Railtowns United's first nationwide virtual Town Hall was held on Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2023.
Elected officials, traffic and emergency response professionals, and leaders from a number of states and cities were in attendance, including Chicago, Atlanta, and Fort Wayne.
The record below is edited for clarity, accuracy, and to remove sensitive information.
Welcome to the inaugural Town Hall meeting of Railtowns United! It is so wonderful to have you here. I really appreciate the interest that we've gotten as we establish this. The response has been absolutely overwhelming and wonderful. Thank you for being here at our very first event. I've met some of you already and I look forward to getting to know each of you and the communities that you serve.
My name is Britni Eisenmann. I'm the Executive Director of Railtowns United, which was started by myself and Tate Linden just within the last two months. I'm located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is a few hours east of Chicago. I've got a background in industrial/organizational psychology, community building and social work. My specialty is growth. I have built an industry specific professional group of 800 members in just three months and tripled the size and capacity of regional social services of an organization in the Midwest.
Tate Linden, who you'll hear from shortly, is our Chief Strategist. He lives just outside of Washington DC. He ran a strategic communications agency for about two decades. He served clients like Google, the Pentagon, Meals on Wheels America, the entire North American concrete industry, and the largest caucus in the United States Congress. He's known for delivering seemingly impossible results. For instance, Tate's work convinced Iowa’s conservative legislature and governor to increase the gas tax by 50% raising over 3 billion for transportation infrastructure and public safety. If there's a way to get people in power to do the right thing, takes the guy you want on your team, which is why I'm absolutely thrilled that he's joined our movement.
The purpose of the Town Hall today is to introduce you to who we are, why we're in this space, the challenges we face in it, and how we can join together to more effectively work with our railroads, legislators, and even the courts to make our communities safe, accessible and prosperous.
Hello everybody! It is incredible to move this from being in our heads, out into the real world. I know that we can make a huge difference in the quality of life for railtowns.
As it stands today, our mission is to make America's railtowns safe, accessible, and prosperous. Now we chose these words because they represent the issues that railtowns themselves are telling us relate to the real-world issues that involve hosting railroads.
If you go back, the very first railroad charter was granted in 1815. As far as we can tell, in the 208 years since then there has never been a coordinated group of rail-connected communities. Compare that with the railroads that we’re hosting, who had been organized and working closely since at least 1872. There's a bit of a difference between zero and over 150 years, and we’re on the wrong side of that difference.
There are 20,000 cities and towns in America. We can't get a firm number as to how many have trains running through them, but it looks like between 6,000 and 10,000. The vast majority of Americans live in these regions. More than 99% of America’s largest cities have rail access. Even though we are a community of communities that represents what appears to be a large majority of Americans, we have no combined voice, and that's one of the things we're trying to fix.
Railroads rightly worked together on issues like safety, best practices, influencing residents, legislation. Our railtowns haven't. And there isn't just one organization representing the railroads. You have the railroads themselves and then you have GoRail, North American Railway Foundation, American Association of Railroads... The industry, from what we can tell, has spent over $20 million a year, every single year, for the last 20 years, to influence legislation. And they've averaged over $30 million a year over the same period.
Until today, railtowns like yours have had some support, but it's not quite focused on your specific issues. Really great organizations, like the National League of Cities and others are supporting towns, counties, states, mayors, town councils… They all provide some level of general guidance and some a little bit more detailed on rail issues. But we’ve talked to some, and heard from others that they don't specialize in the issues that railtowns are dealing with specifically, and they aren't set up to provide hands-on aid to the members struggling to work with the railroads. So, we've been building ourselves from day one to fix that.
We said [in the agenda sent out] that we would provide you with a brief legislative and court update. This might not be what you traditionally would get. I'm going to try to give you a sense of how this environment is impacting your communities rather than go into detail on what exactly is in the legislation and in the courts. If you do want more detailed information, again, I'll mention National League of Cities. They have some excellent summaries online that can tell you about what's in them and potentially the likelihood that they may pass.
The number one issue that we have heard about, even with some of the disaster-oriented information we've been reading about in the news, is trains that are blocking crossings. The first thing to know is that most US states already have laws on the books that address these stopped train issues. When you pull up and you're at a crossing, the bars are down and there's a train there and not moving… as far as I can tell there are 38 states, plus DC, that have laws on the books that make parking on the tracks for extended periods a fineable offense. If this were almost any other industry that would be the end of it. If a local moving company parked across the highway they'd face fines or charges. This isn't most cases. As is their right, the railroads have been challenging these laws at a state level, claiming that the Constitution's Commerce Clause makes these laws illegal.
Loosely, the Commerce Clause says that in order to ensure a uniform and consistent regulatory environment, only Congress or the federal government can regulate interstate
commerce. And in both federal and state courts, the railroads have been winning these cases. We've heard that, by and large, railroads have stopped paying the associated fines.
This has come to a head. The US Supreme Court asked for a briefing from the Solicitor General early this year and, last I checked, there hadn't been any movement. It's not clear if it's going to get a hearing. But there are signs that at least some of the justices actively do want to hear the case. And the moment there is movement on this front we'll let you know.
The other legislative issue that may be on your mind is the legislation currently in the Senate. There's been a lot of talk about the Railway Safety Act of 2023. It was written as a direct response to the East Palestine disaster. But that bill is struggling. It did pass out of the Senate committee in May, with bipartisan support, but hadn’t made it to the floor as of the last I checked. The railroads and conservative organizations have come out against the bill saying it was rushed, doesn't address the true risks, is driven by powerful union interests, and that it puts railroads at a competitive disadvantage to other transportation options.
Railtowns United has not taken a stance on that particular bill, though generally speaking, anything that improves the viability of our member towns is something we're going to support. Writing an opinion is one of the first things on our plate as we formalize our operations.
So where does that leave us? Local and state governments don’t have many options to ensure railroads play nice with the host cities. If we stay on the path that we're on, we have to rely on the federal government for support. And that's a scary thing to say because at least one branch has literally not been functioning for the last few weeks, and most would agree - politics aside - that it wasn't very productive before that. And even if legislation does pass, if somehow, we get this Act on the books, the chances of it not being challenged in the courts …it's not zero.
So, I'll pause for a moment there [to see if] anybody has any questions? Comments?
I do see [legislative staff] from NLC [National League of Cities] mentioned [in chat, that] the Chair in the Senate has requested a vote on the Senate floor this fall. I hadn't known that. Thank you. [NLC's legislative staff] is an indispensable resource when it comes to transportation issues and it's a partnership [between Railtowns United and National League of Cities] that we are looking forward to.
The last thing I wanted to mention today is the kind of stuff that we are looking to offer you. It's a long list. Understand that where we are today, we just got our first request for an invoice today for membership. I think we've had the ability to accept them for about 24 hours and we got our first one today. We're really excited about that! It means that we're on our way.
I'm going to walk through some of the things that we are either actively building or planning on building for you and then we'll open it up for a discussion and you can actually tell us what sort of things you are looking to have done or where you need help.
First, you'll finally have support for the kinds of issues that railtowns tend to experience. On average, there are three derailments every day in America, which is not enough that every town in America is going to know how to respond to that before it happens. And not just through EMS. But how do you interact with the railroad when it happens? How do you interact with the press? Your community? We are building out best practices so that it’s this issue or others related to the rails, we can help you to move forward with confidence and ensure that your town is well served.
We're planning to offer issue escalation for our members so that when there are issues that you're having with the railroads, you have a place to go that can speak with the authority not just of your town, but of the entire rail town community.
We’ve heard that accountability and responsiveness have been major concerns. Railtowns United can better track the issues and determine whether or not railroads are keeping their word and help them to remain accountable.
We, as an organization, do not view the railroads as the bad-guys. By and large, the things that are hurting our railtowns aren’t illegal. They're pursuing profits. Sometimes that pursuit is at odds with the needs of the host towns and that's where our concerns are. But, yes, if there are issues where laws are being broken, we will absolutely take a stand. But we’d expect that more often we’ll be dealing with railroads on ways they can continue to profitably operate and follow the law without harming the towns they depend on for their survival.
Next, we can amplify the concerns of all our communities around issues of common interest, getting attention from the press, and from legislators in ways that individual communities, particularly small ones, can't. We’re developing our relationships with top rail reporters early so that we can help them access compelling stories from our members as they happen.
We're working with vendors, and I believe we have one on this call. TRAINFO, which a great firm that does tracking and more around rail crossings. They’re a wonderful service that has expressed a willingness to help our members - and our organization - by offering some free services and options for discounted service. But we know there are multiple vendors that are trying to help railtowns, and haven’t been able to reach them effectively as a market. Railtowns United can be that - a way for you to find things that will make lives easier and better for your citizens. They’ll be there if you need them, but you won’t be inundated with sales pitches if you don’t. We have no intention of selling contact information to
[Discussion of non-profit status removed, as we have since filed for 501(c)(3) status.] As a 501(c)(3) we can’t engage in significant lobbying activities, though we can dip a toe in as
So those are some basic services. We have a list of dozens of things that we are considering. But those are some of the top line ones. I would love to step back and open things up. Are these the kinds of things that you're looking for? Is this something that your community would be interested in? We have the website up. When you go to railtowns.org you can click a link to join Railtowns. Pricing is based on population. Below 1000 people and up to over a million. Regardless of your population size, we are priced so that it's a value to your residents. Britni, do you want to take it from here?
If you have questions, or even pushback, we welcome pushback on anything that we've mentioned here today. I know that some of you on the call are assistants to council members or mayors. Some of you are legislators yourselves. Whatever your question is, we'd love to hear it.
(reading chat) [name of Community + Economic Development Director] says, “The city of New Haven, Indiana is proud we’ll be the first official member.”
That's true! They requested the invoice yesterday and we got it sent out in this morning. It looks like we are wrapping up details with that. So, thanks, [name]. We're glad to have you as the first!
(reading chat) [name of Traffic Engineer] says, “The railroad does not keep their word.” Is that a shared experience?
We’ve certainly heard it. I think our first conversation on this topic was over the summer. After talking with New Haven, and hearing the challenges that they had and that, as you put it, “the railroad doesn't keep their word”... we’ve heard it many more times since then. As an organization we might start by suggesting they’re making commitments but somehow those commitments aren’t consistently being met. And we want to help figure out why that is and work with them to resolve it.
[Discussion of specific railroad-town interaction removed]
When we are operational and have our escalations set up, and a railroad responds to an issue with ‘Hey, we’ll let you know,’ in short order you’ll be able to respond to let them know we’re tracking and sharing these issues with the rest of the cities up and down the line. That it isn’t just your small town on the line. It’s all of them.
Imagine picking up the phone and calling your railroad contact knowing exactly how the railroad has responded to similar issues in other towns, and not being told - as we’ve heard from every city we’ve met with - “You’re the only one with this issue.” And you get clarity and open communications. That’s what we hope to build, and we’re hopeful that the Railroads will actively engage with us to help us help them become more effective and profitable.
We know railtowns can and should be partners with railroads if there’s any hope of maximizing value.
Yes. These challenges have been here for generations, railroads have power and influence in
government. The way we'll be effective isn't because we have a lot of power and we're able to bully our way around. It's because when we are united, we will be able to get the light to shine on what's actually going on. No one town is going to be able to bring about change, even with that light. It’s when we can see and understand the whole system that we can bring change.
[Discussion of specific railroads and incidents removed]
[name of City Clerk], I see your comment. I'll read aloud. “Just two weeks ago, our village was landlocked for 16 hours. This has been an issue for years. We've exhausted our efforts. What can your organization do to change that without federal regulation?”
The first thing is Accountability. Accountability and publicity. [name], are you able to share where you are where you're calling in from?
The village of Lockland, about 12 miles north of the city of Cincinnati.
Ah, yes. Ohio is taking that case to the Supreme Court. So yes, wishing you luck.
Sixteen hours. That’s one of the longer ones I've heard about recently. You’re not alone. Those trains come in and they stop and they're three miles or however long they are, and you've got residents and people at work that cannot get out or in.
So, what can we do about it? Well, the first thing we can do is bring attention to it. And try to bring accountability by showing that they’re not isolated. We suspect that if the true number of blockages and land-locking was known, there’d be more action here. Yes, the courts are against us at the moment, but the court of opinion is not.
I just spent yesterday, probably six hours, looking for incidents of issues with the railways over the last month or so. I did not come across this story. Honestly, I didn't know what to look for.
One of the main reasons why railroads are able to do this is one, it's legal, and two, nobody outside of your town cares. Everybody thinks it's isolated. That's one of the most common things we hear from towns we talked to is, ‘The railroads are telling us we're the only people that complain about this.’ So, bringing visibility.
We can help you come up with strategies to address the issues. The first move would be you bringing us in to talk with the railroad and discuss how we're going to support you and encourage them not to be at the wrong end of a national news story. We'd love to be able to have a story about how they resolve the issue rather than how this is a persistent and deadly problem. I don’t know that we can fix this tomorrow. But I know that we have to start these conversations so that we get the results you need sooner.
There are other things that we can do, but those would be the early steps.
[name of City Emergency Operations Manager] is next. Go ahead and unmute.
Emergency Operations Manager
[name] from the city of Hyattsville, Maryland. And we had a very significant [Mention of specific railroad removed.] train derailment several weeks ago. I don't know if it made the national news or not. It was about a 16-car derailment. And, we would be very interested, should we decided to join, one of the things we'd be interested in would be your best practices document that you had mentioned. How far out would that document be from reality? Should we be interested in joining the organization, that would be one of the things we'd be very interested in getting kind of quickly. So how far out is that?
We haven't finalized it. We have drafts and we have sources for it. Our prioritization is going to be in the direction that is driven by members. So, [name], if your town said, ‘We're joining, here's what we need,’ and you're our first or second or even 50th member, that becomes a priority for us.
[The best practices kit] already is a priority. We know that every single member may have the need for it even if none know it yet. We’re compiling existing best practices already. So, if you were to join today, and this was why, it would take us single digit weeks, probably two to three, to give you something viable, and we can work with you to be sure. If we have members who aren’t interested from the get-go it may get pushed back until staffing allows us to get it done.
Emergency Operations Manager
Okay, thank you. That's helpful.
Thanks, [name]. I appreciate you voicing that.
Alright, as we walk through a few of these concerns, it occurs to me, if you're here on this call, it's probably because you've seen some really tragic things in your community with rail. These are big things that you're having to deal with, families that are losing loved ones because of this, and I want you to know that as we have been able to find them, we've been reading through your stories. They are a big reason that we started this up. All of that pain has just… it's been there for generations, and it will continue to happen if we don't go ahead and unite right now.
[name of National League of Cities legislative staff] just posted a comment, and this is something that I am considering attending as well, “The National League of Cities is hosting a roundtable in Atlanta on November 17. All of the class one railroads will be there.” So that's Amtrak, and all the top freight, and they will take individual meetings to discuss issues. And it looks like grants are potentially available. And there's a link in chat. Thank you, [name].
From the folks on this call, what issues are top of mind from the derailment best practices to responding to railroad issues to helping to resolve the block crossings issue, to safety stuff coming out of legislative updates, what is it that you are hoping for from the organization and particularly if you're not seeing that
(reading from chat) “Solutions when grade separation is not possible or practical.” So, in some situations it's not possible to go under or over the rail because, for example, you may have to take out your whole main street or the water table may be too close to the surface. We have had the opportunity to think through some of those.
This is common and difficult. We don’t have a one-size-fits-all answer here. I can say that we have been looking into solutions for that. There are vendors that are looking to provide solutions in the space. And there are also numerous grants that have come up that can help communities fund infrastructure. I know that there are perfect solutions, and then there are workable solutions. Some of the grants don't provide for perfect solutions, but they allow you to do things like create an alternate route. You might have to go a mile out of the way, but the funds are there to give you a way to safely cross the tracks.
This is something we’ll be bringing members together to share best practices and strategies to resolve. As with most everything, really. Much of the expertise will come from sharing, not from staff.
Okay. (reading from chat) [name of mayor], you said, “Blocked railroad tracks for extended periods of time and having a phone number to contact to break the train during emergency.” [aside removed]
Thanks Mayor [name], Stamps, Arkansas. Yes, this actually has come up in a few conversations I've had with different mayors across the US. What she’s referencing is essentially unhooking and then creating separation so an ambulance or fire truck can get through. There have been challenges across the nation, from what I'm hearing directly from mayors, that sometimes the rail will say that they will do it and they won't. This is very hard to get them to actually do it. And after they don't do it, they will often cite safety concerns as the reason for not unhooking.
One of the related struggles is related to how railroads and the government talk about these blockages. They don't talk about it as blocked traffic blocked crossings or being land-locked; they talk about incidents of trespass. So, in one case we found, EMS couldn't get their vehicle to the other side, and the train couldn’t be moved, so they had to climb through in order to attempt to save somebody on the other side. They were forced to commit a crime in order to attempt to save a man’s life. It’s a horrible situation. Finding a way to resolve this is critical.
[Sensitive information removed to enable this document to be shared freely.]
[...] because we need to develop the strategy before we share it, and we need to make sure that it’s legally viable. But we’re looking at a couple ways to do it. It's an exciting thing for us to be able to say we may be able to bring a new solution.
Yes. Right now, states have taken different railroads to court. The entire state up against the railroad and it's kind of the hammer method, let them know “You're hurting us, you are damaging the various citizens that you're bringing goods to!” and that is not working at even the state level. [Sensitive information removed]
The standard line that railroads used- they talk in every press release and on all of their websites about how invested and connected they are in the communities they serve. But finding communities who say the same thing is a lot harder to find. We will be here to celebrate it when that happens. Absolutely. We want it to be unquestionably true.
Tate before we wind down is there anything else you want to make sure that we bubble up to the surface here? I know we've been working on a lot of things and we're pulling up just a few of them for this first Town Hall.
Okay. So minimally for the people who are on this call, and we may extend this outside but I'm not sure yet. If you are on this call, instead of the traditional 12-month membership, we are going to extend it to the end of 2024. You get the additional months. [Note: This offer has been extended to all new members]
We understand that there is tension between the need to start up an organization and the need to be able to get services immediately. We know that our services in the first few months are going to be lighter than they will be after we're fully staffed. And as a reflection of that, we'd like to be able to extend the amount of time those of you who are dealing with urgent issues and, [name of Emergency Operations Manager] you are one of them.
One of the nice things about being early into an organization is that you have immense influence in the services we offer and the setting of our priorities. If you have a need? That’s what we work on operationally as we build out the rest.
(reading the chat) [name of Traffic Engineer] is writing about coordination between the railroad and the city [when the railroad does construction]. If that's happening, we can work with you and establish a better process, and provide more reason for the railroads to be communicative. I already know a couple of communities that have best practices around construction in inside of city limits. We can look for what those best practices are, get the best available information, and then provide you with a template.
(reading the chat) [name of city official] says [her city is] also dealing with track repairs. Is that a common problem? Are towns being impacted when the railroad just shows up and starts working at a crossing?
Community + Economic Development Director
Yes, that happens here. I really can't pin the frequency for you, but they if they need to do repair or any kind of maintenance on the track, they simply show up and close our roads without any notification.
[Mention of specific railroad removed.]
Okay, and you have multiple railroads serving your community? Yes? Ok.
(reading chat) All right, there’s a comment about issues in Atlanta. Political power and the influence the railroads have. I think that's one of the biggest issues that we've got. Even when we organize, we are working against 150 years of lobbying and systems that are set up to serve the interests of the railroads and not the host communities.
So, yes, there's likely going to be some discomfort involved on the railroad’s part when they realize that the power imbalance is being addressed by having your community attached to other communities. When they come into a small town and they shut all that all the roads down, it's not just that community that's going to know about it. Everyone up and down the line will know. It’s a disappointment that this isn’t happening already. We can help them to change their policies. [Sensitive information removed]
All right, we have a raised hand. I'm going to bring forward the representative from the Office of [an Atlanta City Councilmember]. You can go ahead and unmute.
Thank you, Britni. I wanted to share my two cents. I think that a lot of the larger issues emanate from the political power they yield. One constituent reached out to elected officials- that is a relationship that is largely based out of trust. And, mostly when they're reaching out to elected officers, the due process is to try to create legislation around it, which usually gets lost because when you bring something around legislation, it always follows a list of priorities of what you need to deal with first. Railroad turns out to be a very low priority area when you have other issues happening in the city.
So, to that end, another question I had was just for my knowledge- in the organization that you are setting up, are you looking at creating active partnerships with unions on the other side? Or, when you say that you want to amplify voices and create accountability, are you also looking at partnerships with… I want to say media houses, but… what kind of platforms are you looking at when you're trying to amplify the voices of constituents or the locals? Because I think a lot of times when we talk about political power, it's not just in elected offices, it also impacts the local daily news that you have. So that when news can also be, as [name of City Clerk who spoke earlier] was just saying right now that she's unable to find a 16-hour block even when she's actively searching for issues. So that really points out how it's an entire ecosystem that is designed to sort of make sure that certain things are eliminated from what can get a lot of traction. So, are you looking at partnerships like organizational partnerships? And what platforms are you looking to create that accountability and amplifying voices?
It's been a disheartening experience to realize that these issues that are impacting your towns so critically aren't findable. If there's a death, I can find it. But even derailments are hard to find sometimes. [For example,] Hyattsville I was able to find. I don't know if it was national news, but it was easy to find because the impact was big. But there are three derailments on average a day. I'm sure that since this morning until now, if I looked on the news, I would find one. Yesterday that happened. We were in the middle of looking for recent derailments and other one popped up. Giving you as a town the ability to have these issues seen and covered, is a significant part of what we will do.
You mentioned something about unions. Were you talking about the railroad unions? Or did I misunderstand?
No, you understood correctly. That's what I'm talking about, yes.
Okay. The answer is yes, we would. Railtowns United would not represent the union but we absolutely want to have a relationship with them. Based on our research, the union perspective may sometimes align with the positions that we as your representative are likely to take on issues pertaining to safety and access. We are looking for accountability and responsibility. We are not against profits, but we want to make sure that people are safe. For instance, unions support two employees per train, while railroads seem to advocate for one. With current technology, having a single person on the train makes it very difficult to split if blocking EMS access.
Looks like Mayor [name] that has a question.
Good afternoon. More comment than a question. First of all, thank you for taking the lead on creating an organization that's solely established to represent communities that are deeply impacted by railroad. I wanted to add to what [name of Traffic Engineer who commented earlier] had to say, and we're just to the east of the community [he] is in.
Last year, [a railroad] took out five crossings and left for several weeks. It left a large part of our community that was completely inaccessible. When I reached out to the city's law firm, it was explained to me that under [that State's] law, the railroad allows us to cross their right-of-away. We don't allow them to cross our streets. And I think when you understand that that's the perspective that they come from, it kind of changes the whole narrative.
So, we need to band together. And we need to say enough is enough. And we need to have these laws changed, and the only way of doing that is through Congress. So, thank you for creating this organization and standing up for our communities that are impacted. I can tell you just in [State name], from conversations that I've had with other mayors, there are over 60 communities that are impacted, at least at the same level that [city name] is. So, this is a national issue.
The railroads do try to divide us, and they told me, “Why do you complain? Nobody else does.” And then you talk to four other mayors, and they all have the same problem, and they get the same story.
I'm an optimist. I believe that when we work together, we can make meaningful impact for our communities and our constituents. So, thank you.
And thank you, Mayor [name], for talking with us about this and bringing it to our attention over the summer. Knowing that this is an issue on a broader scale is very helpful. It raises it in priority for us as the things that we tackle first.
I do see Councilwoman [name] asks, “What platforms or tools are you looking at to amplify voices and create public accountability? And what partnerships are you looking at outside of elected councils?”
We view ourselves at Railtowns as a hub. We have our members in the center with us, and then we are interacting with our partners along the outside. We want to ensure that our members have access to services that support their needs that are specific to railtowns. These could be engineering firms that specialize in problems such as trying to find a creative way to get around an issue that seems impossible. We foresee partnering with organizations that represent cities.
For example, many of our members, I would imagine, are already members of National League of Cities, and there's a membership for townships and towns, and the mayor's one. We need to be connected into all of these so that our message… your message… can get out through not just us but multiple channels.
Developing relationships with the media partnering, we've already reached out to ProPublica. They have reporters who wrote an exceptional article on blocked crossings earlier this year.
On our list to do early is establishing relationships with the DOT and with Grant providers. That way, when you run up against an issue and we can't fix it, and we’re interacting with the with the railroad directly and can't fix it legally, we have a way to get you funding. We can bring solutions to the table that you couldn't have access to otherwise.
As for amplifying voices and creating public accountability. Yes, we're going to have a press function. We are actively establishing relationships with transportation oriented outlets and journalists, as well as national media.
Towns are having blockages for hours but there hasn't been a full story on how this is impacting us broadly as a country, somehow in the name of interstate commerce. How many losses are we experiencing in our communities? The data is there. And if we can’t get at it we can build it.
Developing a platform so that we have outreach and access to reporters who want to tell these stories to an audience starving for action is critical. I already know of about a half dozen that are actively on this beat and want stories on it. I know I’ll find more. We want to be able to blanket the country when there is an issue and also to be strategic about how we are releasing these stories so that we aren't stepping on our own toes when we're trying to get attention.
[Sensitive discussion of campaign strategy removed.]
$3 billion raised over 10 years, 90 days after we launched our campaign. This after 25 years of
non-movement by those in power.
The communication doesn't always need to be directly to the audience. Oftentimes, we want to influence by fully informing the public about what's happening. By bringing light. The people in power realize they cannot stay on the path they're on. They have to change.
[Sensitive discussion of campaign strategy removed.]
Yes, and to [name of commenter] point, she says the railroad doesn't care, as well as the federal government. There is absolutely apathy there, and that will play to our benefit because we're not here to force them to do something. We're here to shine the light and as a united voice. They will have to move.
There's this special distinction I want to make here. There is a difference between advocacy and forcing action. Yes, we, as a necessity, will advocate. But that is not our focus. We don't just want people to be aware. We need change on your behalf.
When we are doing these things, it will never be enough that we have a campaign that says, “Hey, there are these issues all over the country and people are stuck. You should know it’s happening!” We will be developing our communications in the same manner that we did with the campaign that raised the $3 billion. It's not just that the people are aware. No, it's that the people who are decision makers, who can improve things - they’re compelled to act.
All right. Thank you. Okay, thank you everyone for being here today. You are welcome to join in, whether that is membership or looks like something else. You can find information on our website, and you will shortly get an email about how you can get involved. Thank you everyone!