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John A. Brownridge Ed.D.

Modus Ponens and Other Relevant Thought Processes
John Brownridge Ed.D.

Only philosophers should be leaders, according to Plato in the Republic. That is, leaders should be thinkers and problem solvers if they are to be any use at all. They should know how to look at a situation dispassionately, assess its value and decide whether it can be sustained or not. If change is required, they must have the temerity to implement change decisively and without recourse to sentimentality and subjective self indulgence.

Plato would surely have something to say about our local politics if he lived in Port Hope today. He would observe with interest a number of dynamic projects aimed at improving and developing our town, but he would wonder how our leaders could be so unaware of obvious impediments to progress. The Port Hope Downtown Revitalization Project, for example, is full of anticipation and promise in its stated objectives. According to the literature available to everyone, this multi-faceted project aims to “strengthen our business core, re-energize our community, and enhance our appeal to future residents, investors, and tourists.”  Fat chance!

One need only read the comments of tourists who have stayed in our hotels and B and B establishments. A wonderful, friendly town, they say, full of interesting history, places to eat, and leisurely walking trails. The only drawback – couldn’t sleep a wink because of head-splitting train horns. This is an obvious problem and it prevents hundreds of tourists from returning to Port Hope. How can train horns strengthen business, appeal to future residents, and encourage investors and tourists? Just the reverse – train horns destroy business, turn away potential new residents, and discourage investment and tourism.

Most residents of the town seem to understand that 110-decibel horns from our 100 trains per day are now way over the top. They have become a serious health issue, especially for
people over 60, according to the world Health organization, and our Town Council needs to be convinced of that. And yet we keep hearing the same arguments against creating a Quiet
Zone in our town. Here’s what I’ve heard over the past six weeks:

Train horns are part of our heritage

There is no doubt about that. Also part of our heritage are public hangings, public floggings, child labour, discrimination against minorities, and the marginalization of women. Our history can’t be changed, but surely our ‘philosophers’ in the Town Hall are there to initiate change where change is required. If something is bad for business, bad for tourists, and bad for our health, their job is to change it whether it is part of our heritage or not.

Train horns are a safety issue

Yes they are, and everyone agrees that we must put safety first. But horns can be replaced by other safety measures that are much more effective. It is essential that all the crossings in our town be properly equipped with double barriers, flashing lights, and prominent warning signs. The Federal Government clearly describes what is required at hornless crossings and accepts that train horns can be replaced by more effective safety devices. We can be sure that if Government safety measures are implemented we will have safe crossings. This is not rocket science, but it needs some ‘philosopher kings’ at the Town Hall to put up the money and get the job done.

Some of us like to hear train horns

And some like to smoke, drink too much and live on a fast-food diet, but we try to avoid these things for the sake of good health and survival. The WHO is the most credible organization in the world when it comes to health issues. They warn us that constant exposure to high decibel noise levels are a direct cause of high blood pressure, heart disease, stress, and mental deterioration. Some Port Hope residents are exposed to approximately 800 horn blasts per day at 110 decibels a time, and it is literally killing them. Residents who live far from the crossings and want to keep train horns for sentimental reasons will surely rethink their position for the sake of their fellow citizens. After all, Port Hopers are known far and wide as kind, caring and considerate people, and they will not fight for something that is destroying the health and wellbeing of others.

The train whistles of our childhood are hard to give up

Ah… but you gave them up long ago. If only we could have kept those nostalgic train whistles that came with the steam trains. At 50 decibels a time when Port Hope had 5 trains a day it was wonderful to mark lunch time by the noon train. But train whistles went out with the steam trains and were replaced by the loudest device known to man. Train horns will always be there for an emergency of course but, as many small towns have decided, they are no longer viable at regular crossings. We can’t allow nostalgia for things that no longer exist to prevent us from doing what we must, especially when health, wellbeing, and safety are concerned.

The current Port Hope Council is coming to the end of its mandate and several new candidates are running for election. We need to be aware of who they are and what they stand for. We need thinkers and innovators in the Town Hall, results-oriented men and women who will push hard to get things done. No one is trying to get rid of trains. It’s the train horns that are holding us back. Let’s elect councillors who can see beyond nostalgia and recognize that train horns have created a problem that needs to be fixed for the sake of business, tourism, and the health of every Port Hope resident.

Jon Brownridge is a retired school principal, hot air balloonist, local author and musician. He can be contacted at jon.brownridge@yahoo.ca