PRO Act is an opportunity

We now have a pro-worker majority in Congress. For too long Congress has ignored labor, but the labor movement now has the chance to build the power of working people.

One way to do this is by passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (the PRO Act) which will allow workers the opportunity to bring in a union. We have seen employers harass and intimidate those workers who support unions; this needs to change. The PRO Act will give workers the ability to engage in collective bargaining, it protects women, people of color and the LGBT community. It also helps to build a better economy via wages for the workers.

This is a time to look forward, not backward.

John DeRosier

Eau Claire

Altoona project raises concerns

I am writing as a concerned citizen of Altoona, to draw attention to what I believe are potential health hazards recently revealed less than 100 feet from the proposed River Prairie Townhouse Project including affordable housing. I have lived in Altoona for years; I walk past the building site on a regular basis and am well aware of the presence of the railroad. However, I was not aware of the staging area located directly behind the development location. The staging area is used to “hold” idling diesel engines — which produce diesel exhaust for 2-10 hours — usually at night.

Research indicates short term side effects resulting from exposure to diesel exhaust include headache, dizziness, irritation of eyes, nose and throat, worsening of existing allergies, and triggering asthma attacks. Long term effects: chronic cough, increasing risk of cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary and respiratory disease and lung cancer. In 2012 the International Agency for Cancer Research determined that “diesel engine exhaust is ‘carcinogenic to Humans’ based on sufficient evidence that is linked to an increased risk of lung cancer.” The research performed by Mayo Clinic (cited in Science News 2010) is directly relevant — children living next to railroad tracks (not even staging areas) have increased asthma risk of 40-70%.

My questions are: When will the City Council/Planning Commission/developer perform its due diligence by engaging EPA, DNR, or other experts to determine the risk of living next to diesel exhaust? Given the health and safety hazards, how can the City continue with its various approvals of the Project until it is determined whether the site is safe or unsuitable for residential use?

I am optimistic the City Council, Planning Commission, and developer, having heard these concerns during meetings on both March 23 and 25, will take appropriate actions.

Beverly Olson

Altoona