North Carolina editorial roundup
Summary of recent North Carolina newspaper editorials
By The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Greensboro News & Record on a thwarted mass shooting at a North Carolina university:
If not for the grace of God, quick police work and the sound judgment of students, High Point University may have been next on the long list of mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019.
A freshman at High Point University was arrested last week after police found a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun and ammunition in his dormitory room.
Nineteen-year-old Paul Arnold Steber of Boston was charged with two felony counts of possessing weapons on educational property and one felony count of communicating a threat of mass violence on educational property.
According to High Point police records, Steber had been planning “to shoot up the school.”
HPU students probably saved any number of lives by alerting campus security that Steber had brought weapons onto campus.
They also provided a strong example for the rest of us.
How many times in hindsight have people who have known a mass shooter come forward after the fact to say they weren’t surprised?
Steber’s behavior certainly had been both odd and disturbing. He was jailed without bail and ordered by a judge to undergo a mental evaluation.
A Guilford County prosecutor said in court one day after Steber’s arrest that he had planned to kill his roommate and then himself if the two were not accepted as members of an HPU fraternity. The prosecutor added, according to WGHP-TV, that Steber had chosen a North Carolina college because the gun laws here are less restrictive than in Massachusetts.
He may have a point. Although state law prohibits guns on college campuses, it does make exceptions for some school employees as well as concealed carry permit holders, provided they leave the guns in closed container in a locked vehicle. Steber met neither exception. But some state legislators have tried in recent years to make the law more permissive, even trying, in one case, to allow guns in college classrooms.
The near miss at HPU comes only months after a mass shooting in April at UNC-Charlotte claimed two lives in and seriously wounded three others. One of the fatally wounded students, ROTC student Riley Howell, saved others by charging the gunman and appropriately was buried with full military honors.
Among the survivors was 19-year-old Drew Pescaro, who recently lifted his shirt at the General Assembly to show where a bullet entered his back and exited his through his lower chest. So far, the legislature has been unmoved. Bills that address gun violence, including a “red flag law” that would allow judges to restrict access to firearm by an individual who may deemed to pose a danger himself or others, remain stalled by Republican resistance.
Some people seem genuinely convinced that the only way to address gun violence is with more guns. Others fear blowback from the National Rifle Association.
For his part, Pescaro said he didn’t care whom he offends by calling for action. “I have reached a point where I am no longer concerned with upsetting anyone because I need to do this for myself — and in my opinion, being strong or inspirational means speaking up when others can’t or won’t,” he wrote.
Unfortunately for North Carolina, some can’t move sensible gun legislation forward in the General Assembly because others won’t let them.
StarNews of Wilmington on the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s outlook for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge:
Bridging the Cape Fear River near the central part of Wilmington is one of the biggest infrastructure challenges in our area — and one of the most essential. Always has been. That was the case when the Memorial Bridge was built in the 1960s — indecision on a route, political spats and funding dilemmas abounded then and remain hurdles today.
With the lifespan of that venerable structure growing shorter by the day, we can’t afford to move slowly on a replacement, much less sit stuck in neutral. On Wednesday (Aug. 28), an N.C. Department of Transportation official told local leaders that the bridge can be used for 20 more years. Want to keep raising it for vessels? Shorten that to 10 years. And Chad Kimes, the DOT official who was briefing the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), said the bridge being closed is not an option. The “Izzy” bridge can’t handle the traffic.
So the clock is ticking, and we’ve been warned — we need to start the replacement process ... yesterday.
Although several MPO board members rightly expressed frustration over the DOT abruptly ending work — at least for now — on adding another span farther south (the Cape Fear Crossing), that’s going to have to be water under the bridge. The takeaway Wednesday was that we have to get busy replacing the bridge we have.
“The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge has to be replaced, regardless of the status of the Cape Fear Crossing project,” Kimes told a crowded meeting of obviously concerned politicians and other leaders.
The Cape Fear Crossing was — and still is — needed as an addition to the Memorial Bridge; it was never meant as a replacement. Local officials made that clear and the DOT appears to agree. The ambitious project can be resurrected. It will need to be. But right now all effort — and needed funding — needs to go toward getting the Memorial Bridge replacement process underway, we believe.
A new bridge on essentially the same footprint as the Memorial Bridge is less complicated, less controversial and a lot less expensive than the Cape Fear Crossing. There’s also the possibility that it could be a moderate-height span bridge, depending on the shipping needs up-river. Stakeholder meetings will begin soon and the DOT would like to see construction begin in five years.
For some, the Cape Fear Crossing — with its up-to-$1.5 billion price tag — was always a bit of a pipedream. Reaching local consensus on a route proved to be a bad dream, as it became clear that more than a river divides New Hanover and Brunswick counties.
The final wake-up call — actually a death knell — was a lack of funding for the approximately 9.5-mile road and bridge meant to improve traffic flow and enhance freight movement from U.S. 17 and I-140 in Brunswick County to U.S. 421 near the port. (Independence Boulevard was one of the span’s possible landing points.)
Kimes did not mince words: “There is no way to fund this project at this time.”
At least now we know where we stand.
The biggest pile of money for transportation projects is a statewide fund. That money tends to travel toward big projects in Charlotte, Raleigh and the Greensboro-Winston-Salem area. We would hope, however, that the replacement of a soon-to-age-out bridge that serves the state’s major port and one of its biggest cities and fastest-growing areas will quickly move up the DOT’s priority list, wherever the funding comes from.
As Kimes said, “The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge has to be replaced.”
Repeat after us:
“The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge has to be replaced.”
“The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge has to be replaced.”
This is not a pipe dream. Inaction — even too-slow action — will result in a nightmare for our area.
The Winston-Salem Journal on hope in the fight against opioids in North Carolina:
A lot of attention fell last week on the news that Oklahoma successfully struck back against some of the drug manufacturers that fueled that state’s opioid addiction epidemic. The results have serious implications for North Carolina communities that are helping people struggling with addictions.
Johnson & Johnson, one-time purveyor of cotton swabs and baby shampoo, was fined $572 million for its participation in manufacturing and distributing billions of pills that exacerbated addictions in Oklahoma. Oklahoma also reached a $270 million settlement with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and an $85 million settlement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
Many of us will feel a sense of justice as we read about these outcomes — and see them as signs of hope for the lawsuits filed against opioid distributors by state and local governments, including Forsyth, Surry, Stokes, Wilkes, Yadkin and Davie counties. It’s good to see someone, even a faceless conglomerate, held accountable for all the pain our friends and neighbors have suffered.
But the only real success will come as the scourge of opioid addiction becomes a thing of the past and its victims recover to take their rightful places in society again.
There were 97 opioid-related overdose deaths in the 15-county region of the Triad and Northwest North Carolina in the first quarter of 2018, according to officials with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Twenty-two of those deaths occurred in Forsyth County, 18 were in Guilford, 14 each in Davidson and Randolph, eight in Alamance, seven in Rockingham, five in Wilkes, four in Surry, three in Yadkin and one each in Davie and Stokes, the Journal reported.
From 2006 to 2012, more than 2.5 billion opioid pills were distributed in North Carolina, according to recently released government data made available by the Washington Post.
Almost 43 million of those came to Forsyth County.
That’s only a tiny fraction of the billions and billions of pills that went through pharmacies and other dispensaries around the country. Drug manufacturers should have responded to the problem more responsibly, but it’s hard to turn off the spigot when profits are high.
The circumstances that lead to addiction to prescription painkillers are as varied as the individuals who become addicted. Some become addicted to painkillers following injuries or operations. As their prescriptions expire, they may shop around for doctors who will renew them or turn to cheaper street drugs like heroin to manage their pain.
Others fall into taking pain killers as the result of life difficulties that include unemployment, depression and high levels of stress.
It can be hard to explain addiction to those who haven’t experienced it, but it’s all too substantial for those who have been there. Few intend to become addicted, but all hunger for relief from their pain.
There is some good news, relatively speaking: Unintentional opioid-related overdose deaths fell by 5% in 2018, compared to a 34% increase in 2017, NCDHHS reported last week.
In 2017, the state instituted an opioid action plan that has led to a 24 percent decrease in opioid dispensing and a 14 percent increase in prescriptions for drugs used to treat addiction. Emergency department visit for opioid overdoses dropped 10 percent between 2017 and 2018. North Carolina has received more than $54 million in federal funding to provide treatment for over 12,000 individuals fighting substance abuse.
We can all contribute, when we become aware of a loved one’s problems, by encouraging them to take the proper steps and supporting them through their efforts. We can contribute by being aware of the problem’s intricacies and informing others. There’s a role for everyone to play, from doctors, pharmacists and counselors to state legislators. Working together, we can beat the scourge.