(Charleston) The Post and Courier. June 20, 2021.

Editorial: SC is finally focused on preventing flooding. Now we need to go deeper

A few blocks from the governor’s mansion in Columbia, billboards went up earlier this month urging Gov. Henry McMaster to combat flooding by paying cattle farmers to switch to planting fruits, vegetables and grains.

It’s part of a campaign by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to reduce the atmospheric levels of methane gas, which cows produce in great quantities and which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

The Washington-based group, which promotes plant-based diets, argues that we should concentrate more on methane because it’s 25 times as potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and dissipates more quickly, which means reducing production could pay off faster. Columbia’s State newspaper reports that the group decided to launch its cropsnotcattle.org initiative in South Carolina because flooding is such a huge problem here.

There’s no question that Americans eat more meat (and everything else, for that matter) than is healthy. And contrary to the impression you’d get from the hostile reaction from farm organizations, there’s nothing anti-farmer or even anti-cattle about suggesting the state provide incentives for any farmer who might want to switch to a more carbon-friendly operation.

Still, it’s a bizarre effort, since South Carolina doesn’t come close to being a major cattle producer and the only thing a governor could do about incentives is to ask the Legislature politely to create them. And we suspect that we speak for most South Carolinians when we say we have no interest in eliminating meat as a food source.

But the campaign is an important reminder that we need to be thinking — and acting — more broadly about how we can combat the flooding that poses an existential threat to Charleston and, by extension, a massive economic threat to our entire state.

South Carolina officially got serious about flood mitigation last year, when the Legislature created a state resilience office, staffed it with flooding experts, began to develop a statewide resilience and risk reduction plan, and required cities and counties to include resiliency planning in their comprehensive plans. We have a lot to do just to fulfill the vision behind that new office, but it’s not enough.

Beyond buying out properties that repeatedly flood, discouraging or even prohibiting building in more flood-prone areas, improving drainage systems, building a wall around peninsular Charleston and taking other steps to mitigate the effects of higher sea levels and heavier rainfall events, we also need to focus on the higher global temperatures that are driving these catastrophic changes.

Our planet does a lot on its own, and human-influenced greenhouse emissions — from cars or cattle farms — clearly aren’t the only cause of global climate change. But they just as clearly are a part of the problem — and a part that we have the power to change.

While the most significant progress will come from national efforts and international treaties, our state and our communities can’t use that as an excuse to sit on the sidelines. The possibilities are limited only by policymakers’ imagination — and their willingness to act.

For instance, we always need to makes sure that the incentives in our tax system incentivize the activities we want more of in our state and discourage those we want less of. Whether we take on cattle or not, we should encourage private investments that reduce heat-trapping gases.

State and local governments need to reduce their carbon footprints through such efforts as upgrading buildings to make them more energy-efficient, installing solar panels and battery-storage technology in government offices and transitioning vehicles away from gas and diesel engines. Lawmakers might encourage this by tweaking the state’s procurement code to give preferences to energy-efficient purchases. (And since flood-mitigation is one of the acceptable uses for the boatloads of COVID recovery money the federal government is shipping into South Carolina, officials at all levels should be thinking about how they could invest some of it in anti-greenhouse efforts.)

Local or even state government might encourage individual efforts by installing charging stations for electric vehicles, expanding opportunities for people to compost more food waste and building more pedestrian pathways to increase the number of people who walk or bike to work and shopping.

The anti-cattle group apparently wants Mr. McMaster’s S.C. Floodwater Commission to take on that broader challenge. But the commission made a deliberate decision to deal exclusively with the effects of flooding rather than its causes, and while it did come up with the idea of having a state resiliency office, it further made the decision to play up small, individual efforts, from cleaning out overgrown creeks to planting trees.

And frankly, our state faces such a dire threat that there clearly is a role for an organization focused solely on flood mitigation and encouraging individuals to make a difference — not just because it increases the political buy-in for any larger efforts but also because individuals can make a difference.

What we need is an entity — not necessarily a new state agency, or even an agency at all — that can take the lead on envisioning, encouraging and coordinating the many efforts our state needs to undertake to help address global climate change. But first, we need a lot more state and local leaders who are committed to that goal.


(Columbia) The State. June 21, 2021.

Editorial: Public deserves transparency in sudden departure of popular school leader

The members of the Lexington-Richland 5 school board seem strangely surprised that the public and the press want to know why Superintendent Christina Melton resigned and why a settlement with Melton was reached without a public discussion or public vote.

What’s truly surprising is that another public body overseeing a public institution supported with public funds appears to believe it has no obligation to the public it serves.

Instead, the board privately negotiated a settlement with Melton, granting her $226,368, one year’s salary. The board did not vote on the settlement agreement at a public meeting and, when asked to explain its actions, the board issued a statement expressing disappointment at the “careless way” news of Melton’s resignation was shared.

The board members, when asked by our reporter about the settlement and resignation, also cited the board policy that only the board chairperson should speak to the media.

That same policy, however, also states, “The board believes that one of its paramount responsibilities is to keep the public informed of its actions.”

Apparently, the board also believes it is appropriate to pick and choose which sections of its policies it will follow.

Melton, named South Carolina’s superintendent of the year in May, has every right to make personal career choices, but the school board has an obligation to the community to be as transparent as possible about its dealings. Board member Ed White, who said a toxic environment led to Melton’s resignation, also resigned, citing his disagreement with the settlement and the way the board handled the situation.

This isn’t hard. Simply be upfront with your constituents. Tell the public what’s going on before speculation and rumors start to spread.

School boards serve the people in their communities, and the best way to do that is to be upfront about their policies, processes and spending. Parents and taxpayers, meanwhile, should demand accountability when those public bodies fail them.

Secrecy never serves the public good.


(Orangeburg) The Times and Democrat. June 21, 2021.

Editorial: More time on Real ID, but do it now

South Carolina residents will be needing Real ID Act-compliant licenses to fly on airplanes, enter federal buildings or go into military bases. It is only because of the pandemic that the requirement is not in effect now.

In March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would extend the enforcement date of the Federal Real ID Act of 2005 from Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021, because of the coronavirus pandemic. But with agencies such as the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles having had limited and/or altered operations for a large time during 2020 and into 2021, 3-1/2 months is a short time to get millions signed up for Read ID. It’s the same situation in other states.

Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas has announced that DHS is extending the Real ID full-enforcement date by 19 months to May 3, 2023, due to circumstances surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Protecting the health, safety and security of our communities is our top priority,” Mayorkas said. “As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the Real ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card.”

Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel. All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four of five U.S. territories covered by the Real ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with Real ID security standards and are issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards.

But only 43% of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are currently Real ID-compliant, according to DHS, which says the agency and various states need more time to implement requirements mandated by the REAL ID Modernization Act, including changes that will streamline processing by allowing the electronic submission of certain documents.

In South Carolina, the warning from SCDMV has been that less than half of those eligible would have Real ID ahead of October 201. So the extra 19 months stands to be beneficial in helping the agency deal with getting more people signed up without a crushing number descending on SCDMV offices.

To obtain a Real ID at any SCDMV office at a cost of $25, a person needs to provide:

• A government-issued birth certificate or U.S. passport.

• Proof of Social Security number.

• Two proofs of current S.C. address.

• Records of any name changes.

South Carolina and other states fought the Real ID mandate for years. But in spring 2017, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered that South Carolina comply with the law and begin issuing Real ID driver’s licenses and identification cards that meet the federal standard.

Not long after, the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles started accepting identity documents for people interested in purchasing the new style of license or ID.

By the end of 2020, SCDMV had issued more than 1.2 million Real ID driver’s licenses and identification cards, but there are more than 3 million licensed drivers in the state. There’s lots of work to do.

According to DMV, there are 350,000 people eligible to buy their REAL ID license online because all of their documents are already on file. Find out if you are one of them at https://www.scdmvonline.com/Public/Transactions/Info.aspx

The Real ID deadline has been extended but making the new form of identification a priority on your to-do list now will save time and ultimately aggravation in the future – for you and SCDMV.


(Greenwood) The Index-Journal. June 18, 2021.

Editorial: On stupid vandalism and unsocial graces

Yeah, we’ll have a cow over it and we’ll say whoever did it is a boorish pig, not to be confused with the cute pig that is among Uptown Greenwood’s topiaries.

On Saturday, during the grand kickoff weekend of the long-awaited South Carolina Festival of Flowers, someone apparently thought it would be amusing to do some cow tipping. So, they toppled the Chick-fil-A cow, a topiary mainstay for a good many years now. The offender or offenders have no idea how much work and money goes into the creation and maintenance of the topiaries, but they could be given a chance to find out.

We hope the vandal or vandals are caught, and we further hope they are then sentenced to some long hours of community service, helping city horticulturist Ann Barklow with keeping the topiaries fresh until they return to their fall and winter greenhouse home. And there, they can get some more community service hours tending to the topiaries. Come spring, they can help prep the topiaries for their trip to Uptown locations.

Let this count as a thumbs down — hoof down, if you’d rather — to the cow tipper or tippers, coupled with a thumbs up to our recommended punishment if it is meted out.

Frankly, we try to keep this weekly feature focused more on the positives than on the negatives. Thus, you’ll typically see more thumbs pointed upward than downward.

But you know what? Sometimes you just gotta say what you gotta say, so here’s a second thumbs down.

This one goes out to Facebook crawlers who simply cannot see a good thing for what it is. That was the case with what we thought everyone would see as a cool story about a family that picks its vacations with the toss of a dart at a map on a wall.

The Westerfields, from Dayton, Ohio, have had 18 dart-inspired vacations thus far. It just so happens that No. 18 brought them to Greenwood. We were able to catch up with them before they left for home and they had nothing but nice things to say about their stay here. They even said they plan to make a return visit, no dart needed, because they were that impressed with our city and county. They did not even know about the Festival of Flowers until they got here, but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Well, we hope the Westerfields don’t let the ignorant comments of a few folks change their minds about coming back. No, we hope instead that they remain focused on the positive comments and the invitation that maybe next time they come for another great festival tradition, the South Carolina Festival of Discovery and Greenwood Blues Cruise.

Goodness, people, don’t you realize that the Westerfields and others who visit our home county are also helping our local economy? If you think we have “too many damn Yankees” already in Greenwood County, why not head to Mississippi, Alabammy, or somewhere else? Maybe set up your own Southern Comfort Compound. Otherwise, try to be a more gracious host and show your Southern hospitality, OK? Bless your hearts.

Mic drop.