The Opinion Shop

Bonus letters on elections, step therapy, teachers, HB2, clean water

Letters that got overrun by other issues before they could see print:


Election can’t come soon enough

Please make it go away! No, not any pain or illness, the 2016 election.

Constantly being bombarded with half-truths and lies of candidates, political advertisements, commentators and surrogates is more than any rational person can endure.

How can a sane person call their opposition the spawn of Satan one day and then the very next day embrace them as the savior of the nation? Name calling is quickly replaced with gusting praise within one news cycle.

Sadly, spokespersons must qualify, walk back and explain their employer’s outlandish comments and politically inept moves. Is there so much money and power involved that the political class would sell their very souls? Are the voters so blind to the faults of their candidates that they are willing to accept the lowest of behaviors just because of the letters “D” or “R”?

Sadly, we as voters must share in the blame. We seldom think beyond the political bumper sticker slogans and catch phrases. We rally to buzzwords and blame the opposition, or anyone else for our problems.

I can’t wait for Nov. 9. We can burn the yard signs, return to regular programming, end polling phone calls and return to ignorance and blessed compliancy.

Bill Krupp



Essential step therapy

Regarding the July 7 editorial “ Pressure stops drug reform”: Patient safety and affordability are two key pillars of an effective health care system.

A proposed bill debated in the North Carolina legislature, House Bill 1048, could have harmed both of those pillars by limiting a practice known as step therapy. Though the bill was withdrawn by author Rep. David Lewis, it is still important to acknowledge the reasons why step therapy is key to ensuring patients receive the care best suited to their individual needs.

By using step therapy, health plans are promoting safe, effective treatment and managing the risks associated with certain medications, while keeping patients’ out-of-pocket costs down.

Treatment plans are designed based on the latest scientific information and best practices from medical professionals, clinicians and academics.

Limiting step therapy would do nothing more than make it increasingly difficult for patients to access treatment options that are proven to be effective and are more affordable than brand-name, often high-priced alternatives.

Eliminating step therapy would have a chilling effect on efforts to support the kind of individualized treatment that facilitates patient recovery.

Mara Osman

Regional director for State Affairs, America’s Health Insurance Plans

Washington, D.C.


The costs of a calling

School supplies are a basic need for students. The truth is, though, that not all families can afford to supply these basic needs themselves. Teachers fill in the gaps for these families out of their own pockets. No one is forcing teachers to pay for classroom supplies. We do it voluntarily.

North Carolina already ranks as the second-worst state to be a teacher, and we rank 46th in the country for per-student spending. Unfortunately, politicians in Raleigh are doing nothing to fix that.

Teachers did not go into education for the money, but we did not take a vow of poverty, either. Funding for proper classroom supplies is the responsibility of the state legislature and governor. It is not the responsibility of teachers, who are basically filling an irresponsible funding gap created by the politicians in Raleigh.

Teaching is a calling, and those of us who are called to this work do so with the understanding that sacrifice is part of it. However, we never expected the calling to keep us from taking care of our own families or sacrifice parts of our life due to disrespect from our legislators and governor.

Emily Potter



Let counties decide HB2

House Bill 2 should be repealed, but in the spirit of compromise with my fellow North Carolinians who think otherwise, I offer a “modest proposal.”

When I was growing up, North Carolina had a statewide ban on buying “liquor by the drink” at restaurants. Proponents of change pushed for legislation that left it up to each county to decide; it took most of the 1970s, but eventually passed, and we became a “local option” state. We even still have one dry county.

So, let’s allow counties to decide whether to respect transgender people. My expectation is that the Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville and other urban centers would be able to achieve equal rights for all, so the NBA and musical acts and conventions could go back to seeing North Carolina as an inclusive place.

Meanwhile, the rural counties with more “traditional” ways could stick with their binary view and stop what the governor calls “men who think they’re girls” from ... doing whatever.

In the same way that people in dry counties used to drive across county lines to buy a nice margarita with their dinner, transgender people could find the nearest community that accepted them and go to the bathroom in peace; maybe even settle down for good. Everybody wins!

Sincerely, tongue in cheek.

Joe Swain



Groundwater also needs care

Many thanks for the June 17 letter “ A needed advisory” on the importance of the health advisories issued by the Department of Health and Human Services regarding contaminants in drinking water that could endanger the health of those drinking it.

The letter referred to “surface water,” however, while the health advisories are for residents whose well water (i.e., groundwater) is contaminated at levels exceeding the “health screening levels” calculated by the state’s toxicologists.

The health advisories issued in 2015 to hundreds of residential well owners around coal ash sites around the state’s 14 coal-fired power plants were due mostly to the presence of toxic metals hexavalent chromium or vanadium at concentrations above the health screening levels of 0.07 parts per billion and 0.03 parts per billion, respectively.

The letter-writer pointed out that while there are no federal drinking water standards for either of these contaminants; there is enough peer-reviewed science to indicate that they could be harmful.

Most large public water supplies in North Carolina depend on surface water, rather than groundwater, and levels of these contaminants in the public water are far lower than wells close to coal ash.

Hope Taylor



Clean up coal ash ponds

For far too long, public health has been jeopardized by the coal ash spill in the Dan River and leaking waste pits around the state. Although the N.C. environmental department classifies many coal ash ponds as “high risk,” the McCrory administration still hasn’t taken strong enough measures to protect us.

In fact, the governor’s recent signing of House Bill 630, which would allow Duke Energy to classify many of its leaky coal ash sites as “low-risk,” further jeopardizes North Carolinians’ health.

To fully repair Duke Energy’s damage, the ponds must not be allowed to be left in place at all. Until then, the ash will continue to threaten the purity of adjacent groundwater and waterways.

It is also necessary to preserve the independent oversight commission for Duke’s coal-ash removal, to ensure all necessary measures to protect the environment are satisfied by Duke Energy.

We must let Gov. Pat McCrory know that now is the time to clean up the coal ash and make our drinking water safe again.

Marco Wertheimer



Other Asheville tourists

Regarding the July 4 Focus column “Asheville hurt by ‘bathroom bill’ boycott”: Certainly, tourism is a major player in its economy, but Asheville is not an inexpensive city to visit.

Its artsy vibe and expensive offering of things to do and places to stay are a lure for mostly tourists with money to burn.

Even the Asheville Citizen-Times reported in May that “Asheville’s metro area’s housing market has reached unsustainable levels ... particularly because only the affluent may afford to live there.”

If Asheville has lost those tourists who so object to House Bill 2 they refuse to visit, then the city needs to seize the opportunity to attract other tourists, such as families and others who cannot afford Asheville as it has become.

If businesses and attractions set more affordable pricing, there are tourists who will go. It’s really Economics 101.

M.E. Williams



A lack of facts

Regarding the June 1 Focus article “ LGBT-rights group discloses many of its funding sources”: I appreciate your ongoing efforts to uncover the facts (which has to be a full-time job with this governor). But it is clear that the governor and his ilk in the state legislature have little, if any, interest in facts.

If they cared about facts, House Bill 2 wouldn’t even have been considered, let alone passed and signed into law, given the lack of evidence of problems occurring when transgender people use the bathroom of their choice.

If they cared about facts, we would not now have to show an ID when voting, given the lack of evidence of past voter fraud. And that’s just to name two of the many issues where the governor and the Republicans in the legislature have not let facts get in their way when passing regressive legislation that harms our state and its residents.

Please do keep holding the governor’s exaggerations and outright lies up for public scrutiny, but don’t expect him to suddenly begin caring about what’s true and what isn’t.

Jeanne Yocum