Tennessee editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Nov. 22, 2017
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Kingsport Times-News on distributors' role in the opioid crisis:
Anything can happen in a courtroom, but opioid distributors present what appears to be a solid defense in the flurry of lawsuits against them, the latest by Hawkins County.
The suits — more than 100 filed by law firms out for easy money — seek damages for the formidable public cost of prescription drug addiction. And that cost should be assigned, but where it belongs: those who manufacture and sell the product, and not those who merely service the marketplace by delivering a product. A separate suit bought by Tennessee attorneys general focuses on manufacturers.
"We aren't willing to be scapegoats," a spokesman for distributors said. Nor should they be.
The lawsuits target the three main distributors of prescription opioids, claiming they violated the terms of their federal permits by failing to track "irregularities in distribution patterns." Under federal law, distribution companies are required to report drug orders of unusually large size or that deviate from a pattern of frequency. But what if they don't?
A spokesman for an alliance of drug distributors said their function is to arrange for the transport and delivery of medicines to such facilities as are licensed to order them. Said the spokesperson, "We don't make medicines, market medicines, prescribe medicines or dispense them. ... The idea that distributors are solely responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense."
And that seems to make perfect sense. The distributors are in the business of delivering a product they don't make, to people whose use of it they don't control. How can they be held responsible for so-called doctor mills which overprescribe narcotics? The lawsuit is similar to insisting that the company that delivers for a bakery it does not own is responsible for taking note that in some parts, people eat more bread.
The spokesman said the distributors are willing to be part of a solution, but not to be held accountable for the actions of others. Distributors have no access to patient information nor are they qualified to question a licensed physician's recommended treatment plan for their patients, including prescriptions, or advertise to get more customers.
The bad actors aren't the people who deliver drugs from manufacturers to providers. It is those licensed by government to prescribe drugs, and we expect the courts will agree.
Johnson City Press on accidents involving pedestrians and drivers:
Here's some helpful advice to both pedestrians and drivers: Watch where you are going.
We suspect that many of the accidents at crosswalks here in Johnson City could have been prevented had the pedestrian, or the driver or both not been texting or talking on a phone.
Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings and slow down at crosswalks. They should slow down whenever their vision is obscured by weather or other factors, and never pass vehicles that have stopped for pedestrians.
There are also a few important tips that pedestrians should follow as well, such as always crossing the road legally by using a crosswalk, paying attention to their surroundings by looking both ways before crossing the road and wearing light colors and reflective material at night.
Too many areas of Johnson City streets are not very friendly to pedestrians. Some of the city's oldest and most populated neighborhoods still lack sidewalks.
Even in areas where the city has tried to improve the ability of pedestrians to get around safely, there is still much left to do. Needed are raised crosswalks, sufficient lighting and traffic lights that are properly timed with pedestrian crossing signals.
Pedestrians should make sure they follow all the safety rules at crosswalks before stepping into the street. Motorists also need to heed the speed limit and be watchful of pedestrians, especially when they are making turns.
The Commercial Appeal of Memphis on protecting the Memphis Sand Aquifer:
Frequent reminders of the vulnerabilities of the Memphis area water supply should persuade us that it is past time for local officials and concerned citizens to assume a greater role in its preservation.
In Memphis and the surrounding area, that means doing everything we can to protect the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the great "lake" that lies far below our feet, giving us a steady stream of high-quality water that fell as rain at least 2,000 years ago.
This reservoir is enormous. An estimated 57 trillion gallons lie beneath Shelby County alone. But it is not infinite. And there are gaps in the layer of clay above it that, for the most part, protects it from contamination.
A recent sampling of water from 150 feet below a former dry-cleaning site near the University of Memphis campus, however, revealed "elevated levels" of a toxic dry-cleaning solvent linked to liver, kidney and neurological problems and possibly cancer.
Previous discoveries include trace levels of industrial organic compounds and minute amounts of cancer-causing benzene.
None of these finds have revealed contamination at levels that should produce an immediate hazard to our health, but they remind us that we can't take the Memphis Sand for granted.
Other recent developments include the Tennessee Valley Authority's decision, approved by the county's Groundwater Quality Control Board, to drill wells for a new power plant that, according to environmentalists and some scientists, could suck contaminants into the source of the city's drinking water.
Pipeline projects that will transport fossil fuels uncomfortably close to the Memphis Sand have awakened Memphians to the realization that local citizens can't assume they will be given adequate notice of potential new risks.
One of the most immediate risks to the city's drinking water is a lawsuit now before the U.S. Supreme Court in which the state of Mississippi claims MLGW wells have pulled water northward across the state line.
An adverse decision in the case could cost Memphis up to $615 million in damages and force it to turn to the Mississippi River to get some of its water.
Local legislators during the 2017 session introduced at least two bills addressing some of these issues that merit support.
State Rep. Ron Lollar or Bartlett and state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown are calling for the establishment of a regional management board that would be endowed with "all of the powers, rights and privileges necessary" to preserve and protect the Memphis Sand.
Legislation by state Rep. G.A. Hardaway and state Sen. Lee Harris, both of Memphis, would require anyone planning to drill a well to give at least 14 days' advance notice to the state commissioner of Environment and Conservation or the local government with jurisdiction over wells in the area and publish a notice of intent on the Internet.
The administration of Mayor Jim Strickland could help move the community toward a more assertive stand by recharging the Blue Stream Task Force or something much like the diverse group of local scientists, environmentalists, engineers, and business and government leaders established by Mayor AC Wharton in 2015 but dormant since Wharton left office less than a year later.
Whoever takes the lead in the endeavor, preservation of the Memphis Sand is nothing less than vital to the physical and economic health of this community. Water is simply too precious a resource to cede this responsibility to outside parties, without vigorous local oversight.