Category Archives: Community

400 families waiting for help to have a Merry Christmas

Johansen_Viggo_-_Radosne_Boże_Narodzenie

One of our friends over at the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families forwarded this message from the Palmetto Project over to me, so I’ll share it with you:

If you’ve been thinking about adopting a family this Christmas, we have more than 400 families left, a lot of these are families of 2 or 3 – and we really need your help.

Please call the WIS TV phone bank at 251-8501 and speak to a volunteer today so that we can make sure you get your information ASAP!  Or you can go to http://www.wistv.com/story/24003113/2014-families-helping-families to register on line.

Phone Bank is open now until 7:30 and tomorrow from 5 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

If you have already adopted a family, thank you very much!  You should have received your information already, so please call us at 251-8501 if you have not.

Thank you so much for your continued generosity.

As always, #walkraceforlife2014 made for a beautiful morning

I don’t know how the organizers do it, but the weather was once again perfect for Walk for Life.

And for those of you who missed it, here are my Tweets from during the Walk, with photos…

Join us on Twitter tonight to talk about Walk for Life!

As you know, this Saturday is the Walk for Life, the Palmetto Health Foundation event that raises money and awareness to fight breast cancer in our community.

As you also know, each year I walk in the event with my wife, a breast cancer survivor, and several of my children and grandchildren.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the following for having contributed money to the bradwarthen.com Walk team’s effort (in addition to some of my family members, not listed):

  • Debra Brooks
  • Dianne Chinnes
  • Doug Ross
  • Mr. Canute Magalhaes
  • Mr. Jeff Miller
  • Mr. Mark Stewart
  • Trip DuBard

Thanks so much, everybody! And if you have not contributed and would still like to, just go to this page and click on “Donate.”

Now, you may not know that I and several others will be Tweeting about Walk for Life from 7:30 to 8 p.m. this very night.

Come join the conversation!

Less than ONE HOUR left to join this (or any other) Walk for Life team!

Walk2013

Not much left to say except that registration for all Walk for Life teams closes in less than one hour!

Please go to this page and click on “Join Team,” and follow the instructions.

Yes, one can still contribute after today’s noon deadline, but this is the last time you can register for only $25 and get a T-shirt that will get you in to the State Fair free.

And yes, I’m going to keep bugging y’all right up until the walk itself on Saturday, Oct. 18.

So why not sign up now, and join the most exclusive team going? So far, there’s just me and Jeff Miller, who won’t be walking because he lives in Washington.

I know — I really fell down on the job by not hyping this sooner and more often. But come on and make me feel a tiny bit less guilty by signing up NOW!

Only 18 hours left to join my Walk for Life team!

That championship team: Bryan and Doug can't make it, so we need some subs!

That championship team: Bryan and Doug can’t make it, so we need some subs!

All right, y’all — there are only 18 hours left to sign up for the bradwarthen.com Walk for Life team.

All you have to do is go to this page, search for “bradwarthen.com” in the “search for a team” field, and sign up! It will cost you $25, but then you get a T-shirt that gets you into the state fair that weekend (the walk is a week from Saturday, Oct. 18).

As you can see, the team is kinda lonesome (the only registered member besides me is Jeff Miller, who lives in DC and won’t actually be here for the Walk). Team stalwarts from past years Doug Ross and Bryan Caskey (both of whom did awesome work raising money last year, putting us in the top 10 fund-raisers) both have conflicts and can’t participate this year. So I’m hoping some of the rest of y’all will step up and at least join the team. It’s a great walk, and a great chance to talk over issues in person.

 

Time is running out to sign up for Walk for Life!

Past Glory: Last year's stellar, Top-Ten team posing with Samuel Tenenbaum before the Walk.

Past Glory: Last year’s stellar, Top-Ten team posing with Samuel Tenenbaum before the Walk.

OK, folks, we’ve all fallen down on the job thus far on Walk for Life.

Team registration ends at noon on Wednesday, and… this is embarrassing… I’m the only one who has signed up for my team, bradwarthen.com. And that means I’ve raised a total of, let’s see… yeah, $25.

Yes, I’ve done a lousy job of leading, having written only one post on the subject so far.

But we can still finish strong, right? Right? Don’t make me charge out of here like John Belushi in “Animal House,” with nobody behind me.

This is already humiliating enough. Help me out here.

The walk itself is a week from Saturday…

 

Benjamin seeks help naming baseball team

19L

This release just came in from Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin’s office:

It’s Time to Name Our Team

New Professional Baseball Team in Columbia Needs Help of Fans.

A new chapter of baseball in Columbia will begin on Opening Night in April, 2016.  For the first time in more than a decade, professional baseball will be played in Columbia and in a spectacular new venue that will anchor the redevelopment of Columbia Common, the former State Mental Health Campus on Bull Street. 

Before the future stars of Major League baseball can lace up their spikes and take the field, they need a name. A name that speaks to, from and about our City with pride. Columbia’s team needs an identity that is uniquely Columbia, and we’re counting on the community to help us identify the moniker that will resonate throughout the Midlands.

Suggestions for the name of our new professional baseball team are now being accepted online at ColumbiaProBall.com. Fans are invited to suggest a name, along with a short explanation of their suggestion, from now until October 15th.

In the coming weeks, representatives of the team will spend time in Columbia conducting research, interviews, focus groups and discussions to help them better understand the community and select the new name.  Once the “Name Our Team” process concludes, team ownership and staff will synthesize the information and suggestions to develop an identity for Columbia’s team.

The winning name, along with the team’s logo and colors, will be unveiled in the Spring of 2015. The fan whose submission leads to the team’s new name will have the honor of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch on the Opening Night of the ballpark.  That fan will also receive a prize package that will include an official team cap and jersey and tickets to Opening Night. (If more than one fan submits the winning name, one of those fans will be chosen at random.)

“The team and venue will be great additions that will provide great entertainment and enhance the quality of life for residents of the Midlands,” said Jason Freier, Chairman and CEO of Hardball Capital and managing owner of the team.  “We are excited to begin the process of crafting an identity that is uniquely Columbia and that fans and the community at large can be proud of and call their own.”

Fans are also invited to join the conversation regarding what to name Columbia’s new team on social media. Be sure to “like” Columbia Professional Baseball on Facebook and follow @ColumbiaProBall on Twitter. Use #NameOurTeam to share your ideas.  Note that all official Name Our Team entries must be submitted online atcolumbiaproball.com.

“Through this process, we will come to better understand what makes Columbia so special and unique,” said Abby Naas, the team’s Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, who will be moving to Columbia from Hardball Capital’s highly successful team in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  “We know from our experience re-branding our team in Fort Wayne that this can really be an opportunity to build an identity that the community can rally around.  The TinCaps brand is beloved in Fort Wayne and recognized nationally as one of the great monikers in Minor League Baseball.  We will work hard to achieve the same results in Columbia.”

For more information on the team and venue, and to enter your submission for the #NameOurTeam Contest, visit ColumbiaProBall.com.

I imagine that the mayor is likely to get a few names he’d rather not hear, given the raw tempers that were aired as the new ballpark was being debated.

But in case y’all have some serious suggestions, I thought I’d give you a heads-up.

Anybody want to give some platelets with me (or FOR me)?

This was what they needed last week. I'm not sure what all they need now, beyond platelets.

This was what they needed last week. I’m not sure what all they need now, beyond platelets.

As I told y’all, I had been scheduled to give red cells last week at the Red Cross, but at the last minute they called and asked if I’d give platelets instead, because there was a dire need. I had never been asked to do this, in all the years I’ve given blood, so I figured it MUST be dire, and said OK.

So I did. And learned to my surprise that this is a way more time-consuming process than giving whole blood, or even double red cells. From the time you start pumping until you stop, it’s 90 minutes. Not counting the interview and blood test and other preliminaries.

Not only that, but while you have to wait 16 weeks to give double red cells again, you can give platelets every week.

And sure enough, they called me today, and I agreed to go in and donate tomorrow. I said, “You sure you don’t want whole blood, or double red?” They said no, this need is quite urgent — regular donors have been out sick, so they really need me to do this.

So I will, assuming I don’t come down with something in the next 24 hours.

But now, I’m thinking it would be good to share some of this warm, self-congratulatory glow that I get from being such a good guy. I’m thinking maybe some of y’all should give, too. Because it’s needed.

And because, frankly, I don’t think I can find this much time to do this every week. I need some backup. I don’t mean to complain, but it’s just a matter of practicality — this burden needs to be shared.

How about it, folks? I’ll be glad to help set you up…

Here’s what the Red Cross needs. Go give it!

Here's what the Red Cross needed as of last night, plus the times of operation...

Here’s what the Red Cross needed as of last night, plus the times of operation…

Yesterday, I had been scheduled to give my regular donation of double red cells, but at the last minute, the Red Cross called to ask me to give platelets instead, because that need was even more dire.

So I did. It was my first time. And I’ll admit, this was somewhat harder than giving whole blood or double red cells. It’s kind of like the double-red experience, in that they pump your blood out, then pump it back into you with certain elements removed. But instead of doing all that through one needle, it takes two — one in one arm, the other in the opposite hand.

And worse, it takes 90 minutes. By which I mean, 90 minutes from the beginning of the pumping process, which in my case was well over an hour after I arrived at the donation center on Bull Street. So I was there more than three hours, and the 90 minutes of almost complete motionlessness while I was hooked up was a new adventure in tedium, I’ll admit.

So I can see why more people don’t do it. But it’s needed. So I’ll do it in the future. Next time, I’ll take my iPad and watch Netflix.

But hey, help me out, and more importantly, help out your community. At the very least, go give whole blood, which is like falling off a log compared to this. (I once did it in a little more than five minutes.) Go, and give….

Should McMaster be expected to quit Forest Lake CC?

You may or may not have seen this:

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Bakari Sellers asked Thursday that his Republican opponent, Henry McMaster, resign his membership at a Columbia country club that has a history of having only white members.

Sellers, who could be among the first African-Americans elected to statewide office since Reconstruction, said he made McMaster’s Forest Lake Club membership an issue because he wants to move away South Carolina from its past that includes bouts with outward racism.

“There are those who will call this a stunt. It is not,” said Sellers, a 29-year-old state representative from Denmark and son of a civil rights activist. “The truth is that this is already a campaign of contrasts, whether generational or idealistic, whether being one who believed in tomorrow or who hold steadfast to the themes of the past.”…

So is this a desperate bid for attention on the part of Rep. Sellers? Or is McMasters’ (and Kirkman Finlay’s John Courson’s) and membership in this club problematic in the 21st century?

MInd you, we’re operating without some key facts: We don’t know whether the club currently has black members. We don’t even know whether McMaster currently is a member. We know that he was in the past, and that the club was discriminatory in the past. How distant that past is, or whether, in Faulknerian terms, it is even past, remains fuzzy.

This is particularly interesting to me because — full disclosure time, for those of you who didn’t already know — I’m a member of the board of governors of the Capital City Club, which was founded specifically because other private clubs in the city did not allow, or at least did not have, black members.

After Cap City came along with its deliberate policy of seeking out members of all races and creeds, the other clubs in town were said to follow suit — although Forest Lake continued to have the reputation, fairly or not, of being slower to move on this than other clubs. (I emphasize again, I don’t know what the facts are; I just know it has had that rep. And that’s why Sellers is doing this — because of the rep.)

Finlay is quoted by The State as saying he doesn’t know whether the club has black members or not. I believe him. Although I’ll add, self-righteously, that no active member of Cap City would have to wonder about that. He or she would just have to look around, any time the club is open. The diversity is obvious.

But whether Forest Lake is exclusive or not, should that matter, in terms of Henry McMaster’s suitability for office? Is this a legitimate issue or not?

Some impressions from last night’s Ferguson forum at Eau Claire

Mayor Steve Benjamin addresses the assembly.

Mayor Steve Benjamin addresses the assembly.

First, a disclaimer: The community meeting to talk about issues related to events in Ferguson, MO, held last night at Eau Claire High School, was organized by the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council, with heavy involvement by the office of Mayor Steve Benjamin. I am a member of the Council, and co-chair of the Community Affairs Committee. Despite that, I was not involved in organizing this event. I will, however, likely be involved in any followup activities undertaken by the Council.

Whew, I’m out of breath after typing all of that.

Anyway, you probably saw coverage of the event in The State today. I have little to add to that coverage, beyond a few subjective impressions.

In general, the event was what you might expect it to be — a venue for people in positions authority to carefully state their concern and show their willingness to listen, and for folks whose passions are stirred by events in Ferguson to vent. On those bases, I judge it a success. I particularly commend CRC Executive Director Henri Baskins, who acted as MC with poise, fairness and calm confidence.

On the first part of that equation, I was impressed by the panelists, but most of all by new police Chief Skip Holbrook. It was the first chance I’ve had to observe him in such an environment, and he did well. Better than that — I think he may well be the steady hand that the city has needed in that job.

Chief Holbrook addresses the meeting.

Chief Holbrook addresses the meeting.

As the one white man on the stage, and the only panelist in a police uniform, he was a natural object of scrutiny, given the topic. He did an excellent job of explaining the ways that his department works to prevent situations such as those in Ferguson, and I think it went over well. His demeanor was perfect — he stood up for his department, but did so in a disarming manner. His high point: When he told the assembly, near the end, that he was a better police chief for having been there. That sort of thing could come across as corny or manipulative, but it didn’t from him.

There was some tension in the room, which I’ll encapsulate with this anecdote: At one point former U.S. Attorney and SLED director Reggie Lloyd made the observation that after the fatal shooting in Ferguson, the local officials did exactly “the right thing.” Immediately, a woman’s voice pierced the calm with a high-piping “What?!?!” He went on to explain that the right thing Ferguson officials did was turn the investigation over to outside authorities. He noted that there is an FBI investigation under way, and said approvingly that no one should expect to hear a word about that investigation until it is completed. His implication was that ours is a society with processes for dealing with such situations, even though they may not be satisfying to everyone’s emotions. In fact, he expressly urged people to separate their emotions from their own processing of the event.

Similarly, Municipal Judge Carl Solomon spoke of the importance of young people knowing their rights… but used that as a segue to say they needed to understand their responsibilities as well (I was hearing a lot of good communitarian stuff like that). Among one’s responsibilities, in interactions with police, is to remain “calm and be polite.” He suggested that a respectful demeanor gets you a lot farther than an aggressive assertion of “I know my rights!” in an interaction with the law.

Against those evocations of reason, the event included some venting of emotions. One could expect nothing else from the woman whose son was shot multiple times by police last year. And there were the usual would-be revolutionaries, such as the red-shirted young man who kept going on about how slavery still existed in these United States (because the 13th Amendment, as we all know, allows for involuntary servitude “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”), and asserted how proud he was of the protesters in Ferguson, because he believed otherwise this discussion would not have taken place. 

Then there was the young lady who protested that there were only two “young people” on the panel, suggesting that it was somehow illegitimate for the panel to consist mostly of accomplished people with positions of responsibility in the community. This drew a few cheers from like-minded folks in the crowd.

But everyone involved deserves credit for exhibiting their emotions, as well as their reasoning, in a calm, civilized and constructive manner.

And on that basis, as I said before, I regard the event as a success. Because the ultimate goal is to learn to deal with each other and resolve our differences with civility rather than violence — is it not?

Even as the crowd thinned, folks were still lined up for a turn at the microphones.

Even as the crowd thinned, folks were still lined up for a turn at the microphone.

And so it begins: Walk for Life 2014!

Walk2013

With six weeks to go until the event (Oct. 18), I’ve set up our Walk for Life team for this year — so it’s time to sign up and start raising some money to fight breast cancer in the Midlands!

We have a reputation to live up to, you know — our team came in 9th in total fund-raising last year, with a total of $3,651.44 raised.

The lion’s share of that was raised by MVPs Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross. Doug always makes a strong showing in fundraising, but Bryan topped the charts last year with an email appeal that is still talked about with awe over at Palmetto Health Foundation. It began, “Cancer: Are You For It or Against It?” and then worked the word “boobs” into the second graf.

How we’re going to top that this year I have no idea, but that’s what we’re going to do.

You’ll be hearing a lot from me about all this this year, as Palmetto Health Foundation has signed me up to be a brand ambassador for the event, or as they have dubbed it, a “Pinkador.” On account of my alleged social media prowess. So I intend to have a lot of fun with that, while at the same time flogging potential donors to boost our team’s contributions.

Watch for more in this space. And go ahead NOW and sign up for the bradwarthen.com team. And then get busy hauling in the moolah. If anyone hesitates, mention boobs. It worked for Bryan

Last year's actual walkers -- yours truly, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey, Doug Ross.

Last year’s actual walkers — yours truly, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey, Doug Ross.

 

Other causes envy the viral success of the ice-bucket challenge

Top staff at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, accepting the challenge last week.

Top staff at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, accepting the challenge last week.

On a previous thread, Silence expressed how tired he was of “everyone’s stupid ice bucket challenge videos.”

He’s not alone in that. Even this laudatory article (“The Perfect Viral Storm“) on an advertising industry site notes the meme’s “somewhat annoying ubiquity.”

That aside, there’s no denying that this is the best thing to happen in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease since, well, Lou Gehrig. (Even if, as Silence also pointed out, Gehrig may not have had ALS.)

Samuel Tenenbaum, head of Palmetto Health Foundation, made that very observation to me yesterday in a breakfast meeting in which he and I and Ashley Dusenbury were discussing the promotion of this year’s Walk for Life (watch for more coming on that very soon, teammates!). The Walk has been hugely successful, and they already have some mechanisms in place to make it even more successful this year, but Samuel stands ready to have ice dumped on him if it will make it more successful yet.

Then, over in the world of political advocacy, I received this yesterday from Conservation Voters of South Carolina:

Climate Challenge

Folks, here’s a challenge that doesn’t involve ice buckets.

When local officials, citizens and natural resource managers are meeting to prepare for sea level rise, wouldn’t you think it’s time for us to pay attention?  I challenge you to learn more about the public workshopsin Bluffton and St. Helena Island sponsored by the Beaufort County Planning Dept, Sea Grant Consortium and USC’s CISA.

When veterans talk about “climate security” and the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events to “critical infrastructure at home,” shouldn’t we take note? I challenge you to read Clay Middleton’s letter to the editor of The State.

When the Washington Post announces a series of climate editorials and observes that “despite ups and downs in the polling, a solid majority of Americans favors action to curb greenhouse emissions,” we are reminded of Governor Sanford’s warning in an op ed to that paper in February, 2007: “If conservatives cannot reframe, reclaim and respond to climate change with our principles intact, government will undoubtedly provide a solution, no matter how taxing it may be.”  I challenge you to ask Governor Haley to tell us where she stands on climate. Click here to send her a message

Yeah, she has a completely different point, but you can read in that lede a certain envy, a wish that her challenges might acquire the “somewhat annoying ubiquity” of the ALS phenomenon.

Success has that effect.

I’m so sorry to hear about Anne Postic’s (ShopTart’s) Dad

I don’t know if y’all saw this, or made the connection, but our friend Anne Wolfe Postic, whom we know as The Shop Tart, lost her Dad, Rhett Oliver Wolfe, in a shocking accident at Litchfield Beach on Friday.wolfe

According to one friend, “Rhett and his wife Glenda were visiting some property that needed repair. Rhett leaned against a railing and it gave way. He fell… and apparently died instantly.” Here’s a news story about the accident.

He was only 65. Anne lost her Mom just a little over three years ago.

Here’s a link to his obituary in The State. As you can see, he was heavily involved in good works in the community.

Mr. Wolfe’s business was ADCO’s next-door neighbor on Pickens Street, but I just knew him as Anne’s and Elizabeth’s Dad. I am so terribly sorry for their loss.

 

Mind the gap there, cobber! Crowd works together to rescue fellow commuter

Does the public transit system in Perth, Australia, warn commuters to “Mind the Gap” the way the Tube does in London?

If so, this man failed to heed the warning, and might have lost his leg and even his life if not for the quick reaction and concerted effort of his fellow riders.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

“Transperth spokesman David Hynes said the man was boarding at the tail end of peak hour, but the train was still fairly busy.

” ‘He stood in the doorway and as he was sort of taking up his position there, one leg slipped outside the door, slipped outside the gap, and he was stuck,’ he said.

” ‘We alerted the driver, made sure the train didn’t move.

” ‘Then our staff who were there at the time got the passengers, and there were lots of them, off the train, and organised them to sort of rock, tilt the train backwards away from the platform so they were able to get him out and rescue him.’ “

The man was fine, by the way, thanks to all those strangers.

Brigid Schulte of The Washington Post once teased me after I had said for the umpteenth time that I loved public transportation, saying something like, “I know you do, you communitarian, you.”

But this public transit incident is communitarianism squared…

mindthegap

Doug Ross claims title of ‘highest commenter’ on blog

Photo by Doug Ross

Photo by Doug Ross

Yesterday, our own Doug Ross texted me the above photo, saying:

Fyi, my last post on your blog came from the top of a mountain in squaw valley… 8900 feet… which makes me your highest commenter

It is the official position of this blog to assume he meant “highest” in terms of physical altitude — even though he is a libertarian, vacationing out West, where smoking dope is legal…

When he gets back, we’ll have to ask him whether there are plans to change the name of the valley…

Another centrist video message from an SC Democrat

There’s nothing terribly surprising about South Carolina Democrats gravitating toward the center — they’ve done it as long as I’ve been following politics in my home state.

But I’m definitely seeing a pronounced trend toward setting out those positions very definitely, so you make no mistake.

You saw the recent Tombo Hite video, stressing limited government and keeping taxes low (not lowering taxes, but keeping them low — a truthful distinction you won’t often hear from Republicans, who tend to pander to the erroneous belief that taxes are high in SC).

Now here’s one featuring Vida Miller from the Georgetown area, stressing “Community. Integrity. Responsibility.” Communitarian values that sound sort of conservative because they ARE conservative in the traditional sense of the word — as distinguished from all the anti-institutional bomb-throwers who call themselves “conservative” these days.

vida miller

Bryan Caskey’s shotgun tie

Caskey tie

I had lunch today with Bryan Caskey at his club.

We’d had drinks at my club recently, so it was his turn.tie closeup

We talked about the kinds of things gentlemen talk about at real gentlemen’s clubs (as opposed to the trashy kind) — politics, whether one can actually travel ’round the world in 80 days, shooting for sport, etc. Then in the middle of the shooting part, I noticed his shotgun-shell tie.

So I thought it only right to share it here.

Then we went back to harrumphing about those political chaps, most of them vile Whigs and Jacobins, don’t you know…

Did you vote today? Were you the only one there?

Voted

Well, I did, and I was the only voter at the time. I was greatly outnumbered by poll workers, poll greeters, and media. It was 8:41 a.m., and I was the 46th voter to take a Republican ballot. Exactly one person had voted in the Democratic runoff.

Of course, I HAD to take a GOP ballot, having voted Republican two weeks ago. But had I not been wrongly, unfairly forced to do that (you should be able to vote in both primaries, any time), I would have anyway. I don’t think there was anything on the Democratic side other than superintendent of education, and I didn’t have an opinion on that choice. (Had I voted in that, lacking a view of my own, I likely would have accepted The State‘s recommendation and gone with Tom Thompson. As you may know, I generally, but not always, vote a straight State paper ticket.)

Whereas on the GOP side, I not only had superintendent of education and lieutenant governor, but a hotly-contested county council race.

On my way in I did something I don’t usually do, which is reveal how I was going to vote. Chalk it up to that knock on the head the other day; I cracked under questioning. And since I did it in the presence of the press, I’ll share it with you. I stopped to say hey to Tim Dominick from The State — he shot the picture below at my precinct (I hope The State won’t mind my sharing it — here’s the link to where I got it). He was chatting with a lady who urged me to vote for Bill Banning, for county council. Not feeling like being cagey, I said I would.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who read this story, or who otherwise has been paying attention. A key excerpt:

Anti-tax and limited-government groups are helping Tolar…

In other words, Tolar is sort of the tea party option. I mean, seriously. Anybody who thinks taxes are too high in Lexington County is not likely to get my vote.

Anyway, please share your voting experiences today. You don’t have to say how you voted. Unless you want to. And even then, you don’t have to…

Quail Hollow precinct, right before or after I was there. Photo by Tim Dominick of The State; click on it to read the story at thestate.com.

Quail Hollow precinct, right before or after I was there. Photo by Tim Dominick of The State; click on it to read the story at thestate.com.

SC does well on voter participation, less well on some other measures of civic engagement

Benjamin Thrutchley with the National Conference on Citizenship was kind enough to share the following release with me today, at the suggestion of my friend and long-ago boss Paula Ellis.

Paula, who was managing editor at The State back when I was still in the newsroom in the early ’90s, is well aware of my communitarian tendencies, or at least of my love for wonkish musings about civic virtue, the commonweal, etc.

Here’s the release, and here’s a story about the report in the Charleston paper. My comments on the report will follow:

South Carolinians are active voters, but among the least likely to take action after leaving the voting booth

University of South Carolina Upstate and NCoC

Release South Carolina Civic Health Index

Spartanburg, SC  – Today, University of South Carolina Upstate and the National Conference on Citizenship released the South Carolina Civic Health Index. The report reveals how residents in South Carolina engage in important civic activities such as voting, volunteering, and interacting with neighbors. This type of engagement is critical because it is linked to the economic and personal health of individuals and the strength of our democracy. Overall, the report finds South Carolina’s civic health to be stable, but with key areas of weakness in political participation and civic social connections.

“South Carolinians are some of the most active voters in the country,” said Abraham Goldberg, the report’s author and a professor at University of South Carolina Upstate. “But, voting is only one small piece of our civic life and our state has some work to do. This report shows that too many of us aren’t likely to stay politically engaged after leaving the voting booth and that too many of us are disconnected from our communities and each other.”

Compared to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, South Carolina ranked among the highest communities for traditional forms of political involvement such as voter registration (13th), voting in the 2010 mid-term elections (14th), voting in the 2012 presidential election (19th). However they ranked near the bottom for other forms of political action such as boycotting products (46th) and contacting public officials (48th). The state also ranked in the bottom half of all states when it came to key social strength indicators such as exchanging favors with neighbors frequently (30th), having trust in neighbors (38th) and attending public meetings about town or school affairs (44th).

“This report is one example of how USC Upstate, through the Metropolitan Studies Institute and numerous other venues, achieves our metropolitan mission of engaging with communities across South Carolina, said University of South Carolina Upstate Chancellor Tom Moore. “The South Carolina Civic Health Index and its recommendations can serve as a call to action to increase political and community engagement, educational attainment, and civic involvement that will improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians.”

The report also reveals a strong correlation between educational attainment and almost every measure of political participation and civic involvement analyzed in the Civic Health Index. For example, at a 5 to 1 ratio, college graduates were more likely to contact public officials than those without a high school diploma. Additionally, over 43% of college graduates frequently discuss politics with friends and family, while only 16.3% without a high school diploma do so.

“University of South Carolina Upstate is doing critical work by starting a conversation to strengthen civic life South Carolina,” said Ilir Zherka, executive director of the National Conference on Citizenship. “While this report reveals clear challenges to South Carolina’s civic health, especially around younger and less educated residents, South Carolinians have a strong civic foundation and the skills to tackle these challenges.”

The report data was obtained primarily from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey on Voting, Volunteering and Civic Engagement. Following are additional key findings from the report:

  • Over 40% of South Carolinians participate in at least one type of organization and almost 10% hold leadership roles as an officer or committee member. The state ranked 22nd for group membership and 37th in leadership rate.
  • South Carolinians rank 7th in the nation for church, synagogue, or mosque participation.
  • The report looked specifically at the civic health of residents 18 – 29 years old. South Carolina’s youth ranked 35th in discussing politics a few times a week or more, 40th in exchanging favors with neighbors frequently, and 45th in belonging to any group. However, young South Carolinians were active voters, ranking 6th for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election.

“This report is an important first step in building on our civic strengths and addressing our challenges, especially in developing broader political engagement and social connectivity,” said Abraham Goldberg. “We will continue the work started today by disseminating these findings and activating partner organizations across the state to improve civic life in South Carolina. Maintaining strong civic health is vital to sustaining our state’s prosperity and individual well-being.”

The report also includes suggestions for reshaping South Carolina’s civic health. Specifically: 1) Develop urban areas that bring people together and stimulate neighborhood engagement; 2) Foster a culture that values educational attainment; 3) Reach out to willing religious institutions to invite people to participate in nonpartisan political activity and broader community involvement; and, 4) State leaders should consider assembling and empowering a “South Carolina Commission on Youth Civic Engagement.”

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The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is a congressionally chartered organization dedicated to strengthening civic life in America. We pursue our mission through a cutting-edge civic health initiative, an innovative national service project, and cross-sector conferences. At the core of our efforts is the belief that every person has the ability to help their community and country thrive.

Metropolitan Studies Institute at USC Upstate supports research efforts between USC upstate and the community, enhancing relationships, promoting the reciprocal flow of information and ideas, assisting community and economic development, and increasing the strategic use of the University’s scholarship and outreach capabilities. The MSI engages in select community-based research and assessment projects, notable among them the Spartanburg Community Indicators Project, and partners with community agencies to undertake program evaluations, needs assessments, feasibility studies, and data management projects.

That’s good news about our voter participation — 19th in the nation in the 2012 presidential election, with young voters ranking 6th. And while the Post and Courier report says that’s “even though the state is not a presidential battleground and there’s relatively less campaigning here,” I don’t find it surprising. No, there’s not a lot of suspense over which way we’ll go in November, but I think our extreme national importance as an early primary state gets voters interested every four years — one reason why I’d hate for us to lose that status.

And I’m not that terribly concerned about the supposed dropoff of participation after elections, especially when that is measured by such dubious factors as participation in boycotts, which I seldom see as positive engagement. Trying to do financial harm to someone you disagree with seems to me highly unlikely to foster constructive dialogue. We have enough confrontation in our politics, which I think is one thing that turns many people off to the whole process.

Also, as a small-R republican — as a firm believer in representative democracy, rather than the direct kind — I see voting as the citizen’s first and greatest duty. Between elections, I see the voter’s main job as being paying attention to what the elected officials do, so that he or she can vote intelligently next time. And, of course, engaging in civil dialogues with friends and acquaintances, as we do here.

And I’m torn about the “contacting public officials” thing. In theory, it would be great if politicos heard from all of their constituents, including the most thoughtful ones — or at least a representative sample. But in practice, they tend to hear more from the angriest constituents (see, for instance, “Tea Party“), or the most organized, and resonate to their messages. And while, like a broken clock, the angry people are occasionally right, they aren’t right often enough to reassure me.

Of course, if there’s an increase in elected officials being contacted by the kinds of citizens who read reports on civic engagement and worry about them, that would most likely be a good thing.

Finally, I found it interesting that this report came the same day as this front-page of The State. It’s jam-packed with well-covered news (nice job, my friends), but it’s all of the sort bound to increase voters’ cynicism and sense of alienation from public institutions…

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