Tuesday, October 25, 2016

RRTimes: GLB Railroad promises false hopes and raises fears





GLB Railroad promises false hopes and raises fears

October 25, 2016October 25, 2016 Staff 0 Comment

By Paul Gorski

The Great Lakes Basin Railroad (GLBRR) is a rail line proposed by a private group that promises to relieve regional freight train congestion. This would be done by developing a new multi-state private rail line that bypasses Chicago and cuts across hundreds of acres of Illinois farmland, including some in western Winnebago County. Suffice to say, many of the landowners and villages in the path of the proposed rail line have serious doubts and concerns about sacrificing their property for a private, toll-based railroad. For good reason.

To those business professionals reading this, imagine someone asking you to partner with them: “I’d like to build this new product. I don’t have any experience building this product, I don’t have any customers signed up for the product, and my potential customers are already committed to using my competitor’s product.” You would say, “Sure, what do you need from me?” No, probably not. Nevertheless, that is what local leaders including Larry Morrissey, Scott Christiansen and Michael Dunn, Jr. agreed to in July of 2015. More on that later.

The sponsor of the GLBRR does not have much if any previous experience in rail transportation. Two of the six major railroads that might use the service have said they will not use it. The remaining four rail carriers have not supported the project. In addition, there is also at least one big project, the CREATE Program which is working to relieve rail congestion in northern Illinois. CREATE has the support and participation of the six major rail carriers in question.

Despite this, the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP) stated its support for the GLBRR in its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan dated July 30, 2015. Among those leaders were: Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen and RMAP Executive Director Michael Dunn Jr. The RMAP plan has big ideas for the sketchy GLBRR, hoping for rail connections to the Rockford airport.

The GLBRR project has been in the news recently because many local residents oppose the project because of its potential negative impact on the county. Fueling the fire, County Board Chairman candidates John Nelson and Frank Haney have come out on different sides of the debate. Nelson sides with the residents; Haney with the project. Well, sort of, depending on the day.

Haney has twisted and turned on his position regarding the GLBRR. First, he is for it, then he will wait until the environmental review, then he will take in under consideration, and now, apparently he might be against it. I cannot see how he can be against it. The GLBRR project has the support of his mentors: Larry Morrissey, Scott Christiansen and Michael Dunn Jr.

Haney is friends with, served on a college board with, and received campaign help from Dunn Jr. Dunn Jr. is also the son of Mike Dunn Sr., who heads the Rockford airport, which again, figures prominently in RMAP’s plan for the GLBRR. Funny how things like that turnout in this county.

Haney has some of the same big contributors as Christiansen, and has many of the same friends, advisors and campaign contributors as Morrissey. When push comes to shove on a final county board action on the GLBRR, who do you think Haney will side with: residents of Winnebago County; or his friends, family and the big money that put him in office? Follow the money.

Nelson has been consistent, siding with the concerned residents. Most of these residents are raising land use and environmental concerns. I say focus on the basic premise of the plan and the people offering up the plan. Who will use the rail line? Why would the rail carriers support this project and the multi-billion dollar CREATE Program?

I cannot help but feel this project raises the same false hopes the failed proposed ethanol plant did, which was to some people simply a scam, a scam that blinded many with the false promise of jobs and economic development.

The proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad raises legitimate fears and concerns. I encourage residents to continue asking their questions and demand more hearings on the project. Share this message with family, friends and neighbors. The local insiders supporting this plan will not stop or relent. You should not either.

Paul Gorski is a resident of Cherry Valley Township, Winnebago County and serves as a Cherry Valley Township Trustee. This article was written with Rock River Times publisher Frank Schier in mind.

Above is from:  http://rockrivertimes.com/2016/10/25/glb-railroad-promises-false-hopes-and-raises-fears/

NYT: Fearing Trump, Bar Association Stifles Report Calling Him a ‘Libel Bully’




WASHINGTON — Alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Mr. Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Mr. Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.

But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump.”

David J. Bodney, a former chairman of the media-law committee, said he was baffled by the bar association’s interference in the committee’s journal.

“It is more than a little ironic,” he said, “that a publication dedicated to the exploration of First Amendment issues is subjected to censorship when it seeks to publish an article about threats to free speech.”

In internal communications, the bar association’s leadership, including its general counsel’s office and public relations staff, did not appear to dispute the report’s conclusions.


But James Dimos, the association’s deputy executive director, objected to the term “libel bully” and other sharp language in the report, saying in an Oct. 19 email that the changes were needed to address “the legitimately held views of A.B.A. staff who are charged with managing the reputational and financial risk to the association.”

“While we do not believe that such a lawsuit has merit, it is certainly reasonable to attempt to reduce such a likelihood by removing inflammatory language that is unnecessary to further the article’s thesis,” Mr. Dimos wrote. “Honestly, it is the same advice members of the forum would provide to their own clients.”

Mr. Trump has made frequent threats in recent weeks to file more lawsuits, including ones against The New York Times for publishing parts of his tax returns and accounts of women accusing him of sexual misconduct. On Saturday, he threatened to sue the women themselves.

Members of the committee expressed dismay with the bar association’s actions.

“It’s colossally inappropriate for the A.B.A. to sponsor a group of lawyers to study free speech issues and at the same time censor their free speech,” said Charles D. Tobin, another former chairman of the committee.

Mr. Dimos did not respond to a request for comment. Carol Stevens, an A.B.A. spokeswoman and a former managing editor of USA Today, said the association had only minor and routine objections to the article’s tone.

“We thought it was an insightful article, and we asked them to consider minor edits,” she said.

George Freeman, a third former chairman of the forum, disputed that characterization.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say ‘minor edits,’ ” he said. “Among the edits they wanted to make were the title and the lede,” he said, using newspaper jargon for the article’s opening passage.

The article was titled “Donald J. Trump Is a Libel Bully but Also a Libel Loser.” The bar association’s proposed title was “Presidential Election Demonstrates Need for Anti-Slapp Laws.” The acronym stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. In states with such laws, defendants can sometimes seek early dismissal of libel and similar suits and recover their legal fees.

Mr. Freeman, a former lawyer at The New York Times Company, is executive director of the Media Law Resource Center, a trade association of law firms and media companies. On Friday, the center posted the report on its site [see note below to read the entire 12 page document]

Ms. Stevens, the bar association spokeswoman, emphatically denied that the fear of a libel suit had played any role in the association’s objections. Ms. Stevens declined to comment when she was read passages from Mr. Dimos’s email. “I’m not a lawyer,” she said, “and that wasn’t my fear.”

Presented with the email, which indicated that she had received it at the time, she pointed to a passage in it that raised another criticism of the study. “Mr. Dimos’s primary concern was the use of partisan language,” Ms. Stevens said. “By policy, the A.B.A. is strictly nonpartisan.”

The study was prepared by Susan E. Seager, a former journalist, a Yale Law School graduate and a longtime First Amendment lawyer. She found seven free speech-related lawsuits filed by Mr. Trump and his companies. They included ones against an architecture critic and his newspaper; a book author and his publisher; a political commentator; a former student at Trump University; two labor unions; a network executive; and a beauty contest contestant.

“It’s based on court records, all of it,” Ms. Seager said in an interview. The report includes 81 footnotes.

The report concluded that Mr. Trump had lost four suits, withdrawn two and obtained one default judgment in a private arbitration when a former Miss Pennsylvania failed to appear to contest the matter.

“Donald J. Trump is a libel bully,” the report concluded. “Like most bullies, he’s also a loser, to borrow from Trump’s vocabulary.”

The bar association sought to eliminate that conclusion, which Ms. Seager said was the point of her report.

“I wanted to alert media lawyers that a lot of these threats are very hollow,” she said.

Ms. Seager said the bar association’s action showed that Mr. Trump’s threats work. “The A.B.A. took out every word that was slightly critical of Donald Trump,” she said. “It proved my point.”

Mr. Tobin said the media law committee, the Forum on Communications Law, had been prepared to publish the report without changes.

“Everyone who looked at it on the forum side felt her conclusions were well founded, were backed up by her scholarship and that the A.B.A. should not be censoring a First Amendment lawyer’s point of view about a current presidential candidate’s litigation tactics,” he said.

Mr. Freeman said the bar association’s actions were also at odds with its larger role. “As the guardian of the values of our legal system,” he said, “the A.B.A. should not stop the publication of an article that criticizes people for bringing lawsuits not to win them but to economically squeeze their opponents.”

Mr. Bodney said the country’s finest media lawyers had been ready to defend the bar association without charge had Mr. Trump chosen to sue.

“If push came to shove, as I recently told an A.B.A. representative, one could surely imagine top-notch libel lawyers standing in line to defend this article against a defamation lawsuit on a pro bono basis,” he said. “Evidently, that wasn’t assurance enough.”

Above is from:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/25/us/politics/donald-trump-lawsuits-american-bar-association.html?_r=0


Ms. Seager’s 12 page research paper is available at: http://www.medialaw.org/images/stories/MediaLawLetter/2016/October/Trump_Libel.pdf