GOOD

Keeping kids safe a sound investment

Today's Baby Boomers never would have guessed they'd be ponying up half a million dollars to keep kids safe in school. That used to be the job of the School Safety Patrol - a special group of kids with white belts and silver badges. They worked for nothing.

But keeping students safe today involves more than just helping them cross the street or telling them not to run in the halls. In the wake of school shootings across the country, extra measures are being taken these days to make sure school districts are prepared for the worst. Too bad, but it's the new reality.

Fortunately, Oneida County is on board. This past week, County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. announced a number of initiatives, including the allocation of $500,000 to create and help pay for special patrol officers in the school districts that want them.

Picente mentioned the idea at his State of the County address last month. On Tuesday, he cited the lack of action at both the state and federal levels, noting that “we need to look at gun safety, we need to look at school safety, we need to look at mental health issues, we need to look at the entire realm of what’s been taking place in our schools. Here we are some weeks later and you don’t hear anything about it. Well, that’s not the case in Oneida County. Oneida County has and continues to look at ways to keep the community safe.”

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol agrees. He said a safety program has been successful in Whitesboro schools and hopes to see its continued success as other schools begin taking part in it.

Further, Picente announced the addition of four new dispatchers and the creation of a program coordinator position in the department of emergency operations to help develop community safety plans and protocol.

 

BAD

Bull fight ends in arrest of 5 wranglers

Peter Richardson had a cow when somebody tried to steal his bull.

Who could blame him?

The bull - aptly named Lucky - has been an iconic guardian at the corner of Routes 365 and 31 for at least half a century. It once attracted passers-by to Joel’s Frontyard Steakhouse and more recently to Stampede Steakhouse and Saloon. But the restaurant burned down in January 2016. Lucky was lucky. He was the only survivor.

Last Saturday morning, a group of five men was trying to lasso Lucky and take him away when the current owner arrived and a verbal dispute ensued. Deputies responded and said the men told them the former owner gave them the bull. The five men were arrested and charged with trespassing.

Richardson's father, Buddy, later said that Lucky is now in hiding.

“I’d like to see it go back there,” he said. “It’s kind of a landmark.”

And that's no bull.

 

UGLY

Driver distractions are plentiful

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. And while it's good that police agencies such as the Madison County Sheriff’s Office are cracking down on violators, distracted driving really needs to focus beyond cell phone and texting violations.

Operating a motor vehicle with a dog on your lap is distracted driving. Operating a motor vehicle while drinking hot coffee or eating a slice of gooey pizza is distracted driving. Operating a motor vehicle while putting on lipstick or fiddling with electronic gadgetry like the GPS system is distracted driving.

Targeting cell phone users or drivers who are texting is fine. But there should be some sort of universal "Distracted Driving" law that encompasses anything that interferes with the safe operation of a motor vehicle.

Forbes magazine reported this week that the latest statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted drivers during 2015 alone. Aside from having to pay a hefty fine, Forbes stated, getting a ticket for distracted driving can increase your auto insurance premiums by an average 16 percent - about $226 a year, according to a study. That's a premium increase of 7,944 percent since 2011, when carriers issued a penalty of just 0.2 percent for those caught texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.

Of course, distracted driving can result is a much worse penalty than that: A life.

Maybe yours.