I’ll let you off with a coupon this time
Police in Tempe, Ariz., have taken a different approach to law enforcement: In addition to ticketing people who break the law, they are rewarding those who follow it, with coupons for free soft drinks or snacks. The program hasn’t been problem-free — there was an initial backlash from people who argued that getting approached by a cop can be a stressful experience, even if it turns out you’re being rewarded rather than punished — but the goal of positive policing is the right one.
Critics of a similar program in Halifax, Va., a few years ago pointed out that the mere act of pulling over drivers without cause, even it was to hand them ice cream cones, was a violation of the 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
To avoid that concern, the Tempe program doesn’t involve pulling over drivers. It’s focused instead on cops’ casual interactions with pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders. If the goal of the police-reform movement is to make policing more positive and community oriented, a free soft drink is a good start.
It’s only money
East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III says no one should worry that the former city councilwoman he has hired to handle community development and tax-increment financing — overseeing a $12 million budget — is facing fraud and corruption charges.
Former Councilwoman June Hamilton-Dean is charged with bank fraud for falsely claiming that she had authorization to take out a $200,000 loan to fund a youth employment program. She was nabbed in a 2016 federal sting of allegedly corrupt public officials involving public contracting.
Her case is still pending. So what’s to lose? Why not hire Hamilton-Dean to a $73,000 job to head up daily operations of the city’s Community Development Department?
Eastern said last week he is monitoring the case against Hamilton-Dean, and “we will re-evaluate the position” if necessary. Meaning, presumably, if she’s convicted and has to go to prison.
Hamilton-Dean is presumed innocent until proven guilty — but is she really the only candidate available for a post that involves managing so much public money?
Seeds of hope in Ethiopia
Schools and government offices closed throughout Ethiopia on Monday as citizens joined a record-breaking effort to plant 350 million trees in a 12-hour span. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is leading an impressive bid to replant the country, which has been steadily deforested by drought and an increasing demand for farmland and timber.
Ethiopia lost more than 10,000 square miles of forest from 1990 to 2015. Once covered by forests on a third of the country’s territory, only about 4 percent is now forested, according to United Nations assessments.
Ahmed’s admirable goal is to plant 4 billion seedlings by the fall. Ethiopia now appears to qualify for entry into Guinness World Records for besting the previous single-day planting record of 50 million trees.
Taking a holiday from plastics
Holiday Inn and its parent company, InterContinental Hotels Group, are taking a remarkable step to save the planet. Every year, the chain places 200 million little plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner in its 843,000 hotel rooms. The bottles get thrown out, and the plastic either fills up landfills or finds its way into rivers and oceans. Enough, says the chain.
“We collectively as an industry have to lead where governments are not necessarily giving the leadership to make a difference,” hotel group chief executive Keith Barr told the Financial Times.
A third of the company’s hotels have already shifted to stationary bulk dispensers, with the rest converting by late 2021. Competitor Marriott International has made a similar pledge.
Did you know President Donald Trump was the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic? That he personally raised the flag at Iwo Jima? That he painted the Mona Lisa? These are just a few of the faux-historic assertions being made (tongue-in-cheek) on social media after Trump recently implied, ludicrously, that he had some first responder role after the 9/11 attacks.
Trump made the remarks last week while signing a bill extending the Sept. 11 victims’ compensation fund.
“Many of those affected were firefighters, police officers and other first responders. And I was down there also, but I’m not considering myself a first responder,” he told actual first responders and others who gathered in the Rose Garden for the signing. “But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you.”
No, he didn’t, according to all available evidence. Trump’s major contribution to the post-9/11 efforts was to brag to an interviewer (inaccurately) that with the twin towers gone, he now owned the tallest remaining building in New York.
Debating the high cost of wind
Ameren Missouri pulled the plug on one of its planned wind-generation farms in northwestern Missouri after it decided the transmission costs would be too high. The 157-megawatt wind farm had been slated for construction in Atchison County. But Ameren says it would have been too costly to upgrade the existing transmission system to link the wind farm to the grid.
Too bad. Construction of two bigger wind farms, with a combined generating capacity of 700 megawatts, will proceed elsewhere in Atchison County and in north-central Missouri. Ameren no doubt has sophisticated methods to calculate costs and benefits. But one thing is certain: The world will ultimately pay a far higher price if Ameren and other energy companies continue to rely on the burning of coal instead.