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North Carolina editorial roundup

December 19, 2018

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Dec. 19

The Fayetteville Observer on withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria:

The Trump administration may have sent ISIS a lifeline. It could be a costly decision — for the United States, for the nations of the Middle East, for the world.

The murderous butchers of Islamic State were on the ropes, their “caliphate” in tatters, their existence largely limited to remote sections of Syria. Several thousand American soldiers — many of them Special Operations troops from Fort Bragg — are in the region, working with an assortment of militias and some allied forces to exterminate what remains of the vicious insurgency that once claimed a broad swath of Syria and Iraq, including the latter country’s second-largest city, Mosul.

But an intense effort by Iraqi, American and other allied forces — especially tough Kurdish fighters — recaptured most of Iraq’s territory and drove ISIS into Syria, with the goal of neutralizing and eliminating the fanatic force.

But the effort was still a long way from the final death knell. As American Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in September, “Getting rid of the caliphate doesn’t mean you then blindly say, ‘Okay, we got rid of it,’ march out and then wonder why the caliphate comes back.” As recently as the beginning of this week, Pentagon officials were saying that the U.S. is in it for the long haul, prepared to continue the effort to crush the insurgency.

But all that changed on Wednesday morning, when the White House announced that all American troops in Syria would be brought home. The president tweeted that the United States had “defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” The move makes good on a longstanding Trump vow — first stated during his presidential campaign — to get American troops out of Syria.

The trouble is, ISIS hasn’t been fully defeated. That’s still a work in progress, which is why we’ve had as many as 4,000 American troops there, coordinating with other forces, training and supplying them, and sometimes directly engaging with ISIS remnants. Our presence has also served as a balance to efforts by Russia and Iran to extend their influence throughout the region — a mission of considerable importance.

Bringing our troops home before the job is done and there is some stability in the region is a dangerous risk unlikely to work out well for us or our allies. ...

Online: https://www.fayobserver.com/

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Dec. 16

StarNews of Wilmington on a proposed consent order requiring a chemical company accused of polluting a river to limit emissions:

We have no doubt that the Chemours consent order does many important things and gets them done quickly, not only for groundwater users in Bladen County, but also for those of us who get our water from the Cape Fear River. Everything the proposed court order requires needs to be done.

You might say this is a strong dose of medicine in the treatment of the GenX problem, albeit a first course. However, we are very concerned about possible side effects. Specifically, will the proposed agreement negatively affect the Lower Cape Fear region, either by weakening current efforts to hold Chemours accountable, or by tying the hands of both our area and the state on future action? We’re not sure. And, the best we can tell, neither are lots of other folks, including our elected officials and the utilities that treat the water we drink.

That is why the consent-order process needs to be slowed down, questions answered, and the public-comment period extended. And just as Cape Fear River Watch — a party to the consent order along with Chemours and the state — held a public information meeting here, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality should do the same. DEQ also should meet with local elected officials and water-utility leaders to address the concerns they have with the proposal.

We also are concerned that one of the parties involved in this far-reaching agreement that will impact several hundred thousand people is a private organization, which means the public has no way to hold it accountable. We appreciate the work of Cape Fear River Watch and do not question its intentions. The nonprofit environmental group, effectively, initiated the consent order by suing Chemours and DEQ (in separate cases) earlier this year.

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Since the state is a party to the consent order, we feel it has an obligation to consult other public agencies and governments that the order significantly affects, notably, local water utilities and county and municipal governments. They make up the party obviously missing from this agreement and the negotiations that led to it. Neither Chemours nor Cape Fear River Watch were obligated to give these groups a seat at the table, but we believe DEQ certainly had that obligation, or, at a minimum, an obligation to consult with those groups.

With that in mind, we hope that the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (or one or more other public bodies) will file a motion to intervene, and be granted a seat at the negotiating table.

Once again, we appreciate the work undertaken by Cape Fear River Watch ... But CFRW does not and cannot speak for the public.

If we have to rely on a private group taking the state to court to ensure we get clean water, we are in big trouble.

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Online: https://www.starnewsonline.com/

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Dec. 19

The Charlotte Observer on a news report about the Carolina Panthers planning a team headquarters and practice facility over the South Carolina border:

It’s hard to top a late-season swoon or the star quarterback’s bum shoulder, but the winner for Headline Carolina Panthers Fans Didn’t Want To See Right Now is likely one that had nothing to do with the team’s on-field woes. Instead, it was a report from the Charleston Post and Courier that the Panthers plan to build a team headquarters, practice facility and a development of hotels, retail and residences over the South Carolina border in York County.

But fans in Charlotte — and especially Charlotte officials — shouldn’t overreact to the report, credible as it appears. Let’s break down what it means and what it doesn’t.

At least a few things could be happening here. The Panthers could be looking to expand their Carolinas footprint while finding a more affordable place to build the kind of PanthersLand retail and entertainment complex that owner David Tepper has envisioned since he took over the team. The Panthers also could be dangling the South Carolina possibility to get a better deal for a similar complex in Charlotte. Or this could be a very early negotiating ploy to soften up Charlotte officials for talks about improving or replacing Bank of America Stadium.

As for the first possibility, the team has long wanted to represent both Carolinas, and York County would likely be able to provide cheaper real estate — and lots of it — to fulfill Tepper’s multi-use vision. Losing the team’s 300-plus jobs would sting Charlotte, but such a move shouldn’t be seen as a harbinger for a larger Panthers move. Although not impossible, it’s unlikely the team would buck a trend of pro sports franchises building stadiums in downtown areas instead of the lesser-populated suburbs. Given that, building a splashy new headquarters in nearby York would be good news — a signal of a longer-term Panthers commitment to the Charlotte area.

Still, it’s curious that few officials in York seemed to know anything about the Panthers’ plans. That’s sparked some speculation that the team is merely trying to remind Charlotte that its headquarters (and perhaps even its stadium) are not tethered to uptown. The report did set some hearts racing in the Government Center, and even N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper reportedly visited with Tepper this week in Charlotte to discuss the importance of the team remaining in the city. So if the speculation about York was simply a negotiating tactic, it wasn’t a bad one.

None of which is comforting to Charlotte fans or public officials who remember the heartache of losing the Hornets to New Orleans 16 years ago. But the political climate surrounding pro sports franchises and cities has changed since then. There’s more pushback against public officials opening the vault to keep teams from leaving, especially in progressive cities where leaders recognize the many other needs that demand our public dollars. Just this week, when Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver threatened to move his NBA team if an arena deal fell through, the backlash was so severe that Sarver retreated and said the team is committed to the city.

Charlotte remains a thriving NFL market that the league likely has no interest in leaving. The team remains an integral, valuable part of the city’s brand. As we’ve said in this space, there’s opportunity for the city and team to get creative, perhaps by partnering on a sizable uptown entertainment district near Bank of America Stadium. What Charlotte shouldn’t do is panic, no matter how discomfiting a headline may be.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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