Thursday marked the second anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration. Midway into his presidency, Obama can claim success with his initiatives that have become law. Three laws in particular have or will benefit Chapel Hill residents – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Health Care Reform Act and the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The AARA, a $790 billion federal stimulus that funds 100 percent of its transportation projects, was signed by Obama in 2009. According to the Town of Chapel Hill website, Chapel Hill has been awarded a total of $10,296,857 with $5,746,563 of it for signal system improvements, installation of bicycle detection loops, pedestrian safety improvements and Americans with Disabilities Act ramps. Thus far, the town has used about $4 million to upgrade to a computerized traffic light system that eliminates the build-up of traffic at long red lights, especially when there is not ongoing traffic. In a college community like Chapel Hill, with faculty, staff and students driving back and forth to campus all day, that saves us all from a headache.
Benefits from the Health Care Reform Act are expected to go into effect in 2012. By requiring most Americans to buy health insurance by 2014, this law is likely to increase the life expectancy and health of Americans. Additionally, it will cover people without health care benefits from their job and provide care for the elderly not yet old enough to receive Social Security retirement benefits. So why would Senate Republicans try to overturn this law if it will benefit so many people? Some say it’s unconstitutional to require people to buy health insurance. But do they complain that all drivers have to buy liability insurance?
In fall semester 2010, UNC-system colleges and universities stepped in the right direction to ensure its students have health insurance. All enrolled students received insurance from the UNC-System-Wide Student Health Insurance Plan and were required to pay the $361.50 premium each semester unless they already had insurance and signed a waiver to be removed from the university plan. However, many students were unaware that the plan would be in effect and had to spend time filling out forms and insurance information to waive the insurance they never agreed to receive.
On Dec. 22, Obama’s signature sealed the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. The repeal of DADT may be able to help a former Army ROTC cadet from UNC. Sara Isaacson came out as a lesbian last year and had her nearly $80,000 Army scholarship taken away. During the aftermath of her exposure last summer, I interviewed her and she said that if the law were repealed she would return to pursue her dream of serving in the military. She is awaiting the outcome of the appeals process to find out whether she’ll have to repay the scholarship.
I say, give the girl her money back! Or, at the very least, let her get her rightfully earned position back in the ROTC program. I do understand that rules are rules, but, then again, I couldn’t imagine living a lie, which is what the former DADT law forced some people to do. I am also sure that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is beneficial to many more Chapel Hill residents. How beneficial Obama’s initiatives will be, only time will tell. Unless the Republican Congress reverses them first.
– Ebony Shamberger