South Carolina editorial roundup: Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022


The (Charleston) Post and Courier

Dec. 25

Keeping Charleston's waterfront in public hands isn't easy, but it's worth it

Local governments should always be cautious about using their power to take property from private owners who are unwilling to sell. Sometimes, it's necessary, such as when a road needs to be widened. Sometimes, it's not, such as when the town of New London, Connecticut, wielded that power to buy up older homes to clear the way for a new private development that would boost its tax base.

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld New London's controversial action, but its ruling triggered a backlash across the nation, including here in South Carolina, and justifiably so.

All of that is important context in considering Charleston City Council's effort to purchase a small, vacant residential parcel just south of Waterfront Park.

There are several reasons the council would want to acquire the 10 Concord St. property, now a parking lot.

The city's purchase would put an end to the owner's plan to build a house that has triggered public backlash.

Preservation and neighborhood groups have reacted strongly against plans submitted to date.

The Historic Charleston Foundation said that while the most recent proposal for a building there shows an attractive structure with very good materials, it "is concerned about the architectural direction for this project in this formerly maritime area of the city, where buildings were historically aligned with the wharves and the warehouse form was predominant. The proposed building is not compatible with the context of the neighborhood or the history of the area."

Additionally, some of the city's earliest plans for Waterfront Park included this parcel. Indeed, if the city acquires the property, it would redevelop it as a small, southern extension of its iconic park - and help link the park with the city's popular Hazel Parker Playground just to the south.

Finally, acquiring the property would give the city important flexibility as it considers a stormwater barrier along the peninsula's eastern side. While it's theoretically possible for a new house there to be built high enough to avoid needing protection, that added height would block views from - and dramatically overshadow - the two-story buildings across Concord Street.

If the eventual homeowner wanted the city's new sea wall or storm barrier to protect the house, that could force the barrier farther out into the marsh and river, possibly driving up costs and environmental concerns. It's too soon to know what a future barrier might look like, but the lot's minimal space between the water and Concord Street raises the possibility that the city might have to acquire this site one day in any case.

Meantime, council members voted recently to authorize city staff to negotiate to acquire 10 Concord St. and, if a deal can't be struck, bring them a proposal to take the land under the city's eminent domain powers.

It's important for city staff to negotiate in good faith for a purchase, much like the city was able to do recently when it bought the former Piggly Wiggly property in West Ashley. That deal, in fact, is an important reminder that even though you might have the legal authority to condemn property, you don't always need to do it - and that you shouldn't resort to such a drastic step unless there are no other options.

By early next year, City Council is expected to decide whether to proceed to flesh out an Army Corps of Engineers proposal to construct a $1.1 billion sea wall around the peninsula. That vote would clear the way for more planning and study, which are expected to take a few more years. Until the direction of that project becomes clearer, it makes sense for the city to take steps to pause any new development on the peninsula's waterfront edge. What looks good today might look like a mistake in just a few years.

The (Orangeburg) Times and Democrat

Dec. 23

Pough proves keeping faith the right call

Back in early 2019, the college football world had its eyes on South Carolina with the national championship won by Clemson. Yet even as the Tigers' flag flew atop the Statehouse, there was other big football news in the state in January.

South Carolina State University Athletic Director Stacy Danley and head coach Buddy Pough made the announcement that Pough would be returning for an 18th season at the helm of the program.

While not a great surprise, the announcement could not have been predicted. After the Bulldogs' worst season in 16 years under Pough in 2017, the coach stated that 2018 would be his last at the university. But things changed - for the better.

A young group of players had a surprisingly good season in 2018, finishing 5-6 after starting 0-4, with a 4-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference record.

With as many as 15 freshmen or redshirt freshmen playing considerable roles for the Bulldogs throughout the season, Pough admitted in the postseason that he got more excited about continuing to coach the more he saw the young talent develop and players mesh as a team.

In late November, Pough went public with a stated desire to continue coaching the Bulldogs. Danley said at the time that he and Pough were evaluating the program and that an announcement would be forthcoming.

When it came, the athletic director was as optimistic as Pough about the future.

"When I looked at the program, where we are today, and considered our current reality and what the head football coach at South Carolina State is required to do, there was no question to me that Coach Pough is the man for the job," Danley said.

What a good decision. The Bulldogs in 2019 shared the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title. And despite no fall season in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic, Pough and his team played in spring 2021 and won three of four games.

Optimism for 2021 was real. A veteran coach with solid returning players and recruits would be a contender for the outright MEAC title and the berth that brings in the Celebration Bowl vs. the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion. At stake is the HBCU national championship.

It did not come easy. SC State lost three games to Football Bowl Subdivision teams and two to more traditional opponents. But in MEAC play, they were perfect. Close games, but perfect.

Still, no one really gave SC State a shot vs. SWAC champion Jackson State coached by football legend Deion Sanders and quarterbacked by his highly regarded son. No wonder, Jackson State went 11-1 during the season, losing only to an FBS team in a close game.

Well, as they say, that's why they play the games. On Saturday in Atlanta in the Celebration Bowl, Pough's Bulldogs were clearly the better team, winning 31-10. Call them HBCU national champions in a game played a day after President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at the Orangeburg university.

Hard to top such a week. Pough said Saturday, "To cap off a great week with this victory is just the cherry on top of the sundae."

Inevitably he was asked how much longer he plans to coach. His answer: "I want to stay around until they run me off."

As much as coaching is about what you can do for me now more than what you did for me yesterday, Pough, thankfully, appears likely to lead the Bulldogs for the foreseeable future - and hopefully to more titles.

Flying the Bulldog flag at the Statehouse would be a fitting tribute.

Greenwood Index-Journal

Dec. 28

Past time for change

"Here we go again. Another South Carolina sheriff, another indictment and removal from office."

That was the first paragraph of our editorial in April of 2019 following the indictment of former Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone on a raft of charges, including two felonies, embezzlement and misconduct in office.

"This trend of abuse of power, sadly, has been rampant in the Palmetto State where nearly one-fourth of the sheriffs have been found guilty of breaking the laws they are supposed to uphold. As noted this past month in this space, Charleston's Post and Courier released the results of a five-monthlong investigation into the sheriff's offices across the state, an investigation that, as we said, should give cause for concern about the structure we have in place that allows such abuse of power."

The above paragraph also was in the editorial two-and-a-half years ago, and what has been done since then? Nothing. Other than yet another sheriff being indicted the middle of this month. This time, it was Marlboro County's Charles Lemon, along with a deputy, who each face one count of misconduct in office and one count of assault and battery of an aggravated nature.

As we wrote in 2019, short of indictments - when wrongdoing is actually discovered and reported - there's not much that can be done. And while it seems logical that voters could oust corruption at the polls, voters don't always have great recall and certainly might not be aware of any misdoings, real or perceived.

But since April 2019, lawmakers have found more important business to tend to, such as the design and color of our state's flag.

"It's time to revisit how sheriffs get into and remain in an office where they can control vast amounts of money and wield power over subordinates and inmates alike, all while remaining unaccountable to anyone but the voters," we wrote in 2019.

Logical. Rational. But reaching only deaf ears, it seems, as nothing has changed and change does not appear to be on the Legislature's radar.

We wrote:

"Municipal police chiefs are not elected to their offices. They serve at the pleasure of the city and town councils who are elected by the voters. They and their budgets are under council scrutiny.

"Enough evidence points to a need to establish the same type of system among our state's sheriffs departments by making them accountable to county councils and county treasurers. While such a move would not necessarily bring an end to corruption, it would likely circumvent many such attempts and create a better path toward true accountability and remediation."

If state lawmakers don't see corruption among our state's top law officers as a problem worth addressing, we know we're not a lone voice in the wilderness on the topic.

The Post and Courier of Charleston also weighed in on the topic - again - in a recent editorial.

They wrote:

"The Legislature can remove some of the temptation to cross the line by requiring routine outside audits of all sheriff expenditures, requiring sheriffs to follow state procurement regulations, giving county officials clearer authority to deny sheriffs' office expenditures and requiring sheriffs to post details about all their spending online. And it wouldn't hurt to at least have a debate about giving county councils the authority to remove abusive sheriffs or even make sheriffs appointed positions, like police chiefs. Yes, that's a drastic change, but having 16 of the state's 46 sheriffs accused of violating the law in a decade is pretty drastic, too."

We'd like more than an "amen" on that. We'd like to see some rise to action in Columbia. This session.