A weekly roundup of opinions and observations by the Daily Press Editorial Board
One year later
It was one year ago today that President Trump visited the Newport News Shipbuilding yard, and one year ago today that we published an editorial welcoming him and introducing him to our city and our region. Much has happened in the intervening 365 days, and we thought we would take a moment to revisit some of our thoughts.
We noted that the shipyard was hiring but was still well below peak employment levels; we got behind his plan to aggressively expand the U.S. Navy, as long as that money was not being taken from the social safety net that protects our most vulnerable citizens. But the Navy has spent much of the past year trying to fill holes in maintenance, training and readiness — shortfalls that were brought home in a tragic way when 17 sailors died in a pair of at-sea collisions. The shipyard has continued to ramp up hiring and expand facilities, in part to meet the Navy's demand for a new fleet of ballistic submarines, on which the yard will assist a shipyard in Connecticut.
We referenced health care, and specifically the need to provide better care for our military veterans. Happy to say that in the past year, Congress finally signed off on a new (and badly needed) medical center in South Hampton Roads that will certainly help our overburdened and understaffed location here in Hampton.
We asked the president to cast his eyes on our beautiful Chesapeake Bay as he flew over the region, and to understand how much work (and funding) had gone into its restoration. He apparently was not impressed; shortly after his visit, President Trump announced plans to defund the bay clean-up project. Both houses of Congress urged him to keep most of all of the current funding level; his most recent proposal is to cut that funding by about 90 percent.
It's been an eventful year. We hope the president will come back again this year. And we hope he'll take a closer look at that lovely bay.
Bring him home
As you read this, NASA scientist Serkan Golge — a Turkish-born U.S. citizen who spent many years studying and working in Hampton Roads — sits in a prison cell in his native country. He was visiting family in 2016 when he got swept up among thousands of arrests following a failed coup attempt; he was accused, with apparently no evidence, of being a CIA operative, and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.
He is one of six American citizens being held there, and because of the delicacy of diplomacy with a key ally in the Middle East, neither the Obama nor the Trump administrations have done much (at least publicly) to achieve their release.
Obviously, international relations are tricky, but still … when a couple of college basketball players were imprisoned in China — after actually breaking the law there — President Trump swiftly intervened and got them home. We would like to see a similar effort on behalf of Mr. Golge and the other Americans being held in Turkey. American citizens need to know that their nation and their government will represent them and work to bring them back home safely.
The city of Newport News is seeking ideas for a mural to be painted on the side of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Hampton Roads. We think that's great. The city has budgeted $20,000 for the project, to be taken from federal rehabilitation grants. We're not so wild about that part of the plan.
Surely that $20,000 could be put to more productive and tangible use at a Boys and Girls club. In fact, rather than pay a professional painter to craft the mural, why not give the kids at the club the experience of collaborating with each other on the painting? Then every five or 10 years, a new group of young artists could create a new mural on that site, choosing one part of the previous work to retain.
This would be far less expensive and would give the boys and girls a greater level of creative "ownership" and pride in their club.
Roses and thorns
Each week, the Daily Press Editorial Board offers a list of area citizens or institutions deserving of "roses" or "thorns," when applicable.
This week's roses go to:
Hampton native Steve James, who is nominated for an Academy Award in the documentary feature category this weekend. He has been one of the nation's top documentarians for the past quarter-century, and it's his first Oscar nomination. Fingers crossed on Sunday night.
This week's thorns to go to: