As we celebrate 238 years of American independence this weekend, there are plenty of recent developments here in Richmond County and throughout the state that give us reason to cheer. In this installment of our occasional Cheers and Jeers feature, we’ll point out those deserving of recognition and call attention to items in the news that give us pause.
CHEERS to Ellerbe Mayor Lee Berry and two fellow Good Samaritans who stopped to help a stranded motorist who ran out of gas in Ellerbe last month. Justin Johnson of Westerville, Ohio, was driving to Myrtle Beach with his family when his car shuddered to a stop. Berry, a state trooper and a third man Johnson knows only as Donny arrived to lend a hand.
It took two trips to the gas station to get Johnson’s car back on the road. The experience left an Ohio man with an indelible impression of a small Richmond County town with a big heart.
“I can bet that this town has more hospitality per square mile than any place I have been here,” Johnson wrote from his Ohio home in a letter to the editor published in Thursday’s newspaper. Car trouble resulted in Johnson’s first stop in Ellerbe, and we think the town’s kind and helpful residents will bring him back for future visits.
CHEERS to state Reps. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, and Garland E. Pierce, D-Hoke, for taking a stand on behalf of Duke Energy customers in Richmond County and throughout the state. Goodman and Pierce pledged to push for an amendment to the coal ash cleanup bill that would prevent Duke from hiking electric rates to pay for cleanup of its coal ash spill.
As of this writing, the provision isn’t included in the General Assembly bill to ensure that Duke Energy mops up the tens of thousands of pounds of toxic coal ash that seeped into the Dan River in February. But our lawmakers sent a strong message that we’re sure has been received loud and clear at the company’s Charlotte headquarters. Electric customers shouldn’t be asked to pay the cleanup costs.
JEERS to the heavy-handed video sweepstakes crackdown in neighboring Scotland County. Sheriff’s deputies there raided an Internet sweepstakes parlor near Laurinburg on Tuesday, shooing customers, wheeling out the machines and locking the doors. The raid follows a memo to sweepstakes businesses from local law enforcement warning them of seizures and shutdowns if they continued to operate past an arbitrary deadline.
With the murky issue of whether some sweepstakes games skirt the statewide gambling ban still being fought in the courts, we doubt the heightened enforcement is the best use of public resources. Carolina Cyber Center owner Robert Outlaw claims his games are legal and believes deputies are overstepping their bounds.
The issue will likely wind its way through the courts at a snail’s pace, with Scotland County taxpayers footing the bill to prosecute a man for offering a service that paying customers seem to want. North Carolina is OK with gambling as long as residents are playing the state-run lottery. Competition from private business, however, is condemned as immoral.
Sure seems like a double standard to us.
CHEERS to Richmond County Emergency Management Services for working proactively to implement text-to-911 technology that will allow people to call for help via cellphone text message. The technology’s being rolled out nationwide, but our county is positioned to become an early adopter in North Carolina.
The option of texting for help could save lives, as there are circumstances when a crime victim can’t safely speak to emergency dispatchers on the phone but may be able to fire off a text message unbeknownst to his or her assailant. Operators stress that those who can call 911 should still do so, since information can be relayed more rapidly and tone of voice helps authorities gauge the level of emergency.
Emergency text technology could make Richmond County safer. We’re glad that our 911 center is ahead of the curve when it comes to making the option available.