Yesterday my uncle brought a copy of The State from Florence and let me look at it. When he saw me looking at this story, he asked whether I had expected that. I said certainly not, and started launching into a tirade on the subject before reminding myself I was on vacation and shutting up.
Cindi Scoppe also brought it to my attention, and we had the following exchange. To put it in language that young folk can understand, she was like:
From: Scoppe, Cindi
Sent: Mon 7/30/2007 5:14 PM
To: Warthen, Brad – Internal Email
Subject: FW: E-Release – Gov. Sanford Names Buck Limehouse to ContinueLeading DOT
From: Joel Sawyer [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2007 4:03 PM
To: Joel Sawyer
Subject: E-Release – Gov. Sanford Names Buck Limehouse to
STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNORe
MARK SANFORD, GOVERNOR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joel Sawyer
Gov. Sanford Names Buck Limehouse to Continue Leading DOT
LIMEHOUSE TO SERVE AS FIRST SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
Columbia, S.C. – July 30, 2007 – Gov. Mark Sanford today nominated Buck Limehouse as his Secretary of Transportation under the new authority given by recent Department of Transportation restructuring legislation.
Limehouse, 68, is a former chairman of the DOT board and currently serves as director of the agency. Limehouse will run the day-to-day operations of the agency. Gov. Sanford said Limehouse’s wealth of institutional knowledge of the agency made him the right person for the job while the DOT transitions from its previous management structure to the new restructured model.
"First off, I want to thank Buck for being willing to continue his service to the state as this agency transitions to a more accountable structure," Gov. Sanford said. "Whether it’s been his time as chairman or in his current role as director, I think Buck brings a unique skill set and perspective to this job as we sort out what works and what doesn’t under this new management model. This appointment will give us through the next legislative session to not only see what works and doesn’t work within the agency, but to clearly determine whether or not Buck is the right fit with this administration to bring those changes. Our administration will work closely with the DOT and with Buck to make that agency more accountable and a better steward of taxpayer dollars."
Gov. Sanford signed a DOT reform bill last month that in addition to creating an at-will director appointed by the governor, is also aimed at encouraging sound infrastructure investments by requiring that decisions be made in the context of a statewide plan. It also gives the new Secretary of Transportation the ability to hire and fire down to the deputy director level. The legislation was passed in response to an audit that found a number of problems at the state DOT, including overpaying by tens of millions of dollars for contracts, purposefully manipulating account balances, and violating state law on hiring practices for temporary employees. All told, the report found more than $60 million wasted by the agency that could have been used for infrastructure needs in South Carolina.
Limehouse will be officially named the state’s first Secretary of Transportation upon Senate confirmation.
"It’s an honor to be named the state’s first Secretary of Transportation, and I appreciate the governor picking me for the job," Limehouse said. "I think this legislation is a step forward, but at the same time there are clearly some unworkable components that need to get addressed. In addition to continuing to focus on accountability and good stewardship of taxpayer dollars, part of my role will be to continue looking for ways to improve upon this new legislation, and to work with the legislature toward that goal."
Office of Gov. Mark Sanford
And then I was like:
From: Warthen, Brad – Internal Email
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2007 8:54 AM
To: Scoppe, Cindi
Subject: RE: E-Release – Gov. Sanford Names Buck Limehouse to
Actually, it’s just plain weird. First — at the very moment when he had leverage to reform an agency that badly needed it, and had just been re-elected saying that THIS time, he really MEANT it about restructuring — he goes in with an inadequate compromise as his demand, and comes out with next to nothing.
Now he not only capitulates to, but positively affirms, the status quo by naming the official Commission Man to the only position he has any kind of say over.
It’s nothing short of perverse.
And then she was like:
Or perhaps he’s trying to be pragmatic.
1. He has to get the Senate to confirm his choice for secretary, and Limehouse is popular in the Senate.
2. He wants the law changed to give the secretary more power, and Limehouse is saying the law needs to be changed to give the secretary more power, and he has pull in the Legislature.
So why not keep Limehouse in place to see if HE can get the Legislature to improve the law (we know the Legislature isn’t going to FIX the law) to give the secretary more power and the commission less. If it turns out that Limehouse really is a status quo guy, Sanford can replace him after he gets the law changed (or after it becomes clear that the Legislature won’t change it). If, on the other hand, it turns out that Limehouse is merely someone who does the bidding of whoever he works for, and that now that he works for the governor he actually works to reform the agency to the extent that the secretary can, then Sanford can keep him, and it’s a win-win.
So, is it a good thing or a bad thing that we discuss stuff before we do editorials about it, rather than going with our respective individual guts?