Sunday, July 29, 2012

EDITORIAL: A few questions for the president

We have no doubt that when President Barack Obama visits Mansfield on Wednesday, it will be a highly scripted event.

Any president who has occupied the White House has been saddle with the heavy burden of protocol.

As it should be.

We hope, however, that when the president visits our community, he will take the time to get to know us a little.

We also hope to learn more about him and how another four years in office might benefit Mansfield and Richland County.

If we had the chance, we’d ask a few questions.

Our first question to the president would be: What about the C-27J program at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport?

The Air National Guard base where Air Force One will land remains threatened by Obama’s proposed cuts to the military budget.

With no replacement mission for the 179th, the cargo planes that served so valiantly in Afghanistan could be scrapped next year.

The cost to operate these planes — and staff the Air National Guard unit — is far lower than any alternative aircraft operated by our full-time military. We have proven the cost effectiveness of the 179th, yet the president’s military budget has proposed eliminating the aircraft and ending the 179th’s mission in Mansfield.

Beyond the threat to national security, Mansfield stands to lose nearly 1,000 jobs if the president gets his way.

So, Mr. President, please explain to the people of Mansfield why the U.S. government wants to eliminate such a worthwhile part of our community and nation.

Next, Mr. President, we are looking for any insight you might have regarding the sale of the former General Motors plant in Ontario.

The once-vital part of our community provided several thousand jobs.

When the plant was idled, the jobs vanished, but the workers remained in our community, ready for whatever might take GM’s place. To date, nothing has. The federally managed trust overseeing the sale of the plant continues to say a sale is close.

We are assuming the president has some idea of what is going on about the pending sale, and we would like him to tell us what it might mean to the future of our community.

Finally, whatever happened to the war on drugs?

In a News Journal report last month, we learned there are almost 80,000 job openings across the state, but not enough drug-free applicants to fill them. As many as 10 percent of all applicants locally are not passing their pre-employment drug test.

Even more alarming, up to 20 percent of active employees involved in accidents fail post-accident drug tests. Across the county line, 84 percent of those incarcerated in Crawford County are there because of drug-related charges.

This is unacceptable. We need help.

Mr. President, how can you help us slow the growth of drug use that is devastating our local economy?

We are certain other communities across the United States have similar problems.

We look forward to the president’s visit and hope that we will receive more than boilerplate campaign answers to these and other questions that our residents might have.