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Better data needed on sand mining plans

Is there an echo in here? Yes, my friends, there is.

In this space last week The Press’ publisher Jim McGauley called on the county commission to exercise due diligence in evaluating the two sand mining proposals it delayed taking action on until August.

That’s great advice considering how much water the mines intend to use. Water is a public resource and perhaps the most important natural resource behind the air we breath.

But here’s why I would go even further, and say the county should hire this independent third-party engineer, that the mining companies have so generously pledged to pay for. Commissioners would be wise to ensure this expert digs deeper (pardon the pun) than the St. Johns River Water Management District appears to be going with its permitting process.

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Summer energy levels diminish with age

Ah, the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Or however the sixties song lyric goes.

Today is the first day of my summer vacation – or “vacay” in teenager terminology.

When I was a kid this would have meant that I barreled out the front door with a sword I’d made from a ruler and a Popsicle stick, ready to do battle against the forces of evil and the cat next door.

I climbed trees and played in the dirt and ran around and picked wildflowers and got so dirty that I left a bathtub ring. I picked wild onions and ate them, hid behind trees and jumped out at passing cars making my best pirate face. I practiced my Tarzan yells and baked brown. In short, I wrung every bit of pleasure out of summer.

It was just as hot then as it is now, but I never noticed it. Days were just as long but seemed shorter. I stayed outside until my mother called me in for the night. Then I watched TV and planned what I would do the next day.

Somewhere along the line that has changed and I probably should do something to change it back.

For example.

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Don’t let mishap spoil the fireworks

Lawyers are everywhere.

Even if their numbers are somewhat modest in Baker County, they’re still all around us.

Why bring this up?

Last week’s fireworks “malfunction” (remember the “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl?) at Memorial Stadium at the close of the BCHS graduation ceremony is why.

As you’ll note in the news coverage of the event in this week’s edition, there was stonewalling on the part of the school district and Macclenny Fire Department (which supervised the pyrotechnics) to reveal just who it was that furnished the fireworks.

The high school principal said, in effect, since they were “donated” he was reluctant to name the source. He did, however, assert the school district was responsible for fireworks being part of the graduation program.

Kinda hard to deny that. Otherwise, we’d have to assume some entity, vigilantes perhaps, brought the fireworks to the event without warning and “Bam!” — they went off.

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Curiosity is killed by the FCAT

How did we end up with something as wholly-despised as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT?

It would be easy to lay the state’s current system for measuring student learning at the feet of former governor Jeb Bush, an advocate of standardized testing and other Florida education reforms implemented after he took office in 1999.

But there’s plenty of blame to go around, from the Florida Legislature to the State Board of Education and the bureaucrats at the Florida Department of Education and the corporations (yes, bureaucrats exist outside  government, too) that profit from making the tests and the systems that process them, and report the results to the state.

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