On April 17, 1961, a few hundred poorly trained Cubans, backed by the United States, invaded the island of Cuba, determined to overthrow the Castro regime. In 72 hours, the attempted invasion failed and the political blame game began, in public and in private.
A young and untested President John F. Kennedy would accept responsibility for the failure. In private comments he asked, “How could we have been so stupid?”
Kennedy would also say that leaders owe their duties to the people. Those duties include the “obligation to present the facts, to present them with candor, and … in perspective.”
In the 58 years since, local and national leaders have forgotten and ignored those obligations by placing other ideals ahead of men, women and their children.
We can debate that accusation, but we have observed it at the local level. The Hall County Board of Commissioners, against the desire of local people, approved the building of an asphalt mixing plant only hundreds of feet from Myers Elementary School.
What are the facts left unpresented by the board as it approved the plant? Asphalt mixing plants present a health problem for employees and the public. Henan Roady, an international manufacturer of asphalt plants, spells out these dangers as being in part, the release of chemicals like arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and cadmium, all linked to cancers.
Henan adds to that list all the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These can cause cancers, central nervous system problems and liver damage.
Within a half mile of an asphalt plant, according to Henan’s website, 45% of residents can expect to feel a deterioration in health.
Myers Elementary School, all of its buildings and driveways, all of its classrooms and playgrounds, and all of its student pick-up and drop-off locations, sit less than a quarter of a mile from the asphalt plant.
Those proposing and approving the plant’s location could dispute Henan’s statements and risk statements made by international agencies. But they cannot dispute the creation and distribution of mutagenic and carcinogenic chemicals. We cannot ignore the data collected from real life experience. People near asphalt plants get sick, deadly sick, and they die.
Hall County’s commissioners, like Shelly Echols who made the motion to approve the plant, failed to collect the facts, to judge the facts with candor and to view the facts with the perspective that all leaders have obligations to people, especially the helpless, before any thoughts of profit, property rights, or development.
The commissioners must say, as Kennedy did, “How could we have been so stupid?”
When unknown consequences become known, the ignorant own the consequences. Teachers and children at Myers Elementary will get sick with asthmas and cancers. Some may die. It is almost a certainty.
When the inevitable happens, mark the death certificate, “Died of Indifference on March 14, 2019 by a vote of 4-0.”