Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Current Column

ED PALM | How about putting health and safety first?

By Ed Palm
Friday, June 6, 2014
I have some insight into two of the controversies currently swirling around us — one local and the other national.

In early April 2009, my better half triggered the red-light camera that Kitsap Sun reporter Josh Farley recently revealed to have been the city’s biggest “revenue” raiser (“Red Light Cameras Raising Red Flags,” May 17). That’s the red light camera in the southbound right-turn lane at 16th Street and Warren Avenue in Bremerton.

That right-turn lane, at the time, was the main entrance to Olympic College, where I was the Dean of Social Sciences and Humanities. My wife was coming to collect me for an appointment in Seattle.

My wife, I must say, missed her calling. She should have been a lawyer. At her mitigation hearing, she made a cogent case for being a victim of entrapment.

At that time, the right-hand turn lane required a full stop on red. That’s fine, my wife explained, except that Warren is a four-lane, 35-mph street at that point; a motorist coming over the bridge must merge into that turn lane, competing with traffic exiting the campus at the end of the north parking lot; and a high hedge blocks the view at the edge of the intersection. Also, she arrived around noon, when the intersection is busiest with car and pedestrian traffic.

As my wife was starting to merge into the right-turn lane, the light was green. Since she had been looking to her right to merge, she wasn’t aware that the light had gone from yellow to red while she was turning and couldn’t see the light.

Also, my wife informed the judge that the Institute of Traffic Engineers recommends a yellow-light duration of at least 3.6 seconds for a simple 35-mph intersection. She went back and timed the duration at 3 seconds — a significant disparity given that the intersection in question is not simple. The judge reduced the fine by a third and recommended that my wife take up the matter with the city council.

She didn’t press the issue that far, but someone must have. As Farley reported, the full-stop requirement has since given way to the flexibility of a yield sign, and the city is considering further changes to the program. What continues to rankle me, however, is what Mayor Lent said about any changes having to be “lucrative.” Shouldn’t traffic safety, and not revenue, be the paramount concern in whether or not to keep our red-light cameras?

Regarding that other issue, I must admit that I’ve had my ups and downs with the VA.
Like many Vietnam veterans, I was too close to too many explosions and wound up with a high-frequency hearing loss and tinnitus. Over the years, I found it increasingly difficult to hear and interact with students in the classroom.

Finally, on August 17, 2008, I applied online for VA compensation. The VA responded eight months later, on March 24, 2009, requesting documentation and that I report for a hearing evaluation on April 9 with QTC Medical Services in Port Orchard.

Frankly, I wasn’t bothered by that eight-month lag. I realized that the VA had more pressing claims to resolve.

I kept the appointment with QTC. Less than a month later, on May 4, 2009, I was rated as being 10 percent disabled.

What bothers me about my experience is what I have since learned from a retired VA official who shall remain nameless. He confided that, in an effort to improve their response rates, the rating specialists routinely “grab the low-hanging fruit first.” My case was well documented and easy to resolve. Hence, my claim was probably placed before older claims.

All well and good for me, but my better self believes that the VA should adopt a triage system, processing the most serious claims, and treating the most serious cases, first.
On the flip side, I’ve been concerned for some time that I may be feeling the effects of Agent Orange exposure. The area I served in had certainly been defoliated in places, and for over ten years now I’ve suffered occasional attacks of transient peripheral neuropathy. Hence, back in February, I thought I would finally try to get on the VA’s Agent Orange Registry.

The VA’s website indicated that I should contact the “Environmental Health Coordinator” for our region. I emailed this person, who promptly responded with an encrypted message I couldn’t open. I emailed her back, asking for an unclassified answer. She then responded in the clear, telling me that the registry coordinator is at the American Lake VA Hospital. About a week later, when I finally got through to this person, he referred me back to the person listed in the website.

So it goes these days with the VA. I’ve given up on the Agent Orange Registry — for now at least.

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