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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

December 12, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Tulsa World. Dec. 11, 2017.

Some high school students very much want to go to college, but simply don’t know how to get there. Others might be trying to find their way and need some guidance.

A program recently approved by the Tulsa School Board will help those who do want to continue their education to a higher level.

The Upward Bound program and Northeastern State University, with a $1.3 million federal grant, plan to offer guidance to students from four Tulsa high schools — Central, McLain, Hale and Webster — on what it takes to get into college. The program’s mission is to give low-income, first-generation students a chance to go to college.

Upward Bound will provide tutoring and preparation for college entrance exams to 60 students each year for five years. Summer classes at NSU and student housing will be offered.

“I am kind of focusing it toward students who have possibly been first offenders and on the verge of going into a delinquent state to kind of redirect their path,” said Lisa Johnson of NSU, who has worked in the correctional system, and is implementing the program at NSU.

There is no doubt that the more education a person has, the less likely they will be to enter the prison system. Putting the money up front toward education, especially for those who might be on the edge, is just common sense. It’s much cheaper to educate young people than to hold them in prison. Johnson believes that pulling kids “into educational line” could help them avoid trouble in the future.

We agree. Once young people get involved in the criminal justice system, their lives become a revolving door in and out of prison.

The Upward Bound program doesn’t solve all the problems. But it does offer hope. And hope combined with opportunity sometimes is all young people need to get their lives on track and become contributing members of society.

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The Oklahoman. Dec. 12, 2017.

Normally, how government officials address a waste site in Missouri would be of little interest in Oklahoma. But actions by Environmental Protection Agency officials to remediate a Superfund site in Bridgeton, Missouri, could indicate how officials will resolve long-standing problems at Oklahoma’s Superfund sites.

Perhaps the most important question is whether science will be given greater priority than activists’ hyperbole.

For decades, Missouri’s West Lake Landfill was used as a municipal trash dump, but in the 1970s radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project was mixed in with 38,000 tons of soil at the site. Needless to say, that got people’s attention when the news became public.

As a result, West Lake has been a Superfund site since 1990, but little has been done to clean it up. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has vowed to improve the speed of the agency’s response and made West Lake a priority.

There’s wide disparity in the proposed solutions. In 2008, under the Obama administration, the EPA proposed capping the site at a cost of roughly $43 million. The administration was hardly hostile to environmental activists, yet the capping proposal hasn’t been well received. Instead, activists want the government (and potentially private companies that have any liability for the site) to buy out all homes in the area, remove the waste and ship it to a disposal area. The price tag: roughly $400 million.

Those who back this option insist the radioactive waste poses a danger to the community even if the $43 million “cap and contain” plan is implemented. Yet there’s no scientific evidence to back that view, and much evidence to the contrary.

To cite just a few sources, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that groundwater, air and soil data at West Lake don’t indicate a health risk to surrounding communities. The EPA has concluded there is no off-site risk from contamination. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has determined that any potentially harmful particles detected in ambient air and landfill gas are below the levels that would represent a public health concern. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ field screening did not identify any areas of health or safety concern. Collection and analysis has included more than 140 soil and dust samples, according to reports.

To suggest that officials at all those agencies would willingly endanger public health to save money requires massive suspension of disbelief, particularly since officials at most of those agencies would likely be inclined to do the opposite.

To show how silly the debate has become, the Teamsters are among the groups calling for the $400 million plan. The union’s support seems to have less to do with concerns about the environment and more to do with creating government union work regardless of valid need.

Science supports the $43 million plan. But political calculations could lead to something closer to the $400 million plan. The reason Oklahomans should care which approach is taken is that there are 16 Superfund sites in this state.

The goal should be to thoroughly clean up Superfund sites in the most cost-effective way possible. Anything else is wasteful. We may soon know if federal officials understand that fact.

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Enid News & Eagle. Dec. 12, 2017.

It seems a day doesn’t go by that more allegations of sexual harassment come out against another well-known person.

We’ve seen allegations against Hollywood celebrities, politicians and business leaders.

The latest revelation came Monday about celebrity chef Mario Batali, who stepped away from his restaurant empire and cooking show “The Chew” after being accused of sexual harassment. In a statement Monday, he apologized and admitted to misconduct, saying “much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted.”

Unfortunately, there no doubt are many others we never hear about, because victims are afraid to speak out, mainly for fear of retaliation. And, the problem doesn’t just happen among celebrities and politicians. The military has been hit with scandals, too, and it extends down through society.

One question we have to ask is does this mean sexual harassment is becoming more prevalent, or are more women gaining the courage to take a stand and step forward?

We’d be naive to think sexual harassment is a new problem. In Hollywood, for instance, talk of the casting couch has been around since there was a Hollywood. Some men through the ages have used their power against women. And, there have been, and still are, instance of women acting inappropriately against men.

If there is one encouraging thing about the whole sordid problem, it’s that people are becoming less afraid to step forward and say “enough is enough,” at least when it comes to high-profile cases.

We would hope that courage works its way down to all levels of society. No victim should be afraid to step forward and report what’s happening to them.

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