Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Index-Journal of Greenwood on punishments for crimes:
If you don’t wanna do the time, don’t do the crime.
Most readers are probably familiar with that sentiment. Many, however, are likely thinking it really doesn’t matter so much after all. There’s plenty of evidence to support that thinking.
Here in the Lakelands alone there have been several cases in which white-collar crimes have been committed and the punishment comes nowhere near to addressing the severity of the crime.
The message many have taken from these cases is that stealing money from universities and publicly funded law enforcement agencies is worth the risk. And private citizens who have entrusted their life savings to a professional investor are worthwhile targets, as the punishment when caught pales in comparison to what one might get away with.
We have also seen that law enforcement officers and lawmakers alike very nearly walk away from crimes they have committed. All across the state of South Carolina, for example, one sheriff after another has been found guilty of committing crimes. Their punishment? Little more than a slap on the wrist, payment of a small fine perhaps.
Another case in point that would indicate crime isn’t as risky surfaced this week when a judge sentenced former state Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. to two years on probation, 500 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine when Quinn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour corruption charge.
The former House majority leader was caught up in a Statehouse corruption investigation in which Quinn was accused of taking $4 million in unreported lobbyist dollars and doing their bidding on behalf of his father’s political consulting company. Quinn’s father, Richard Sr., has had a list of high-profile clients. In exchange for his son’s plea deal, and by co-operating with investigators, the elder Quinn avoided corruption charges himself.
One might argue that it’s not the penalty that comes from the commission of such crimes that acts as a deterrent at all, that those who commit these crimes get so full of themselves and think themselves too smart and too powerful to fail. That, to a large degree, makes perfect sense. Still, we’d like to see stiffer penalties and real time served behind bars, if not to test the theory, then to at least mete out more just punishment and give victims a little more satisfaction.
The Post and Courier of Charleston on preserving historic Lowcountry neighbourhoods:
Time hasn’t been kind to some of the Lowcountry’s oldest and culturally richest neighbourhoods. Many of its historic freedmen villages are on the brink of extinction due mainly to encroaching development and the apathy of the larger community. That needs to change.
Take Mosquito Beach in the Sol Legare community. While a handful of activists are working to preserve and restore the Jim Crow-era hotspot, county officials are working to have its old hotel razed. Admittedly, the two-story 1962 structure isn’t much to look at but, then again, neither was Sol Legare’s Seashore Farmers’ Lodge before its restoration a decade ago.
William “Cubby” Wilder, a fourth-generation Sol Legare resident whose family owns Mosquito Beach, is working with the Historic Charleston Foundation toward getting the area listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as a historic district.
Starting with a $50,000 grant from the town of James Island, he’s helped raise money toward revitalizing Mosquito Beach and making it “a nice area for people to come down and enjoy themselves, and see how things were in the old days.”
Mr. Wilder sees that as the first step in preserving the rest of Sol Legare. He’s encouraged by the help he’s received from James Island. But he knows saving his little piece of the Lowcountry’s living history is an uphill battle. When asked about what he sees in Sol Legare’s future, he says, “That’s still a question mark.”
The Lowcountry’s historic freedmen communities deserve the same sort of enthusiasm and support Charleston’s nascent International African American Museum has received.
Longtime locals know their names — Scanlonville, Snowden, Phillips, Sol Legare — but they’re not something the tourism bureau advertises. These historic freedmen communities, mostly in unincorporated areas, go largely unnoticed. When they are noticed, it’s often by housing developers eager to scoop up increasingly scarce land.
Yes, there are rare victories, as when a Scanlonville neighbourhood association prevailed in a six-year legal battle over the community’s circa-1870 cemetery, where a developer wanted to build homes. But more often than not, developers have gotten their way.
Scanlonville, now hemmed in by new homes, was once home to one of the area’s most popular black beaches from the 1940s through the 1960s, where jazz and R&B giants such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, B.B. King and James Brown performed at the waterfront pavilion. Now all that remains is a historical marker across from Remley’s Point boat landing.
There’s the Phillips community along Highway 41, established by freedmen in the 1870s along Horlbeck Creek. It’s now sandwiched between Dunes West and Rivertowne and is being consistently chipped away by development and Mount Pleasant annexation.
A five-year legal battle to re-establish a community centre on heirs’ property there failed in 2007, and a developer bought the property with a $1.2 million bid.
Not far away, the same pressures threaten the unincorporated Snowden community, another freedmen’s settlement where most of the families are descendants of the first homesteaders.
In Mount Pleasant, members of the African American Community Historic Commission have been working with the town’s Historical Commission and County Council to come up with ways to preserve what’s left. Co-founder Rodly Millet, a member of the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission, says the communities need “layers” of protection — specialized zoning, deed restrictions, tax relief, perhaps a community land trust to buy property that would otherwise be sold to housing developers.
In 2016, then-Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law the Clementa Pinckney Partition of Heirs Property Act, which helps prevent developers from buying a share of an inherited property, then forcing the sale of entire parcel, often below-market value, by filing a “partition” action in court. Long overdue, the law is a welcome protection.
Charleston County’s 2016 update to its Historical and Architectural Survey, which won the Zoning and Planning Department the state’s Preservation Service Award, took a particular interest in the at-risk communities.
“We see this as a step in the process to help preserve our historic communities and sites,” Charleston County Zoning and Planning Director Joel Evans said of the survey.
The survey found that the four communities — Scanlonville, Snowden, Phillips and Sol Legare — appear to meet the NRHP’s’ “Criterion A for black ethnic heritage” and recommended them for nomination.
A NRHP listing, however, would be largely honorific and wouldn’t ensure the preservation of the communities. Local governments need to take a stronger stand in saving these repositories of living history. So do local residents.
The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on roadside litter:
Litter is expensive, both in terms of cleanup and community impact. If getting rid of it is as big a priority as so many say, volunteer efforts must be supported by a state willing to be tough on offenders and a citizenry that refuses to accept life amid the debris.
Uncovered vehicles are the No. 1 source of roadside litter in South Carolina, according to research conducted by Keep America Beautiful.
Although South Carolina state law says no vehicle shall be driven on any public highway unless it is loaded or covered to prevent its load from dropping, escaping or shifting, unsecured loads still contribute to more than 20 per cent of roadside debris. Uncovered pickups, commercial trucks and trailers will usually have materials blowing or bouncing out.
In enforcing the law, special attention should be given to roadways and highways around county landfills and sites for solid waste collection and recycling. Vehicle operators transporting uncovered loads are responsible and can be charged with littering for any trash or debris that blows out of their vehicle onto the road or along the highway.
Carrying uncovered debris should be dealt with on the roads and at the dump site, where such loads could be reported. An initial warning for educational purposes would be followed by a citation. Call that the stick.
Meanwhile, PalmettoPride, the state’s anti-litter organization, is addressing the issue of uncovered loads with a carrot.
PalmettoPride has announced a plan to distribute 5,000 tarps to nine counties. Orangeburg and Bamberg counties are on the list to receive some of the available tarps.
“Tarp campaigns bring awareness to drivers on state litter laws and puts the power of prevention in the citizens’ hands,” PalmettoPride Executive Director Sarah Lyles said in a press release. “Our goal is to change the behaviour that creates litter.”
If positive results are noted, PalmettoPride plans to make the tarp campaign an ongoing effort with counties across the state interested in participating.
Tourism and economic development are adversely affected when litter is unchecked. And public funds must be spent to clean up after litterers.
The solution to South Carolina’s litter problem is proper handling of solid waste by people. Everyone is encouraged to be careful with trash and to help make our state cleaner.
Citizens must understand the problem and how it can be remedied. Curbing the number of uncovered loads could make a noticeable difference.