The winners and the losers

Published: Saturday, Nov. 23 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Public Safety Building in Salt Lake City

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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Loser: Every now and again, the confusing array of police and fire departments in Salt Lake County causes problems. It happened again this week when someone in an unincorporated area surrounded by Sandy City called for an ambulance. Sandy has a new agreement requiring Salt Lake City to dispatch emergency services, but a dispatcher got mixed up. As a result, it took five minutes to respond to the call. Officials say a new protocol has been put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The only way to guard against that, however, would be through a unified valley wide system.

Winner: It seems natural that school teachers should have the freedom to question a student they worry might be contemplating suicide. A bill sponsored by Rep. Steven Eliason, R-Sandy, would make it clear that teachers and administrators have that ability. A greater problem, however, is that people don’t know how to approach the subject. It isn’t easy to talk about suicide, and some people worry, for good reason, that doing so may plant ideas in the heads of vulnerable young people. But with Utah’s youth suicide rate already among the highest in the nation, letting opportunities to intervene pass by because of legal worries makes no sense.

Winner: Utah lawmakers will soon consider whether to raise the minimum smoking age in the state from 19 to 21. That would be a good move. Critics often note that the nation allows people to vote and serve in the military at age 18, which they feel makes it inconsistent to prohibit them from making more trivial decisions about vices. But both tobacco and alcohol cause health and behavioral problems that are exacerbated by immaturity. Someone who is 21 tends to have a better ability to make right choices than someone who is 19, and restricting sales also would have the added effect of making it harder for even younger people to access cigarettes.

Loser: Colonel James Jabara Airport in Kansas had never seen the likes of a Boeing 747 Dreamlifter on its runways before this week. The pilots of such a craft landed there accidentally, mistaking the airport for the much larger McConnel AFB, nine miles away. While the story drew snickers around the nation, it raised serious questions about how such a thing could occur. Jabara Airport was barely large enough for the plane to land and take off. The public has a right to be concerned that such a mistake in the future might lead to an accident on a short runway.

Winner: Speaking of airplane mishaps, an emergency landing on an interstate highway in Maine this week was of a happier variety. The pilot of a Cessna 152 had engine trouble and needed to come down somewhere. He managed to land on I-295 during rush hour without hurting anyone or hitting any cars. While the traffic jam that ensued was of epic proportions, traffic jams are much better than funerals or hospital visits.

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