Category Archives: Midlands

A couple of broadcast ads from House District 78

The above Beth Bernstein ad came out a couple of days ago. Just getting around to sharing it now.

And as soon as I posted it, Beth’s opponent, Republican Jeff Mobley, commented below to call our attention to his radio ad, below. So I rewrote the post to include that prominently…

Wow. NOW Mia McLeod is attacking Carolyn Click

Here’s the latest escalation from Rep. Mia McLeod, who really seems to be going around the bend on this thing:

Okay, Ms. Click, so you write front-page fabrications about race in Richland Two on Sunday and then again on Tuesday and Wednesday of the same week? Guess The State must be hard-pressed for real news…and real journalists.

Race wasn’t an issue in Richland Two until you and your White Citizens Council (WCC) buddies made it one.Mia leopard jacket

The illusion of racial tension and animosity you guys have created continues to reveal your true colors. In fact, the same WCC spokesperson quoted in Sunday’s story, had this to add today,

“These people are playing hardball—if they get control they will drive off all the competent people…”

Funny thing is…”these people” kinda reminds me of “those people” and “you people.”

Clearly these are “your people,” Ms. Click, since you’re working overtime to help disseminate and lend credibility to their racist chatter.

Thankfully, somebody at The State had the good sense (not you, of course) to remove his racist rant from “the story” you originally posted online last night, as well as the printed version today.

More proof that “control”—not race, is the real issue. “If they get it,” means we’ve never had it. Guess that’s what scares y’all so much.

And you so desperately want the few readers you do have, to believe that I’m Amelia McKie’s biggest supporter. Guess that’s why you’ve conveniently omitted thousands of dollars in contributions and a diverse cross-section of her contributors from your “story.”

Too bad that while you’re working hard to undermine and discredit Mrs. McKie, the front-runner in this school board race, you’ve actually disclosed even more “evidence” of the collaboration between the current Administration and the WCC.

Obviously, the campaign contributions of current R2 Administrators to some of the WCC’s “chosen four” is evidence of collaboration and conflict—not to mention, impropriety. But I’m sure that’s well above your pay grade, Ms. Click, since The State must not require you to check the rules or the facts before you print your fabrications.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t compare Debbie Hamm to Lillian McBride in my blog. I simply referenced incompetence as their common denominator.

Even my Senator chimed in to “reaffirm” his support for Debbie Hamm. But, this isn’t about her. Or is it?

Anyone who thinks she’s “building morale” in R2, is out of touch with everybody but the DO. For her loyal supporters, friendship trumps everything.

What a sobering reality check for the rest of us in Richland Two.

Let’s channel our energy and efforts towards a true commitment to excellence in education, for the benefit of all Richland Two students.

For those who are afraid of losing it, it’s clearly about control. For the rest of us, it’s truly about moving our students, communities and District forward, in a better direction.

It’s time to silence the rhetoric, the rancor and the manufactured issues of race. Next Tuesday, November 4, I’m counting on voters to do just that.

Maybe then, Ms. Click, you can focus your attention on real news, for a change.

Quote that….

Speaking as a 35-year newspaper veteran, I can tell you with authority that this is real news, and Carolyn Click is a real journalist. A good one. I’ve known her for a couple of decades, and I think this is the first time I’ve heard anyone call her professionalism into question.

And you can quote that….

Mia McLeod says it’s the WHITES injecting race in District 2

I really, really hated to see the first sentence of this story about the Richland School District 2 election:

Race has become the defining issue in the Richland 2 school board election, as rumors circulate of a shift in power from a white-majority to a black-majority board.

Fueled by the activism of an African-American parents’ advocacy organization and a separate white group called the Bi-Partisan Committee, the usually placid election in the Midlands’ largest district has spawned heightened interest and dueling visions for the future of the 27,300-student district….

Appalling. And here’s where I stand on this: I’m opposed to anyone who cares whether the board is majority-white or majority-black. I have no patience with Identity Politics. I wouldn’t lift a finger to affect the racial balance one way or the other.

By contrast, Rep. Mia McLeod is taking a side, labeling the “white” group as a latter-day “White Citizens’ Council.” Which is a pretty heavy-duty accusation. Here’s what she says:

Sadly, race has taken center-stage in Richland Two (R2), thanks to a modern-day White Citizens’ Council (WCC),” disguised as a bipartisan committee. But this WCC isn’t about students, academics, best practices or strengthening and improving public education in the District.

No…this “whites-only” advocacy group has rebranded itself for the sole purpose of interjecting race, racist rhetoric, lies and fear into a school board contest, so that R2’s power and control remains with those who’ve always had it.

It’s no secret that whites are now the minority in R2, but still very much in control. This election could change that, so the WCC was revived to protect the status quo and ensure that no real diversity or talent is elected.

Like you, I would much rather have qualified, competent board members who truly care about our students, parents, teachers and communities. Service with vision, integrity, transparency and accountability should be the benchmarks—not race.

I don’t care whether you’re (former) Elections Director, Lillian McBride, or (current) R2 Superintendent, Debbie Hamm. Incompetence in any “color” is equally offensive and those who condone it based on race, gender, party or friendship are equally wrong.

Realizing that change is imminent, former R2 leaders have joined forces with current R2 leaders to create this unholy alliance and ironically, it’s this White Citizens’ Council—not the Black Parents’ Association, that has strategically placed the issue of race front and center.

By purposely disseminating false, misleading, deliberately divisive rhetoric, R2’s WCC attempts to marginalize and discredit anyone who challenges the status quo. According to one WCC member, “it’s the last stand for a good school district.”

And yet, hiring and electing candidates based on race, not merit, is precisely what they’ve accused the R2 BPA of doing.

Isn’t that “the pot calling the kettle black?”

And because they’ve identified their “picks,” we now know who not to vote for, if we ever wanna see any positive, progressive change in R2.

Let’s start with the WCC’s only African-American endorsee, Cheryl Washington Caution-Parker, a retired R2 Deputy Superintendent who was repeatedly passed over for the top gig.

According to the WCC, she’s aptly qualified. Perhaps she was consistently not promoted because she is black, since current District leaders have secretly opined that R2 isn’t ready for a black Superintendent and “the reason we got rid of (former Superintendent) Katie” is because she promoted too many qualified African-Americans to Administrative positions, making it harder to keep R2 from “looking Black like Richland One.”

Amazingly, Washington Caution-Parker is now conspiring with the same racist operatives who’ve worked against her for years. Clearly qualified, but obviously not the brightest candle in the bunch…

Since the BPA allegedly works so hard to ensure that R2 hires and promotes African-Americans, whether qualified or not…maybe it was actually trying to help by listing her as “white” on it’s website—in keeping with the District’s “whites-only” Superintendent policy.

Perhaps, if the BPA had come to her aid sooner, Washington Caution-Parker might not have gotten bumped out of the Superintendent spot by a white IT Director with only a fraction of the qualifications and experience.

And White Citizens’ Council endorsee #2, James Manning, has proven yet again that he’ll align himself with anyone who’ll help him get re-elected.

Even after admitting that the WCC’s newsletter was chock full of lies, Manning happily accepted the endorsement—proof that he too, is fully supportive of the WCC’s mission and aligned with its values–while latching onto every black church, black parent, black anybody, who’ll help him hoodwink us out of four more years.

But the WCC’s radically racist crusade doesn’t stop there. It also attempts to defame and discredit one of the most qualified, capable, committed candidates, who happens to be African-American.

Why? Because if Amelia McKie (or as the WCC refers to her…the one with “the green signs”) is elected, we’ll have a strong voice on R2’s school board who’ll fight for students, communicate with parents and demand real transparency and accountability.

Contrary to what you’ve heard or read, I’m not a member of the R2 BPA. Neither is she. And if the school board and DO were truly representative of all of the people of R2, there would be no need for a Black Parents’ Association, White Citizens’ Council or this email.

Amelia McKie is a dynamic parent advocate, State SIC Board Member, R2 Ambassador, District spokesperson and SC Education Policy Fellow, who’s maliciously maligned because she poses the biggest threat to the OG’s precious status quo. And unlike the WCC’s “picks,” McKie is a change agent who’s qualified and in this race for the right reasons.

Her candidacy appeals to a vast cross-section of R2 residents because she understands that equity, parity and diversity are key to our individual and collective success.

Since we’re obviously not beyond tactics used during the Civil Rights Movement, ask R2’s WCC why it deliberately distributed false, deceptive, race-based propaganda, touting a predominately white slate to a “whites-only” audience—proving that District leaders still aren’t interested in engaging all of the people of Richland Two.

But as fate would have it, I just did. And now you too, get to see their true colors…

Not sure what to think of all that. But I imagine that some of the white folks who were so tickled that Mia was taking on Lillian McBride and her supporters among the other black members of the county legislative delegation are probably going to be less enchanted now.

Trying to make up my mind on the Lexington sales tax hike

This story in The State today reminds me that I have to decide by next week whether to vote for the Lexington County penny tax increase.

I checked with Warren Bolton to see whether they’re going to have anything about it on the editorial page. He said there will be something, and I look forward to reading it. Y’all may think of me as a guy who comes equipped with a full set of strongly-held opinions, and to some extent that’s true. But my daily discussions with Warren and Cindi — and back in the halcyon days, Mike Fitts and Nina Brook and before them John Monk and Claudia Brinson — helped me refine and correct and hone my views. I was always smarter about an issue after discussing it with them. Even if I still had the same general view I went in with (which, I admit, was usually the case), I had a better grasp on it, and had sanded off the rough edges, when I came out.US_One_Cent_Obv

And when, as with this case, I’m not sure what to think, such a discussion always helped me make up my mind. (That dynamic, by the way — the testing of one’s thoughts against those of a group of thoughtful people — is what editorials, and especially endorsements, are all about. Even if you disagree with the piece, and don’t change your mind, you’ll be smarter about the way you approach the issue for having tested your views against the ones you read.)

I know that if I could sit in a regular morning meeting with my friends on the edit board, I could arrive at a conclusion that I would be comfortable with, and that I could support and defend. Lacking that, I look forward to seeing what they publish.

The problem I have making up my mind on the Lexington penny is that it’s just for roads and infrastructure. I backed the penny in Richland because half of it went to the buses. I’d have backed it more enthusiastically if it had all gone to public transportation. But Lexington County largely turns its back on the bus system, and is all about cars and roads. Which bothers me…

OK, it’s not ALL about cars and roads. There’s some other infrastructure in there. But I’m happy to pay the Richland penny because it’s funding something that is an alternative to cars and roads, and which the community needed, and which it was having trouble paying for otherwise. (And though I do live in Lexington, I probably spend at least as much on taxable items in Richland.)

Then there’s also the problem that we’re already leaning on the sales tax too much in this state. It’s crept up to where it’s on the border of being too high if not there already, while property and income taxes aren’t bearing their share of the load (OK, business property taxes are, but primary-residence taxes are not).

And as I’ve said repeatedly, we have a mechanism for building and maintaining roads — the state gasoline tax. That needs to be raised, rather than just raising sales taxes here and there across the state.

At the same time, that is still a tough row to hoe, and in the meantime we have inadequate roads. So I struggle with this.

Maybe y’all can help me with this. The morning meeting is hereby convened…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come join the conversation!

Benjamin seeks help naming baseball team

19L

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

It’s Time to Name Our Team

New Professional Baseball Team in Columbia Needs Help of Fans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mia gives her perspective on delegation’s election board vote

Mia McLeod is still giving the “Old Guard” hell over the Richland County elections board:

Will we ever get it right?Once again, the Old Guard  (OG) has put personal loyalties, friendships and agendas above your fundamental rights. Haven’t the voters of Richland County suffered enough?  Here we are a little more than a month away from the November elections, and your Richland County Legislative Delegation has not only taken its sweet time meeting to vote on County Election Commission candidates, but delegation leaders purposely postponed our meetings until the OG was absolutely sure it had the votes to get at least one incumbent reappointed.
So much for restoring integrity, public trust and confidence to the voting process…Now, with the November elections looming, four of the five appointees have been seated, while one has been denied confirmation by the Governor’s Office.  It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the Governor or Richland County Election Commission incumbents.  And the fact that our delegation leaders have remained steadfast in their efforts to keep pertinent information from voters and certain delegation members, while insisting upon this appointment override, is just more proof (not that we need any) that the OG continues to play by its own self-serving, manipulative rules.If I seem frustrated, here’s why:

May 2014 – Delegation members were asked to submit their written votes/ballots for County Election Commission candidates before the House adjourned. Those ballots were supposedly our “official” votes, although several of us requested (and were denied) a full/formal, publicly noticed delegation meeting

June/July 2014 – No appointments were made, no follow-up provided and no meetings of the legislative delegation were scheduled, despite several requests

August 2014 – No appointments were made, no follow-up provided and still, no meetings

September 5, 2014 – The Richland Delegation finally met to vote in person (approximately 2 months before the General Election) to fill 5 Election Commission seats, with no discussion/disposition of the May ballots

Obviously, that May ballot thingy was yet another “shady,” unofficial OG poll/ploy to determine whether they had enough votes to reappoint the incumbent.  Despite the OG Senators’ secret weapon (a.k.a. – “weighted voting”), the numbers still didn’t quite work, so what’s the OG to do?

Take no public action/votes until the numbers do work…in their favor, of course…not yours.

Waiting four more months puts new appointees at a severe disadvantage before a major general election, but that’s not their fault.  It’s the delegation’s.  And alas…the OG got the one incumbent it had been holding up and holding out for.

I know. Shocking, isn’t it?

Here’s where it gets a little tricky…er.  Turns out, after the Governor’s Office conducted the requisite screenings, only four of the Delegation’s five appointees could be confirmed and that 5th one just happened to be the 5th highest vote-getter…you guessed it, the OG’s only incumbent appointee.

Now, I don’t know why this appointee wasn’t confirmed and that’s not my issue.  I’m more concerned about whether we have a fair, transparent process so that our delegation’s OG loyalty and lack of leadership won’t cost you your vote again this November.

Knowing your vote counts is just as fundamental as the right itself.

And yet some of our delegation members have chosen to submit a letter of support, which effectively “overrides” the Governor and the procedural safeguards that are in place to protect voters–without any public input, deliberation or discussion.

Gotta give it to em…the OG gets what it wants–unequivocally and unapologetically. “The system” is set up that way.  By strategically diverting attention away from the truth and pouncing on anyone who doesn’t support its agenda, the OG successfully:

  1. reappoints incumbents over standard procedural screenings/safeguards
  2. makes it “personal” by falsely accusing dissenters of character assassination

Truth is…not too long ago, I was accused of assassinating the character of yet another member of the OG’s protected class–former Director McBride.

How’s that for déjà vu?

For me, it’s always about the process—never personal.

But as I’ve told you many times before…we can’t change the message until we change the messengers.

You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your vote counts in this upcoming or any other election, but the sad truth is…until the OG is no longer running the Richland Delegation and County Elections, you’d better worry.

For Richland County voters, it doesn’t get any more personal than that…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s who voted to keep Adell Adams on election board

election vote

A screenshot from the minutes of the Sept. 5 meeting.

OK, now I have an answer to the burning question of who voted to keep incumbent Adell Adams on the Richland County election board. Here they are:

Here’s a link to the entire minutes, which include how everyone voted. The minutes were emailed to me this morning by Kimberly Janha, the legislative services coordinator for the delegation.

And once the strange weighted voting was fully tabulated (senators got more than representatives, and they were also weighted by the proportion of their districts in the county), here’s how the candidates fared:

  1. E. Peter Kennedy — 93.75 %
  2. Marjorie Johnson — 80.23 %
  3. Jane Dreher Emerson — 58.35 %
  4. Sylvia Holley — 56.36 %
  5. Adell Adams — 47.70 %
  6. Elaine Dubose — 41.64 %
  7. Christopher Kenney — 30.95 %
  8. Eric Mohn — 28.68 %
  9. Robert Tyson — 24.24 %
  10. William Spillane — 18.11 %
  11. Ken Gaines — 10.02 %
  12. Joanne Johnson and Pamela Sumter — 0 %

You’ll see that Ms. Adams was the only one elected with less than 50 percent — whatever that means, with this odd weighted system.

Still no word on which lawmakers voted to keep Adell Adams

Here it is the next day, and neither I nor anyone else has been able to report to you the most relevant information from yesterday’s Richland County legislative delegation meeting — specifically, which lawmakers voted for which candidates for the county election board.

So basically, I can’t report to you, as voters, the one bit of information that allows you to hold people you elect accountable for their actions.

As I mentioned yesterday in a comment, I called the number that Nathan Ballentine had given me for the delegation secretary. I was assured that the information was being compiled, and that it would be sent to me via email.

Why that would take any time at all, I don’t know. It probably has something to do with the decision by the lawmakers to use paper ballots rather than a voice vote, and to weight the votes to give senators more of a say than House members. Maybe. I don’t know.

In any case, Friday came and went, and I don’t have the information. Neither did Dawn Hinshaw:

Efforts late Friday to find out who voted for Adams were unsuccessful. Legislative members opted to cast votes on paper, rather than by voice. They also used a system giving senators’ votes more weight….

I did learn from Dawn’s story (she was there; I was not) that four lawmakers made a point of voting for no incumbents. Two were, as I reported yesterday, Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Beth Bernstein. The others voting for an entirely new broom were Rep. Mia McLeod and Sen. Joel Lourie.

Rep. Leon Howard

Rep. Leon Howard

She also reported that one representative, Leon Howard, spoke during the meeting in favor of keeping Adell Adams on the board, citing the importance of retaining “institutional knowledge.” So I guess he voted for her, but I don’t know it. And I don’t know who else did.

When I know, you’ll know.

I see that WIS quoted Todd Rutherford as also speaking in favor of institutional memory…

Also… as I keep Googling around… Eva Moore at Free Times reported that Sen. John Courson said he would vote only for nonincumbents. So that’s five.

But no one is reporting how all the delegation members voted.

Not QUITE a new start for Richland Election Commission

Well, the Richland County legislative delegation finally met today, and chose a new election commission.

That is, an almost-new election commission.

The bad news is that longtime member Adell Adams got to stay on. She was one of two incumbents seeking reelection to the commission, and she got to stay. The good news is that Elaine DuBose, the other incumbent, did get replaced, by Pete Kennedy — described as “a watchdog of the board since 2012’s debacle.”

Actually, I suppose there’s more good news in that there are three other new members: Marjorie Johnson, Sylvia Holley & Jane Emerson.

I was unable to make it to the meeting, and the question I’m burning to have the answer to is this: WHO voted to keep Adell Adams on?

All I know so far is that Nathan Ballentine didn’t vote for her:


And yesterday, Beth Bernstein told me that she did not intend to vote for any incumbents, either.

Beyond that, I don’t know.

Here’s the brief item on thestate.com, and here you can find Tweets from Dawn Hinshaw, who covered the meeting.

Should McMaster be expected to quit Forest Lake CC?

You may or may not have seen this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor Steve Benjamin addresses the assembly.

Mayor Steve Benjamin addresses the assembly.

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

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

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

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

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

Chief Holbrook addresses the meeting.

Chief Holbrook addresses the meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Touring USC’s new Darla Moore School of Business

Peggy Binette of the USC media office threw a poor blogger a bone and invited me on the official media tour yesterday of the fancy new ultra-modern, artsy, green, hyper-energy-efficient Darla Moore School of Business.

I’d have posted about it Wednesday, but was tied up the rest of the day.

The tour was like old home week. I ran into, let’s see… six people I used to work with at The State, two of whom actually still work there. So it was nice to catch up with them.

The building was really nice, too, although it will look better when the trees and plants come in, and they get some artwork up on the walls. I’m assured the architects have a plan for decorating the oceans of beige, but they’re not putting anything up until all construction is finished.

And it mostly is, or so it seemed. The building is fully in use, with students coming and going and faculty moved in to offices, but it will probably be awhile before it feels lived in.

In the video above, you hear Dean Peter Brews speak, with his South African accent, about the reaction of students to the new facility. He said they were saying it is “sick… which I gather is a positive thing.” For my part, I didn’t know the kids were still saying that.

For the basics, here’s The State‘s story from the tour. The messages for the day were:

  • This is a banner day for the Moore School, putting business education at USC in an enviable position in terms of facilities and capabilities.
  • The beauty, functionality and energy-efficiency of the building.
  • Collaboration. Over and over, we heard how faculty and students from different disciplines who never saw each other in the old, vertical building are already interacting to an unprecedented extent, which is expected to lead to all sorts of good things.

And, yes, the fact that the building is where it is to act as “a gateway for the University of South Carolina leading into the Innovista district.” Beyond that, I’ll let pictures tell the story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Columbia’s big CCTV expansion

Smile for Big Brother, Columbia:

 The Columbia Police Department will more than double the number of locations around the city that are equipped with surveillance cameras paid for with public money.

Chief Skip Holbrook said officers are working with Statewide Security Systems, a private company, to coordinate camera installation at 80 new sites. The company already works with the city on 70 locations equipped with 250 cameras.

The current 250 cameras are in Columbia’s entertainment districts or along major business corridors, Holbrook told City Council in a written report.

The new sites stretch across the city from eastern to western and southern to northern boundaries. Cameras are being installed in the Harbison retail district, along Broad River Road, in north Columbia, along Huger and Assembly streets, along Devine Street east of Five Points and along stretches of Two Notch and Garners Ferry roads….

The key element is that the new cameras, like the old cameras, are to be “located in places where people have no reasonable expectation of privacy.” Unlike say, in your shower at home.

Nevertheless, some will object. But you know I won’t. I love Big Brother, a fact which I hope you’ll find occasion to mention next time you’re in front of one of these devices…

Weigh in and say WHAT, Eva?

Regarding all the things said about Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin in the recent Pinson trial, Eva Moore has this to say in Free Times:

Yet there seems to be some discomfort in Columbia about either condemning the mayor or letting him off the hook. The usual mainstream pontificators — The State’s editorial board, blogger Brad Warthen, WIS General Manager Donita Todd — have yet to weigh in on the mayor’s role in the Pinson trial.

This was brought to my attention by my daughter, who said it doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m employed by the MSM or not; the Free Times will always label me that way.

I guess.

As for the rest of it — weigh in? Weigh in and say WHAT, Eva?

As she points out, we’ve been treated to the unusual spectacle of a lot of loose talk ABOUT the mayor in open court, but no charges brought. Makes you wonder if there’s another shoe, and if so, when it will drop.

Improper financial dealings. A sex-tinged anecdote. Some back-and-forth about whether the mayor should have reported the trip or not — one of those “ethics” issues we natter about when we don’t know how to get at the actual scandal, if there is one.

And frankly, I don’t have any opinions about that. At least, none that are busting to get out of me. If you ask me, I’ll say that I prefer that the mayor of Columbia not have this cloud hanging over him. The city needs a good mayor with good ideas who is in a position to lead. And a clouded mayor can’t lead much. So the city sort of drifts. Or it can. We’ll see.

But folks, I don’t know enough either to call for his head or to defend him against all comers. I just don’t. Do you? If so, have at it…

Benjamin to take a position on issue of refugee children

I received a text this morning at 9:52 from Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, responding to my earlier post about the children from Central America:

Brad, Thank you for speaking up for the unaccompanied minors/children. I plan to take a formal position and to ask council to join me too. Steve

I responded that that sounded to me like a fine idea.

I was reminded of what happened 10 years ago, when a tide of resistance in Cayce rose up against the Somali Bantu moving here, and then-Columbia Mayor Bob Coble made it clear that they would be welcome in Columbia.

I have this vivid image in my mind — which unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find on the web — of Mayor Bob embracing the father of a Bantu family arriving at the airport, with the rest of the family standing by.

What a great message that was, and it washed away the earlier, uglier impression that our community had given.

It would be great to see the city of Columbia similarly distance itself from our governor’s ungracious reaction.

I hope the council can see its way clear to do just that.

Ben Hoover’s account of what happened at WIS

For those of you following this ongoing story, Ben Hoover posted this on Facebook last night:

Here’s what I want you to know.

Right now, I don’t have a new job and I need to make sure future employers and my community know why I was led to believe that my place at WIS was secure.

I’ve worked in TV 15 years. I understand and accept that stations have the right to not renew contracts. Especially in situations when ratings might be down or the employee did something wrong, or both sides couldn’t reach a salary agreement. None of those issues applied to me. In fact when I asked why my contract wasn’t being renewed station management assured me I had “done nothing wrong.”brgnP616_400x400

Please allow me to explain what I meant when I said that I was caught off guard. News management had recently slated me to do a follow up to “Hope in Hard Times” this coming November, after my current contract would have expired. They also planned to have a co-anchor with me in the field at Oliver Gospel Mission. The week before I learned my contract would not be renewed I taped station promotions that historically have run for several months. We were far along in the search for a new house. My children were enrolled in school for the fall. That’s why I walked in with a folder with long-term contract options for management to consider. But, I never had the opportunity to open that folder. There were no negotiations. It was made clear that management did not wish to renew early on in that discussion and that I had “done nothing wrong.”

My first contract with WIS was 5 years. My latest contract was one year in length. In both cases, both sides had to agree to terms. Some anchors choose longer contracts. Some choose for even shorter than one year. It’s a personal decision. Never was I told that a one year contract would pave the way for my exit. In fact, we agreed to come back together and discuss longer term options. If I entertained potential advancement within the company, never did management indicate or communicate that it would mean I would not be renewed. I have documented on multiple occasions my happiness with my co-anchors at WIS and my openness to calling Columbia my forever home. And, never in discussions did they indicate that my future at WIS was not an option. In fact, I got a very different response.

I truly appreciate the support from the community. It helps tremendously to keep me going in this short amount of time I have to find a new job. So, from where I sit today, I cannot afford to let vague comments, including those by others outside of the situation and not privy to the details, leave an impression that what happened was something that I did or it was just a parting of ways. That’s simply not true.

My announcement last Thursday was in line with how I was trained, my high standards of journalism, and with what’s been a big part of my career – doing the right thing. Viewers don’t deserve to be caught off guard or wonder for weeks where someone they’ve seen for 6 years has gone. And, nobody deserves to get half of the truth. I’ve always put the viewer first. That’s what I will continue to do. And, it is possible to do that while still being a loyal employee.

I don’t know where my next job will take my family and me. I’ve been put in a position to consider anything and everything. Right now, Columbia is home. And, in order to move on both professionally and personally I needed to fill in some blanks so that there would not be any questions that could negatively impact my family or my pursuit to find another job.

The Ben Hoover reaction

Suddenly, Donita Todd, general manager of WIS-TV, seems to be the least popular woman in town.

As you’ve probably heard or read, she’s bearing the brunt of viewer rage over the sudden departure of anchorman Ben Hoover.

Hoover announced the move thusly:

After 6 years of anchoring and reporting at WIS, this Friday, July the 4th will be my last day on the air. Recently, I was informed by station managers that they did not wish to renew my contract. Like so many other anchors and reporters in the past, I wish I was in a position to announce the next opportunity for my family and me. But, to be honest, I didn’t see this one coming. So, as we like to say on the news, you’ll have to stay tuned. And, maybe say a little prayer for my family and me.brgnP616_400x400

One of my closest friends shared this with me in the last few days: “If it’s not fatal, it’s not final…and, if it’s not final, it can be fruitful.” That friend is Judi Gatson. Working side by side with “JG” has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and life. Judi, Dawndy, Papa Joe, John, Ben, Rick and my core group of “news hounds” here will forever be like family to me. I will miss them like crazy.

Some of the stories I’ve covered over the years have been very heavy and hard to tell. A dad living on the streets after every corner of his life crumbled. The young parents in a fight and race to save their precious little girl. A military mom smiling through raw pain to ensure her son’s legacy (and dimples) aren’t forgotten. All of them, and others, facing down some of life’s greatest challenges. But, what’s always stood out to me is the one common thread that ties them all together – hope.

So, in the name of the dig deep, do good, work hard, “never give up” spirit so many of our viewers have shown me over the years, I say — HOPE is a pretty doggone good thing.

After Friday, you won’t see me on WIS anymore but please stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and email hoov11@hotmail.com. I promise to do the same. Judi Gatson Dawndy Mercer Plank WIS TV John Farley Ben Tanner

After two or three days of protest, the station put out this statement yesterday:

During the last several days much has been posted on social media about Ben Hoover’s departure from WIS news, much of it erroneous.

However, we simply cannot engage in a public conversation regarding details of Ben’s departure from WIS TV. It is a private personnel matter.

We sincerely thank Ben for his service to the station and the community and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.

We also want to thank our viewers for their concerns and comments regarding this matter.

We can assure you that WIS remains fully committed to the excellence you have come to expect from this television station over the last 60 years.

Based on the response to the statement on Facebook, that oil has done little to calm the troubled waters. Some examples:

  • “You got rid of the wrong person. Donita Todd needed to go.”
  • “What part of the comments were “erroneous”? The part that the viewers want him back? That he and Judi were good together? That he put his heart into his work – walking to work in the snow, living with the homeless? Again what part was erroneous?”
  • “I don’t own a Bull. I never have. But I do know what a bull does several times a day. And this smells just like it.”
  • “Excellence is not a word to be used in any way by WIS. You did not allow him OR Judi to anchor the final broadcast. There is NOTHING excellent about that. Rest assured your other employees are planning an exit, because the station has lost it’s moral compass.”
  • “WOW!! I have read through many many discussion forums in my life…NEVER have I read through one where all the comments from the public voicing their opinion are all in agreement!!! The viewers have really spoken and come together on this one! WIS really should re-think their decisions on this one!!!!”

As always, I hate to see a guy lose his job, but there’s an emotional core to this protest that I’m having trouble understanding. Was there this kind of outpouring when David Stanton left? Maybe there was, I don’t recall — I was sort of busy with my own stuff at about that time. Maybe y’all can enlighten me.

Anyway, it must be some comfort to Ben to know he was so appreciated. I hope so.

Thoughts? Observations?