Editorial Roundup: Georgia

Dalton Daily Citizen. May 15, 2024.

Editorial: Law protects free speech, whistleblowing

No one should be made to feel afraid of their own government, even when they are speaking out against it — at least not in the U.S.

Government should always be open to public censure, and government employees should not be excluded from the right to question the actions of their own government.

People do not relinquish First Amendment rights simply by virtue of the fact they work for a branch of government.

Sometimes newspapers hear from anonymous sources. While we appreciate tips, without verification and authentication we are often limited in our ability to be responsive to the information shared anonymously.

More often than not when people wish to remain anonymous it is because they fear reprisal.

We want to remind government employees, administrators, bureaucrats and elected officials, being a public employee does not mean you do not have the freedom of speech.

Schoolteachers, law enforcement officials, city or county office staff or other people employed by local government should never be intimidated into thinking they cannot express their opinions publicly because they work in the public sector.

The courts have consistently said that while a public employee’s behavior and speech should not be disruptive, they cannot be told by their bosses they are not allowed to express their opinion or not allowed to speak to the media, for instance.

Attempts to squelch an individual’s right to express an opinion disregards the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution along with the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Everyone — including public employees — must be free to openly express their points of view.

In Pickering vs. the Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court made it abundantly clear a teacher, for example, has the right to speak out on issues of public importance without the fear of being fired.

In the landmark New York Times vs. Sullivan case, the Supreme Court said, “We consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

Georgia’s leading authority on the First Amendment, David Hudson, wrote, “The court reasoned that ‘erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate’ and that punishing critics of public officials for any factual errors would chill speech about matters of public interest,” (Defamation and the First Amendment).

While in Garcetti vs. Ceballos the court said if the person is speaking in their official capacity as a government employee they might be disciplined or held accountable for their public comments, that does not mean when speaking as a private citizen their freedom of speech can be abridged.

Whistleblower laws exist to protect people who speak out in the public interest.

The First Amendment offers even greater protections.

In addition to the fact the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, it also guarantees the right to protest, the right to assemble and a right to make all grievances known publicly.

Government must be held accountable. The newspaper has a responsibility to help hold it accountable, but voters, of course, hold the ultimate recourse.


Valdosta Daily Times. May 15, 2024.

Editorial: Don’t leave pets in cars

It’s hot.

And getting hotter.

It’s way too hot to leave a pet alone in your car even for a few short minutes.

Taking a pet on a car ride, whether it is a short drive to the store or a long trip, requires forethought and careful planning.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.

In 20 minutes, it can rise almost 30 degrees. At 60 minutes, the temperature in a vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature.

So that means even on a 70-degree day, it could be 110 degrees inside your vehicle, the foundation suggests.

Leaving a pet in a parked car puts the animal at risk of injury and even death, even on a day you do not consider to be all that hot, and experts say cracking the windows makes little difference.

Pets being left in hot cars is not the only danger.

When families go on vacation, many of them bring their pets along for the ride and the fun. According to a survey by AAA Auto Club, 38% of people take their pets with them on vacations or road trips.

Of that number, 37% of respondents to the AAA Consumer Pulse survey said they never restrain their pets when they are in the car with them. AAA warns that not restraining pets, in some ways, can lead to added distractions for the driver and increased dangers for passengers, including the pets.

According to the auto club, 13% of pet owners admit to becoming distracted by their pet while driving. The majority of drivers admit to engaging in risky behavior while behind the wheel; petting their animal, include allowing their pet to freely move from seat to seat, allowing their pet to sit in their lap, giving food or water or even taking a photo of their pet while driving.

AAA offers these suggestions for traveling with a pet:

— Pets should be confined to the back seat, either in a carrier or a harness attached to the car’s seat belt. This will prevent distractions as well as protect the animal and other passengers in the event of a collision.

— To help prevent car sickness, feed your pet a light meal four to six hours before departing.

— Do not give an animal food or water in a moving vehicle.

— Never allow your pet to ride in the bed of a pickup truck. It’s illegal in some states; he also can jump out or be thrown. Harnessing or leashing him to the truck bed is not advisable either: if he tries to jump out, he could be dragged along the road or the restraint could become a noose.

— Avoid placing animals in campers or trailers.

— Don’t let your dog stick her head out the window, no matter how enjoyable it seems. Road debris and other flying objects can injure delicate eyes and ears, and the animal is at greater risk for severe injury if the vehicle should stop suddenly or be struck.

— Stop every two hours to stretch their legs and take a quick break from driving. Your pet will appreciate the same break. Plan to visit a rest stop every four hours or so to let him have a drink and a chance to answer the call of nature.

— Be sure your pet is leashed before opening the car door. This will prevent her from unexpectedly breaking free and running away. Keep in mind that even the most obedient pet may become disoriented during travel or in strange places and set off for home.

— Never leave an animal in a parked car, even if the windows are partially open. Even on pleasant days the temperature inside a car can soar to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. On very cold days, hypothermia is a risk. Also, animals left unattended in parked cars can be stolen.

Pet restraints and carriers can be found in all major pet retailers and on several websites.

If you are going to own a pet, be responsible, make wise decisions and plan ahead.


Brunswick News. May 16, 2024.

Editorial: DFCS needs more scrutiny from legislators

It is becoming increasingly difficult to follow the score of the Georgia Division of Family & Children Services. Is the agency that is charged with the protection of Georgia’s children doing its job or is it failing the children and families of this state miserably?

It is hard to forget all the complaints and criticisms flung at DFCS by adults during a public hearing held in Glynn County some 20-plus years ago. In summary, residents accused the department of allowing bad things to happen to children. Accusations spanned the gamut. While some claimed the state agency was slow to take action, others lampooned it for perhaps acting too quickly in the placement of children.

More recently, a former assistant district attorney who once served the Brunswick Judicial Circuit held a press conference this week with individuals and families at his side to question the practices of DFCS in Camden County. According to Kevin Gough, now a private attorney in Glynn County, only one in 10 children removed from the home is returned to his or her family.

That is a questionable, if not indeed a shameful, track record for a state agency that is tasked with doing what it can to keep families together. There are claims from adults that they were taken from the home as children, housed in hotels and kept out of school.

Concerns expressed in Camden County jive with the findings of U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-GA, and a bi-partisan federal task force in October 2023. Among other things, the task force found that the number of children yanked from families by DFCS greatly surpassed the number of foster parent homes willing to take them. Consequently, the overflow went to hotels.

Sen. Ossoff and others on the task force were left to wonder what became of hundreds of missing children that were once under the care of DFCS. The senator commented on one of his worst fears: “These are children. And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services … children who go missing from care are left more vulnerable to human trafficking, to sexual exploitation, and to other threats to their health and safety.”

It is time to do more than hurl criticisms at DFCS. Legislators need to dig for answers. If the department is too overwhelmed with caseloads, then a solution must be found, a viable solution.

Sticking children in hotel rooms is not the answer.