South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Index-Journal on violence that takes the life of some parents ahead of Father’s Day:
As Father’s Day approaches, our thoughts gravitate toward a couple of fathers in Greenwood who recently lost their lives when they were gunned down, one at point-blank range, the other in a hail of gunfire during a drive-by shooting.
What will become of their children, one but 2 years old and the other but a month old. Will their children break the cycle that quite possibly lies before them?
Discussion about the shootings taking place in Greenwood has included the proverbial why. Why are these shootings taking place? Why are young adults being gunned down? What can prevent these events?
A conversation with one of Greenwood’s top respected elected officials led to him asking a simple question: Where do many of these victims work? He knows the community well, and he knew and shared the answer: For far too many, there is no regular job that involves a paycheck, complete with payroll deductions for taxes and insurance. Their jobs involve cash exchanges. What they are selling is not available in stores.
And it is a hard cycle to break. As one Greenwood minister shared in another conversation, how do you convince a young man to work an eight-hour shift at McDonald’s for minimum wage when he can pocket three or more times the money he’d earn by street dealing?
Discussion has also centered on the family. More specifically, the demise of a traditional family in which both a mother and father raise their children together in the home and hold their children accountable. Of course, that’s not always as simple as it seems. Far too many single mothers are trying to do their best to provide for their children while working one or two jobs. It was not a choice they made; instead, it was a condition they found themselves in because the father walked from his responsibilities.
There is no single answer to the problem and we certainly do not pretend to have any or all the answers. But we do know that our community is hurting greatly and that the cycle will continue for too many young people.
Our Father’s Day wish is that more fathers will take hold of their responsibilities and do the right thing by their families, by their children. Take the right direction, not necessarily the easy direction or the most expeditious direction that puts cash in the pocket but also puts lives on the line.
The Post and Courier on lack of spending transparency by government officials:
If you ever wondered where in the world former Midlands prosecutor Dan Johnson got the idea that it was OK to spend public money on elaborate parties, campaign-style donations to well-connected charitable causes and luxurious travel arrangements, reading his resume might have given you a hint.
Before being elected the 5th Circuit solicitor, Mr. Johnson was a top deputy to the Richland County sheriff, which gave him an opportunity to watch the freedom his boss and other S.C. sheriffs had to spend public money. Then he doubled down on those practices and double-dipped in violation of federal law.
He got away with misspending for years for the same reason so many sheriffs did, and likely still do: He had tremendous power that made people afraid to challenge him, access to huge sums of money, from multiple sources, and no one looking over his shoulder.
Mr. Johnson was held to account for his profligate and illegal spending after The Post and Courier and The State newspaper tapped a trove of expense reports and other documents that had been painstakingly unearthed by the Columbia public-interest watchdog group Protecting Public Access to Public Records. On Tuesday, a federal judge sentenced him to a year and a day in prison for misusing tens of thousands of dollars in public money to pay for flights, hotel stays and other personal expenses.
Although some of Mr. Johnson’s spending was clearly illegal, some of it was merely abusive. We suspect that, as is often the case with elected officials, he started out merely abusing his discretion, traveling at public expense for legitimate reasons but booking more expensive plane seats and hotel rooms and spending more on meals than he should have.
Nothing illegal, but stuff elected officials wouldn’t dream of doing if they thought voters would find out. Over time, as a federal prosecutor argued in a sentencing memo, Mr. Johnson came to realize that his decisions “were subject to no review.”
It would be great if we never elected people who would abuse such situations, but we do, as is clear with Mr. Johnson, and with 13 sheriffs indicted on criminal charges over the past decade, many involving money. So we need systems in place to make it more likely that we’ll notice when officials veer into abuse, even before they cross into illegal — and perhaps deter them from doing that.
The surest way to do that is with routine outside audits of their spending. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson of Charleston is among the solicitors who already subject their offices to outside audits, but that’s voluntary, not universal.
Lawmakers ought to require this of all sheriffs and solicitors; it likely would be a good investment. But if they are unwilling to spend that money, they should at least require a lot more transparency. Require both offices to post all expenses from all sources online ... We suspect, too, that if sheriffs and solicitors knew their spending was subject to that level of review — even if the reviewers didn’t have the power to bring charges against them — they’d be a more likely to spend taxpayers’ money the way we’d want them to. And after all, isn’t that our goal?
The Times and Democrat on the governor’s relations with the South Carolina General Assembly:
It’s not hard to recall divisive times between South Carolina governors and the Legislature. Gov. Mark Sanford brought a pig into the Statehouse to make a point about “pork-barrel” spending. Gov. Nikki Haley and the GOP majority in both houses had high-profile battles over vetoes and more.
Less the avowed outsider - and in fact a veteran government insider - Republican Gov. Henry McMaster is less confrontational with lawmakers. And if the 2019 legislative session, McMaster’s first as an elected governor, is the model, the chief executive and legislators appear to be charting a cooperative course.
This past week, McMaster vetoed just 28 items worth $41 million from South Carolina’s $9 billion budget for 2019-20. And it does not appear lawmakers will return to Columbia this year in an attempt to override the governor.
In his veto message, McMaster had praise for the General Assembly, citing a “new spirit of communication, cooperation and collaboration.”
Lawmakers echoed the Republican governor’s feelings. As reported by The Associated Press, House Speaker Jay Lucas said after the 2019 session ended that the relationship with McMaster was “far superior” than those with the other three governors with whom he has served.
“Gov. McMaster has been an absolute delight to work with,” said Lucas, a Republican from Hartsville.
The budget upon which the governor and lawmakers generally agree fulfills some pledges made by the state’s leaders:
. Starting pay for teachers in the state will jump to $35,000 a year and teacher salaries will be raised at minimum 4%.
. State employees will get a one-time bonus of $600 plus nearly 32,000 state employees will get a 2% pay raise.
. Judges’ salaries will be increased 33%.
But it appears 2019 will come to an end without lawmakers moving forward on a major education reform package approved by the House and being pushed by the governor, who has called on the General Assembly to return to Columbia before January to complete work on it.
The legislation is pending in the Senate, where leaders appear inclined to consider it when they return in January.
So McMaster is right: There is work to do on important matters. Whether during 2019 or in 2020, a spirit of cooperation and compromise will go a long way toward getting it done.