Editorial roundup

The Journal Times of Racine (Wisc,), June 24, Honey bees: More important to you than you think

Honey bees have been in serious decline for more than three decades in the United States, according to national reports.

The USDA’s national Agricultural Statistics Service has been documenting the decline in the number of managed honey bee colonies used in honey production for years.

Starting in the 1940’s there were approximately 5.7 million colonies in the United States, and the number of managed colonies used in honey production has declined to approximately 2.74 million colonies today, according to a White House report.

That is a serious decline throughout the country and according to the White House report it has also been affecting monarch butterflies, among other species.

Now Racine County is working on doing its part to help bees through a proposed ordinance.

The proposed ordinance follows a long court battle a Dover resident had to undergo to keep her bees.

Debi Fuller has kept thousands of bees in two hives in the backyard of her home on the 2100 block of Lakeshore Drive to help pollinate her organic garden and flowerbeds, but an ongoing dispute with a neighbor reportedly led to a complaint filed against her.

The Racine County Sheriff’s Office then issued her a citation in June 2014 for zoning violations and she was told at the time that the ordinance did not allow honey bees to be kept in residential zones.

But, in the end, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Wayne Marik ultimately granted dismissal of her citation.

“What the court found was that there was nothing in the ordinances that said I could not have bees,” she said.

It’s unfortunate Fuller had to go through this legal battle for the county to start to recognize the importance of bees. But at least now the county is on the right track.

The public commonly confuses honey bees with wasps and yellow jackets, which sting much more often, and there are a lot of false fears and misperceptions.

This ordinance can help educate the community about the difference between wasps and honey bees, while protecting the latter.

Julie Anderson, the county’s director of public works and development services, said the regulations under discussion would apply only to unincorporated areas in Racine County, which include the towns of Raymond, Norway, Waterford, Dover, Burlington and Yorkville. Villages and cities in Racine County, if they were interested, would have to adopt separate ordinances.

Anderson said the county is taking its time drafting the rules and not rushing something through the County Board. At the same time, Peter Poli, president of the Beekeepers Association, said he is looking for reasonable setback requirements but not much other regulation.

We encourage the county to continue moving forward with this important ordinance and work closely with beekeepers to not make burdensome regulations.

Racine County should be part of the national solution to help keep our county and nation blooming and beautiful and protect the vitality of our nation’s crops.

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on rechecking bags, Don’t buy new luggage just yet.

You may have heard earlier this month that a global airline association recommended reducing the size of passenger carry-on bags. Fortunately, the trade group has done an about-face thanks to “intense” opposition from North American airlines and the flying public.

The Montreal-based International Air Transport Association had recommended carry-ons be 21.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep – or about 20 percent smaller than what most travelers have been used to. But on Wednesday, the IATA withdrew the new guidelines over “significant concerns” by travelers who would need to buy new luggage or pay more in checked-baggage fees.

“This is clearly an issue that is close to the heart of travelers,” IATA senior vice-president Tom Windmuller said. “We need to get it right.”

A top U.S. airline group that includes the world’s three largest carriers – American, Delta and United – formally came out against the proposal, which already has been adopted by foreign airlines such as Air China, Emirates and Lufthansa.

The IATA said the new standard would have provided carry-on space for every passenger on a 120-seat flight. Under current size limits, about 20 passengers typically have to check a bag.

If equitable distribution of overhead bin space was indeed the primary motive behind the baggage rule, we would have applauded the new standard. Just about everyone, at one point or another, has cringed at the sight of full overhead bins and fellow passengers struggling to stuff oversized bags into tight spaces.

But we can’t help but suspect – as would many members of the flying public – that the move really was designed to boost airlines’ ancillary revenues.

After all, reducing the permissible volume of carry-ons increases the chance travelers would need to check bags and incur fees typically set at $25 per bag each way.

Those universally despised fees began cropping up around 2008 when crude oil prices hit an all-time high, but they never went away after fuel prices normalized. Last year, American air carriers alone made $3.5 billion off baggage fees, according to the IATA.

If the airline industry’s problem is cramped overhead storage, perhaps it should invest in more spacious bins, or remove the disincentive for passengers to check their bags.

The airlines themselves share some of the blame for the dearth in cabin space. They’ve spent the past two decades shoehorning more bodies into planes by making seats smaller and bunched more closely together.

The average seat pitch – the distance from a given point on one seat to the same point on the seat in the next row – is two to five inches shorter today than it was in the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, during the same period, the average seat width has shrunk from 19.5 inches to about 17.5 inches. That is about three inches smaller than the average American’s hip size.

Meanwhile, airline passenger load factors – a measure of how crowded a flight is – have increased from 67 percent to 84 percent during the past 20 years.

Fuller flights, less room, more fees – no wonder airline quality ratings are declining across the board.

If this keeps up, there will be fewer people choosing to fly, and the carry-on bag problem will take care of itself.

Online: http://chronicle.augusta.com