Knowledge is power, but loophole stifles information
The News-Item's cheers and jeers from the past week of news:
- Cheers to the proactive approach by local police in organizing a public meeting Wednesday night in Elysburg to address the problem of drug abuse in our communities. Ralpho Township Patrolman Chris Grow, Sunbury Patrolman Travis Bremigen and Locust Township Patrolman Chris Snyder stressed that addiction to heroin, prescription drugs and crystal meth is spreading throughout Northumberland and Columbia counties.
Their gathering came two weeks after state Reps. Kurt Masser (R-107) and David Millard (R-109) teamed up with Columbia County commissioners for a drug and alcohol awareness expo at Southern Columbia Area High School. Cheers to these efforts, and to those who found it worth their time to attend the events and educate themselves and their families as to the ever-present danger of drug abuse. The fight is perhaps never won, but information is power, and the more we openly discuss the issue, the better.
- Cheers, on a related note, to Northumberland County's progressive "treatment court" approach to, not only combating drug abuse, but for defendants facing DUI and behavioral issues and military veterans who have turned to crime to cope with their myriad struggles. For the first time last Tuesday, graduation ceremonies were held the same day for all four treatment programs, while the DUI court reached the century mark of participants. The county has its share of societal complications that have led to the need this unique approach, but the county has been a leader in implementing such programs statewide, and have found them to be successful.
- Jeers to the one remaining loophole in the Open Records Law that allows important pollution data to evaporate like so much natural gas in terms of public disclosure. In an unfolding case before the state Superior Court, a group of municipal governments filed a brief contending that the state Department of Environmental Protection does not publicly report water pollution cases when gas-drilling companies reach settlements with owners of private wells. State law specifically requires reporting when public water supplies are affected. Public agencies conduct those investigations in behalf of the public, and they use public funds to do so. The notion that the public isn't entitled to know the fruits of most of those investigations is the opposite of transparency.
- Cheers to the annual Salvation Army Adult Benefit Basketball Tournament, which raises money that helps the needy in the greater Shamokin-Coal Township community every year. Could it be that this past weekend was the 11th annual tournament? Indeed it was, and in a sign that it remains strong, a women's division was added for the first time in 2014. The tournament regularly raises several thousand dollars, a worthy effort that we hope continues to get the support and recognition it deserves.