Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Gadsden Times on water safety in response to a dangerous year on Alabama lakes and rivers:
It’s summer in Alabama, and it’s hot.
One of the best ways to beat the heat — and to have fun in the process — is to take advantage of this state’s plentiful rivers and lakes. (According to the Alabama Rivers Alliance there are more than 132,000 miles of river and stream channels and 563,000 acres of ponds, lakes and reservoirs here.)
One of the most popular ways to do that — whether to fish, ski, ride around or just hang out — is with a boat or other watercraft.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the best of years for such activities.
State Marine Police officials last week told AL.com that there have been at least 68 accidents on Alabama’s waterways so far this year, causing 25 fatalities.
For perspective, that death toll already is higher than the year-end totals for the last two decades. The last time this many people died in state boating accidents was 1998, when 32 lives were lost.
July has been especially deadly, with 12 crashes and six fatalities — and there’s plenty more prime “get out on the water” weather ahead of us, although it will be limited to weekends once school starts back.
We’re not going to discuss the specifics of the accidents that have happened. We’re going to offer some tips, courtesy of the National Safety Council, to help keep the numbers from climbing even higher moving forward.
— It doesn’t matter if you can swim like a denizen of Atlantis if not an Olympian, wear a life jacket if you’re on a boat, period, no exceptions, discussion closed. Make sure it’s the right size and that you’re wearing it properly.
— Don’t just drop your boat in the water and take off. For starters, Alabamians have since 1997 been required to pass a written examination and get a license to operate a boat on the state’s waterways. It wouldn’t hurt to review state laws and navigation rules at the beginning of each boating season — people sometimes don’t retain things after tests — or even take a boating safety course as a periodic refresher. (The National Association of Boating Law Administrators offers a good one).
— Make sure your boat is in good working order and carries tool and first-aid kits should something go wrong. (Being prepared involves more than just packing a cooler.)
— Don’t speed or drive recklessly. (The stuff you see in movies is done by trained stunt performers in closed settings, not on the water with everyone else.)
— DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE — not a car and certainly not a boat.
— Be cognizant of changing situations, especially with the weather. (Perhaps you saw the recent video of a docked boat being struck by lightning?)
We don’t think these common-sense steps will crimp anyone’s fun.
They very well may keep people from becoming statistics.
Dothan Eagle on former NBA player and Auburn University assistant basketball coach Chuck Person’s punishment in the basketball bribery scandal:
If you have mixed emotions about the leniency extended to former NBA star and Auburn University assistant basketball coach Chuck Person this week, you’re not alone. While others embroiled in the widespread bribery scandal received varying amounts of time in prison, Person was sentenced to probation and community service.
The federal judge who sentenced Person cited his history of generosity for her leniency. “The worst thing you have to say is that you were charitable to a fault,” she said. “Keep it up.”
On one hand, one has to wonder what sort of message that sends to others who may fall sway to easy money on the other side of the law.
However, the judge makes a salient point: no purpose would be served by incarcerating Chuck Person, she said.
We like to think that Person’s travails can be instructive to others, not only through a generosity that eroded the former NBA players $23 million in lifetime earnings, but through his contrition and 200 hours of community service mandated during his two-year probation.
Person has an opportunity to set an example. Let’s hope he makes the best of it.
Decatur Daily on an advertising agency that proposed a new slogan for their city:
The city of Decatur never seems to have enough money to take care of the basics, whether that’s maintaining the streets or mowing the grass, so it’s always disconcerting to see city leaders spend money on yet another study of dubious value.
We’ve reluctantly supported a parking study of downtown Decatur, with part of the cost to be picked up by the Morgan County Commission, simply to put to rest for the foreseeable future the question of whether the city needs a downtown parking deck.
The $267,275 the city of Decatur is paying the Birmingham-based adverting agency Big Communications, however, seems extravagant on its face, and even more so when one sees what the city is getting.
The city hired Big to develop a branding campaign, which seems like a misplaced priority from the outset. To the extent Decatur suffers from a poor reputation, it’s not something that can be glossed over with a snappy ad campaign and a new slogan. It is something that can be fixed by making the city an inviting place to live, with nice subdivisions, smooth roads and good schools.
Those are all areas where the city is taking steps to improve, with a proposed rewrite of city zoning rules to make multipurpose developments easier, a priority list for paving and resources devoted to youth programs, improving reading scores and increasing the number of pre-K classrooms available.
But these are long-term projects, not silver bullets, and they require not only a lot of heavy lifting but a lot of persistence.
Coming up with a new city brand carries the immediate rush of a quick fix, but it doesn’t leave much behind when the high is gone.
A city committee made up of representatives of the city, the city school system, Decatur Utilities, Decatur-Morgan County Tourism, Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority and Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce chose from among three branding options Big submitted.
The brand the committee selected was “A little Different.”
“Not only is Decatur a unique community, but its size is its strength,” explained Mark Ervin, chief strategy officer and partner of Big Communications, in a presentation to the City Council. “This line plays on the idea that Decatur is small yet distinct. It’s the best of small-town Alabama with access to a major metropolitan job market.”
We are not sure how the man on the street will get all of that from “A little Different.”
It seems as though Big and the committee are aiming at something like the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan of Austin, Texas, except they don’t want to portray Decatur as weird, which is good because we don’t think Decatur residents, or prospective residents, want weird.
They want a quiet place with nice amenities, good schools and easy access to outdoor recreation. In short, they don’t want different, but the same things people in neighboring cities want, even if every town or city puts its unique spin on them. No other city in north Alabama has a wave pool, for example.
No matter how much the city spends, no brand is going to replace “the River City.” The Tennessee River is essential to the city’s industry, transportation, recreation and self-image. It’s an identity that wasn’t conjured by committee but grew over time. It’s Decatur’s history, its now and its future.
And it’s a nickname the city got without having to pay anyone to come up with it.
We think $267,275 is a lot of money just to come up with a slogan no one outside City Hall and the visitors bureau will ever use.