Category Archives: Midlands

Hey, alla you kids get offa my campus!

Horseshoe

The Horseshoe.

Part of my daily routine of getting in at least 10,000 steps (and preferably 15) is to take an afternoon walk around downtown, usually through the USC campus and around the State House before heading back to ADCO.

This has been particularly peaceful this week, with the kids gone for spring break — even though it’s not, you know, technically spring.

I suppose I’ll be tripping over them again next week. But it was nice to have it mostly to myself for awhile…

The Russell House -- a student center with no students.

The Russell House — a student center with no students.

Thomas Cooper Library.

Thomas Cooper Library.

Good to have SOME adult supervision for Richland County

Here’s what I don’t like about ideologues is that they don’t know when to make an exception to their rules.

Folks on the left and right dismiss those of us in the middle because they think we don’t believe in anything. I believe in quite a few things — but I know when to make an exception from the principles I espouse.

Cindi Scoppe’s the same way. She and I hold quite a few principles in common. One of them — which you can describe as subsidiarity, or devolution or decentralization or federalism or some other word that’s not coming to mind because I had a beer at lunch — is the idea that, generally speaking, governing decisions should be made as locally as possible.

But there are exceptions. And personally, I prefer the term “subsidiarity” because it assumes exceptions, since the rule is that “matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.” The key word being “competent.” When the smaller entity can’t do the job, the larger one needs to step in. Which came into play in Cindi’s column today about the state Supreme Court jumping on Richland County for misspending penny tax money:

But honestly, even as someone who believes passionately that local governments should have broad authority to act without state interference, I can’t help being relieved to know that there are going to be some grownups looking over the county’s spending.

Not all of it, of course. The County Council still has control over property taxes and restaurant taxes and all sorts of other revenue the county collects.richland-county

It still has the ability, unsupervised by grownups, to sell prime real estate at a ridiculously low price without marketing it, or even announcing that it was on the market, as it did with the former sheriff’s department site on Huger Street.

It still has the ability, unsupervised by grownups, to hire a new transportation director with absolutely no experience in … wait for it … transportation.

It still has the ability, unsupervised by grownups, to spend $1.2 million to renovate its own meeting and office space, and then announce less than four months later that it’s relocating its chambers and the whole complex, bulldozing the adjacent building (to build a new courthouse) and turning the just-renovated space into a ceremonial courthouse.

And to secretly concoct a plan to move some of its offices to a nearly abandoned mall — which might be a good idea, but for the “secretly” part, which applies not just to the specific property being purchased but also to the whole plan. And to wrap it all up with a gaudy “Richland Renaissance” bow that also covers such dubious projects as a business incubator, a critical care medical facility (don’t doctors usually build those?) and, my personal favorite, a competitive aquatics center.

For which the cost is at best speculative. And no funding source has been identified. And about which it agreed to hold a legally required public hearing only after one of my colleagues in the news department kept hounding the county.

But I digress….

Maybe she got that from me. The digressing thing. (In her defense, she’s far more disciplined about it than I am.)

But back to her original point: Yes, it’s good to see the county get some adult supervision. And it could probably stand with a little more. Vote Grownup Party!

About bars closing at 2 a.m. in Columbia

For my second post of the day based on Twitter, I’ll give you something I retweeted this morning:

Kevin Fisher

Kevin Fisher

First, let me tell you of a sorta kinda indirect conflict I have. Or at least, apparent conflict: Phill Blair, co-owner of The Whig, is one of my elder son’s oldest friends, and one of the leading opponents of an earlier closing time for bars in the city. (For that matter, Free Times has a much closer connection than that his partner Will Green, but no one makes a secret of that or anything.)

And their argument is this: Their bar, which benefits from staying open later, would be penalized when it isn’t one of the bars causing the problems the policy is designed to address — which is more of a Five Points thing. (Phill and Will, let me know if I didn’t state that clearly.)

Of course, that flies in the face of my Grownup Party instincts, which embraces such concepts as “Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” So I tend to lean toward what Kevin is saying:

In case you didn’t know it, we are very much the outlier on this issue, with Charleston and Greenville both requiring bars to close at 2 a.m.

Yet somehow the hospitality industry in those cities has survived and thrived without serving alcohol past 2 a.m. That’s right, all the bar activity on the peninsula in Charleston and all the bar activity on Main Street in Greenville comes to an end at 2 a.m.

What do their City Councils know that ours doesn’t? Maybe how to run a city, for starters.

Kevin was as wrong as wrong can be in the column before this one. If there was a perfect example of an issue that should NOT be decided by referendum, it’s the Dominion-SCANA deal. But he’s on more solid ground this week.

Cayce chief’s Facebook post

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m not going to take this down for now, because if I did, the post correcting it would make no sense. But for the record: The chief wasn’t talking about Meg Kinnard at all. Mayor Elise Partin thought he was, and reached out to me to tell me about it, which led to this erroneous report….

Earlier today, I got a Facebook message from Cayce Mayor Elise Partin, asking the following: “Brad, have you seen the FB post by our chief? I just saw your post about the reporter. Wanted to make sure you had both sides.”

I had not seen it, and at first I had some trouble finding it. But the mayor, on her way into a council meeting, called me back and told me where to find it — on the city’s public safety Facebook page (I had looked on hers, and the city’s, and the public safety chief’s personal page).

Here’s his essay, which I urge you to go read in its entirety. Here are the sections that caused the mayor to reach out to me:

These types of incidents are very dangerous and must be controlled quickly and effectively. The goal is to “Control the Chaos” by stabilizing the scene and caring for the victims. In order to do this, certain procedures and rules must be put into place. This includes procedures for the media to be able to have access to the information they need for their stories….

Cayce Chief Byron Snellgrove

Cayce police chief Byron Snellgrove

Again I feel that this incident ran very smoothly with so many entities involved and cooperating with each other. There are, however, a couple of tweets going out by a reporter about one of my staff making them leave the shelter and school district property. Let me make this very clear. The story is true! They were asked to leave because they were not abiding by the procedures that were put in place and were clearly explained to them and all the other media personnel that were at that location. By not staying within the boundaries that were outlined by my staff they were obstructing the flow of the operations at the shelter. They even attempted to get on a bus and do interviews with victims as they were leaving the shelter which slowed the process of the victims and their families getting where they needed to go. We received complaints on them from District 2 staff, victim’s families and even the bus driver of the bus that they attempted to gain access to. The procedures were made clear to them and they did not follow those procedures and when asked to stop they became aggressive with a school district official. They were, therefore, asked to leave.

I stated before that incidents like these are handled by “Controlling the Chaos”. Any disruption to this “Controlled Chaos” jeopardizes the operation and the care that the victims receive. I feel that cooperation between all agencies and emergency personnel in South Carolina is better than it has ever been and the way this accident was handled is proof of that. I feel the same way about our cooperation with the media. I respect the job they do and the fact that the media must sometimes be aggressive in getting the information they need for their story, however, ambush reporting and working outside of the boundaries and procedures that are put in place for an incident of this magnitude is simply unacceptable. So yes, they were asked to leave and I take full responsibility for the actions of my staff and, in this case, completely agree with them.

It may seem to some that the media outlets and Public Safety Agencies are often at odds with each other when it comes to information flow, however, it has been my experience that this is not the case and difficulties like these are rare. I would actually like to thank the media for the great coverage that they gave this major incident and for the needed information access that they provided to the public….

So there you have it. Frankly, I don’t think of this (or many things) in terms of “both sides.” There are lots of “sides,” multiple perspectives, on any event. I certainly didn’t see my earlier post featuring Meg’s video as one-sided, even though it was from her POV. I thought a fair-minded person could look at that video and feels sorry for Mr. Hinton trying to do his job while being chewed out by an angry reporter, just as much as a person who’s been there and done that (which I have, which of course colors my perspective) could identify with Meg’s frustration in trying to do her job. I think both of those things were true.

And I value the POV of the chief as well, and appreciate his presentation of his difference with Meg’s version within the context of an appreciation that the media folks there had a hard job to do, too.

Photo from Meg Kinnard's Twitter page.

Photo from Meg Kinnard’s Twitter page.

Bullying local governments: An issue bigger than plastic bags

What do these have in common with bump stocks?/photo by Dan4th Nicholas

What do these have in common with bump stocks?/photo by Dan4th Nicholas

This Tweet reminded me of something I meant to post about:

First, kudos to James for standing up on this: Forbidding local governments to clean up their communities is unconscionable.

But there’s a much bigger issue here than plastic bags littering the landscape: More than 40 years after passage of the Home Rule Act, the South Carolina General Assembly continues to bully local governments, preventing South Carolinians from running their own affairs in their own communities as they see fit.

It was always thus. From the beginning, long before the Recent Unpleasantness, the small class of plantation owners who ran things from the Legislature kept local governments weak, just as they did the governor. Home Rule was supposed to fix that, at least on the county level. But lawmakers kept vestiges of the Legislative State — such as unaccountable Special Purpose Districts (think Richland County Recreation Commission, and the Elections Commission in the same county). In some counties, state lawmakers even continued to run local schools.

And when local officials dare to try to improve their communities without the permission of the state, they can expect to have the state jump on them, hard.

We all saw what happened, nationally and locally, after the mass shooting in Las Vegas: Pretty much everyone, across the political spectrum, agreed that nobody needed a “bump stock,” and that the deadly devices were bad news all around.

And then, on the national level, nothing happened. And here in Columbia, elected officials decided they would act, within their limited ability to act: They banned the use, although not the possession, of bump stocks within the city limits.

It wasn’t much, but it made national news, and was much applauded as a case of some elected officials, somewhere, being willing do something.

So of course, a group of SC lawmakers decided they weren’t going to allow that. So Reps. Jonathon D. Hill, Craig A. Gagnon, Anne J. Thayer, Joshua A. Putnam — none of whom live anywhere near Columbia — sponsored H. 4707, “so as to provide that a political subdivision may not regulate firearm accessories.”

It’s the same old story in South Carolina: These lawmakers don’t propose to DO anything; they just want to make sure nobody else does anything….

Meg Kinnard’s confrontation while covering train wreck

One of Meg's photos from the scene.

One of Meg’s photos from the scene.

Yesterday morning I was sleeping late. I was awakened by an editor at The New York Post, telling me there had been a train wreck a few miles from me and asking whether I would cover it for them. (They’ve had my name and number on file ever since I covered the infamous Mark Sanford presser for them in 2009.)

Meg Kinnard

Meg Kinnard

I declined. There was a time, about 40 years ago, when I’d have been excited to run out in the rain and cover such a thing. But not yesterday. If they’d had a good political story to chase, maybe. But I left this one to the large crowd of reporters that I was sure was already out there.

One of them was Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press. This video she posted on Twitter reminds me of the thousand little hassles reporters run into in the course of doing their jobs:

This partial clip sort of makes it hard to tell what was really happening. The argument started before she started shooting. Obviously, Meg was a bit upset already by that point. Some will probably watch this and think she’s the aggressor and feel sorry for the school employee, who is clearly out of his depth. Especially the kind of people who despise White House press for getting aggressive when they get their rare shot at getting an answer.

I remember how stuff like this felt. You’re trying to do a job under tough circumstances, and somebody erects a barrier “because he can.” It’s pretty infuriating. You’re like Really? Like this wasn’t already difficult enough for all concerned? Kind of made me glad I left this story to Meg, et al. They seem to have done a fine job without me.

I just have one little complaint, Meg: Turn the phone sideways!

What’s with Richland’s super-secret mall plans?

columbiaplacemall.com

This just gets weirder and weirder:

Richland County administrator Gerald Seals confirmed Tuesday that the county is finalizing the purchase of three anchor stores at Columbia Place Mall – the former Sears and Dillard’s locations, as well as the soon to-be-vacant Burlington Coat Factory.

However, Seals would not comment on whether the county is planning to purchase the entire mall, which could mean the nearly 60 tenants at the Dentsville shopping center would have to move.

County officials announced in December that they planned to buy property at Columbia Place as part of their Renaissance project. The plan is to move county administrative offices to the mall and for the current administration building on Hampton Street to be razed to make way for a county judicial center. The current judicial center on Main Street would be sold.

When asked if the county planned to purchase the rest of the mall, county spokeswoman Beverly Harris declined to say specifically. “As to the acquisition of any other entities, the County only engages in direct negotiations,” she said in a statement….

What does that mean? And what’s with the secrecy, which has characterized this mysterious “Project Renaissance” since the start? It’s not just the public being kept in the dark, by the way:

“The discussion has been about the anchors,” said Paul Livingston, one of five of the 11 council members to vote against the project, in large part because of the secrecy surrounding it. “But we don’t know” if the sale of the entire mall is being negotiated.

“I support the concept” of purchasing the anchors, he said, noting that importing county workers and constituents would provide a windfall of customers for the merchants. “But there has been no public participation.”…

If members of Council don’t know, then who does? Is this all being planned out of Dr. Evil’s secret underground lair?

This thing has just been really weird from the start.

Show us blueprints. Sketch out the plan, in detail. Then, if the plan survives scrutiny, start buying up property. Don’t do this business where you tell us you’re going to spend millions on some grandiose plan and then shut up, saying, “It’s a secret!” Leave that stuff to the private sector.

Put an Apple Store near me, and I might take you up on it…

Apple Store

Doesn’t Apple have a way to know where the person it’s sending an email to is located?

I got this come-on from the tech giant today, urging me to partake of various interesting activities “at an Apple Store near you.” Such things as:

  • Take a Photo Walk. And snap pictures that pop with Portrait Lighting.
  • Join a Sketch Walk. And expand your palette with Procreate.
  • Stop by for a Music Lab. And define your sound with GarageBand.
  • Drop in for Kids Hour. And spark their imagination and creativity.

OK, so maybe I wouldn’t actually take you up on these activities. I’m not that starved for stuff to do. I never have been. Back when I was at the newspaper, and an editor’s meeting would come up about the Weekend section or the community calendars we’d run in the paper, I’d always wonder what it would be like to be someone who actually had to go out looking for something to do. I had trouble imagining it.

Anyway, if I did want to do any of this stuff, I’d be out of luck. When I click on the link in the email that promises to let me “Explore all the amazing things you can do,” I am immediately identified as being in the “Augusta area.”

Yep, that’s right — not only does Charleston have an Apple Store and we don’t… not only does Greenville have an Apple Store and we don’t… but little Augusta has an Apple Store — and in case you haven’t picked up on it, we don’t.

I think they’re just taunting me. Taunting all of us. Because they hate us…

Admittedly, I don't have a strong personal desire to be in this picture, but what if I did? Why taunt me?

Admittedly, I don’t have a strong personal desire to be in this picture, but what if I did? Why taunt me?

Columbia named a ‘City on the Rise’

Soda City market, just one of many signs of a more attractive city./file photo

Soda City market, just one of many signs of a more attractive city./file photo

This came in last night from Mayor Steve Benjamin:

Dear friends,

We’re thrilled to share that Columbia has been named one of the 29 “Cities on the Rise” for 2018 by National Geographic Travel! As the world’s most widely-read travel magazine, National Geographic Travel chose Columbia based on both a unique set of metrics and expert picks from its editors.

The Nat Geo team worked with global destination branding advisors Resonance Consultancy in developing a Small Cities Index, a survey that drew from statistics and social media mentions to determine which cities rank highest in a variety of distinctive, fun categories. Columbia’s inclusion stems from being one of the “Best Groomed” and “Meatiest” destinations.

“At Traveler we’re passionate about tales of urban renewal, about communities that have collaborated to improve their main streets, about smart cities that have pursued development policies that produce happiness. In this article, we report on authentic small cities that each embody a surprising superlative,” says George Stone, National Geographic Traveler editor in chief. “Happy places for locals are also rewarding places for travelers. Our index of small cities on the rise is based on unconventional metrics that we think produce happiness: green spaces, coffee shops, breweries, music venues, Instagrammable moments and puppies!”

Columbia joins fellow South Carolina cities Charleston and Greenville in this list as well as destinations like Honolulu and New Orleans.

You can get a copy of the February/March 2018 issue, available now on newsstands and online at www.natgeo.com/bestsmallcities.

Meatiest? As in “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy?”

Meaty

Mayor Benjamin on Columbia’s new ‘bump stock’ ordinance

As you may or may not know by now, yesterday Columbia became one of the first, if not the first, city in the country to ban the use of “bump stocks.”

Yes, city council went ahead with it, blithely risking the wrath of Catherine Templeton, who had threatened… well, it’s a little unclear, but she seems to have threatened to run for mayor, or something. Anyway, her protest was wildly irrelevant and disregarded, but I’m sure her mission was accomplished — somewhere, a Bannonite thought better of her for her tough, though vague, talk. Those folks tend to be about attitude more than results.

Image from website of Slide Fire, which sells bump stocks.

Image from website of Slide Fire, which sells bump stocks.

Back to the real world: In light of council’s action yesterday, Mayor Steve Benjamin was interviewed on NPR this morning. Hear the interview here.

And his interview belongs in a different rhetorical universe from Templeton, Bannon and Roy Moore. Which means to say, his words were measured, helpful, and respectful of all views. In a world in which too many speak to the extremes on both sides of the gun debate, this was refreshing.

Note that I said the city has banned the use of bump stocks (and trigger cranks), not the devices themselves. You can still own and sell them in Columbia. You just can’t attach them to a firearms and/or use them, unless you leave town. Violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor.

“It was important for us to make sure that we crafted an ordinance that was both constitutionally and statutorily sound,” said the mayor, who proposed the ordinance earlier this month. He was careful to fully respect what he called the clear intent of the 2nd Amendment, as well as state statutes on the subject.Benjamin

“We are preempted from regulating firearms or ammunition or even component parts,” he said. “This is not a component part; it is a $30 attachment that someone can add to a gun that changes the nature of it.”

He said the council “feel pretty good” that the new rule in on firm legal ground and he feels “fully prepared to defend it.”

He said the response he has received to the action has been overwhelming positive.

“On our city council there are a whole lots of good guys who have guns,” he said, and they felt this was no time for more of the usual polarization. His thought was that “people who are strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment, but also strong supporters of downright good common sense, should step up and do something.

“And we thought that Columbia, South Carolina, might be a great place to start.”

Penalty for trains blocking streets is $20? Now I get it…

train

I just got this from the S.C. House Democrats:

Rep. Rutherford Pre-Files Legislation Targeting Train Obstruction of Roadways

Columbia, SC – Democratic Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia), announced today that he will pre-file legislation to target the issue of roadway obstructions caused by trains. The proposed bill would significantly increase the penalty for train and railroad companies that have products or assets that block South Carolina roads for longer than five minutes.

Todd Rutherford

Todd Rutherford

The intent behind the legislation comes less than a month after two trains blocked Whaley Street, Assembly Street, and Rosewood Drive in downtown Columbia, halting morning traffic for over an hour. Unfortunately, trains and other objects impeding automobile traffic are too common of occurrences, in both urban and rural communities across South Carolina.
Under current state law, the maximum penalty for obstruction of a roadway is $20. Rutherford’s bill seeks to increase the fine to $5,000 per lane blocked, with the fine rising to $10,000 per lane if the violation occurs between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm.
Rutherford stated, “We cannot allow trains and obstructions to paralyze our roadways. Delays caused by these occurrences directly impact South Carolinians’ wallets and even worse, can be a matter of life or death. It is my hope that increased penalties and improved enforcement of the law will keep our roads clear and our cars moving.”
Rutherford continued, “South Carolinians should not have to suffer because they happen to live near a freight-train line. This issue threatens our quality of life, public safety, and economic growth.”
###

Can that even be right? $20? If so, it explains a great deal…

Columbia’s 4 percent election turnout

Turnout at the city council debate last week.

Turnout at the city council debate last week.

I got this email from Joe Azar today:

Many, many thanks to all of you that supported me in the city council election. I greatly appreciate it and hopefully the concepts and ideas I promoted will be enacted by council.

Maybe one day we can get Columbia moving in a responsible and intelligent way, but it will not happen until people care, analyze, and vote. With only 5250 voting out of a city of 130,000, it is a herculean job to provide progress in a city that seemingly does not care.

What is the answer? I surely would like to know as I have cared greatly for our city all of my life.

Again, THANK YOU!!! You are wonderful!

Joseph Azar

Folks, my calculator says 5,250 out of 130,000 is 4 percent.

Yeah, I get it — it was a low-suspense election. Joe had no chance against Tameika, and Chris Sullivan was punching above his weight against the veteran Sam Davis. Everybody “knew” that, the way people know things that are obviously true (until they aren’t). You know, like “There’s no way a lunatic like Donald Trump could be elected president of the United States.”

I bought into the same conventional wisdom. Rather than the Community Relations Council (upon which I serve) using resources to sponsor its own candidate forum, I suggested we co-sponsor the one the Chamber was doing — which we did, and I moderated. Two years ago, the CRC’s city council debate drew a packed house. This time, I was pretty sure that wouldn’t happen, and I was right. But I applaud the Chamber and the Building Industry Association (and the CRC) for staging a debate anyway. I mean, it was an actual election that would elect actual council members to help run the city. We should act like it, and provide opportunities for voters to learn more about the candidates, whether they show or not.

But here’s the thing about conventional wisdom…

Tameika Isaac Devine won by getting 3,583 votes to 1,638 for Joe Azar. So if he had identified just 1,945 voters and turned them out, he’d be replacing her on the council. Even though it would have meant getting more than double what he got, that’s not insurmountable with some organization. We’re talking about a city of 130,000, remember.

Chris Sullivan only needed 632 votes, although from a smaller pool.

Maybe they couldn’t have done it. Maybe a 2-1 margin can’t be overcome.

But it’s possible, because the numbers involved are so small

Of course, the big question here is, what will it take to get both voters and strong candidates to care more about Columbia city government?

The much larger crowd in 2015.

The packed house in 2015.

How’s Election Day going (if you’re having one)?

file photo

2014 file photo

Joe Azar sent this out a few minutes ago:

Voting is today for city council. If you do not vote, you can complain all you want about city government, but nothing changes. I am challenging a 4 term incumbent, and it is time for change. Please go vote for Joseph Azar.

Polls are open a few more hours, until 7p.m.

Oh, yeah! I’m not voting today, but other people are. I have a separate notification from the SC Democratic Party that notes there are elections in 123 municipalities in our state, plus a special election down in Charleston.

And POTUS started the day throwing his weight around in a gubernatorial election in Virginia, where an erstwhile establishment Republican is trying to win using Trump/Bannon tactics. For instance, he’s campaigning against “sanctuary cities” even though Virginia has no sanctuary cities. Poor Virginia! Aren’t you glad we don’t have nonsense like that down here? Oh, wait…

So… have you voted? Are you going to vote? How’s the turnout (I sort of think I know, but let’s see if I’m right)?

Or would you just like to comment on what’s going on out there? If so, here’s your chance…

Kyle Michel ponders All Souls’ Day

"All Souls Day" by Jakob Schikaneder, 1888

“All Souls Day” by Jakob Schikaneder, 1888

Earlier this week, the lady who schedules us lectors and eucharistic ministers sent out an email looking for volunteers for the Masses on All Saints Day. I wrote to her to say I could serve at the one at noon, but couldn’t do the evening Mass because of the debate.

But I had to ask her a dumb question, just to be sure: You’re talking about Wednesday, right?

As a convert, I still get confused by some stuff cradle Catholics take for granted, and the distinction between All Saints’ Day (yesterday) and All Souls’ Day (today) is one of those things.

But because we have so much to learn, we examine these things more closely. And an unexamined life, etc.

So I sort of enjoyed this email from Kyle Michel, who like me grew up Southern Baptist before marrying into a Catholic family:

All Souls Day has always been kinda intriguing to me. The idea of praying for all souls gone before you makes you wonder where the heck they’ve all gone. Maybe my Jewish friends are right – you’re here, you make your mark, you’re gone. Or, maybe there’s some kind of next stage – put whatever label you want on it. It would be hard to say that every person who has ever seen a ghost or had some paranormal experience was just imagining it. But everybody who ever died can’t be hanging around or the whole world would look like that Michael Jackson Thriller video. ​
I grew up Southern Baptist and we never had All Souls Day. According to the Baptists, there’s just no need – God’s already sorted them out, no need for further input. The Catholics have more of a Jesse Jackson approach – Keep Hope Alive! That Catholic approach seems a little better suited to a procrastinator like me – give it your best shot while you’re still breathing, but if you fall a little short, you’ve still got a chance.
Though, for Catholics, All Souls Day is still a little uncomfortable because you’re supposed to pray for all those in purgatory, which means you gotta make a call on who you think didn’t quite make it in – awkward!  At the funeral, everyone makes it in, right? Now, I gotta admit I think Uncle Freddie never made the cut!
Lucky for us, this year All Souls Day falls on First Thursday, so you can come down to Main Street and spend the evening thinking about all your dearly departed while walking among your not-yet-departed who probably still need a little prayer themselves.
If you’re out, stop by. We’ll be here at 1520 with our usual fare and selling the records of some of the souls we’re praying for – including a few of those “under-the-counter” ones that belonged to Uncle Freddie.

Kyle sends out these emails every First Thursday, inviting folks to drop by his law office on Main Street. He has the most awesome record collection I’ve ever seen outside of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, and he puts out some of his treasures out to sell from tables on the sidewalk.

You should check it out tonight. I can’t, because I’m doing another Catholic thing: I’m going to the annual Bernardin Lecture. Kristin Heyer of Boston College will speak on “Immigration Ethics in a New Era.”

Video and a Twitter account of the city council forum

microphone

Having only one microphone was a bit awkward…

When I’m moderating a debate, I’m always thinking about too many other things — keeping an eye on the timekeeper, shuffling through questions from the audience, picking the next question — to take notes on what is actually being said. I mean, I hear this and that, but I can miss the overall flow, and I wouldn’t trust myself to report on it.

Fortunately, the Chamber streamed last night’s city council forum on Facebook Live. This is good for those of you who’d like to hear what the candidates said, and bad for me, because I find my own fidgeting and rocking back and forth in the background too distracting when I try to watch it.

If you’re only interested in one of the two races, we did the at-large contest between incumbent Tameika Isaac Devine and Joseph Azar first, then you see the candidates for District 1 — incumbent Sam Davis and Chris Sullivan — starting at -49:18.

If you’d like to read what the candidates said, Chris Trainor of Free Times Tweeted extensively during the event.

My main aim was to have an informative event that focused on issues rather than irrelevancies. I was pleased that Chris Trainor’s last Tweet said this:

Come to the city council debate tonight

A previous city council debate I moderated at the same venue.

A previous city council debate I moderated at the same venue.

This evening, I’ll be moderating the final debate of the Columbia City Council race.

It’s sponsored by the Columbia Chamber, the Community Relations Council (of which I am a Chamber-appointed member) and the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina. We’ll be at the Chamber’s offices on Richland Street.

In case you haven’t kept up, Joe Azar is challenging at-large Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine, while veteran District 1 member Sam Davis faces Chris Sullivan.

We’re on a tight schedule, dealing with both races between 5:15 and 7 p.m., so I’m working today on trying to whittle down the prepared questions so I can get the best ones in. I don’t intend to ask about such irrelevancies as who belongs to the NAACP or who might be a closet Republican, because I can hardly imagine anything less relevant.

Of course, the candidates can bring up what they want, but my intent is to get good answers to how they intend to improve the city.

If y’all have any last-minute suggestions, toss ’em at me…

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A discussion Friday about lessons from Charlottesville

Photo by Evan Nesterak obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Evan Nesterak obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

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?

  1. Could what happened in Charlottesville happen here? If not, why not? And if so, what can we do to prevent it?
  2. Even if we are spared the violence we saw in Virginia, how should we here in the Midlands respond to the issues that confrontation laid bare?
  3. President Trump has been roundly criticized for his response to what happened. What would you like to hear elected leaders in South Carolina say regarding these issues?
  4. Being the capital of the first state to secede, we have more Confederate monuments here than in most places. What, if anything, should we do with them?
  5. Has anyone present had a change of attitude or perspective, something that you’d like to share, as a result of the re-emergence of these issues onto the nation’s front burner?

1024px-Lee_Park,_Charlottesville,_VA

KKK questions in the 5th grade, and the ‘virtues of slavery’

They may look scary, but look at it from their perspective, kids...

They may look scary, but look at it from their perspective, kids…

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.”…

Hoo, boy.

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.

WINSTON MCCUEN
AIKEN

“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…

This is where the South Carolina Court of Appeals sits.

This is where the South Carolina Court of Appeals sits.

Hey! Alla you kids, get offa my Blossom Street!

This was on Friday, as I sat through several light cycles waiting to turn onto Pickens.

This was on Friday, as I sat through several light cycles waiting to turn onto Pickens.

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…

This was a few days earlier than that...

This was a few days earlier than that…