OPINION: S.C. editorial roundup, Aug. 1, 2020


Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Post and Courier

July 28

Affordable housing in Charleston would improve other issues

It's no surprise that a recent survey found widespread agreement that the Charleston region has a serious lack of affordable housing. Anyone who looked to buy or rent in recent years can tell you that.

What is surprising - and potentially helpful information for those working on the problem - is how views vary when it comes to solutions.

The Charleston Forum - a nonprofit created to reduce racial disparities in the wake of the Emanuel AME Church shootings - undertook the sampling, which also found broad agreement that economic pressures were shifting where the region's black population calls home.

But that's where broad agreement ended. Asked what local governments should do to help, about 47% of white survey-takers agreed mostly that "Individual choice and market forces, exclusively, should determine who lives in certain communities." Only 16% of blacks surveyed agreed mostly with that statement.

Smaller numbers felt that government should do much more. About 23% of blacks and 7% of whites said they agreed most with the notion that "the government should play a role in maintaining racial balance in our communities."

About 44% of blacks surveyed said both market forces and some limited government involvement are required to maintain racial balance in our communities. About 30% of whites surveyed agreed.

It's clear that the market, left on its own, is not going to solve the problem. But it's also clear that cities and counties must be both smart and financially responsible as they look for ways to help.

The good news is political courage costs nothing, though it often seems to be in short supply these days. It also could help if more local governments stepped up and followed Charleston's lead. In recent years, city voters have approved two multimillion-dollar bond issues to help build more affordable housing. The last one, for $20 million in 2017, won support from 70% of city voters. Clearly, voters recognize there is a problem.

Some of Charleston's moves aren't easy to replicate, such as the good it's doing with the multimillion-dollar proceeds from a recently paid-off loan to Charleston Place. That money is enabling several projects, including one by Greenville-based Homes of Hope, which is building two- and three-bedroom townhomes on 9 acres off S.C. Highway 61 at Dogwood Road. They will sell to those earning from 65% to 120% of the median income. If the homes remain affordable for 30 years, the debt will be forgiven.

The city also requires developers of large tracts to either create some affordable housing or donate land to the city where the city or a nonprofit agency could do so. City Council's recent approval of Citadel Mall's redevelopment is a prime example: Of the 1,225 housing units permitted, 60 are earmarked for tenants who make 60% of the area's median income; another 124 will be for tenants making 120% or less of the area median income.

As we've noted before, the relatively high cost of homes and rent is a drag on the Charleston region because it impacts issues related to our quality of life - traffic, public health, jobs and the environment.

The Charleston Forum has done local leaders a favor by reminding us that our region's lack of affordable housing remains a major problem that affects all of us. Leadership must seize the opportunity to find more solutions.

The Times and Democrat

July 27

Making healthy food choices during the pandemic

At last, some good news regarding the coronavirus emergency. The lockdown and stay-at-home advisories apparently have inspired people to make healthier life choices.

Before the coronavirus, it was an easy task to go to the grocery store on your way home from a busy day and pick up a quick convenience meal. With the fast-paced frantic lifestyle people face in the outside world under usual circumstances, stay-at-home advisories and lockdowns have meant many Americans are able to take a break and put their health first. While there is no doubt about the harsh disruption the pandemic has caused to daily lives, it has certainly granted many the chance to improve unhealthy habits they may have fallen into over the years.

Rehabs.com, a provider of rehabilitation resources and treatment information, conducted a study of 3,000 Americans to find out if they have adopted healthier choices amid the coronavirus. Overall, nearly half of South Carolinians (48%) have been inspired to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking, exercising more and drinking less alcohol. This is compared to the national average of 54%.

Broken down across the nation, it appears North Dakotans were the most motivated to change their ways during this time - 77% of residents say the lockdown inspired them to make healthier life choices. By comparison, Alaskans seem to have taken lockdown a little harder with just 33% saying they have made positive lifestyle changes over the last few months.

Most people have a specific lifestyle concern they have always wanted to address. Of those surveyed, 56% say they have started eating healthier since it began. This was followed by 35% of respondents taking up more exercise and 7% quitting drinking and smoking.

In fact, it seems Americans are either running low on liquor or the thrill of drinking has worn off, as over 1 in 5 people (22%) say their alcohol consumption has decreased the longer the coronavirus emergency has continued. Broken down by gender, 36% of men say this is the case, as compared to 10% of women.

Another factor regarding alcohol has to be factored in: limits placed on bars and clubs. Some are closed while those operating can accommodate fewer people, and fewer people are going out as they remain at home. Thus fewer are drinking as regularly.

Also, when visits to the outside world are limited, regular trips to the grocery store or nearest takeout are not as easy. This means fewer processed convenience foods - such as microwave meals and freezer pizzas - and more home-cooked dinners. This is possibly why a significant 43% of respondents admit their diet has improved.

Moreover, because there is no need for commutes when people are working from home, it helps to have some extra time in the evenings to prepare a healthy meal. Cooking for yourself and/or your family can get repetitive if you are doing it every single day, multiple times per day. However, many people appear to have embraced this opportunity to fine-tune their skills in the kitchen - the average American learned to cook four new, innovative recipes since lockdown began, according to the study.

If there truly is a lasting curb in unhealthy lifestyle habits, South Carolinians and Americans will be able to call it a silver lining in an otherwise dangerous and difficult time.

The State

July 25

Statewide mask mandate overdue

The reason why the adage "It's never too late to do the right thing" is so powerful is because it is so true.

There really is always time to do what's right.

There really is always time to stop a journey that's headed down a misguided path - and change its course toward a far wiser one.

It's a heartening reality that Gov. Henry McMaster should embrace.

At long last.

McMaster should realize that it's not too late to finally do the right thing by implementing a statewide face mask requirement to slow South Carolina's still-raging rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths.


Would it be uncomfortable for McMaster to make such a dramatic, public about-face after weeks of dismissing the idea of employing a statewide face mask policy - even as big and small communities all over South Carolina have taken the very action he won't take to protect South Carolinians?


But this is what is so empowering about doing the right thing, even when it's overdue: It gives you the liberating ability to possess all the right answers when you're challenged on why you're doing it.

And so it would be for McMaster if he took the needlessly delayed step of requiring South Carolinians to wear face masks.


But how, you ask, would McMaster answer the critics who would accuse him of being a "flip-flopper"?

That's easy.

McMaster could simply lower the face mask that he often wears when speaking to the public - thankfully, irony has survived even the specter of COVID-19 - and utter these words while looking intently into the cameras:

"The only thing worse than making up your mind without any facts is not changing your mind when the facts change. And the fact that it's now possible for nearly 80 South Carolinians to die in a single day from COVID-19 is enough to change my mind about a statewide face mask policy. You all need to wear them. And I'm now issuing an order to make sure you all do just that."

Who could sensibly argue with that?