- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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June 23

The Savannah Morning News on Mosquito Control’s bee glitch:

It’s a shame that Tybee Island beekeeper David Strickland lost thousands of his honey-making bees Tuesday night because of a mistake by Chatham County’s Mosquito Control unit.

This unfortunate accident illustrates the importance of protecting bees and other pollinating insects, which have been disappearing in alarming numbers which poses a potential threat to the future of the nation’s food supply.

Because of a technical glitch, the county didn’t give Mr. Strickland the usual warning that its helicopters would be spraying for mosquitoes over Tybee that night, which would have allowed him to take precautions to protect his insects from the deadly spray.

To the county’s credit, it has admitted it made a mistake, when the names of Strickland and eight other Tybee residents were inadvertently omitted from a round of automated calls that the county routinely makes to alert area beekeepers and others that its yellow helicopters would be out spraying pesticides.

In Strickland’s case, such a warning gives him time to put screens over the exits of his hives to prevent his bees from leaving and protect them from the spray, an equal-opportunity killer that doesn’t discriminate between beneficial and harmful insects.

About 364 names are on the county’s call list. Formerly, people on the list were called by a real person. But the county moved to an automated call program about three years ago, apparently to boost efficiency. County officials said the glitch with Mr. Strickland apparently was their first.

While technology can be a wonderful time-saver, this unfortunate incident proves that it’s not 100-percent reliable. On Wednesday morning, the day after the county sprayed the Tybee area for mosquitoes, dead bees covered the porches of the four hives that Mr. Strickland keeps on the roof of his Fort Screven home on Tybee. He has seven hives in all.

Fortunately, the mistake didn’t wipe him out. “Our hives will live, but we lost bees out of each,” Mr. Strickland said. “The largest had a couple thousand dead.”

County spokeswoman Catherine Glasby said the county’s legal department would consider compensating Mr. Strickland for his losses. That’s only proper.

But in addition to writing a check, the county must fix the glitch in its notification system and examine the efficacy of controlling mosquitoes through its vast aerial spraying programs. Neighboring counties, such as Effingham, don’t have aerial programs to prevent beneficial insects, like butterflies and pollinators, from being killed.

Effingham County beekeeper Harold Ward said he had had good experiences with Mosquito Control warning him in advance about upcoming spraying. But he could still see the environmental impact of the pesticide program.

“If you go up to Effingham, Bulloch or Screven you see dragonflies and fireflies, but you don’t have those in Chatham County,” he said. “It’s because of Mosquito Control.”

While wiping out mosquitoes that carry and spread the Zika virus and other diseases like the West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis is a service to the public’s health, wiping out honeybees, butterflies, dragonflies and fireflies come at a cost, too. Scientists worry that the kill off of bees and pollinators will do grave harm to the food chain and affect the availability of what we eat.

According to experts, 70 of the world’s top 100 crop species are pollinated by bees - and those foods feed 90 percent of mankind. Without a large, healthy bee population, most foods we rely on would disappear, they say.

Talk about a real buzzkill.

To the county’s credit, Jeffrey Heusel, director of Chatham County Mosquito Control, takes a conservative approach when it comes to pesticide use to minimize the risk of killing beneficial insects. But again, no system is 100-percent error-free. The absence of fireflies and dragonflies, in Chatham County, that Mr. West and many other have noticed, speaks for itself.

Mr. Strickland seemed to take his bee losses personally, which is understandable, given the time and attention he has devoted to his hives.

“They’re like our little pets,” he said. “We love them. This is our lifestyle.”

While it may seem odd to describe honeybees as pets, they do more than produce a sweet sticky goodness used to flavor foods and drinks. Bees are vital to America’s food supply. While Strickland’s loss certainly stings, it’s nothing compared to the widespread loss of bees that has been noted across the country. It may be time to consider restricting the use of the most powerful pesticides that could be doing more harm than good.

Mosquito Control avoids the use of its helicopter-applied Naled spray as much as possible, Mr. Heusel said, because it’s expensive and reducing its application reduces the possibility of mosquitoes developing resistance. “We’re trying to minimize any type of unintended impact,” he said.

That’s as it should be. But the dead bees on Tybree are evidence it doesn’t always work out that way.

In a study commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a Florida-based researcher found in 2015 that Naled and permethrin, another pesticide, even when used properly, harmed butterflies and caterpillars. Miami has since instituted limits on where it sprays to protect endangered butterflies.

Mr. Heusel’s focus is on preventing mosquito-borne diseases, saying, “If we can do that without affecting anything else, that’s what we’re going to do.”

It’s the “anything else” part that is worrisome.

Online: https://savannahnow.com/

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June 28

The Valdosta Times on the lack of a sales tax holiday:

The statewide sales tax holiday has never been timed right.

If scheduled for the days prior to school starting, some people said the tax break came too early to get a break purchasing items assigned to students by teachers.

If scheduled after school started, some people said the break came too late for families to purchase school clothes and supplies without the burden of taxes.

Too early or too late, the sales tax holiday has been a regular part of back to school shopping for Georgia residents for years.

But not this year.

It will come neither too late nor too early.

Instead, it will not come at all.

There will be no 2017 sales tax holiday.

Retailers recently told the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development and Taxation Committee the lack of a sales tax holiday will hurt Valdosta-area businesses.

Stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc., will especially feel the pinch in the Valdosta area as fewer Florida residents are expected to cross the state line to take advantage of the sales tax holiday.

Retailers located near state lines, such as Valdosta businesses, will feel the loss more than retailers deeper in the state, according to store representatives addressing the chamber committee.

Location was part of the impetus for former Valdosta-area state Rep. Ron Borders and former state Sen. Tim Golden championing the sales-tax holiday.

The tax holiday has always faced opposition, especially from county commissioners, elected city leaders and school board members across the state. Many government officials say the holiday affects tax money needed for local government coffers.

Legislators said the measure for a tax holiday is passed annually by sneaking it onto the agenda for a vote. It faced opposition this year and the General Assembly did not pass a sales tax holiday.

While the chamber meeting focused on how the lack of the sales tax holiday could hurt business, it did not mention the number of families who have come to rely on the summer dates to offset the expense of sending children back to school.

The lack of a sales tax holiday may be a hard lesson for families preparing to send youngsters back to school. One that will cost them more in the stores and may cost students upon returning to class.

While the decision, or lack of a decision, by the General Assembly may have been good for metro Atlanta, it is a disservice to businesses and residents of South Georgia. So, what else is new?

Online: https://www.valdostadailytimes.com/

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June 23

The Newnan Times-Herald on the GA-06 election:

Those of us old enough to remember “The Outer Limits,” or at least the show’s reruns, recall each episode ended by announcing the producers had returned to viewers control of their own television sets. Residents of metro Atlanta are experiencing the same sensation with the conclusion of the history’s most costly race for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Fifty million dollars is a lot to spend in the abbreviated period of a special election and runoff. The result was what seemed like an unending bombardment of commercials either praising one candidate or slamming the other.

When all was said and done, the race came down to a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat.

It wasn’t just the commercials that were so maddening, but also the uninformed punditry on the national news.

National commentators were looking for signs that the suburbanites in the 6th District might have changed their thinking after seeing President Donald Trump in action. Those outside observers were fooled by Jon Ossoff’s good showing in the “jungle primary” phase of first-round voting.

Although special elections in Georgia are nominally nonpartisan, candidates are allowed to declare a party allegiance and have it appear on the ballot. There just isn’t a party primary. Instead all of the candidates from any party, including independents, all are on one ballot, which is the “jungle” part of things.

Since the district has voted reliably Republican for decades, most of the 18 candidates running were Republicans, including several past officeholders. Ossoff became the only viable Democrat when he committed a six-figure share of his inheritance to bankrolling his campaign. So, while the larger Republican vote was split multiple ways, the smaller Democratic vote essentially all went to Ossoff, putting him in first place among all the candidates.

In the end, Karen Handel not only won what was effectively the Republican “primary” in April but also the runoff against Ossoff this week when she consolidated her party’s support. The Republican vote Tuesday was about the same percentage as what Donald Trump garnered from the district in November’s presidential election.

That means Georgia Republicans did not change their support for the party, despite the wishful thinking of liberals across the country and Democratic donors. All that money and high-powered campaign consulting only netted Ossoff 125,000 votes Tuesday, the same number of votes taken in November in the same district by a non-name Democratic candidate who spent absolutely no money whatsoever in challenging Republican Rep. Tom Price, whose appointment to the Trump cabinet created the vacancy the special election was filling.

Beyond adding an energetic, capable woman to the Georgia congressional delegation who may one day reach even higher office, the election demonstrated that Trump has as much support as ever. Surveys of job approval ratings may have registered slippage, but those are conducted in a vacuum of sorts. Elections, though, come down to choices, and when the choice was between a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat as it was in November and is likely to be in four years, the voters again picked the former over the latter.

Online: https://times-herald.com/

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