blocked from moving through the House Transportation Committee by Committee Chairman James Oberstar (Democrat-Minnesota) who has complete and sole control of what bills will proceed through his committee to the be voted on by Congress. [Personal opinion warning: Way too much power for any one person!] Congressman Oberstar cites safety concerns despite the fact that he previously has voted for the boat’s exemption.

THE APRIL AMENDMENT ATTEMPT
In April 2008, Congressman Chabot attempted to attach the Delta Queen’s exemption to the Coast Guard appropriation bill in a manner that has been done on previous occasions. The House Rules Committee (which decides what amendments will be added to what bills) voted 9 to 4 against allowing the amendment. All votes against the amendment were cast by Democrats. It is one of the more tragic aspects of this battle that this issue has become partisan as Democrats have lined up behind powerful Congressman James Oberstar.

On April 24, 2008, Congressman Chabot’s Motion to Recommit (which allows the members of Congress to vote on whether an amendment can be added to a bill) failed by only 7 votes. SEVEN VOTES! And 28 members did not even bother to vote. Inexplicably, the representatives of many more river communities – who cherish the historical significance of the boat and the economic tourism boost it brings to their communities – also voted no.

To see how your representative voted, click the following link to view a report in an attached Microsoft Word file.

How Congress Voted

There is so much more to this struggle. Check back for more on the Delta Queen’s struggles in the next post. A comprehensive overview soon will be posted HERE.

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