- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


Sept. 20

The Valdosta Daily Times on National Child Passenger Safety Week:

This week is recognized as National Child Passenger Safety Week and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is sponsoring events statewide to raise awareness for all parents and caregivers to keep children safe.

The campaign focuses on making sure children are seated in the correct car seat, booster or seatbelt.

The goal of Child Passenger Safety Week “is to ensure all parents and caregivers are correctly using the right car seat or booster for their child’s age, height and weight,” according to the governor’s office.

Throughout Georgia, communities are conducting car seat check events and educational activities leading up to national Seat Check Saturday Sept. 24.

“Car crashes are still the leading cause of death for children both in Georgia and nationwide,” GOHS Director Harris Blackwood said in a press release. “Sadly, we’ve found that more than half, 59 percent, of all car seats are installed incorrectly. That is why we join this national campaign every year … to share the lifesaving knowledge of properly buckling up your young passengers.”

A child under 13 is involved in a traffic crash every 33 seconds, according to the office of highway safety.

In 2014, 252 children under 5 years old were saved because they were riding in the correct car seat, the office said in a prepared statement, adding, “an additional 100 children could’ve been saved if their car seat had been used correctly. Also in 2014, 38 percent of children under 13 killed in car crashes were completely unbuckled … no car seats, no booster seats and no seat belts.”

“It’s OK if you’re not sure if your child’s car seat is installed correctly. That’s what we’re here for,” Blackwood said in the release. “We have a comprehensive, county-by-county list on our website of free car seat check events happening statewide during CPS week. Find one near you and make sure your kids are safe.”

Safety officials recommend keeping children in rear-facing car seats as long as possible up to the top height or weight recommended by the respective seat maker. It is also recommended that after youths outgrow the rear-facing or “infant” seats, the child should be seated in what is known as a rear-facing “convertible” or multi-use car seat, and after outgrowing the rear-facing size limits, then the child can be seated in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

Safety officials said children should be in booster seats until the age of 8, as required by Georgia law.

We encourage parents and caregivers to take the warning, recommendations and the law seriously and help keep Georgia children safe on the roadways.




Sept. 16

The Savannah Morning News on expansion for Georgia ports:

The Georgia Ports Authority, never shy when pushing for growth, is embarking on an ambitious plan to extend by rail and by road the reach of its distribution points into the Mid-west. The idea is to help customers move goods over to Memphis, up to St. Louis and Chicago, and into the Ohio River Valley at Columbus, Ohio.

This means connecting the two rail yards in Garden City to each other, thus creating the largest rail facility on the East Coast and doubling capacity over the next three years, GPA’s new executive director, Griffith Lynch, said Thursday in the authority’s annual State of the Port address. There will be an inter-modal Appalachian Regional Port on 42 acres in northwest Georgia’s Murray County. To carry 25 trains a week into the so-called Mid-America Arc will take 4,700 miles of rail.

At the same time, deepening the Savannah Harbor to make room for giant new cargo ships is set for 2020 completion. Plus, interstate and highway improvements locally, around Macon and in Atlanta are under way to ease truck access and reduce traffic congestion, for example, with trucks-only lanes on I-16. Then there are a smattering of more efforts to reduce pollution and improve services to the wide range of customers that move goods through the five deep water ports of Savannah and Brunswick. It’s enough to take the breath away.

Beyond the impressive vision that these plans represent, just as impressive is how the GPA has shown it can pull together the governmental, quasi-governmental, corporate and labor partners needed to make these plans real.

Savannah’s port, the second busiest on the East Coast, already has a robust 7 percent growth rate. In all, Georgia’s ports help generate 370,000 jobs across the state, including 40,000 locally.

Trying to maintain that pace won’t be easy. But local and state leaders must continue to make that effort.

There are cautionary notes as the GPA attempts this leap. Even without these expansions, shippers are already in need of warehouse space to put the goods they carry into and out of Savannah’s port. Existing space has a vacancy rate of less than 2 percent. Lynch urged private investors and developers to build speculative warehouses, saying 21,000 acres in the four counties closest to the Savannah port are ready for development. “We have more and more companies coming to talk to us about doing business with our port. The last things we want are missed opportunities because we don’t have the space available,” Lynch said.

Building for even more growth without warehouse capacity to match it could be a costly mistake. And beyond the already-prepped acreage available, future development must continue to take a responsible view toward environmental and quality of life consequences.

Growth must also be calibrated to account for fluctuations in the global shipping industry, which is still suffering a significant downturn. Cargo shippers overbuilt their capacity only to hit the 2008 recession and a drop in consumer demand. This led Hanjin, the container line out of South Korea, to file for reorganization as industry watchers speculate more major shippers will follow suit. The slump is prompting European banks, especially German banks, to try to unload tens of billions of dollars in now-shaky loans to ship-owners, according to Reuters. Regardless of how many carriers remain after the correction for over-building capacity, goods will keep moving, and keep coming into and out of Savannah, and local and state leaders must keep their eyes focused on the prize: a thriving port that provides a huge boost to the region’s and state’s economies.

Global downturn or not, fiscal 2015 saw a 17 percent hike in cargo shipping through the Garden City terminal, mostly because Georgia ports grabbed shipments diverted from West Coast ports shut down over labor disputes. GPA says it’s retaining a chunk of that business, which speaks volumes about the healthy relationship between management and labor at the state’s ports.

The GPA has proven its ability to grow while other segments of the industry shrink. It was the last to suffer and the first to recover from the recession. Population growth in the southeastern U.S. drives more consumer demand for imports, while business growth boosts exports.

By extending its reach over to the Mississippi River, the GPA hopes to entice more business from West Coast ports as well as open more overseas markets to American businesses in our nation’s heartland. The larger ships coming into Savannah at lower on-water costs make that possible.

There’s no question that the leadership and vision by authority officials, Gov. Nathan Deal, state legislators, and leaders in labor and business have made Georgia’s ports major drivers of the state’s economy and are poised to keep pushing.




Sept. 20

The Newnan Times-Herald on the birthday of U.S. Constitution:

Today is the birthday of the Constitution, an amazing political document rightly venerated around the world. But it’s not a “living document.” It’s a contract.

A contract is a binding agreement between two parties, in this case, the government and the people or us. Imagine if your bank simply decided on its own to change the terms of your mortgage or the person you bought your lot from announced you could no longer use your back yard.

The terms of contracts only change by mutual consent. Most, like the Constitution, spell out the ways they can be changed. But it’s not a contract if one side tries to alter things midstream.

So, as we celebrate Constitution Day today, remember why we read the writings of our Founding Fathers, like The Federalist Papers. It’s to be clear on the understanding of those who agreed to the contract on our behalf. What did “domestic tranquility” and “common defense” mean at that time? Especially important is the meaning of the Bill of Rights where most of the controversy resides, like the right to free speech, to bear arms, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, and powers retained by the states.

If a majority of Americans conclude that the reasoning in 1797 is no longer applicable because of changing mores or technology, then we have a duty to propose an update and vote to ratify it. That has been done 27 times, so it’s not impractical, but it is difficult - yet fair.

Because the Constitution has functioned so well for so long, we must all defend it against those who wish to bend it to fit their political agenda by inculcating new interpretations of its wording. These special-interest groups don’t have confidence in their ability to convince a sufficient voting majority so they take shortcuts, mainly through the courts where they are aided by unelected judges intent on making policy instead of ruling on it.

Besides the brilliance of the governing structure that balances power between three equal branches of government, the revolutionary innovation of the Constitution is its limitation on government and its empowerment of citizens through elections. That has been copied by countries across the globe in the 219 years since it was penned, and it should be cherished by us as well today.

The best way to honor it is to preserve its spirit by ensuring it is only changed through the ballot box that its authors granted the ultimate power to.



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