USC President Harris Pastides Tweeted out this photo today with the message, “Saw these students ‘studying’ outside the library. Couldn’t resist this photo!”
USC President Harris Pastides Tweeted out this photo today with the message, “Saw these students ‘studying’ outside the library. Couldn’t resist this photo!”
Remember a couple of months back, when I moderated a forum for the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council about the Bull Street redevelopment project?
Well, tomorrow we’re going to have another one that may interest you. It starts at 11:30 a.m. at the offices of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices at 930 Richland St.
The topic is “Lessons from Charlottesville.” The idea is to have a discussion about the implications for our own community arising from the issues raised there.
We expect 30 or so people, including Tameika Isaac Devine from city council, J.T. McLawhorn from the Columbia Urban League, and Matt Kennell from the City-Center Partnership.
Bryan came to the Bull Street one, and I think he found the discussion interesting. I did, anyway.
Whether y’all can come or not, I’d like a little advice. I’ve thrown together a short list of questions to offer to the group. The questions are just ways to keep the discussion going as needed. These discussions don’t follow a formal structure, with questions followed by timed answers, or anything like that.
Here are the ones I have. Suggestions?
Well, we’re in The New York Times again. This time it’s for asking a bit much of 5th-graders in Irmo:
“You are a member of the K.K.K.,” the fifth-grade homework assignment read. “Why do you think your treatment of African-Americans is justified?”
The work sheet, given on Thursday as part of a lesson on the Reconstruction period, caused an outcry after one student’s uncle, Tremain Cooper, posted a photo of the assignment on Facebook.
“This is my little 10-year-old nephew’s homework assignment today,” he wrote. “He’s home crying right now.”
Mr. Cooper identified the teacher as Kerri Roberts of Oak Pointe Elementary School in Irmo, S.C., a suburb of Columbia, and added, “How can she ask a 5th grader to justify the actions of the KKK???”
Reached by phone, Ms. Roberts’s husband said she was unavailable and was “not going to comment on anything.”…
Of course, that’s a perfectly fine question to ask, to get the ol’ gray matter working — in a graduate poli sci course. I think it’s a shame that Ms. Roberts — who is on suspension pending investigation of the incident — isn’t commenting, because I would dearly love to know the thinking behind asking 5th-graders to tackle it.
Had she even looked at the lesson before she passed it out? Or was this enterprise on her part? Had she decided to go for a real challenge, asking her students to reach for understanding beyond their years?
One thing I’ll say in defense of this: It’s a more reasonable question than this one asked in California:
In February, second graders at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Los Angeles were asked to solve a word problem: “The master needed 192 slaves to work on plantation in the cotton fields. The fields could fill 75 bags of cotton. Only 96 slaves were able to pick cotton for that day. The missus needed them in the Big House to prepare for the Annual Picnic. How many more slaves are needed in the cotton fields?”
Correct answer: “That’s a trick question! Masters don’t have to do math!”
Of course, we have at least one person here in South Carolina who might love to be asked such a question. His letter to the editor appeared in The State today:
Teach truth about the virtues of slavery
The recent controversy about Confederate monuments and flags ultimately revolves around one man and one question. The man is John C. Calhoun, the great philosopher and statesman from South Carolina, and the spiritual founding father of the Confederacy. The question is: Was Calhoun right or wrong when he argued, from the 1830s until his death in 1850, that the South’s Christian slavery was “a positive good” and “a great good” for both whites and blacks?
If Calhoun was wrong, then there may be grounds for removing monuments and flags.
But if Calhoun was right, the monuments and flags should stay and be multiplied, blacks should be freed from oppressive racial integration so they can show the world how much they can do without white folk, the Southern states should seize their freedom and independence, and the North should beg the South’s pardon for the war.
Calhoun’s views are unpopular today because, since 1865, the Yankee-imposed education system has taught all Americans that the South’s Christian slavery was evil and that everyone is equal. But unpopularity cannot make a truth untrue, and popularity cannot make error truth.
“If Calhoun was right….”
Excuse me while I sit here and try to come up with a justification of Mr. McCuen’s point of view. It might be on the six-weeks test…
Have you made the mistake of trying to get anywhere on Blossom Street — say, between Five Points and the Congaree River bridge — since the kids came back to campus?
If so, you know why I say “mistake.”
The worst point is at the intersection of Blossom and PIckens, which I at least attempt to traverse several times a week.
It has never been this bad, or even close. This no doubt has something to do with the record freshman class, but it seems like there must be three or four times as many students in the past.
And all, of course, driving cars.
On Friday, stuck through about four full cycles of the traffic light trying to turn left onto Pickens from Blossom, I glanced over at the sidewalk on the north side of Blossom, and suddenly flashed on a memory: It was me as a freshman, that one semester I went to USC, walking with groceries back from the Winn-Dixie in Five Points (where the Walgreens is now) to my room in the Honeycombs.
Which reminded me that I only knew of one guy on the floor of my dorm who had a car. I once got a ride from him to the K-Mart in Cayce on the way to the airport to pick up something that my uncle in Bennettsville needed, and which he could only get from K-Mart, to his knowledge. (It was vacuum cleaner bags. Remember, there was no Amazon.)
Not one other time, that whole semester, did I need to go anywhere in Columbia that I couldn’t easily walk.
So… I’m going to shock everyone by making a commonsense suggestion: Why can’t USC at least bar resident freshmen from having cars on campus?
If we can’t do that, then USC and the city need to get together and figure out something to do about the daily problem on Blossom…
So Donald Trump is still president, North Korea just fired a missile over Japan, and Harvey is still ripping up and flooding the Gulf Coast.
So, lots of bad news.
But at least there’s this:
The S.C. Department of Transportation has dropped a plan to build a bypass to unsnarl “Malfunction Junction” that would have caused up to 236 West Columbia homes to be razed.
State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said he received a letter about the change from the department Tuesday morning.
“This is a tremendous victory for us,” he said. “And this was a community effort.”
The bypass was one of several options being considered by the DOT to alleviate congestion at the junction of I-20, I-26 and I-126. It would have diverted traffic away from the intersection, but the bypass also would have cut through several West Columbia neighborhoods including Quail Hollow and River’s Edge….
I live in Quail Hollow. And while the abandoned route might not have technically gone through my living room, it would have run behind the houses directly across the street from me, and would have blocked me from the only way out of my neighborhood other than swimming across the Saluda River.
It would have been the worst deal possible: My property value would have been destroyed, and I wouldn’t have gotten paid for it because they didn’t necessarily have to buy my house. And my peaceful, semi-sylvan neighborhood — deer sometimes wander onto our lot — would have become utter, roaring chaos, with an interstate directly in front of the house, less than 100 feet away (as near as I could tell from the wholly inadequate maps provided by DOT).
As you’ll recall, I learned about this plan on the last day of public comments last fall, after having received ZERO notification from the state that my neighborhood was potentially to be sacrificed to fix Malfunction Junction, a problem that has never bothered me even though it’s only about a mile from my house.
We found ourselves in a situation that was almost, but not quite, entirely like the one Arthur Dent faced in the first chapter of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Did I ever tell you about the public meeting DOT finally held for my neighbors and me after we DID find out about it on that last day of public comment? Official after official claimed that we should have known sooner — after all, the plans had been on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.” More or less.
Finally, this one woman stood up and faced the truth, and admitted that yeah, they had screwed up big-time by not actually notifying us. Which was nice. I guess she had drawn the short straw on being the “good cop.”
Anyway, I want to thank my Senator, Nikki Setzler, and my representative, Micah Caskey (although Micah says modestly that it was really Nikki) for standing up and raising hell about the deal. I think it probably helped even though the DOT people claimed at the public meeting that resistance would be useless, that political considerations would play no role, that the decision would be made by federal officials entirely on the basis of objective data.
I read with mild interest the news that someone was going to set up an “installation” of laser beams criss-crossing our rivers downtown.
It might be an interesting thing to see one dark evening. I might even pause and contemplate it for a moment or two.
But then I got to the wild part, set out in this headline from Free Times:
There will be lasers shooting over the Congaree River for the next 10 years.https://t.co/aa0cfx3dQc
— Free Times (@FreeTimesSC) June 27, 2017
I had to reply to that, asking “Ten YEARS?” You might not have been able to tell on Twitter, but I was channeling Jeremy Piven in “Grosse Pointe Blank” (see above).
I was assured that yes, that was correct.
Huh. It sounds cool for a night, sort of, but don’t they think people might tire of the same shtick over the course of TEN YEARS?
I think so. Some folks might even grow to find it irritating.
I mean… isn’t the really cool thing (or one of the really cool things) about light the fact that it’s so fast. 186,000 miles per second? Having a beam of light last for 10 years seems to take the shine, so to speak, off that reputation. It might make some ungrateful philistines wish they were 10 light years away from it.
I’ll close with what my state representative, Micah Caskey, had to say about it:
Seems like a good time to remind everyone I represent many people injured in car accidents.
Caskey Law Firm, 803-250-5834 https://t.co/buNjZ3l16W
— Micah Caskey 🇺🇸 (@MicahCaskey) June 27, 2017
For 30 years now, I’ve been pulling out of the St. Peter’s Catholic Church parking lot, turning right onto Park, then left onto Taylor to head home. I also frequently make the same move at the same intersection heading home from work during the week.
As you are no doubt aware, the part of Taylor to the left of Park (heading west) is one-way — four, later widening to five, lanes all heading down toward the river.
To the right (the east) of Park, Taylor is two-way. If you look at my crude graphic above, you’ll see there’s a concrete divider going off to the right, but none to the left.
For 30 years, I’ve had no trouble. Heading north on Park, I pull up to the intersection and stop, look carefully to my right to make sure no one’s coming and trying to change lanes suddenly leftward where it becomes one-way, and then turning left into the closest lane, the way you’re supposed to do.
And I’ll confess that, having done this perhaps thousands of times without incident — and being reluctant to turn away from the direction I expect other cars to come from — I’d gotten to where I’d start rolling out slowly out into Taylor even as my head was turning in that direction. And for 30 years, this bad habit did not cause any problems.
Until a couple of weeks ago. And then, twice in one week, I had to stomp on the brakes to avoid a head-on collision with a car coming up the hill, the wrong way, in my lane!
Twice in one week! The first time I saw as an anomaly, the second time I’m starting to look upon as a trend. (Once more, Jerry Ratts would say, and we can give it to Lifestyles — if we’re still alive.)
Needless to say, I look very carefully to the left now before letting my vehicle start to roll. I’m a little obsessive about it, now. But one near-collision didn’t fully teach me that, and the second time, the other guy and I had to hit our brakes so hard that smoke came from the other car’s tires.
It scared the bejeebers out of both of us, and he started yelling at me, and I started yelling at him, and then… I shut up, and slowly rolled forward so that our windows were next to each other, rolled down my window — being careful to seem non-threatening — and told him, “This is one-way.”
He started to protest, gesturing toward the concrete median dividing the road behind me, and I said, “Yes, that’s right — it’s two-way behind me. But from here on down to the river, it’s one-way. Really.” He seemed to believe me — at least he didn’t yell any more — and we both went on our ways.
If I’d had more presence of mind, I would have asked him where he was coming from, so I could figure out where the system had failed. Is there a missing one-way sign that had always been there before?
I don’t know. But I’m wondering whether any of y’all have encountered this heart-stopping phenomenon on that stretch of Taylor.
If so, maybe we need to lobby the city to do something…
As some of you may know I serve on the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council. We’re about fostering constructive, civil conversations about issues facing the community. As you also may know, we’ve sponsored some forums over the years on such issues as the Penny Tax and strong mayor referenda, as well as candidate forums.
Lately, we’ve started a monthly series of informal discussions on “Hot Topics” that are current in the community.
This month, after reading Jeff Wilkinson’s recent story on how the Bull Street development was coming, we decided to sponsor a session on that, and it will be at noon tomorrow (Friday) at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices.
I’ll moderate the discussion. Panelists include:
I have no idea who, if anyone, will come out to hear the discussion or ask questions of the panel, but if you’re interested, come on out.
I’d tell you more, but I haven’t been the organizer — I’m just moderating. So this is all I know. I’ll show up and see how it goes.
Just be civil, just like on the blog…
When Burl and Mary Burlingame were visiting last summer, I took them by the old Curtiss-Wright Hangar at Owens Field. Burl being a professional aviation historian, I thought he’d take an interest in the hangar’s rusty glory, having stood there since 1929. It wasn’t quite as impressive as what he showed us in Hawaii, but it was something.
But today, on the way to watch grandchildren play soccer, I noticed that the hangar had all new windows, and a new paint job, and (I think) a new roof.
Soon it will be a brewery, and we can all go and enjoy it up close and personal — although we might have to wait awhile before Burl is back this way so he can go with us…
Having seen this story in The State today:
Most members of the Bull Street Commission, a seven-member board appointed by Columbia City Council, said Monday that they are satisfied with progress at the former State Hospital despite raised expectations of a sprawling retail complex that so far have not materialized.
“I still feel the project is coming along at a reasonable pace,” said member Rebecca Haynes, a former president of the Earlewood Community Citizens Organization. “I think it’s way too early in a 20-year project for anyone to start throwing stones.”…
… I was wondering what y’all thought about how the development is going.
All I’ve really seen so far is baseball, but then, I keep telling y’all to be patient on the Innovista concept, so do I have room to talk?
Anyway, if all you’ve got to show is baseball, is that so bad? It’s better than what they’ve got going at Williams-Brice, in my book…
I’ve got to stop by the Food Lion to make some routine purchases for the weekend, and I’m already dreading having to fight the “Oh, my God; we’re all gonna die!” crowd stocking up on bread and such because the world will be coming to an end with a few flakes of snow.
So I rewatched the video above, to get me into a mood for laughing at the situation…
Read this so early today, I forgot to mention it before…
How about Nikki Haley taking decisive action on the Richland County Recreation Board?
Gov. Nikki Haley is moving to fire all seven members of the Richland County Recreation Board.
The rare action by Haley comes after months of lawsuits alleging sexual harassment by recreation director James Brown III, who retired last month after he was indicted for misconduct in office.
It also follows allegations by a bipartisan majority of the 17-member Richland County Legislative Delegation that members of the appointed recreation board that oversaw Brown had grossly mismanaged the recreation commission’s affairs for years.
Lawmakers said board members allowed unwarranted pay raises and widespread nepotism and thus had neglected their duties.
In a 10-page executive order announced Thursday afternoon by the governor’s office, Haley affirmed the charges brought by the delegation majority and named the seven board members she seeks to remove.
They are: chairman J. Marie Green, vice-chair Barbara Mickens, Weston Furgess Jr., George D. Martin Jr., Joseph Weeks, Thomas Clark and Wilbert Lewis….
This is a bit more than lawmakers had asked for — they had just wanted to ditch the four who had most enabled Brown.
But they weren’t complaining. Sen. Joel Lourie sent me this last night:
In response to the Executive Order issued by Governor Haley today, members of the delegation issued the following statements:
Senator Joel Lourie:
“We thank the Governor and her staff for their diligence in pursuit of all the facts dealing with this complicated matter. This has always been about what is fair and right for the employees of the Recreation Commission and about providing quality, fiscally responsible services to the citizens of Richland County.”
Representative Beth Bernstein:
“I want to personally thank the Governor and her office for hearing our concerns and taking this unprecedented, but warranted, initiative on behalf of the citizens of Richland County. This Board will now be held accountable and the voices of the aggrieved employees of RCRC have been heard.”
Representative James Smith:
“This is a critical next step to restore public confidence in the Recreation Commission.”
Of course, those are members of the pro-reform majority of the delegation.
One of the defenders of the status quo said this:
“This is an absolute overreach,” said Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, who said Haley should leave the board members alone. “They didn’t do anything illegal or unethical.”
Sorry not to have posted earlier. Technical problems on the blog. Here’s hoping they’re fixed now. I’m sure it was just a probing cyberattack by the Russians.
Well, I went and I voted, and it went fine, although there was a tiny glitch, no doubt also the work of the Russians. (Yes, those of you new to the blog; I’m kidding. I think…)
My wife got up just before 7, and was out the door before I could get ready. She returned in maybe 40 minutes, reporting that the lines at the Quail Hollow polling place weren’t bad, but the traffic getting in and out was horrible. Here’s the problem: We vote at Saluda River Baptist Church, which is at 3459 Sunset Blvd — across Sunset from our neighborhood. It’s in a section of Sunset where the hordes of people heading into town can actually get up a bit of speed — like, 55 or 60 mph — and this was rush hour. The driveway into the church is just below the crest of a hill. So basically, you can’t see the oncoming traffic until it’s on top of you.
So, I waited a bit, for rush hour to pass, then went to vote. And there was no line, for those of us with names in the L-Z range. The A-K people did have a short line to wait in, which is right and proper. It’s good to be the W.
Not only that, but I remembered my photo ID this time!
But then, when my neighbor who was working the poll took my little pink card and slipped that cassette thing into my machine to activate it… nothing happened. She was about to move on to try another machine when she noticed that the one next to this one still had a screen with candidates on it showing, and the voter had left. And here’s where we get into the whole voting-as-a-community thing.
That was Mr. So-and-So, she said, and he just lost one of his best friends last week, and has a lot on his mind. She ran after him, turning me over to another poll worker. The man returned, apologizing to all, and finished voting.
When I was done — this machine worked fine — she said she had told the man no problem, and that she supposed he was thinking about his friend who had died, and he said yes, he had been.
I learned one other thing — a bit earlier, the line had been out the door. So my timing was perfect.
How did it go for y’all? What are you seeing out there?
My only complaint was that more people weren’t there. There were about 60 in the audience, which isn’t terrible, but in the vast Richland Northeast auditorium, that looked pretty sparse.
The candidates, Democrat Mia McLeod and Republican Susan Brill, were both quite civil and well-behaved, but not shrinking violets. They asserted themselves. More than once, after they both had answered the question and both had rebutted, they asked for more time, so I gave them another round of rebuttal. I think rules should be flexible, as long as order is maintained. I’ll not have any debate I moderate turn into the ugly spectacles we see between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — if I can help it. Harrumph.
Of course, you can’t always help it, and visions of this debate devolving into a scene from Lord of the Flies caused me to be more nervous yesterday than I think I’ve ever been before moderating a debate. I’ve just seen so much chaos on TV this year, I wondered whether it had set an uncivilized precedent. I could hear the nervousness in my own voice at the outset of the forum, but once we were engaged and we’d interacted a bit, I calmed down. (It was kind of like my wrestling days in high school. I always hated, hated, HATED the circling around at the start of a bout — it made me super apprehensive, not knowing what was going to happen. But once my opponent and I had a grip on each other, I settled down and knew what to do.)
Interestingly, I actually had to stop Susan Brill a couple of times when she interjected during Rep. McLeod’s time, telling her to wait her turn. That made me feel pretty foolish, since I had earlier asked her whether she was assertive enough to be effective in the Senate. (This was a companion question to asking Mia whether her abrasive communication style would work in the collegial Senate. I saw them as sort of opposites on the assertiveness scale — Mia too hot, Susan too cold.)
Only once did the audience get out of hand. Ms. McLeod was speaking when suddenly a man’s voice boomed from the audience something along the lines of Wait, are you trying to say… Everyone turned to stare in that direction — I couldn’t see him for the stage lights. I cut in immediately with something like, No, sir! We are not going to do that… I said he should write his question on a 3X5 card like everybody else, and pass it to Community Relations Council Executive Director Henri Baskins. To his credit, he complied. (As I said that, I knew I probably wouldn’t get to his question, because I had plenty of good questions — many more than I had time for — in front of me already, and I thought polite people’s questions should have precedence. But as it happened, Henri passed his question to me and, deciding I may have implied that I would ask his question, I made it the last one in the program.)
Were there any serious gaffes? Not really, although Ms. Brill got a pretty snarky reaction to her assertion — in trying to prove that the Richland Two school board of which she is a member provides all the district’s schools what they need, without favoritism — that the board had provided Ms. McCleod’s children’s high school with… wait for it… Astroturf for their football field.
At this point, y’all are saying, “Where’s the substance? You’re talking about the style.” Well, that’s the thing: When I’m moderating, I find it impossible to take notes. I’m too busy with the forms — making sure the rules are followed, watching the timekeeper, trying to keep up with what the candidates are saying even as I sort through the 3X5 cards from the audience trying to pick the next question.
But here are my prepared questions — I got to all but one — and a very brief summary of what I remember them saying in response. Sorry I can’t do better:
OK, that was a pretty pointless exercise. I just don’t remember enough — and worse, I tend to remember Mia’s answers better than Susan’s. Not that Susan’s were bad; at the time I felt like she was addressing the questions well enough. I just can’t remember them as well.
Dang. Well, y’all should have been there.
Oh, wait — people want to know about zingers. I remember one in particular aimed by Mia at Susan. And it may have been the one thing Mia said that illustrated the unnecessary abrasiveness that her critics cite. One of the audience questions was about Mia’s $49,500 contract with the city of Columbia for communications consulting. That’s the subject of an attack ad from the Senate Republican Caucus, and a sore point for the Democrat (and it wasn’t among my questions because I knew it would come up).
She used it as an occasion to lash out at her opponent as a woman who had never worked outside the home, and didn’t understand people who had to go out and earn a living. She also hit her for failing to distance herself from Donald Trump — something I was about to ask about (another audience question).
Ms. Brill responded accurately that she had nothing to do with the attack ad; that was the caucus. I found her answer about Trump less satisfactory, but let’s be fair: I’m never satisfied with anyone who won’t say she’ll vote for Clinton — which is, of course, the only way of stopping Trump.
Yeah, I know; this was a lousy report. But I just don’t know how to moderate and take proper notes at the same time…
You know how you can tell when it’s a really slow news day? This way: Look at what the major news outlets are leading with. If no two are leading with the same thing, and none of the ledes are particularly impressive, you know everybody’s scraping the bottom of the barrel. For instance, at this moment we have:
See what I mean? The State doesn’t really design its website around what I would call a lede, per se, but the story getting the biggest play at this moment is, USC freshman Felder assaulted victim and police officer, incident report says.
Which further proves my point.
So… since no one else can find any news out there, why don’t y’all just come on out to the Senate District 22 debate tonight? I’m pretty sure you’ll find that interesting. I’m about to head out to Richland Northeast High School momentarily…
On Monday night at Richland Northeast High School, I’ll be moderating a debate between Democrat Mia McLeod and Republican Susan Brill, who are competing to replace Joel Lourie in representing state Senate District 22.
The event is sponsored by the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council, of which I am a member. It will be in the school’s auditorium, and will run from 6-7:30.
Y’all are welcome to come, especially if you live in the district.
Also… I’ll be working on my questions over the weekend, so this is your chance to offer any suggestions you have along those lines. What would you like to ask these candidates?
This is the only forum we’re doing for the general election. We selected it as the one truly competitive general election contest in the Midlands area. We may have missed some just as hot, but if so, I haven’t heard about them yet.
So come on out if you’ve a mind to, and meanwhile, feed me some good questions…
Actually, that headline pretty much states the case, but I’ll elaborate a bit.
I’m a big Douglas Adams fan. But I’d always thought what he was writing was satire, outlandish situations that couldn’t possibly be true-to-life, which were grossly distorted for comic effect.
For instance, take this passage from the start of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which our loser hero Arthur Dent has just lain in front of a bulldozer that is trying to knock his house down in order to build the bypass he has just learned about:
Well, today I learned that Adams wasn’t writing a comic novel. He was writing journalism. Predictive journalism, I suppose you’d call it. He was describing the very situation in which I find myself today.
Today, I forgot to bring in the lunch I had prepared, so I drove home to eat it there. Good thing, too. As I walked in, my wife was on the phone expressing amazement and alarm, and saying things like, “Nobody told ME!!!…”
She was on the phone with my daughter who lives in Shandon, who had discovered, quite incidentally, through a mutual acquaintance’s social media post, that the state of South Carolina had rather specific plans to build an Interstate more or less through our house (as I initially heard it in that moment of shock), and that today was the last day for comments.
And no, no one had told us. No one had walked down our street to knock on doors and tell us (assuming they had the courage) or left little fliers on our doorknobs (assuming they didn’t, which seems the safer bet). No one had sent us anything via snail mail. Or emailed us. Or sent us Facebook messages, or Tweets, or texts, or called on the phone, or left a comment on my blog, or used any of the bewildering array of communication methods available in the Year of Our Lord 2016.
In other words, I’d have been no worse off if the notice had been on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.”
Nor had I seen any news coverage of the plan, which is one of three potential routes the state is considering for addressing the “problem” called Malfunction Junction.
Of course, I must confess, I had seen stories in the paper about that process, and hadn’t read any of them. You know why? Because I wasn’t interested. You know why? Because it had never struck me as a particularly compelling issue. Because why? Because I live less than a mile from the much-cursed interchange, and people have been griping about it ever since I moved back to South Carolina in 1987, and I have yet to fully understand what they are whining about.
I’ve passed through that intersection coming from every direction and going in every direction, at every time of day on every day of the week, and yeah, it gets backed up somewhat during peak drive times. You know what I call that? Living in a city. You know how to deal with it? Adjust your route, or your drive time. Or just live with it. Try this: Go live in the District of Columbia for a month and come back here, and you’ll get down and kiss the pavement at the very knottiest point of the intersection of Interstates 20 and 26. Just kidding. Don’t do that. If you do, people will start whining about you causing traffic to back up, and next thing you know, I’ve got the bulldozers at my door…
Oh, but wait — I do anyway. Almost.
But, upon closer examination, there’s good news: Once I took a careful look at the proposed connector, I saw that it wasn’t exactly, technically, going directly through my living room. No, when I zoom in as much as the website will let me (which isn’t much), it looks like it’s going down the SCE&G right-of-way that runs directly behind the houses across the street from me. That’s a good 50 or even 100 feet from my house. All it would do is cut me off from the only ways out of my subdivision, aside from swimming across the Saluda River.
Whew. And to think I was worried.
But let’s calm down a bit. Let’s get informed. Let’s go read the news coverage we’ve been ignoring, shall we? Such as this story in The State last week, which gets specific:
If the Department of Transportation decides improving existing intersections and widening roads is the way to go, the bulk of the properties affected will be along Broad River and St. Andrews roads. Those two commercial thoroughfares parallel either side of I-26 in the heart of the busy corridor.
Widening Broad River would affect 999 sites, while another 705 would be affected on St. Andrews, according to plans outlined at an update on the massive road project at Seven Oaks School….
Ummmm… I didn’t see anything there, or elsewhere in the story, that in any way indicated that there was something to which I needed pay attention!!!!
Did you? I mean, I live on the opposite side of the river from all of that. And it sounded like they had no intention of disturbing residential areas.
Here’s the map. The crudely drawn yellow star shows you where my house is:
Apparently, there are two alternatives to ripping through my subdivision under consideration. Both are on the other side of the river from me, are cheaper, and would disturb far fewer people that the one cutting through my neighborhood.
Here’s the comparison:
The one called “Directional Interchange” is the one that goes through my neighborhood. The two above it seem to go mostly through some woods. Although… there is slightly greater wetland impact.
So obviously, since we live in a rational universe, I have nothing to worry about, right?
Oh, wait. I just remembered: Donald Trump is a major-party nominee for president of the United States in this universe. And there’s no guarantee he’s going to lose.
OK, I’m worried.
Wait — I just remembered: Today is my last day to comment. OK, here’s my comment:
Don’t do it. Don’t do any of these. Save the money. Or, if you must address this problem, choose one of the options that cost less and cause less disruption.
That, by the way, would be my recommendation if this didn’t come anywhere within 100 miles of my house. It’s sort of my default position.
Oh, and one other thing, which may sound personal, but also fits with my beliefs about sound public policy: Next time, how about giving a guy a heads-up?
Now, could someone please hand me something that says, in large, reassuring letters, DON’T PANIC?
(Below you see the other two routes under consideration.)
I just received a copy of a letter the responsible majority of the Richland County Legislative Delegation just sent to Gov. Nikki Haley. It’s to follow up on what the lawmakers asked the governor to do in a meeting last week, before the hurricane.
To read the entire 31-page document, click here.
Obviously, the governor has been quite busy since the meeting with the lawmakers, but one hopes she will attend to this as soon as practicable.
Actually, I should say, the two meetings with lawmakers. I understand she met separately with the minority that is NOT pushing for removing the problem commissioners.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering: The lawmakers who choose the commissioners do not have the power themselves to remove them. Just another of the insane things about special-purpose districts.
At this point, it is my duty as a journalist to digest the document for you, going through charge after charge. But I’m kind of busy with my day job at the moment. I thought I’d just go ahead and give y’all the whole thing now rather than delay. In the meantime, here’s a very fine news story done by my good friend John Monk.
Perhaps I’ll be adding to this post later…
Oh, one other thing: The lawmakers signing the letter (that is, the responsible lawmakers) are these (sorry I keep having to give you text as pictures; the PDF isn’t the kind that lets you highlight and copy text):
The OTHER lawmakers on the delegation are:
Darrell Jackson, District 21
John L. Scott, Jr., District 19
Dr. Jimmy C. Bales, District 80
Christopher R. Hart, District 73
Leon Howard, District 76
Joseph H. Neal, District 70
J. Todd Rutherford, District 74
Monday morning, my wife asked me if I’d done anything with our mailbox at the house — put anything in, taken anything out, whatever. No, I hadn’t. She said she’d come home mid-morning and found it open. And two pieces of mail she had placed in it Sunday afternoon, both containing checks to pay bills, were missing.
So we speculated that maybe the postal worker had come freakishly early or something — J vaguely recalled having seen the mail truck in the neighborhood on Sunday and wondering what it was doing — and made plans to contact the folks to whom the checks were mailed to make sure they arrived.
Then, a couple of hours later, I got a call from our credit union, with whom we have that checking account. Someone we had never heard of had just been in their Irmo office trying to cash a check from us for $680.42.
One of the checks we were mailing was for $130.42. Think about it.
While I can see how someone made that change, I still don’t know how anyone managed to change what was in the TO space. The check was to Lexington County, to pay a vehicle tax, and the name it had been changed to wasn’t even close.
Anyway, the credit union refused to cash it, the person left with the check, and the teller — who remembered us from when she worked in the West Columbia branch — called me.
So since the thieves have my account number and routing number, I ran over to the main office and had the account closed.
That was just the start. We had to change a couple of direct deposits, and some automatic payments — Netflix and the like. There were the two probably-stolen checks, and an earlier payment that hadn’t gone through, so we’d have to get with all those folks and arrange to pay another way.
Yeah, I know. You’re wondering why we were putting checks into our mailbox. A lot of people have asked that the last couple of days, accompanied by “Didn’t you know…?” No, we didn’t. While everyone and his brother is mentioning it now, no one had ever mentioned it to us before — and we’d gone our entire lives without anything being stolen from our mailbox. To our knowledge.
And like most of you, we don’t send out many checks anymore, usually doing electronic transfers. But that doesn’t always work out. Rest assured, if we send out checks henceforth, we’ll follow Moscow Rules — maybe changing vehicles two or three times on the way to an official U.S. gummint mailbox.
Next step, police reports. We live in the county, so I called the sheriff’s office and gave the details over the phone. Separately — since a separate crime was attempted in that jurisdiction — the credit union contacted the Irmo PD.
Which led to a bit of a dilemma for me.
Tuesday morning, the Irmo policeman who’d taken the report called me to ask whether we wanted to press charges. Not that there was a suspect in custody or anything — the police wanted to know whether they would have a case (whether we would testify that we never wrote a check to the person in question, for instance) before devoting resources to it.
I sympathized. The police need to prioritize, I understand. But being asked this question caused me concern on two fronts, having to do with opinions I’ve long held and expressed:
Add to that the fact that aside from being greatly inconvenienced, I had lost nothing, thanks to the smart actions of the teller who refused to cash the check (I told her supervisor she should get a gold star for that). The credit union wasn’t out anything, either — aside from time spent on this.
So I dithered. I asked the officer if I could call him back, and promised to do so by the end of the day.
I polled people about it, and everyone I talked to said of course you want them to prosecute. Still, I did the Hamlet routine — to press or not to press?
I finally decided that I had no choice, for the simple fact that it wasn’t about us, even though it felt like it. Whoever had stolen the checks, and whoever tried to pass the forged one (which could be more than one person), might do it again. For all I know, the person or people in question might do this all the time.
And that needed to be stopped, if possible. It wasn’t about what had or hadn’t been done to us; it was about protecting the rest of society. If we didn’t follow through, additional crimes might occur. If we didn’t proceed, the social contract would fray a bit more.
You know me — once I had it framed in my mind in communitarian terms, I called the officer and asked him to proceed.
If anything else interesting happens, I’ll keep y’all posted…
By the way, what would y’all have done (I mean, besides not putting the checks in the mailbox to start with)?
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce joined calls for the problem members of the Richland County Recreation Commission to resign because this latest scandal is another in a string that have been bad for business.
“Everything’s about perception,” Chamber President Carl Blackstone told me last night, adding that the following have projected a terrible impression of Richland County:
The various criminal investigations are one thing, but regardless what happens on that front, the problem commissioners need to go, the business leader said.
And on this one, there’s little county government can do. “I don’t feel sorry for Richland County Council much, but I do on this,” Blackstone said.
Richland County has been “missing out,” he said, nothing that there have been only two industrial announcements in six years. And lack of confidence in local government plays a role in that.
“The business community is jut tired of the constant black eyes in the paper,” he said. “In Richland County, we pay a heck of a lot of taxes” — too much to put up with one mess after another.
“We deserve better.”
Anyway, that’s what he said on the phone last night. Today, he sent out this email to Chamber members:
In August, ten members of the the Richland County Legislative Delegation called for the immediate resignation of Richland County Recreation Commission Director James Brown, III and five additional board members due to the allegations of impropriety and public corruption. In a letter sent to the members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation, the Columbia Chamber supported their call for action.
The mission of the Commission is crucial to our community and should not be overshadowed by the ongoing controversy. Now more than ever, I encourage you to become involved in your local government. Please see the current vacancies on boards and commissions: State Boards and Commissions, Richland County, and City of Columbia.