News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 2006
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Shut-in's obit appreciated
THE DECATUR DAILY:

My husband and I have delivered Meals on Wheels to Ray Wrigley for several years. We never had the opportunity to talk with him. We knew when he was at home, because we could hear the TV. We left his meal at the door when he did not answer our knock. Sometimes, he would greet us at the car and take his meal to his home. On June 6, there was no sound from his home and we left his meal on his doorstep. Later, we learned that was the day he died.

So many of the clients we deliver to pass away and there is no notice in THE DECATUR DAILY. When we saw Mr. Wrigley's obituary, we were surprised. Then, a day later, there was a write-up about all the many friends Mr. Wrigley had. We appreciated that so much. It gave us insight into a person we didn't know, but who many others did. We are so glad to hear that this man had so many friends and recognized him in a really wonderful way. We wish some of the unknowns who pass on would be so blessed.

Carolyn Brown

Decatur

Dunlap source of Decatur parks' success
THE DECATUR DAILY:

I would like to applaud the effort the city has put into improving our park and recreational facilities. In particular, what a great story line on the recent soccer tournaments, softball tournaments and innovations at Point Mallard. I believe this is a direct result of the addition of a bright innovator, Jeff Dunlap, to the city staff a few years ago and his further promotion to a leadership position over all of Parks and Recreation.

Jeff's past experience includes a rare combination of entrepreneurial spirit as a former business owner, hands-on experience and a background in bureaucracy to navigate the political pitfalls. These attributes, in addition to his skill sets in management, maintenance, turf technology, making and meeting budgets, knowledge of automation equipment, an unbeatable work ethic, and the ability to empower his team (multiplication of positive results) have led to numerous success stories for the city of Decatur, while creating a legacy of first-class facilities.

City leadership from Mayor Fowler to Mayor Kyle had the good foresight to listen to Jeff and his team, provide the necessary resources, then get out of the way while they made things happen. How can we take this benchmark performance and cascade the methodology to other areas for the benefit of our city? How can we set aside the territorial bickering and adopt the philosophy that "a rising tide floats all boats"? One way is to hire talented people like Jeff Dunlap and empower them. We have a real success story and some much-needed wins for the city. Great job!

Mike Lothspeich

Decatur

Alternative fuel sources needed
THE DECATUR DAILY:

I live in Hillsboro, just west of Decatur. Our house is about 100 yards from a busy rail line. I recently noticed that several long trains loaded with coal come by west to east every day. They are all the same: two bright orange locomotives in front, 125 hopper cars loaded with coal, and then another locomotive in back. These trains are 1 miles long. I have counted as many as five in a day.

I was curious, so I did some research. Federal law requires electrical power plants that burn coal to use low-sulfur coal. There are huge seams of low-sulfur coal in Wyoming, some more than 100 feet thick, extending for miles. Burning low-sulfur coal reduces sulfur emissions but still creates a lot of carbon dioxide gas. The so-called "unit" trains I describe above are the most efficient way to transport the coal from Wyoming to the power plants.

My concern is the sheer volume of carbon dioxide gas we are dumping into the atmosphere. The long coal trains I see from my front porch contain a tiny fraction of the coal, oil, gas, and other fossil fuels we use. Scientists don't all agree on the impact of rapidly increasing carbon dioxide levels, but they do seem to agree that something dramatic will happen to the climate if the rate of increase continues.

This issue needs to be dealt with seriously at the federal level starting now. I don't see members of either party doing anything that will make a real difference. The coal trains are a vivid reminder of a cloudy future for our children and grandchildren, and they frighten me. Here comes another one...

Joe Blackburn

Hillsboro

Medicare needs overhaul for 21st century
THE DECATUR DAILY:

This is to bring attention to the significant deficiencies in present Medicare coverage related to chronic illnesses and long-term rehabilitation. This is of growing importance because of the increase in the average life span.

I have two principal areas of concern: lack of recognition of problems and expenses associated with caregiving, and the lack of coverage for necessary in-home facilities, advanced technologies and routine supplies associated with the treatment of chronic conditions.

With respect to caregivers, there is no recognition of the problem of "burnout." The present home-health-care program provides only short-term assistance. This program must be expanded to cover more extensive assistance. In addition, the caregiver should be empowered to freely select compatible home-health aides.

Caregivers also suffer financially because of the lack of compensation for necessary routine expenses. For example, with current fuel prices, the cost of transportation for doctor visits and laboratory tests are becoming prohibitive. Other significant costs not covered by current Medicare policy include:

  • Supplies associated with incontinence, such as "Depends" and similar products. This is a common problem with many chronic conditions and the costs are significant (approaching $2,000 per year).
  • Physical changes to the home itself to give the patient easy access and provide a safe environment. Examples are grab bars, ramps and modifications to vehicles to accommodate wheelchairs.
  • New medications and technological advances in rehabilitation therapy, which are available only to the very rich or the very poor. One such device is the Ness Neuroprosthetic and Rehabilitation System, which at $6,200 is not an option for the vast majority who might benefit from it.

    In summary, the present Medicare system must be redesigned to reflect the realities of 21st century medical care, where emphasis must be on supporting long-term care patients and their caregivers.

    Phyllis Sprado

    Decatur

    Parties, media hold election responsibilities
    THE DECATUR DAILY:

    Professor Jess Brown's analysis on voter/candidate responsibility is accurate. Political responsibility should not end there. The media should be the tool for knowledge on candidates. The media are capable of presenting accurate, valid and unbiased information and should do so.

    Both the Republican and Democratic parties have a fiduciary responsibility to the voter. Political parties should not sponsor a candidate who will not conform to the party agenda. In this case all share the blame. This knowledge should be used as a tool of prevention for the future.

    Patsy Sparkman

    Decatur

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