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North Carolina editorial roundup

November 08, 2017 - 1:18 PM

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Nov. 8

The StarNews of Wilmington on admission fees for U.S. national parks:

Those sky-high admission fees for U.S. national parks you might have heard about won't affect any of the parks around here. The National Park Service's Oct. 24 proposal included no federal parks in North Carolina.

If you want to go to the Grand Canyon, though, or to Yellowstone or Yosemite or 13 other high-demand parks on many folks' bucket lists, well, it's gonna cost you.

If the proposal passes, entrance fees at those parks could rise next year from $25 or $30 to $70 per private car, $50 per tourist on a motorcycle or $30 per head for folks who want to hike in.

These new fees represent an irritating trend in governance. In place of honest taxation for the common welfare, citizens are nickel-and-dimed. The N.C. General Assembly, for example, is slapping sales taxes on everything from movie tickets to auto repairs. Entry to our state parks is generally free. Let's hope the Honorables don't notice what the feds are up to.

One has to be a little sympathetic to the Park Service. Federal parks don't have powerful lobbyists or cutthroat interest groups like the pharmaceutical, oil and gas industries, etc., have to stand up for them. As a result, budgets are being whittled. Facilities, many dating to Civilian Conservation Corps days, are aging and sometimes literally falling apart. Park rangers — many of whom must pack firearms and act as peace officers — are paid on a scale that makes schoolteachers look rich.

The revenue from all these fees are supposed to go toward "deferred maintenance," which runs into the billions of dollars. Few can argue with that.

Once upon a time, though — say, when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House — most parks were free, and any citizen could go to visit them. Now, in many cases, viewing the spacious skies, amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties of America is becoming a privilege of disposable income.

Naturalists already are concerned that relatively few black Americans and other minorities visit the national parks. There are plenty of reasons, but high costs might be a factor.

The comment period on the proposed new fees runs through Nov. 23. You can add your two cents' worth at www.nps.gov.

In a better world, those fees would fall by the wayside — and citizens would demand that their congressmen give the parks the money they need and deserve. It really is a microscopic amount in the federal budget.

It would be a shame to make our national heritage a gated community.

Online: http://www.starnewsonline.com/

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Nov. 7

The News & Observer of Raleigh on the idea for a separate University of North Carolina Board of Governors staff:

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors oversees policy for the campuses of the UNC system, but the board's broad duties don't mean it needs to set up a sort of separate staff that will report directly to the board instead of to President Margaret Spellings and her administrators.

The idea, apparently springing from some board members but on temporary hold now, is not a productive one. Spellings already reports to the board, and there's no reason for the BOG to have its very own separate staff. That would be potentially confusing and worse. Would individual campus leaders, for example, feel the need to report to the board's staff as well as Spellings? Might some campus leaders try an end run around the president in order to promote some cause of their own that might not be favoured by the president?

Spellings appears to keep the board well-informed, but of late, some members have felt no reason to hold back in expressing their views critical of some in the UNC system. The board is more partisan than it has ever been, and that seems likely to continue. A separate staff could be seen as a way for those members who like the idea of hard partisanship on the UNC board to advance their own causes without consulting Spellings.

This is a very bad idea that would make the president's job tougher and would confuse the leaders of other campuses.

Online: http://www.newsobserver.com/

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Nov. 4

Winston-Salem Journal on U.S. Rep. Walter Jones signing letters to families of troops who died in service:

By all indications, Republican Rep. Walter Jones of Eastern North Carolina is a man who has learned the lesson of war: It's real and it has permanent consequences.

More than 11,000 times in the last 14 years, Jones, a Republican who represents the 3rd congressional district of North Carolina, has signed letters to family members of troops who died in service, The Associated Press reported recently.

Democratic presidents mired us in Vietnam, a Republican president took too long to get us out, and a Republican president and a Democratic one mired us in Iraq and Afghanistan too long. Now our latest president, a Republican, still struggles with Afghanistan and the threat of new wars. President Trump should heed the lessons of Rep. Jones.

Jones signs the form letters personally with the same pen. And he asks permission from a military liaison who makes sure that family members want to hear from him. He says his dedication is penance for voting in favour of the Iraq war in 2002, a war he believes was based on unfounded claims of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.

"For me, it's a sacred responsibility that I have to communicate my condolences to a family," Jones told the AP recently in a telephone interview.

"Obviously, the majority of these families will never know me and vice versa," Jones told the AP. "But I want them to know that my heart aches as their heart aches."

Janina Bitz-Vasquez, the widow of a Marine whose funeral Jones attended in 2003, says that Jones' letter writing "sets a standard for taking personal responsibility and accountability" for other political and military leaders.

She's right. We wish every political official followed Jones' example — and had his strong conscience. It might prevent future disasters.

President Trump has been rattling his sabre at both North Korea and, to a lesser degree, Iran for months.

Senators recently questioned Trump officials about his authority to launch a pre-emptive strike on Pyongyang. Congress takes the threat seriously, as it should. It's best to also discuss war's true cost now rather than in the heat of unpredictable events.

Jones has criticized President Trump for arguing with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four soldiers killed in a firefight with militants tied to the Islamic State group in Niger earlier this fall. Jones has asked the Department of Defence for specifics regarding their deaths and the future of U.S. military personnel in Africa.

"The American people, specifically our military families, deserve to know what is going on when they send their sons and daughters to risk their lives for our country," he said in a letter to the department.

He's right.

The latest incarnations of Congress and the presidency should finally realize that wars seldom go as we plan, and there's a steep human price involved.

We must finally learn the lesson: That price should never be taken lightly.

Online: http://www.journalnow.com/

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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