- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Sept. 23

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on backing from allies:

It doesn’t take a fancy national survey to catch the mood: Americans are cautious about more military interventions abroad, even against thugs of the likes of the Islamic State.

Yet the backing of majorities in both the House and Senate suggests that President Barack Obama has made a good case for the new air attacks in Iraq and Syria. Further, we are heartened that the United States is part of a broader coalition for action.

Five Arab states with close ties to the United States joined in the Syria strikes. That is in addition to the air strikes by America’s oldest ally, France, in support of the legitimate if currently shaky government of Iraq. Britain is reportedly ready to help, as well, in part because of the brutal beheading of a British citizen held by militants.

Turkey, with whom our alliance has been testy lately, has been holding off - officially because of Turkish hostages in the Islamic State’s custody. But its national interests are not served by a flood of refugees from Syria, and its absence is difficult to justify.

This new campaign is thus a tough call, which is what presidents and congresses are for, but the support of our allies is one way in which the American people can be reassured about our military support of the governments of the region.




Sept. 16

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on highways:

The very fact that Louisiana highways dropped to 40th in the nation clearly shows that transportation needs to be a higher priority in this state.

Having a well-maintained, modern highway system is essential to safety as well as economic development.

“The state also ranks 44th in its highway fatality rate, 41st in the condition of rural interstate pavements and 39th in the number of deficient bridges,” reads a story in The Advocate.

The findings are included in the 21st Annual Highway Report by the Reason Foundation. …

David T. Hartgen, the author of the study, said the state’s rating was also hurt by a drop in its spending for highway maintenance. ‘So a bigger problem and less money to work with yields a drop in the ratings,’ Hartgen said in an interview,” reads the Advocate story.

The state was ranked 24th in highway conditions and spending effectiveness by the same group in 2011. …

Hartgen said the ranking dropped in part because urban interstate mileage rated as poor rose from 8.7 percent to 15.3 percent, which is three times the national average. …,” reads the story.

Rural interstate mileage classified as poor shot up from less than 1 percent to 4 percent, which is about double the national average.

“In just one year the backbone, if you will, of the Louisiana highway system registered a very significant uptick in the percent of poor mileage,’ he said.

Rodney Mallett, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said the state has invested $6.4 billion in highway improvements since 2008, including over $1.8 billion to improve key interstate corridors.

The report was issued just a week after a special committee began hearings on how to boost state aid for roads and bridges amid a $12 billion backlog of improvements.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley, R-Benton and a member of the panel, has repeatedly complained that the state is spending too little on highway maintenance.

“That is our problem,’ Adley said … of the report’s linkage of maintenance and deteriorating pavements.

He said the state needs to spend at least $70 million per year for road upkeep.

“I am going to introduce several bills to ensure that happens,’” Adley said.

Elected officials need to make highways a higher priority. They should spend less on pork barrel projects and more on essentials such as health, education and roads.




Sept. 22

The News-Star on arming campus police:

Every year recently in the state Legislature, university officials have been forced to lobby against proposed legislation that would allow a lot of gun-toting on college campuses.

That is a natural reaction to the high-profile incidents that have occurred on school campuses. But it isn’t an appropriate one.

Universities, which operate like cities with their own law enforcement agencies, must plan and prepare for such incidents. University police are no longer the Barney Fifes of years past. They undergo the same training and preparation as municipal police officers.

At the University of Louisiana at Monroe, a recent report from the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that university police possess 12 fully automatic M16 assault rifles obtained through the Louisiana Federal Property Surplus program.

ULM believes it’s all about being prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.

ULM paid about $500 for the 12 weapons in 2012 under the administration of Police Chief Larry Ellerman. The guns are valued at more than $1,000 each.

“We’re very fortunate that we’ve not had the need to use these rifles, but they are here, in case we do,” ULM Officer in Charge Steve Mahon said. “The only time that I foresee us ever having to pull them out would be if we had an active shooter type situation occurring on campus.”

For security reasons, Mahon said that he does not want to disclose where the rifles are, but he confirmed they are all “under lock and key,” and each has been issued and fitted to a specific officer.

According to Mahon, when the weapons must be transported from their secure locations they are concealed and guarded.

Mahon said the law enforcement’s view of arming every officer with high-powered weapons changed following the Columbine High School shooting.

He said that at Columbine, officers stood back to wait for the SWAT team to arrive with the heavy weaponry, leaving the shooter more time to inflict harm.

“Our officers here will immediately respond to an active shooter,” Mahon said. “There will be no waiting on another law enforcement agency or Monroe SWAT or anything like that. The situation would be long gone before any of them got here.”

Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, who has in the past sought to prohibit weapons on college campuses, said he understands the need for the M16s.

“I think if they have the appropriate safeguards and protocols in place I don’t see where that should be a problem,” he said. “One thing that you would never want to think about is the bad guys having more fire power than the police.”

In campus incidents, it’s been all about how fast law enforcement is able to reply and intervene. ULM officers have instructions to shoot on sight when an active shooter is involved, and ask questions later.

While the idea of arming university police with assault rifles is more than a little scary, all of us need to understand that it is indeed a different and much more dangerous world than it was even a few years ago.

As long as university police maintain adequate security of the weapons and continue to maintain shooting-range certification to use them, we’re OK with that.



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