Georgia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Macon Telegraph on traffic in Atlanta:
Transportation issues in and around the Atlanta metro area are vexing on a good day and good traffic days have been frightfully few since March 30 when a section of Interstate 85 mysteriously caught fire and collapsed. A vital route used by thousands of cars and trucks daily was suddenly out of commission and the section will be out of service until the middle of June if all goes according to plan. Contractors are working 24-hours a day to repair that section of highway. Commuters are left using surface streets and other travelers are stuck and not just those in the city. Traffic has slowed all around the Atlanta metro area.
But the I-85 collapse was not the only traffic trouble to befall the highways and byways of the metro. Before dawn on Monday, a driver stopped his SUV in the middle of the Downtown Connector to change lanes, according to a police report. Why on Earth would he do that? The driver, from Memphis, Tennessee, was obviously confused, something quite easy to do if you’re not accustomed to driving in Atlanta. Those who drive there regularly know the drill. You have to start maneuvering early if you’re planning to exit long before it comes in sight — and if you’re looking down at your GPS or trying to read the signs you’re liable to miss it. Unfortunately, a tractor trailer didn’t see the stopped vehicle and on impact, the rig overturned with its cargo of benzoyl chloride, a toxic chemical that can cause burns to the skin and eyes and it smells pretty putrid, too. Interstate -75/I-85 were shut down for hours. And that wasn’t all.
A little further southeast on Interstate 20, westbound lanes buckled due to a problem with underground utilities according to the Georgia Department of Transportation, sending one motorcyclist to the hospital with multiple injuries. Fortunately the road was fully repaired by 5 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Atlanta was still not out of the woods. On Wednesday, a sinkhole opened up on 5th Street between West Peachtree and Cypress streets in Midtown. No idea when that will be repaired. If there is a silver lining to all of this it would have to be that nobody was hurt in the I-85 section collapse. While there were minor injuries reported in the accident between the big rig and SUV, the drivers of both vehicles survived — and even the motorcyclist is expected to recover.
All of this in the scope of a week in a city that’s rated by U.S. News and World Report as having the ninth worst traffic in the country. Average hours an Atlantan wasted in traffic in 2015 was 59. The worst cities are Los Angeles, with 81 hours spent on the roads there and a tie between Washington, D.C. and San Francisco at 75 hours.
But back to Atlanta, whose idea was it to put three major interstates, I-75, I-85 and I-20, straight through the middle of the South’s major city? We would bet that the next time there is a discussion about mass transit in certain suburban areas of Atlanta there may be more open minds to the idea after seeing how dependent certain sections of the city are to traffic arteries.
The Newnan Times-Herald on a test to help immigrants integrate into communities:
Americans are proud to call ourselves “a nation of immigrants,” but the subject of immigration has been a sore one in recent years. So, an idea just implemented in Australia might be worth borrowing to help us reconcile our own conflicted feelings on the matter.
One the one hand, most Americans can trace our lineage to immigrants and recognize the many contributions of immigrants in all sectors of life, like science, commerce, medicine and the arts. It’s cool that we live in a place that attracts talented people.
Plus, demographic trends show there won’t be enough workers to pay Social Security benefits to the baby-boom generation without immigrants.
On the other hand, we also realize that a major asset for any country is when the population is united through shared language and values. There are plenty of negative examples to prove the dangers of balkanization, such as Syria, Turkey, Bosnia, and Myanmar.
How do we welcome immigrants and yet ensure they share enough of our worldview to enhance our society rather than conflict with it?
Many countries around the world face the same struggle. Disputes about it led to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, and clashes over it in France are frequent and violent.
Australia has a novel approach. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull just imposed a multipart test.
It quadruples the period of required residency from one year to four. Applicants must also provide evidence of community involvement over that time, like job records, volunteering, club membership or school enrollment.
It imposes language fluency requirements for writing, reading, listening and speaking -- recognizing that hearing and reading a new language is comparatively easy but speaking and writing takes real understanding.
Turnbull’s test also questions immigration applicants’ values to ensure they mesh with the majority of the country. They are asked their views on forced child marriage, female genital mutilation and whether they believe religious laws trump civil laws.
America’s citizenship test is already pretty rigorous with history and civics questions that stump many native-born adults. Adding a few of Turnbull’s ideas might help strengthen confidence in it.
Improved public confidence in our citizenship requirements might lead to wider acceptance of the kind of immigration reforms that could ultimately change the flow of illegal immigration into legal immigration with greater assimilation.
The Savannah Morning News on UGA dropping a recruit over domestic violence accusations:
A few hours after he was introduced on Stanford Stadium’s football field as one of the University of Georgia’s star recruits, surely one of the proudest moments of his young life, D’antne Demery found himself in jail. He’d been spotted outside a Waffle House in Athens that night with his hands pressed around a woman’s throat, according to police reports. A Waffle House employee called the cops.
By the time police arrived, the two people had vanished, but soon the young woman was calling 911 to say Mr. Demery had hit her. Police reports allege that after they left the Waffle House area, he started getting loud, she tried to walk away from him but he threatened her, grabbed the back of her neck, pushed her into a wall and pulled her hair. After friends pulled them apart, he came at her again, witnesses told police. The woman is the mother of Mr. Demery’s 1-month-old baby.
At 19, Mr. Demery weighs 310 pounds and stands 6-foot-7. The name and size of his baby’s mother isn’t available, but it’s a good bet she isn’t half his weight.
We believe in due process of law and realize that Mr. Demery is innocent unless and until proven otherwise. Nonetheless, we applaud UGA coach Kirby Smart for not waiting around to drop Mr. Demery as a Bulldog recruit.
College and pro football have been disgracefully slow in recognizing how serious it is for these big men to strike, choke, punch or rape women. It wasn’t until video of Baltimore Raven Ray Rice knocking out his fiancé and dragging her limp body out of an elevator went public that the National Football League seriously punished him and, in 2014, ratcheted up its own policies in such cases.
And yet, enforcement is still patchy, according to an extensive report earlier this year in the bleacherreport.com online magazine.
Mr. Demery knows what he did and didn’t do to this young woman, who, by the way, said he’d been violent with her previously. If what she says is true, if witnesses to the Saturday night incident gave accurate reports to police, we recommend Mr. Demery spend his time learning how not to hit women, or anyone else off the playing field.
The Southeastern Conference forbids its schools from bringing onto their teams players transferred from another school because of domestic violence. But it has no rules covering recruits. It should. Mr. Demery could wind up playing football elsewhere.
It was after just such an incident that the SEC adopted its rule about team members accused of sexual or domestic violence. Georgia had dismissed defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor in 2014 when he was arrested for beating a girlfriend, only to see him show up at a community college in Mississippi, where the University of Alabama prevailed over other schools that were recruiting him. But within months of his joining the Crimson Tide, Taylor was again arrested on charges he’d assaulted his new girlfriend.
But that didn’t end his college football career, either. While the wheels of justice were barely turning in Athens on those 2014 initial charges, Mr. Taylor landed on the Southern Louisiana University football team.
Finally, last December, Mr. Taylor pleaded guilty in Athens to three misdemeanor assault-related charges and was sentenced to three years’ probation. Included in his punishment was the requirement that he attend anger management training. It’s comforting that he’ll be on a tight leash for three years, and that any violation of the terms of his probation, such as contact with the victim, could land him in prison for the rest of his probationary period. Still, if the assault was provable, he should be getting time behind bars. Probation isn’t sufficient.
Anger management training can be a valuable tool, which is why we recommend it. But it shouldn’t replace punishment for a serious crime. It’s troubling, too, that charges in domestic violence cases are often classified as misdemeanors. We know that men who abuse women have a hard time breaking the habit. And we know, too, that they often escalate. Slapping her around too often leads to murder.
We urge Athens-Clarke County District Attorney Kenneth Mauldin to pursue the Mr. Demery’s case fairly but vigorously. If the charges are true, he does need help. But he’d also need to be shown through punishment how serious it is to knock around someone a fraction of his size.
At the same time, the SEC needs to toughen it rules regarding recruits who beat people, especially women and children. And the NFL must work at enforcing the rules it was shamed into writing.