Letters to the editor – Wednesday (5-20-09)

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It’s time to end Alcoa’s monopoly on the Yadkin
Last week, Yadkin Riverkeeper filed suit against the N.C. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) and requested a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from issuing the water quality certification necessary for Alcoa to receive another 50-year federal license. DWQ failed to correct water pollution problems they are legally authorized to address under the federal Clean Water Act and the N.C. Constitution. The state’s report acknowledges “significant contamination” at Alcoa’s 47 hazardous waste sites, contamination in the swimming areas, dissolved oxygen violations and that some of the PCBs found are directly linked to Alcoa.
Alcoa has enjoyed an exclusive monopoly and 90 years of pollution-based prosperity utilizing a public resource ó the Yadkin River. People unknowingly continue to eat potentially cancer-causing fish. The dams Alcoa built, while enjoyed by many, have created significant pollution problems every municipality in the Yadkin Basin will be forced to address.
The Yadkin River State Trust legislation has received nearly unanimous bi-partisan support in the N.C. Senate because it could provide millions annually for riparian buffer protection, upgrades for aging sewage treatment plants and stormwater pollution. It also requires Alcoa to clean up its mess in 10 years. Why shouldn’t profits from hydro-power be reinvested back into to the Yadkin River for water-quality improvements and job creation?
Alcoa’s toxic legacy spans worldwide across five continents. They have internalized profits, while passing off their pollution at great public expense. Exclusive monopolies are anti-capitalism, anti-business and simply un-American. President Teddy Roosevelt reminded us our “waters should be conserved and used as to … develop power in the interest of the people … and that monopoly should not be tolerated.”
If Alcoa is granted another 50-year license, should we just expect Alcoa to have permanent and exclusive ownership over our public waters?
ó Dean Naujoks
Dean Naujoks is the Yadkin riverkeeper.
Double-dipping fallaciesProhibiting retired teachers from returning to the classroom is appalling. Everyone realizes the state must make difficult decisions to cut expenses. However, cutting good teachers should not be one of them! With few exceptions, there is no substitute for experience.
It is a fallacy that North Carolina has double expense for the “double dippers.” All benefits are paid by the State Retirement Fund, not through salary. Teachers retired from the military or other states are not being forced out! Some teachers have even offered to adjust their schedules to come under a salary cap to ease cost, but our county office will not even consider it. The person who knows the individual situations and needs of his or her own school, the principal, should have considerable input on whether or not a teacher is retained. Not so in this case. Total authority rests with one county office person who cannot possibly have enough information, therefore judgment, to make a prudent decision. One person!
Additionally, many seasoned teachers are involved in areas of exceptional programs ó from special needs to advanced subjects. A teacher’s certificate is not always enough for these specialties. Incredibly smart, educated people cannot always teach. Years in a classroom can produce the savvy to guide students who don’t always fit a mold, and kids striving to keep GPAs up cannot be saddled with instructors who cannot effectively teach an advanced math or science class.
Our education system must not suffer further. If high-quality educators are so motivated and caring that they want to stay in the classroom after 30 years, are good at it and are willing to put up with the headaches, why in the world would we allow them to be booted out? Cut bureaucratic deadwood, not people actually involved in preparing our kids for life.
ó Julie Blalock