Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier of Charleston on the I-526 extension:
The saga of the I-526 extension has had more twists and turns than a double-cloverleaf, and the latest development is enough to make your head spin.
Despite the efforts of Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey and Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg to revive the project, the state's two most powerful politicians now openly reject it.
Gov. Nikki Haley opposes the proposal as an example of what is wrong with transportation in South Carolina — and why more reform is needed in its governance model.
"This is exactly why we need to restructure the Department of Transportation — infrastructure decisions should be made based on a statewide priority list that focuses on public safety, traffic and economic development," said Gov. Haley's spokeswoman Chaney Adams. "When there are so many critical needs across the state, we can't continue to pave roads based on the loudest voices."
Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman declared that those who have sought to revive the project "do not have my vote. Period."
Sen. Leatherman sits on the State Infrastructure Bank Board, which recently received a request from Mr. Tecklenburg and Mr. Summey to consider a revised plan to extend 526 from its terminus west of the Ashley to Johns Island, but not to James Island and the connector to the peninsula, as initially planned.
The mayor and County Council chairman hoped to use funding provided by the pending half-cent sales tax referendum to build four railroad overpasses associated with the port expansion in North Charleston as an inducement to the Infrastructure Bank to approve the I-526 project.
Sen. Leatherman, however, has concluded that "the dots don't connect" on the proposal, adding, "Before all this hullabaloo, I was trying to see if there was some way to give forbearance to this. But I'm through with it."
"All this hullabaloo" referred to the furor created when audio recordings were made public that revealed Mr. Summey stating in August 2015 and January 2016 his opposition to the I-526 project while he was supposedly supporting it. Mr. Summey, who was meeting with opponents of the 526 project, also described Mr. Leatherman as a "tyrant" on one recording.
Mr. Summey last week said he actually backs I-526 and was simply trying to keep the $420 million granted the project in Charleston County, at a time when its prospect were dim. And despite the plot changes in his story, and recorded insults to some fellow council members, he has managed to remain as chairman of County Council.
Considering the turmoil Mr. Summey's remarks created, you have to wonder what kind of leadership he can now be expected to offer, particularly on this project.
Meanwhile, SIB Chairman Vince Graham told our reporter Oct. 21 there's no certain date for the board to consider the revised proposal.
At this point, you have to wonder where County Council stands on the matter, considering that it didn't include the I-526 proposal among projects to be funded from the sales tax revenue, after extensive discussion.
And you really have to wonder what effect all this drama will have on the referendum, which is just around the corner. The $2.1 billion generated by the sales tax would fund several important road and mass transit projects, and provide money to continue the county's successful greenbelt program. But what else?
For example, does council support using $150 million to build overpasses for which the State Ports Authority already has committed to pay?
It's always difficult to convince voters to tax themselves, and it gets harder when there is a sense of uncertainty about how the money might be spent. The proposal to the SIB has effectively done just that.
That leaves just about two weeks for County Council to make a convincing case for the referendum.
The Aiken Standard on a local man who saved a puppy:
Once again, just days after Hurricane Matthew ravaged much of South Carolina's coastal region, another hero has emerged with Aiken ties, to shine through the shadow cast by the second hurricane to hit the state in two months.
Sgt. Fernando Rodriguez, a graduate of South Aiken High School and a member of the S.C. National Guard, is now regarded as his dog's best friend, when he rescued the 3-month-old puppy chained to a fence in the small town of Nichols, in Marion County, northwest of Myrtle Beach, while on storm damage observation maneuvers with his unit.
Nichols, according to news reports, suffered from extensive flooding. Images shared on social media by Aiken County officials of the devastation show a situation nothing short of catastrophic.
"Most of the lot was already underwater," his wife, Bethany, said of the rolling knoll where her husband found their newest family member. "When Fernando's unit went back by where he'd found Trooper, a couple days later, the rest of the lot was underwater."
Simply said, Trooper would not have survived. Fernando's actions epitomize why we Americans hold servicemen and women in such high regard. It's fitting the dog he helped save found a new home with his rescuer.
Rodriguez acknowledged this with a solemn, "Yes sir," while his new puppy yapped away happily in his new forever home with his new two-legged family members, in Matthews, North Carolina, near Charlotte.
Since Hurricane Matthew raked the Carolina coast on Oct. 10, the people of Aiken County came together.
They cared. They reached out. And they helped their neighbors on the coast.
There's something to be said about that, something more than a line or two in a visitor's guide or on the opinion page in the paper.
This is what makes up "The People of Aiken," and its heroes range from Sgt. Fernando Rodriguez, to a cashier at the supermarket, who selflessly put others ahead of their own needs.
Fernando never bothered to take the time to consider the recourse or consequences of his actions, or his hesitation. He acted as all heroes do, without thought or consideration of self, his thoughts, attention and his actions focused on rescuing his new puppy.
Aiken has a reputation of being a special place, but it is not the buildings, the trees, or even the horses, that makes this community special, it is the people.
People like Sgt. Fernando Rodriguez.
This act will accompany The Citadel graduate, still considering career choices after he re-upped for a second six-year tour of duty with the National Guard. In this Information Age of fact checking, a future employer will Google Rodriguez when considering the Bachelor degree recipient for a job. Fernando is an Administration major with a focus on Finance, for a position.
They will find this story. Not a bad resume item.
Former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley called Aiken's residents its most treasured natural resource.
Meet the latest member of Aiken's most treasured natural resource, Sgt. Fernando Rodriguez.
And Trooper of course.
The Herald of Rock Hill on a decision by the Rock Hill school board:
We applaud the Rock Hill school board for backing off a proposal for students to be given an option to leave school with an excused absence for religious instruction. We think that was the right decision — even if nearly all School Improvement Councils had not roundly opposed the plan.
Under the proposal, students would have been permitted to leave for the religion classes during an elective class period one day a week. They would not have been allowed to skip core courses such as math, English, science or social studies, but could have skipped an elective class to go to off-campus religious classes.
In April, when the plan was introduced by board member Walter Brown with the support of Superintendent Kelly Pew, the board narrowly approved it on a 4-3 vote. But the issue was tabled in May after Board Chairman Jim Vining said he could not support it without first conducting a survey of SIC members to determine their views.
The survey of SIC panels, which are made up of parents and school staff at each school, found that 77 percent opposed off-campus religious study during the school day. The survey also found that 80 percent opposed students being excused from an elective class to receive religious instruction.
Of the few panels that did not outright oppose the plan, most were evenly split on the issue.
It also turns out that this proposal was driven largely by a nonprofit group called School Ministries of Rock Hill Inc., which is affiliated with the national School Ministries Inc. The group provided the school board with a list of churches it said supported the plan, but two on the list — Oakland Avenue Presbyterian and First Baptist — said they had not been consulted before being added to the list.
It appears that this proposal is more the result of a campaign by a single nonprofit than by any groundswell of support among local churches. In any event, we see no reason to schedule religious instruction during the school day.
Religious classes can play a useful role in the lives of young people. But there is ample time for such instruction outside of school hours without disrupting the regular school schedule. Students also can attend religion classes during summer vacation.
And let's not shortchange the value of elective classes. That class time can be used for studies such as art, chorus, orchestra, drama or other academic electives, which often can be among the most inspirational in a student's educational career.
The proposed religious classes also would have been difficult to pull off logistically. With the time it would have taken to pick up and transport students to the classes and then bring them back to school, not much time would have been left for instruction.
Considering that and the overwhelming opposition from the SIC panels, we think the board was right to drop the proposal. Again, while religious instruction can benefit children, families should provide it on their own time.