Category Archives: Midlands

The puzzling, chronic snarl at I-26 and Sunset

The problem is with the folks following the red line -- exiting I26 coming from Charleston, and heading west on 378 toward Lexington.

The problem is with the folks following the red line — exiting I-26 coming from Charleston, and heading west on 378 toward Lexington. They completely block traffic on 378, for light cycle after light cycle.

Here’s some hyper-ultra-local for you… It will be relevant to anyone who lives in Lexington and has to drive into Columbia on a regular basis.

I’m puzzled by a phenomenon that has just cropped up in the last couple of weeks. I’m puzzled a) that it’s happening now and b) that it never happened before (to my knowledge; maybe I was just lucky before). File this under “the stupidity of crowds,” or something like that.

The interchange at Interstate 26 and Sunset/378 in West Columbia is… unusual. It opened for business about a decade ago after years of work. Replacing a conventional older interchange that was frequently the cause of a lot of traffic backing up toward Lexington, it was at first a bit confusing, but as locals caught on, it helped things flow much more smoothly. Occasionally, there’s somebody from out of town who misreads it, but mostly it’s worked pretty well.

Until just a couple of weeks ago.

Now, all of a sudden, if I’m heading home from downtown anywhere near rush hour, traffic will be backed up a mile or two on Sunset, starting at about Hummingbird or sooner. I mean standing still for long periods of time. Yeah, I know — rush hour is rush hour. But it didn’t get bad  until a couple of weeks ago, and I can’t figure out why.

I mean, I know what’s happening, because it’s easy to see when you finally get to the interchange: People getting off I-26 coming from the direction of Charleston, and trying to go west on 378 toward Lexington, are going ahead and turning when the intersection isn’t clear, and forming a line completely blocking 378. So people on 378 trying to go in either direction are completely blocked, sometimes for light cycle after light cycle.

I just don’t see why people started doing this all of a sudden, after not doing it for years. But they did, and it’s a huge pain.

Below is a shot of what it looked like at 2:22 p.m. yesterday. I was heading toward Columbia on 378 after having gone home for lunch. I had the green light, but we were going nowhere because all these people from the Interstate were blocking us.

Note that this wasn’t even at rush hour.

I just don’t get it. Why is this happening now?

snarl 2

Supt. Hamm’s letter about Spring Valley incidents

I’ve finally, finally, finally gotten caught up on my email for the week, so I’m belatedly sharing with you this message from Sen. Joel Lourie. He sent it out to member of the Richland County legislative delegation, with this note:

Dear Fellow Members of the Delegation –

By now, each of you should have received the attached letter from Dr. Hamm regarding the incident at Spring Valley High School.  I have heard from many parents throughout the district who have indicated their support for the way this crisis was handled, and a strong sense of optimism in moving forward.  I believe there will be positive changes that come out of this unfortunate situation.  On a statewide level, we should re-visit the “Disturbing Schools” section of state statute to insure that we are not criminalizing incidents that could be handled administratively.  I also want to thank Dr. Hamm and the administration and board for their professionalism and sensitivity in dealing with this matter.

Best regards always –

Joel Lourie

I’m in complete agreement with him that the “disturbing schools” law needs to be addressed — in fact, I see that as the one legitimate response the delegation may have to these school matters.

I would copy here the contents of the note from Dr. Hamm, but unfortunately, it’s one of those PDFs that won’t let you copy and paste the text.

But you can read it by clicking here

Columbians, did you vote today?

forum four

The candidates at last week’s Community Relations Council meeting, apparently listening to one of my questions.

And if you did vote and don’t mind sharing, how did you vote, and why?

And if you think such questions are none of my or anyone else’s business, fair enough. What can you share. Any trouble voting? Were you alone at the polling place, or was the turnout better than anyone expected?

And regardless of how you voted, or would vote if you could (since the political entity of Columbia encompasses a much smaller area than the economic community, many of us lack the franchise), who do you think will win, and why? And is that a good or bad thing?

In other words, this is an Open Thread on the municipal runoff today…

Glad to see The State endorsing in city council runoff

I was really glad this morning to see The State endorsing in the District 2 race. That causes me to expect an endorsement Sunday in the at-large runoff.

These are the first endorsements I’ve seen since the editorial department was reduced to one, which I was worried would mean no more endorsements. While the editorial board has always consisted of more than the editorial department (the publisher in my day, the publisher and the executive editor and I think at least one other today), the actual legwork necessary to an endorsement was always done by those of us in the department.

So I was glad to see such a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of the District 2 race, ending in an endorsement of Aaron Bishop. Personally, I had no idea which of those guys I would have endorsed. I haven’t done the legwork. So I got a lot of food for thought out of what The State said — which, after all, is the purpose of an endorsement. As I’ve said so many times over the years, an endorsement is less about the who than about the why.

I look forward to the Sunday piece. I have a pretty good idea which way they’ll go, but I’m not at all convinced I would go that way — so I look forward to the seeing the arguments advanced.

Come to the city council candidates’ forum tonight!

Notice how I threw in that exclamation point to get y’all excited? Is it working?

I hope so, because I’d like some of y’all to turn out. The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council will host a candidates’ forum tonight feature all four of the Columbia City Council candidates who are in next week’s runoff: At-large candidates Howard Duvall and Andy Smith, and District 2 candidates Ed McDowell and Aaron Bishop.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

It will be at 7 p.m. at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices at 930 Richland Street.

How are we having a forum for two different offices? Like this: We’ll ask a question of the candidates for one office, then ask another question of both candidates for the other. Not perfect, perhaps, but it seemed the simplest way of handling it without trying to schedule two separate events in a tight time frame.

Originally, this was to have been televised live, but that fell through at the last minute. So instead of this being moderated by a smooth broadcast professional, the questioners will be CRC Executive Director Henri Baskins (who’s pretty smooth in her own right) and yours truly. If you come, don’t boo us too much — we’re last-minute substitutes, doing our best. (See how I lowered expectations there, despite the fact that I’ve moderated debates in the past and been paid for it? If candidates can play that game, so can moderators.)

Those of you who can vote in this election should come on out. This might be your last chance to compare the candidates in person…

Andy Smith says his campaign is about Columbia’s future

Andy Smith


Andy Smith came in second behind Howard Duvall in Tuesday’s voting, but “we had such enthusiastic voters” that he’s optimistic about his ability to come out on top on Nov. 17.

The key, he said, is “keeping our base engaged,” and turning out people who maybe didn’t get out on Tuesday.

I asked him how he defined that base, and he said it included LGBT voters, the arts community, those 50 and under and young professionals. At this point, I told him, I was feeling a bit left out. Just kidding. (In fact, I should disclose that Andy and his wife, Kimi Maeda, are friends with my elder son and daughter-in-law.)ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

Since he mentioned LGBT folks first, I wondered — would his base be less motivated now that Cameron Runyan was out of it? He said he didn’t think so.

In fact, he emphasized that his campaign was far less about what this or that person had done in the past, and more about what Columbians together could do in the future.

“We’re the only campaign talking about ideas for the future,” he said. “We’re not negatively motivated; we’re actually the reverse.”

What does he mean by that? He cites the prediction by the Urban Land Institute — he was involved in ULI’s Reality Check two years ago — that the Midlands would grow by 500,000 people over the next three decades. He’s among those convinced that the way for that bigger city to be the kind we want to live in, it needs to attract both talented workers and successful entrepreneurs.

Although he didn’t put it this way, to some extent he meant people like himself.

Andy Smith grew up in Columbia, the son of a retired two-star Army general and the grandson of a brigadier. He went away to Swarthmore for his undergraduate degree, and did graduate work at UCLA. He came back home after an epiphany following the 2004 presidential election.

At the time, he was one of many “young, progressive people from the South” who “had all moved to the blue states.” After the election, he was looking at a map showing which states had gone for Bush and which for Kerry, and was struck by how divided the country was.

He decided he would no longer surround himself only with people who saw the world the way he did. He came home. “Places like Columbia are very special,” he said. Someone like him is “forced to interact with people who disagree with you all the time.” And he sees that as a good thing. “I moved back here determined that I’m just going to change the world.

Five years ago he became executive director of Nickelodeon Theater. The bio on his campaign website describes his tenure thusly:

Under his leadership, the Nickelodeon moved to the renovated Fox Theater in the heart of Columbia’s burgeoning Main Street, doubling its annual attendance and growing its budget to over $1 Million annually. Andy is also the founder and co-director of the Indie Grits Festival, named twice by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the “20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.” Columbia Business Monthly named Andy to its 2014 “50 Most Influential People” list and Free Times named him one of “50 People who Get Things Done” in 2015.

He sees his candidacy as a logical next step in helping build and maintain a livable community.

Some other things we talked about during our interview today at the Vista Starbucks:

  • What about his relationship with the mayor, since this runoff is being described as the Benjamin team (Smith and Bishop) versus the mayor’s detractors (Duvall and McDowell)? He sort of laughed as he said “The mayor is one of many people who have offered advice.” He has found that when you’re running for public office, a lot of people come out of the woodwork to offer such advice and aid, both “solicited and unsolicited.”
  • One of the key issues that has divided the mayor and Howard Duvall was the strong mayor initiative, which Duvall was instrumental in scuttling. He said that while be believes a community needs “strong leaders,” he doesn’t have strong opinions regarding what the best form of government might be. He did vote for the proposal, but he sees the form as less important than the quality of individual leaders.
  • Smith is half the age of Duvall, who is also a retired professional at running municipalities. Smith is unfazed by his opponent’s resume. Sure, Duvall is an expert on the nuts and bolts of running a town, but “We have a philosophical difference about the proper role of a council person.” Smith doesn’t think an elected councilman should be “getting involved in the nitty-gritty that you want staff to do.” A member of council should “think big,” concerning himself with policy rather than the minutiae of administration. “Retain talented people; let them do their jobs.” For his part, speaking of the Nickelodeon’s key role in transforming Main Street, “I have 10 years of experience actually turning our city around, and that’s the kind of experience we actually need on council.”
  • He noted that he was “talking about water and sewer before the flood,” based on personal experience. He and his wife live in the Earlwood neighborhood, and their tap water was brown, forcing them to drink bottled water from the grocery.
  • Like his opponent, he sees crime as a big issue, especially since he and his wife have been “awakened by gunshots” in their neighborhood. “Not feeling safe in your home is just terrible.” He believes it is essential to hire and retain the best people as first-responders.
  • He says the city has not done enough to take care of the good “things that make us unique — such as “our rivers, which we continue to dump sewage into.”
  • He sees the need for a citywide comprehensive cultural plan, which would help Columbia obtain grant money that would further develop the arts, making the city that much more attractive to the “creative class” that Richard Florida speaks of.

“I think we have all the pieces we need to be successful. So much has happened almost despite city council in the past.” He believes he can help provide the right leadership to keep the community moving forward.

Andy Smith 2

You won’t have Cameron Runyan to kick around any more

File photo: Howard Duvall in July

File photo: Howard Duvall in July

Y’all, I’m about to run into a meeting, but I thought I’d provide a post about the results (so far) of the city election.

Here’s The State‘s story.

Runyan in happier times.

Runyan in happier times.

I wasn’t a bit surprised that Howard Duvall was the big vote-getter in the Columbia at-large council race — his resume beats everyone else’s, hands-down — but I was slightly surprised that incumbent Cameron Runyan didn’t make it into the runoff.

I’ll share other thoughts in the comment thread when I get caught up later, but I figured I’d better put up a post so y’all can get started without me…

Mia McLeod and Joel Lourie on Spring Valley protest

Joel Lourie shared this exchange with me from over the weekend — two messages from Mia McLeod and one from him…

Rep. McLeod sent this to Sen. John Scott at 12:24 p.m. on Friday:

Senator Scott,

As you know, we are still dealing with an increasingly volatile situation at Spring Valley High School (SVHS).

From what I’m seeing on social media, in conjunction with the calls and texts I’ve received, school administrators obviously allowed some students to stage a “walk-out” in protest to Officer Fields’ firing.

Students on both sides of the issue are extremely passionate about their very different perspectives and of course, opinions and perspectives are not limited to students, parents and community members of SVHS.

As social media continues to reveal, this latest “protest” is likely to escalate already growing tensions that have been caused by Monday’s incident.

If students at SVHS and other Richland Two schools decide to do likewise, this could become a real issue for Richland Two and us.

In fact, as SVHS and Ridge View prepare to play tonight at Spring Valley, we need to understand that tensions are high and could easily play out at school events like this.

I’ve copied Richland Two so that they can advise us about District Two’s position on this and why  school administrators are approving and/or allowing any types of protests. Shouldn’t protests of any kind also be considered disruptive, since these students are missing and causing others to miss, valuable instruction? I’m concerned that this sets a very dangerous precedent.

What are we collectively planning to do about it?


Then, later on Friday, she sent this to Scott and other members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation:

From: Mia McLeod []
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2015 2:03 PM
To: John L. Scott, Jr.
Cc: Jimmy Bales; Rep. Bales; Nathan Ballentine; Beth Bernstein; Rep. Beth Bernstein; Christopher R. “Chris” Hart; House 3M Committee; Leon Howard; Rep. Kirkman Finlay; Rep. MaryGail Douglas; MaryGail Douglas; Joseph A “Joe” McEachern; Joseph H “Joe” Neal; Rep. Rutherford; Rep. Smith; Sen Thomas McElveen, III; Senate Education Committee; Sen. Jackson; Joel Lourie; Thomas McElveen; JAMES BROWN; Kim Janha; Amelia B. McKie; James Manning; Cheryl Caution Parker;; Susan Brill; Monica Elkins-Johnson; Calvin Chip Jackson; Debbie Hamm
Subject: Re: Spring Valley Protest

It has also come to my attention via calls and social media, that apparently, there is video footage of today’s student protest and that an SVHS Administrator is seen on that video, addressing the group of protestors and assuring them that they are not in trouble for protesting (or “disturbing schools” during the school day) and that their voices have been heard.

Can someone from Richland Two please speak to this?

I can’t imagine that the school or the District would knowingly endorse or condone this type of activity, since it clearly presents a double-standard, among other things, that is totally opposite of the school’s/district’s position concerning Monday’s incident.

Some could easily argue that the violently ejected student was also exercising her rights to protest by “sitting-in” and refusing to leave when asked by school officials. Both forms of protests should fall within the purview of “disturbing schools” when it comes to the impact on their (and other students’) classroom instruction. So why are there two extremely different outcomes?

Am I the only one who is concerned?

Sent from my iPhone

You may wonder at this point what she thought the legislative delegation, of all entities, should be doing about a walkout at a school. In his response sent on Saturday morning, Sen. Lourie seems to have wondered the same thing:

Subject: RE: Spring Valley ProtestSenator Scott, Representative McLeod, Members of the Delegation and School Board, 

This has been a very difficult week for our Richland Two Community.   Certainly the unfortunate and unnecessary actions of the School Resource Officer warrant further review of the appropriate use of officers in the classroom. I am sure there will be other policies and procedures to review as well.  We  hope and pray that the young lady involved will heal both emotionally and physically.  As a graduate of Richland Two, the parent of 2 graduates, and one of the Senators representing the area, I have been very tuned in to the events at Spring Valley and would like to offer a few comments.


Regarding Friday’s demonstration, I spoke with James Manning, Chairman of the School Board, and Dr. Debbie Hamm, the Superintendent. It is my understanding that the administration found out yesterday morning about a planned “walk-out” in support of Officer Fields.  In summary, a diverse group of approximately 100 students conducted a brief 5-10 minute peaceful “walk-out” and promptly returned to their school activities.  A good account of this can be found in this morning’s State Newspaper by clicking here:  The videos included are also worth watching.


Personally, I see no problem with allowing students to peacefully express their opinions.  I think peaceful demonstrations are critical to our democracy, and what separates us as Americans from other countries.  The alternative of letting that tension boil inside these young students would be more destructive.  My opinion may or may not be shared with others.  However, I see no role that the legislative delegation should play in setting school board policy.  The school board is elected by the public, and therefore accountable to them as well.


I am proud of how our Sheriff and School Board and District Administration leaders have handled this week with great sensitivity.  The Sheriff moved quickly to return to Columbia from a conference and made a personnel decision within 48 hours of the incident.  The Administration and the Board have very transparent, strong and impressive in their actions to respond to the incident.  We as elected officials should rally together to look for positive ways to move forward.  Our state and community have been tested many times this year, and thus far, we have become better and stronger as a result.


Joel Lourie

Lott bypassed SLED to avoid appearance of conflict of interest


When I was paid and paid well to do actual journalism, I would never have done what I did in this earlier post: Raise a question and not bother to call the source and get the question answered before publishing.

But this is not my day job, and I find myself slacking off in ways I would never have done in my former life. Some days, I don’t even have the time to raise the question for discussion, much less answer it. And I never feel good about that — or about the typos that inevitably crop up because I don’t have an editor. I rationalize that I don’t pretend this is a news blog — I raise questions; I don’t do much in the way of reporting. But there’s some value in raising questions, right? Or so I tell myself.

So I was suitably embarrassed today when Sheriff Leon Lott called me to answer my question. On the other hand, I was gratified to see that the sheriff was keeping up with my blog. (Always look on the bright side.)

The question was, why did the sheriff go straight to the feds to ask for an independent investigation into the Spring Valley High School incident instead of going to the State Law Enforcement Division first?

And as it turns out, the sheriff had a pretty good answer.

To begin with, this incident was a nationwide scandal before the sheriff even knew about it. Given the severity of what the deputy had done, and the national attention, it was particularly important that there not be even the slightest appearance of a conflict of interest in the investigation.

And with SLED, there was the danger of such an appearance. To begin with, “My wife works there — she’s an agent.” I had not realized that.

Moreover, “many of the higher-ups” in the agency once worked at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and are good friends of his.

So while he fully respects SLED and did not mean to diss the agency in any way, he thought it best to avoid any appearance of cronyism.

Besides, he figured it would end up in federal hands eventually, anyway.

I thought that was a pretty good answer. You?

Anyway, the sheriff and I went on to have a pretty good discussion about an issue this incident raises. I’ll write about that tomorrow…

Why not ask SLED to investigate deputy’s actions?

UPDATE: Sheriff Lott called me this afternoon, and he has a pretty good explanation for why he went with the feds first. Later tonight, I’ll write a new post about it…

I said this in a comment earlier, but I think it’s worth a separate post…

So Sheriff Lott has fired the deputy involved in the Spring Valley incident.

But here’s something I want to know, and would have asked Leon had I been at the presser: Why go straight to the FBI? Why not invite SLED in? Or, I don’t know, the statewide grand jury.

Yeah, I know, even though he’s my twin and all, Leon may not be as enamored of subsidiarity as I am. But why immediately buy into the cliche that NO ONE in SC can be fair and objective about this; we have to bring in the feds?

As Harry Harris said in a comment yesterday: “SC seems to be the one state that has reacted to most of the police excessive force revelations in a sound manner – prosecuting and disciplining the officers involved.” Leon’s immediate firing of this deputy demonstrates that — unless it just demonstrates a Pilatesque desire to wash his hands, and I don’t think that’s the case.

I would have given the SC system a chance to work. If the feds wanted to do a civil rights investigation on a parallel track, nobody’s stopping them.

But I just don’t get why, in this case and previous ones, Leon doesn’t want to turn to SLED…

Y’all, an endorsement involves CHOOSING…

And sometimes, the hardest choices are when you like everybody.

You saw the other day that Steve Benjamin endorsed Andy Smith to replace his erstwhile protege Cameron Runyan.

Well, SC Equality PAC set out to do endorsement interviews, and couldn’t choose between the two candidates they talked to:

SC Equality PAC’s Endorsement for the Columbia City Council At-Large Member Election

Columbia, SC.  The mission of the South Carolina Equality Political Action Committee (PAC) is to elect fair-minded people to public office who oppose all forms of discrimination but especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.

We have had an opportunity to personally and rigorously interview two (2) candidates who are running to be the next at-large member of the City of Columbia City Council. We invited all persons who are running for this at-large seat to interview with us but only two candidates responded – Howard Duvall and Andy Smith.

We asked both Duvall and Smith their overall vision if elected, plans for campaigning, and how strongly, if at all, they support the rights of LGBT communities and citizens across a wide range of issues from marriage equality to transgender identity rights.

We were very pleasantly surprised that both candidates demonstrated a genuine, personal commitment to upholding and further advancing the rights of all LGBT citizens in the City of Columbia across various dimensions of quality of life and citizenship.  We also were quite pleased that both candidates articulated a strong vision of progress for the City of Columbia and the equal seat at the table that LGBT citizens must occupy as part of that progress.  They bring unique talents, experiences, and deep ties to Columbia communities and would be outstanding public servants.

Therefore, we are taking the unique step of endorsing both Andy Smith and Howard Duvall for this city council race; for they are both candidates who meet all of our criteria for endorsement and thus we urge the LGBT community and our many allies to see either of their candidacies as in the best interest of LGBT communities.

Andy Smith is well-known by many LGBT leaders in Columbia given his leadership as the Executive Director of the nationally-recognized Nickelodeon Theater on the city’s downtown Main Street.  Andy has experience in electoral politics for in 2006 he served as the campaign manager for Robert Barber’s run for SC Lieutenant Governor.  As a native of South Carolina, Andy has deep ties to this state and the City of Columbia.  He has a very progressive vision about serving the needs of LGBT citizens in Columbia including the city and its Police Department having an LGBT Ombudsman as modeled after the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.  Andy also wants to ensure that the city do all it can to expand ordinances that protect the rights of LGBT citizens while serving as a faithful ally while SC Equality and others lobby the General Assembly to enact Hate Crimes legislation among other measures.  Andy has both a deep and abiding commitment to the LGBT community and a love for the city of Columbia.  He wants Columbia to continue to advance as a not only a progressive city but as an attractive and affordable city where balanced job creation and economic development occur.  He has demonstrated his commitment to such via the Nickelodeon Theater.  In the past ten years, the Nickelodeon has grown from a several hundred thousand dollar operation to a now $5 million organization that has spurred economic development, commercial investment, and patronage in and around its mainstream corridor to the tune of about $1 million. It also has demonstrated that it is a good neighbor in many ways, including it’s media education program with C.A. Johnson High School, it’s outreach program to LGBT youth, and it’s working with local homeless shelters to create an inclusive downtown neighborhood.

Howard Duvall has been described by the Free Times newspaper as, “a candidate with a wealth of experience in dealing with municipal government.”  For 20 years, Duvall served as the Executive Director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina; the state’s premiere organization for advising and researching issues related to the best governance of cities and towns.  He also has direct experience serving in elected office for he has both served as a member of the City Council and as the Mayor of the Town of Cheraw.  But in our extensive interviews we also discovered that Howard has a deep commitment to fairness and equality for all citizens, most especially LGBT Citizens.  Along with the heartfelt story that Howard shared with us about seeing the unjust personal battles persons in his family had to wage because they were LGBT, he has worked within the Episcopalian Church to expand its welcoming of not only lesbian, gay, and bisexual parishioners but transgender persons as well.  He is genuinely committed to maintaining Columbia’s image as a progressive and inclusive city by upholding and further expanding city ordinances that protect LGBT employees and other citizens.  Howard wants to bring his wealth of insights about the best practices of municipal government to the Columbia City Council to ensure even-handed job creation and economic development; the further development of a progressive tax system; and creative ideas about updating the aging infrastructure of the city.

In the wake of the terrible storms and great floods of 2015, we join with both Andy and Howard to encourage persons to get involved to aid families and businesses who are in great need as well as to assist in efforts at recovery and rebuilding.

It is for all of these reasons that we take this unique opportunity to strongly endorse these two leaders who will be good for the LGBT community and good for the City of Columbia overall.

The mission of the South Carolina Equality Political Action Committee (PAC) is to elect fair-minded people to public office who oppose all forms of discrimination but especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. 


Come on, y’all! Belly up and choose! Sheesh. Amateurs…

The deputy and the student: That violent Spring Valley video

Again, South Carolina makes national news, and again, it’s in a bad way.

It’s early in the discernment process, and we lack any context (whatever the context may be), but the extremely brief video is a kick in the gut, especially the instant when the desk flips backward in a way that almost seems to defy physical laws. It’s amazing that the student wasn’t injured, a fact we can only chalk up to the resilience of youth.

Here, from The State, are the skimpy facts, which tell us next to nothing:

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an incident between a school resource officer and a female student at Spring Valley High School on Monday, after a video showing a confrontation was posted online.

The female student and a male student were arrested for disturbing the peace, said Richland County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Lt. Curtis Wilson. The resource officer, Senior Deputy Ben Fields, has been placed on administrative duties with pay pending the investigation’s results, according to Wilson.

While Fields will work at the Sheriff’s Department, he won’t be performing any duties at area schools. In a statement, the Richland 2 school district said it had “directed the school resource officer not return to any school in the district.”

The video shows Fields approach the female student seated in a desk. The resource officer proceeds to place his left hand on the female student’s left arm, before putting his right arm around her neck. Fields then flips the desk over, with the student still seated, before spinning it around and forcibly removing the student and trying to restrain her at the front of the classroom.

Wilson said no one was injured in the incident – neither the students nor Fields.

Wilson said prior to what is shown in the video, the female student was asked to leave the classroom and refused. Wilson said that was when the resource officer was called in….

The official response to the incident seems appropriately cautious so far. The sheriff is out of town. The mayor wants an independent investigation. The school district’s one response, saying it doesn’t want that officer back in the classroom, seems appropriate under the circumstances.

All we have now is a video that shocks the viewer as much as it seems to have shocked the bystanders, who react not at all — their stillness is almost eerie — except for the one who shot these 15 seconds.




Even Darth Stewie was more fiscally responsible than Richland County Council

OK, follow me here; I’m going to bounce around a little…

Remember how we were talking about the new Star Wars movie earlier this week? Well, Alexandra Petri was riffing on that a bit, or rather on the stupid campaign by some racists to get a boycott of the new film going (yeah, good luck with that, Jim Bob), and she noted facetiously that there were far more defensible reasons to object to the franchise, including this:

Death Stars are the ultimate wasteful government spending project. At best, the constant construction of Death Stars is Keynesian economics at its very worst, trying to keep people employed by pouring money into giant holes in space. Does the Imperial military even want these? Given their obvious defects, it seems unlikely. Probably what it wants are helmets you can see out of or armor that works, and the Empire has not given it that yet.

Ah, but Ms. Petri missed the one most wasteful thing about the Death Star, which was that it was designed to be doomed, as “Family Guy” pointed out so effectively:

You’ll note that in this version, the Death Star didn’t get the glaring flaw addressed in a timely fashion because Darth Stewie insisted on getting some cost estimates.

Well, good for him. Even though he’s supposed to be an embodiment of evil, he’s more fiscally responsible than Richland County Council:

Richland County Council voted this week to hold its annual retreat in downtown Charleston early next year, despite having multiple local options presented to them and without having cost estimates to judge their decision by.

The retreat, at which council members and staff discuss plans for major policy items for the coming year, will be held Jan. 27-29, 2016, at Embassy Suites on Meeting Street. Council voted 8-3 to hold the retreat in Charleston, with council members Julie-Ann Dixon, Bill Malinowski and Seth Rose dissenting.

Dixon, Malinowski and Rose voted to hold the retreat at the Richland County Administration Building in Columbia.

Embassy Suites in Columbia and the YMCA in Lexington were both offered as options for Jan. 27-29.

Malinowski said his rationale for holding the retreat locally was threefold: to save money, to spend the money within the community and to give citizens an easy opportunity to attend the meeting if they wish.

“I think the people should have easy access to the government, and we’re not doing that,” Malinowski said….

I told you I was going to jump around a bit. But I got there in the end, didn’t I?

Hurrah for Jarvis Klapman!

Look at those beautiful green lines of flowing traffic!

Look at those beautiful green lines of flowing traffic!

The story on the front page of The State about flood-related traffic jams seemed a bit out of sync to me (although I understand plenty of others continue to have trouble), because I read it right after my easiest crossing of the river since the floods.

Opening Jarvis Klapman really made a huge difference. I left the house worried that I was going to be late because I had less than an hour to get downtown… and it was a breeze. I couldn’t believe how well things were flowing on Sunset, until I saw the reason why — cars whizzing overhead on the Jarvis Klapman overpass.

You really don’t appreciate a simple thing like having a 15-20-minute commute until you lose it for a few days. And I would never have thought that closing Jarvis Klapman — which is never particularly crowded — would turn Gervais, Meeting, Sunset, Knox Abbott and Blossom into parking lots at rush hour.

So I’m happy.

How are y’all’s traffic situations going?

Only minutes left to sign up for Walk for Life team!


We have only minutes left to sign up for the Walk for Life team!

Please join us, or at least contribute, and help us fight breast cancer in the Midlands!

Click here to sign up! The deadline is at 11:59 a.m. today.

(I think you can still contribute past the deadline, but let’s not take chances, OK?)


The Saluda River is now back to within its banks!


At least, it is at Quail Hollow, which is all I can testify to for sure. (The Congaree, which I crossed a couple of times today, still looked fairly high — no doubt thanks to the Broad.)

The above photo was taken at 5:31 p.m. today from approximately the same angle as the one below, taken at 10:41 a.m. Monday.

See? I told you there were tennis courts under there…

full flood


Tenenbaums find refuge at hotel in Lexington

File photo: Samuel Tenenbaum at the HQ of Columbia's operation to help Katrina evacuees in 2005.

File photo: Samuel Tenenbaum at the HQ of Columbia’s operation to help Katrina evacuees in 2005.

Concerned about this Facebook message from Inez Tenenbaum, as of Monday evening:

Our home on the Saluda River is flooded and the renovations will probably take six weeks or more. If any of my Facebook friends know of a place we can rent (with two dogs and four cats) please let me know! Thanks so much.

I called and talked with Samuel. I knew how close their house was to the river. You know those pictures I keep showing of the pool and tennis courts at Quail Hollow? They’re like that close — although the house is on stilts.

Samuel says they’re doing OK. They’re in a Quality Inn Suites in Lexington that takes pets, which I found amazing. There are plenty of other flooded-out folks with pets staying there. The dogs are with them. The cats, who as we know fend for themselves, are back at the house with plenty of food — and Samuel is anxious to get back to check on them.

They evacuated on Sunday, just minutes before the Lake Murray floodgates were opened. Good call, since they are very close to the dam — they live in a rural area off Corley Mill Road.

There was already five feet of water in their driveway — not from the river, but from nearby creeks feeding into it. The water was moving too swiftly for a boat to come alongside to pick them up, so Samuel put Inez and the dogs into a kayak and pulled them, wading through the water himself. He told himself while doing so that any snakes in the water had already had the sense to abandon the area.

“Now I know what it’s like to be homeless,” he said — if only temporarily.

This is especially ironic because Samuel ran Columbia’s response to Hurricane Katrina 10 years back, heading up the operation to accommodate refugees from that disaster.

As he sees it, he’s following that protocol: “We established the plan 10 years ago. We put people in motels.” And that’s where he, Inez and the dogs are.

“It’s a bummer, it’s emotional. Here you are, 72 years old” and you have to deal with this. But he’s dealing with it with typical aplomb: “It’s a bummer, it’s emotional. “My name is Noah T-baum,” he’s telling everyone.

As for longer-term rental accommodations, the Tenenbaums have a line on a couple of places, although nothing is set in stone. So pass on any tips you have…

Drone pictures of Lake Murray dam with gates open

dam 1

I thought these were pretty cool images shared by the National Weather service yesterday evening, which I just saw. Here’s the caption info:

Drone images of the Lake Murray Dam Spillway. These floodgates have not been used since 1969. Photos courtesy of Ebben M Aley.

Technically, have those floodgates ever been used? Wasn’t the dam rebuilt a few years back? Of course, maybe the floodgate part is original equipment; I don’t know.

Finally, I can see the thing that caused the flooding in my area.

Here’s hoping letting off that pressure did the trick, and the dam remains strong.

Speaking of which, in my household we got to contemplating this passage in The State this morning:

SCE&G operates the lake originally built for hydropower 85 years ago but now a major source of recreation and drinking water for the Columbia area….

Which raises the question — are those good enough reasons to have those millions of tons of water poised over us? Couldn’t we get drinking water some other way?

Needless to say, you and your recreation seem kinda low priorities to me at the moment.

drone dam

Flooding in my neighborhood, Quail Hollow

These are the tennis courts at Quail Hollow in West Columbia on Sunday a little past midday.

They’re right next to the Saluda River, which you can see rushing in the background. I guess technically, all of this is now the Saluda River.

That loud buzzing is an alarm coming from a transformer that’s right next to me. I don’t know what it means, but I’m being careful not to touch the water.

Our house is one block from the river, but way up a steep hill.

We drove around the neighborhood a bit more, and then, as we returned to the house at 1:30, the sun came out. Don’t know whether that means the worst is over, or not.

More pictures below…

Forest Acres officer shot, killed at Richland Mall

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

Horrible news travels so fast these days.

By the time I got a news alert from WACH telling me that a Forest Acres officer had been shot and killed at Richland Mall this morning, the flags at City Hall were already at half-mast:

And more astoundingly, my friend Mary Pat Baldauf had already contributed to a memorial fund for him:

It’s like we don’t even get a moment anymore to absorb the news, to say, “Oh, my God. How terrible…”

So consider that to have been said by me. Perhaps I’ll have more to say later.