The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 27, 1996 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, October 27, 1996
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A4 SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1996 THE SALINA JOURNAL OPINION George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fa* (913) 827-6363 E-mait: SalJournal ©aol.com Quote of the day "Everything for Josh seems to cost a couple thousand dollars. Thafswhat's so neat about the United Way." Jodl Glavin Solomon, on the help her son, Josh, 3, who has cerebral palsy, has received through the Salina Area United Way By SCOTT SEIRER / The Salina Journal Where there's smoke THE ISSUE Rural fire districts THEAR6UMBIIT Professional management needed W hen the new Saline County Commission is seated next year one of their top priorities must be the improvement of rural fire protection. The present system is a joke. Lives and property are at stake. We are sitting on dynamite that present county commissioners have paid little heed. Recent squabbling in Rural Fire District No. 5 is but a hint of the deeper, more serious problems inherent in the very structure of the seven rural fire districts, where professionalism and uniformity are lacking. Consequently, the county commission's decision last week to change rules about the makeup of rural fire district boards, so that the majority of each board is made up of firefighters, is but a Band-Aid solution. Still facing us are the problems of nonprofessional management, legal liability, haphazard and ineffective training, inefficient use of resources and, most of all, the quality of fire protection, which varies from district to district. It's important to note that the problems are not the fault of those who volunteer as firefighters or fire district board members. Each of them, presumably, has the best of intentions, and their service is appreciated. The problems are in the organizational structure. Each rural fire district is a separate entity. Each district sets its own budget, and funds it by levying its own property tax. Each district sets it own policies, and establishes its own operating procedures (sometimes without so much as a wink to the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association.) Each district buys its own equipment, and decides how well or poorly it's maintained. Each district is, in effect, a fiefdom subject to the whims and shortcomings of volunteer board members. The shenanigans at District 5 illustrate. Personality conflicts have undermined the effectiveness of fire protection in the district, which surrounds Solomon in northeast Saline County and parts of Dickinson and Ottawa counties. Bad blood between District 5 and the Solomon Fire Department led Dickinson County's Lincoln Township to withdraw from the district. In turn, the Solomon department opted not to renew an agreement with District 5 pledging that the departments would help one another fight fires. The result: in some parts of District 5 the nearest firefighters are at Solomon, but they might not respond to a blaze. Feeling at risk, some District 5 residents sought to secede and take their fire protection from Solomon. Commissioners nixed that last week. District 5 has problems internally, as well. Some members of the board don't know beans about fires. That became clear earlier this year when a board member suggested that rather than buying heat-resistant protective gear, district firefighters could make do with cheap rain suits from a farm supply store. Fighting fires is a serious business demanding professional management to keep abreast of fire science and technology, to say nothing of the growing and tightening standards and regulations. A proposal earlier this year by the county's director of emergency management, Gail Aills, which called for consolidating the districts and placing them under the control of a full-time, professional fire chief, was pooh- poohed after concerns were raised about loss of district autonomy. But autonomy — read: fiefdoms — is hardly in the best interest of the growing population of rural residents. They have a right to expect not only first-rate fire protection but also assurances that the rural fire-fighting force is able to stand up to the ever- greater scrutiny of regulators, insurers and, potentially, lawyers looking to pin blame for losses. And volunteer firefighters, who in the spirit of service put their lives at risk, have a right to expect that their leadership, equipment and training are top-notch. Without professional management, we leave the effectiveness of rural fire districts to chance. That's a gamble we've been losing, Good Bad Clock NVV STRATEGV IS To RON ooT THE CLOCK. T UNCOMMON SENSE Revolution, religious conservatives CAL THOMAS Los Angeles Times Syndicate Should conservatives stick with the GOP, form a third party or withdraw from politics? O ther than helping Bob Dole win the Republican nomination for president, religious conservatives have had virtually no effect on this campaign. Only with excruciating reluctance has Dole addressed abortion, and on other social issues of paramount importance to religious conservatives — such as imminent court rulings on same-sex marriage — Dole has been silent. If Bill Clinton wins re-election, religious conservatives will be forced to make a fundamental choice. Should they look for another candidate within Republican ranks who will espouse their agenda, or should they end their rocky marriage to the Republican Party — either forming a third ^ party or withdrawing from politics to focus on building a kingdom not of this world? The Supreme Court has agreed to revisit the church-state issue and examine the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Congress passed and President Clinton signed the measure to reverse a 1990 Supreme Court decision that allowed certain state infringements on religious liberties. The bill had widespread support — from religious organizations and both political parties. Some court observers believe the act will be struck down and finally place the state in a position of supreme authority over all matters deemed to have religious origins. But without being guided by a moral code with a source other than the mind of a judge, what is to keep a judge from becoming a mini-deity? Examples of that self-declared omnipotence have been seen in rulings on school prayer, abortion and the coming battle over same-sex marriage. Without immutable moral laws "endowed by our Creator," a so- T SUNDAY FUNNIES "Cultural conservatives stand convicted of unspeakable crimes in the eyes of most of America's media commentators." Charles Colson Former aide to President Nixon ciety quickly implodes as pleasure and materialism become paramount. Charles Colson, the former Nixon aide who heads the Prison Fellowship Christian ministry, has an important essay in the November issue of First Things, a journal that considers contemporary moral and ethical concerns. Colson says we are approaching a time when Christians, especially, may have to declare the social contract between Enlightenment rationalists and biblical believers — which formed the basis of the Constitution written at our nation's founding — null and void because it has been breached. So as not to incite militia groups, Colson frames his argument with admonitions against violence. Citing a systematic usurpation of power by the American judiciary, Colson questions whether the current political order, underpinned only by an intolerant secularism, should continue to command the allegiance of believers. Are they, he asks, still part of "We the People" from which democratic authority presumably derived? "Cultural conservatives," writes Colson, "stand convicted of unspeakable crimes in the eyes of most of America's media commentators. "The opponents of abortion on demand, in particular, have felt the whip .... Hostility against pro-lifers seems now to have spilled over into a distrust of any group of citizens seeking to connect public policy with a transcendent moral order," There are many avenues people can take short of separation, even revolution, and Col- son does not believe we have reached the point of grabbing the guns. But he thinks ','a showdown between church and state may,,be inevitable. This is not something for which Christians should hope. But it is something for which they should prepare." The Christian Coalition sought to broaden its influence by focusing on economic issues. In doing so, it allowed Republicans to treat moral issues as less compelling. It will be difficult to get the GOP to pay serious attention to such concerns in future campaigns. Conservative religious believers are now faced with a clear choice. They can abandon their political interests and claim resident alien status in a land that has forgotten their God, no longer concerned, in Colson's words, "about the fortunes or misfortunes of a flawed republic, no longer considering th,is land their country." Or they can continue in frustration to try to restore a moral order from the top down, which seems to me like building the house before the foundation is laid. Or they can re- member what the Founders said: "When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with one another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them ..." Again, Colson says we have not yet reached the point of revolution: "Calmness and seriousness of demeanor are necessary both to prevent the media dismissing us as fanatics and to prevent individuals from taking matters into their own hands ... But we must/*— slowly, prayerfully and with great deliberation and serious debate — prepare ourselves for what the future seems likely to bring under a regime in which the courts have usurped the democratic process by reckless exercise of naked power." Which course religious conservatives choose will have profound political and social consequences for those living in the 21st century. The attack of the miniature candy bars The media have knocked off all the trick-or-treaters, so someone has to pound down that candy I love Halloween. It reminds me of my happy childhood days as a student at Wampus Elementary School in Armonk, N.Y., when we youngsters used to celebrate Halloween by making decorations out of ^ construction paper and that white paste that you could eat. This is also how we celebrated Columbus Day, Washington's Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Armistice Day, Flag Day, Arbor Day, Thursday, etc. We brought these decorations home to our parents, who by federal law were required to attach them to the refrigerator with magnets. That was a wonderful, carefree time in which to be a youngster or construction-paper salesperson. But it all ended suddenly one day — I'll never forget it — when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, called "Sputnik" (which is Russian for "Little Sput"). Immediately, all the grown-ups in America became hysterical about losing the'Space Race, which led to a paranoid insecurity about our educational system, expressed in anguished newspaper headlines asking, "WHY AREN'T OUR KIDS LEARNING IN SCHOOL?" I wanted to answer, "BECAUSE ALL WE EVER DO IS MAKE DECORATIONS OUT OF CONSTRUCTION PAPER" but I couldn't because my mouth was full of paste. But getting back to Halloween: It's still one DAVE BARRY The Miami Herald of the most fun holidays of the year, as well as one of the most traditional, tracing its origins back more than 2,000 years to the Druids, an ancient religious cult that constructed Stonehenge, as well as most of the public toilets in England. The Druids believed that one night each year, at the end of October, the souls of the dead returned to the world of the living and roamed from house to house costumed as Power Rangers. And thus it is that to this day, youngsters come to our door on Halloween night shouting: "Trick or treat!" According to tradition, if we don't give the youngsters a "treat," their parents will "sue" us. That's why most of us traditionally prepare for Halloween by going to the supermarket and purchasing approximately eight metric tons of miniature candy bars, which we dump into a big bowl by the door, ready to hand out to the hordes of trick-or-treaters. The irony, of course, is that there ARE no hordes of trick-or-treaters, not any more. We in the news media make darned sure of that. Every year we publish dozens of helpful consumer-advice articles, cheerfully reminding parents of the dangers posed by traffic, perverts, poisoned candy, and many other Halloween hazards that parents would never think of if we didn't remind them ("Have fun, but remember that this year more than 17,000 Americans will die bobbing for apples"). The result i§,that many children aren't allowed to go trick-or-treating, and the ones who ARE allowed out come to your house no later than 4:30 p.m., wearing reflective tape on their Power Rangers costumes and trailed at close range by their parents, who watch you suspiciously and regard whatever candy you hand out as though it were unsolicited mail from the Unabomber. So for most of Halloween, your doorbell is quiet. This means that you pass the long night alone, hour after hour, just you and the miniature candy bars. After a while they start calling seductively to you from their bowl in their squeaky little voices. "Hey, Big Boy!" they call. "We're going to waste over here!" As the evening wears on they become increasingly brazen. Eventually they crawl across the floor, climb up your body, unwrdp themselves and force themselves bodily in^o your mouth. There's no use hiding in the bathroom, because they'll just crawl under the door and tie you up with dental floss arid threaten to squeeze toothpaste in your eye unless you eat them. At least that's what the,y do to me. By the end of the night my blood has the same sugar content as Yoo-Hoo. ; • But eating huge amounts of candy allegedly purchased for youngsters is only part "pf the Halloween tradition. The other paries buying a pumpkin and carving it to maKj^a "jack-o'-lantern," which sits on your frfcnt porch, a festive symbol of the age-old trutftS— first discovered by the Druids — that therf is no pra'ctical use for pumpkins. *-J Here's how to make a traditional lantern: 1. Cut a lid on top of the pumpkin. 2. Pull off the lid and peer down into l slimy, festering pumpkin bpwels. . > 3. Put the lid back on and secure it with£60 feet of duct tape. :'; (This is also the traditional procedure ^(;>r stuffing a turkey.) ' *'j But however you. celebrate Halloween, make sure you remember this important safety tip: (IMPpRTANT SAFETY TIP OQJS HERE). Otherwise, you will not survive f&e night. I'd give you more details, but, right now I need to do something about these t|iy Milky Ways crawling up my legs. *

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