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Recent Missouri Editorials

July 23, 2019

The Joplin Globe, July 19

Our view: No more duck boats

There’s “No!” Then there’s “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks no!”

When we hear people speculating about reviving duck boats as a tourist attraction for Branson and Table Rock Lake, well — get the hockey sticks.

It was one year ago today that a duck boat sank in Table Rock Lake, killing 17 people.

Advocates say: “This was a freak accident.” ″They still operate elsewhere.” ″These boats can be made safer.”

We say: This was no freak accident but one waiting to happen, given the inherent problems with using these boats for tourism, a purpose for which they were not designed. Not to mention the industry’s own failures to address known issues going back decades.

And yes, they operate elsewhere. All we can say to that is “Good Luck! You’ve been warned!”

They also can be made safer, no doubt, but can they be made safe enough? Unlikely.

In fact, they could have been made safer decades ago, but they weren’t. In other words, the industry had its chance, but ignored the problem. How many more chances do we give it?

None.

Two decades earlier, after the sinking of a duck boat in Arkansas and 13 deaths, the National Transportation Safety Board made recommendations that, had they been implemented, may well have averted the disaster at Table Rock. The NTSB warned, for example, of the danger of canopies on these boats. Those canopies function “like a net,” the agency said, when passengers need to escape a sinking boat. Not only are life jackets useless in that instance, but they make matters worse, as victims get trapped against the canopy as the boat sinks.

Yet no changes were made, and that contributed to the high fatality count on Table Rock Lake.

We also learned that duck boats, built to operate on roads as well as water, have a metal frame, rather than wood or fiberglass, and a heavy chassis and transmission, according to the NTSB report. That causes them to sink quickly. No steps were taken to offset the weight and add buoyancy, although — again — this was a known danger.

Bottom line: We don’t trust the boats and we don’t trust the industry.

One more question: Would you get on one of the duck boats today, knowing what you know now? Would you buy a ticket on one for your mother or your children?

See paragraph 2, above.

______

The Jefferson City News-Tribune, July 21

Our opinion: Lawmakers wrongly choosing tourism over education

For all state officials’ talk of supporting “local control,” it sometimes seems like they prefer to keep control in their own hands.

That’s even more noticeable when their decisions are to the detriment of Missouri.

Our example du jour is Gov. Mike Parson’s signing of a bill that restricts schools from starting earlier than 14 days before the first Monday in September.

Why, you ask, is it in the best interest of our state to not start educating our students any sooner?

Tourism.

That’s right. Families aren’t vacationing well into August, so the tourism income slows down sooner than the tourism industry would prefer.

So by banning schools from starting early in August, we can boost the state’s tourism industry during the month. Or so the theory goes.

We question how well that will work, since most people have a limited budget for discretionary spending, including vacations/day trips, etc. If people take their vacation in August rather than in July, there’s no net gain. Granted, children could still provide cheap labor at burger joints and log flumes a little later into the summer.

This isn’t the first time tourism interests have gotten lawmakers to change the school-starting schedule. Eventually, lawmakers changed the law to allow local school boards more flexibility in setting their calendars.

Like all states, tourism is important to Missouri, and the Show-Me State has much to offer between the Lake of the Ozarks, theme parks, sports teams, the state Capitol, Branson, etc.

But why should we prioritize tourism at the possible expense of education?

You can argue the effect on education is minimal. After all, students still will have the same number of days in schools. But different schools have different needs, and we suspect many of them have reasons for starting when they do.

Plus, the more schools extend their year into late May or June, the harder it will be for teachers to keep students’ attention.

At any rate, it’s disconcerting to see public education used in any way to prop up tourism.

______

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 18

Congressional Republicans shame themselves with their silence on Trump’s racism.

Days after President Donald Trump’s racist declaration that four congresswomen of color — three of them American-born — should “go back” where they came from, the response from most members of the party of Lincoln continues to be ... nothing. At a moment that requires a clear denunciation of this deeply unAmerican rhetoric, most Republican members of Congress from the St. Louis region, as around the nation, have offered only shameful silence.

Even after Trump’s continued attacks against a Somali-born congresswoman inspired chants of “Send her back!” at a rally Wednesday, most elected Republicans have let the crickets respond. This should negate any claim they have to any principle beyond craven political survival.

Trump Sunday tweeted that “Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” should “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

For three of the congresswomen he was clearly referring to — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib — that would mean going “back” to, respectively, New York, Cincinnati and Detroit. The fourth, Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., immigrated from Somalia as a child.

You don’t hear whites — say, Irish Americans or Italian Americans — in 2019 being told to go “back where they came from.” Today, that particular expression is intended to deprive people of their Americanness based on skin color and ethnicity. It’s racist to its core, and those who don’t call it out enable it.

Yet of the almost dozen Republican members of Congress who represent Missouri and southern Illinois, precious few have made any public statements at all about it, clearly fearful of upsetting Trump’s base.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., offered a milquetoast suggestion that Trump confine his comments to policy. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., did better, chiding “comments that make many Americans feel unwelcome in the nation they call home.” But both statements were couched in timid both-siderism, calling out Democratic policy views as if their offenses were on par with Trump’s.

Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., meanwhile, lunged to Trump’s defense with an obtuse tweet chiding critics who “interpret” racism in Trump’s remarks. Read them again, congressman; no interpretation is necessary.

From most of the region’s GOP delegation, though, as with most congressional Republicans in the country, the response has been a cowardly, mute void. This includes, notably, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., the freshman senator who has had no problem speaking his mind on pretty much every other issue out there.

Given the bright red line that Trump has so enthusiastically crossed this week, the question of whether to continue supporting him — either assertively or through inappropriate silence — is no longer merely an indicator of party loyalty or policy priorities; it has become a test of courage, character and fundamental decency. And these elected officials have failed it.

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