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11/11/97 - 11/24/97

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Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness:

Real or Imaginary in South Alabama?

by Stephen McClurg

Has "reefer madness" hit southern Alabama? According to Eric Schlosser of the Atlantic Monthly, "reefer madness" and the accompanying "war on drugs" have not only gripped southern Alabama but the entire United States. He wrote in the April, 1997 issue of Atlantic Monthly: "In an era when the fear of violence pervades the United States, small-time pot dealers are being given life sentences while violent offenders are being released early, only to commit more violent crimes." Schlosser cites the fact that an all-time United States record for marijuana-related arrests of 600,000 was reached in 1995. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report for 1996 reported 642,000 marijuana-related arrests, another record-breaker. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), this figure represents an 80 percent increase since 1990. [_Full_Story_]

"Laidlaw Pulls Out"

-- 11/6/97 *Mississippi Press* headline

by Neil S. Milligan

Coitus interruptus? Sort of: the headline referred to an announcement that Laidlaw Environmental Services (LES) decided not to seed the fertile wetlands of eastern Jackson County, Mississippi with a copious load of toxins. Just hours before a scheduled meeting, the company withdrew its application to the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a permit to build a hazardous waste treatment "plant" at the Stennis Industrial "Park."

Last December a public assembly in Pascagoula drew a crowd of 1,200 citizens overwhelmingly against the proposed facility (see Harbinger 1/7 - 1/20/97, "Mississippi Spurning"). OSCO/Laidlaw has since merged with Rollins Environmental Services, another business turning hazardous waste into money, and this required another comment period for review of information that would affect the DEQ's decision on granting a permit. For several weeks, Citizens for a Healthy Environment, Coast Sierra Club and non- affiliated residents have been urging their neighbors to attend the new meeting Thursday night. They anticipated a crowd of more than 2,000 showing determined opposition to the plan. [_Full_Story_]

School Superintendent Says Mobilians Must Face School Funding Needs

by Edmund Tsang

Paul Sousa, Superintendent for the Mobile County Public School System, says the coming months are "crucial" to the future of the school system. It can continue to make steady progress in test scores, disciplinary problems, and adding new school buildings and renovating old ones, or "it can slip back into hopelessness" of yester-years, Sousa added. "The school system did not have an increase [in funding] since 1959. We have done all that we can do with the money we have. We are going to have to have a funding solution. I don't know what's that going to be, but it has to happen for us to move forward," Sousa said in an interview with The Harbinger last week.

By leveraging the revenue from 7.5 mills of property tax, the school system was able to raise, via bonds, $65 million for a new construction program two years ago. "Fourteen new buildings have come on line or are coming on line, on time and in budget," Sousa said. "People are starting to realize what a great situation it is to have decent facilities for our students. Interests in our schools are going up when people see new buildings going up. It's very crucial to keep interests in our schools going up because there are still many needs in the school system for it to achieve its full potential. We have to find a way to continue because if we can't, we will slip backward." [_Full_Story_]

The Harbinger, Mobile, AL