Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Anniston Star on environmental pollution:
For several years, Anniston’s storyline has revolved around a few central talking points. One involves public education. Another references violent crime in certain neighborhoods. A third harps on the slow ebb of the city’s population losses. A fourth, however, is gloriously optimistic: the successful cleanup of the city’s environmental pollution.
Flash back to, say, 2000. The stockpile of aging and leaking Cold War-era chemical weapons stored at Anniston Army Depot hadn’t been safely destroyed. Unexploded ordnance infected the recently closed Fort McClellan. And the aftermath of the city’s industrial past -- PCBs and lead pollution -- plagued an astonishing number of properties.
The chemical weapons stockpile is gone.
Much of McClellan’s redevelopment thus far is directly tied to land’s availability after ordnance removal.
And the Wikipedia version of Anniston’s PCBs and lead saga is one of success -- land cleaned, public made safe.
Reality, though, says that isn’t entirely true.
Last month, The Star’s Tim Lockette reported on the ongoing ordnance cleanup in the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge. It’s nearly 8,000 acres of former Fort McClellan land northeast of Anniston, and it’s still partially tainted by leftover Army ordnance. Those hills and valleys that look so inviting to hikers and outdoorsmen are in some locations too dangerous to traverse, still. And, the McClellan Development Authority has said, the two Army contractors hired to clean the refuge may have to slow, or stop, work because the money budgeted for the work isn’t enough. The cleanup effort’s projected completion date is 2047.
Anniston’s PCBs struggle is more murky. On Sunday, Lockette reported again on the recent discovery of PCBs and other contaminants at the former site of the now-demolished Cooper Homes, the city’s first public housing facility for black residents. The unanswered questions surrounding this discovery -- mainly, (a.) why didn’t we know this before and (b.) have residents’ health been risked?
Lockette’s story also contained this nugget: officials with Eastman Chemical, the company that bought the former Monsanto plant, which made PCBs, and assumed responsibility for the cleanup, monitor when the city tears down dilapidated homes and checks the property for contamination. Given what we now know about the Cooper Homes site, there’s every reason to believe that Eastman may find other Anniston properties that remain dirty.
These two stories are unrelated in origin but directly linked to the larger picture of Anniston’s future.
Several years ago, this newspaper published a story detailing more than $3 billion spent on cleaning up Anniston’s environmental pollution and ostensibly declaring the work as essentially complete. We know today that that story was premature. In fact, cleaning Anniston and the surrounding land from man’s mistakes is likely a generational project that only our children, or their children, will see completed.
The Decatur Daily on America’s return to space:
The path to America’s return to space — without a detour through Kazakhstan — begins in Decatur.
Since the mothballing of the space shuttle program in 2011, U.S. astronauts going to the International Space Station have had to hitch rides on Russian rockets blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan, once a part of the late, unlamented Soviet Union. While we’re paying the Russians to send our astronauts to space, the Russians are leasing launch facilities from one of their former republics.
That the U.S. and Russia can cooperate at all shows how far we’ve come from the days of the Cold War and the carefully orchestrated Apollo-Soyuz linkup. But relations between the two countries remain chilly, and the U.S. shouldn’t be dependent upon a rival for access to space.
Just as Huntsville and Marshall Space Flight Center were central to sending Americans into space, Decatur and United Launch Alliance are central to getting them back there from American soil.
Last week, an Atlas V core booster and a Centaur upper stage were loaded aboard ULA’s Mariner cargo vessel on a voyage from ULA’s Decatur factory to Cape Canaveral, Florida. If all goes according to plan, later this year the core booster and upper stage will launch a Boeing CST-100 Starliner and its crew of three on a trip to low-Earth orbit and the ISS.
The timing couldn’t be much better. July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind.
Now ULA hopes to help inaugurate a new era of routine manned space missions launched from the United States.
The three astronauts scheduled to fly aboard the Starliner couldn’t ask for a better partner. ULA boasts a “100% mission success with 133 successful launches” between its Atlas V, Delta IV and now-retired Delta II rockets. This, however, will be ULA’s first manned mission, as the 800 ULA employees in Decatur are well aware.
“We know the astronauts. They come here, and we know about their families, and we consider them our family,” said production engineer Shannon Coggin. That has led to what she described as a “heightened awareness” at ULA Decatur. “We really take pride in knowing that we’re keeping them safe.”
There’s a reason people refer to things that are easy as “not rocket science.” Rocket science isn’t easy, even if the employees at ULA sometimes make it seem so. ULA is getting a shot at the first manned launch from the U.S. since the shuttle program because its main rival, SpaceX, lost an unmanned Dragon crew capsule in April during a failed test firing. Such a failure with a crew aboard could be catastrophic.
“That’s our No. 1 priority, to bring them home to their families,” Coggin said. “It’s a very real and serious responsibility that we don’t take lightly.”
And it is just the beginning. The first crewed Starliner launch is to be atop an Atlas V, but the future belongs to ULA’s new Vulcan rocket, which also will be assembled in Decatur and use an engine developed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and assembled in Huntsville. Vulcan is on schedule for its first launch in 2021.
We look forward to a future where America’s road to space goes not through Kazakhstan, but Decatur.
Dothan Eagle on decision not to air episode of “Arthur” depicting same-sex marriage:
Alabama Public Television is defending its decision not to air an episode of a popular children’s program, “Arthur,” because the episode included a same-sex marriage.
It’s unfortunate that APT officials feel the need to defend the move. For its audience, it was the prudent course.
“Arthur” is an animated children’s program featuring an 8-year-old aardvark that often explores issues that face families, such as illness. In the episode in question, one of the children’s teachers, Mr. Ratburn, is set to marry his partner, an aardvark named Patrick.
APT officials chose to air a re-run instead - wisely so, in our view.
Mike McKenzie, APT programming director, said that airing the episode would violate the trust of parents who believe their children can watch APT’s children’s programming without supervision.
That’s a valid position, particularly considering the controversy the state experienced over the federal court’s ruling on same-sex marriage in recent years.
It’s one thing for an educational television show targeting children from 4-8 to explore issues such as illness in the family. The nuances of sexuality and gender are best left to parents, who may choose when and how to broach the sensitive topic.