Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Gadsden Times on mass shootings and blood donations:
The news cycle continues to percolate with the aftermath of last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Both incidents remain under investigation; we’ll have more to say about them (and the political furor they’ve prompted) later.
Right now, we want to focus on one particular segment of the Texas story.
A few hours after Saturday’s first report of an active shooter at the Walmart adjacent to the Cielo Vista Mall, city and police officials in El Paso sent urgent tweets asking local residents to donate blood for the victims. Given the scale of the carnage — the death toll rose to 22 as of midday Monday; more than two dozen people were hurt — the need must have been enormous.
People responded — according to USA Today, more than 240 units of blood were donated by the end of the day — and have continued to do so.
We have no idea how much blood was on hand out there before the mass donations. However, we know how much is banked here — at one point recently, according to a blood drive organizer, the local hospitals had only a two-day supply — and it’s downright scary.
God forbid that something like this ever befalls Gadsden and Etowah County, whether from a hate-filled or crazed nimrod with a gun, severe weather or some other kind of disaster. (The explosion 43 years ago at a service station that killed Gadsden’s fire chief and two firefighters and injured several others comes to mind.)
We’re certain that should it happen, local residents will line up to donate blood just like the people of El Paso. However, why not be proactive? Why not ensure the local medical centers have a little margin to work with?
Blood donations always ebb during the summer months, when people are more interested in going places and having fun. Well, technically summer still has a few weeks left on the calendar, but school (started) on Wednesday and that’s generally viewed as the ending point.
Why not mark the occasion by giving blood at one of several upcoming drives (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 13 at McGuffey Health Care and the Gadsden Public Library; 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at Premiere Cinemas at the Gadsden Mall; and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at VFW Post 2760), or by scheduling a donation online at redcrossblood.org?
Your gift may only help a sick person who needs surgery — but it will be just as important and just as appreciated.
The Dothan Eagle on a tire-shredding center’s success, and a new challenge:
It seemed like a great solution to a nagging problem. There was a growing surplus of tires that had outlived their safe use on vehicles, leaving local governments with the headache of disposal. They might wind up in a landfill or abandoned in mounds along country roads. Or as a short drive on Newton Street behind Porter Square Mall reveals, tossed along the sides of city streets.
Six years ago, Coffee County created a $6 million tire processing center, the bulk of which was bankrolled by an ADEM grant worth up to $5.8 million, and for a while Coffee County turned trash to treasure, transforming discarded tires into shreds that were sold for a variety of uses. Within four months, more than 200,000 tires were reduced to shreds and sold, primarily as fuel but also for use as ground base for playgrounds and athletic fields.
It was win-win-win. Tires weren’t taking up expensive landfill real estate or causing environmental problems or eyesores, and they were generating a bit of revenue.
But nothing is as simple as it seems, and, with the market for tire shreds as fuel shifting to natural gas, officials are left scrambling for new buyers.
Now Coffee County officials are weighing their options, which include discontinuing the shredding operation, at least temporarily.
Officials should redouble efforts to identify a new market — not simply because of the revenue stream, but because there is value in recycling discarded material that would otherwise be an aesthetic liability and costly landfill debris.
The Decatur Daily on reaction to two deadly crashes on a heavily traveled road:
After a second fatality in 36 days, Decatur city leaders appear to be looking seriously at what can be done to improve traffic safety on the heavily traveled stretch of Alabama 67 from Interstate 65 to U.S. 31 known as Point Mallard Parkway.
Ramsey Leann Williams, 30, of Somerville, died June 25 when her vehicle was struck by one driven by Jonna Michelle McGuyre, 33, of Decatur. McGuyre has been charged with manslaughter and meth possession in connection with the collision.
On Wednesday (July 31), Malloree Teague, 27, of Decatur, was pronounced dead at 12:08 p.m. in the Decatur Morgan Hospital emergency room after she was involved in a three-vehicle wreck on Point Mallard Parkway. A Morgan County employee driving a county pickup was injured. Authorities have determined a vehicle hydroplaning on the rain-slick highway caused the fatal accident.
And this isn’t the first time the safety of Point Mallard Parkway has been an issue. Last year, four people died in traffic accidents on the parkway.
After the June fatality, city leaders said there was little they could do to improve safety on Alabama 67. But after a second death in just over a month, they are taking another look.
City and Alabama Department of Transportation officials are to meet this week on Point Mallard Parkway safety, and Mayor Tab Bowling suggested Thursday (Aug. 1) adding concrete barriers and porous pavement to the highway.
“I hope ALDOT will bring a solution to the table,” said City Council President Paige Bibbee. “They’re the experts. It’s their roadway.”
This is true, and what ALDOT has suggested in the past is lowering the speed limit on Point Mallard Parkway.
ALDOT conducted a speed test on Point Mallard Parkway last year at the city’s request and recommended the city reduce the speed limit between Sixth Avenue and I-65 to 45 mph. This would have reduced the speed limit between Country Club Road and Point Mallard Centre from 55 to 45 mph.
The city, however, did not follow through. Now perhaps it will.
Granted, simply reducing the speed limit isn’t the ideal solution. Point Mallard Parkway is a largely flat, straight stretch of road that practically invites speeding, but even if reducing the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph simply gets drivers to drive at 55 mph rather than 65 mph, that is something.
But as virtually everyone has admitted, speed isn’t the only factor in wrecks on the parkway, and other solutions are neither cheap nor easy.
Bowling now suggests resurfacing the parkway with porous asphalt, which could absorb water and help prevent hydroplaning, but that would cost about $120,000 to pave one lane for 1 mile compared to $60,000 with regular asphalt, and there’s also a question of whether the softer surface could stand up to the heavy traffic.
As a longer-term solution to making Point Mallard Parkway safer, Bowling recommends adjusting the right of way to widen the parkway 3 to 5 feet and installing concrete barriers to help prevent crossover collisions. But getting more right of way is difficult because the parkway runs through Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Still, it is worth approaching the federal government about the issue.
A few feet won’t matter much to the Canada geese at Wheeler, but could mean life or death for drivers on a road where traffic is only going to increase.
These are all solutions the city and state should explore. They can’t prevent all accidents, but making the parkway safer can give drivers a greater margin for error, which can help even when it comes to dealing with impaired drivers.
Right now, Point Mallard Parkway is narrow, fast, slick and crowded. With that many issues, Decatur and ALDOT ought to be able to find some they can address.