South Carolina editorial roundup

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Sept. 11

The Post and Courier on the legacy of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:

Most Americans remember Sept. 11, 2001, vividly, but many others who will reach voting age this year were just babies when al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four airliners, crashing two into the World Trade Center's twin towers in Lower Manhattan and a third into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field amid a struggle between passengers and the hijackers.

So it makes sense that public schools in hard-hit New York are now required to provide a moment of silent reflection on each Sept. 11. All Americans should do the same. Because everything changed that day. And that day continues to shape our future.

Within a few hours, nearly 3,000 Americans died, and the United States has been at war more or less ever since. About 15,000 soldiers have died, and there is regrettably still no viable end in sight. Though the remnants of al-Qaida in Afghanistan pose far less of a threat today, the organization's twisted ideology lives on in the form of ISIS, Boko Haram and dozens of other terror groups.

Through it all, the United States has thankfully avoided any further large-scale terror attacks. We may be tired of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere but we cannot simply give up the fight. We can, however, prepare for a more peaceful future.

Before Congress are two bipartisan bills, one sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would help move U.S. strategy away from direct military actions and toward attacking the terrorism at its ideological sources to prevent future attacks. The basic idea behind the proposed Global Fragility Act — H.R. 2116 and S. 727 — is to help prevent the kind of social breakdowns overseas that give rise to terror organizations.

Practically speaking, it would mean helping rebuild terror-ravaged countries, rather than bombing them, and working to prevent extremism in fragile states. The legislation would authorize the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to initiate a broad range of diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in at-risk countries. It would also establish a fund to help "stabilize conflict-affected areas at risk from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other terrorist organizations," according to the House version.

In the long run, such an approach should be part of the bigger picture for our own security and prosperity.

And by the same token, we can't afford to let fragile states collapse in our own backyard like Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

It should be abundantly clear to the world that the United States will never shy away from military conflict when our American way of life is threatened. But, as Americans, we must also acknowledge that the ultimate victory over terror will come in winning hearts and minds, rather than expending blood and treasure.



Sept. 4

The Index-Journal on how a tax increase for projects in one county is falling short of projections:

"A politician should be able to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year, and after that, have the ability to explain why it didn't happen."

Those words, a slight twist on a classic Winston Churchill quote, were uttered by Steve Brown, Greenwood County Council chairman, at the start of the State of the City/County address hosted by the Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce last month.

Perhaps Brown knew how relevant those words would be as a prelude to what he would next address: Greenwood County's capital project sales tax, at two years in, is not keeping pace with original projections, and that would mean some of the 27 projects detailed on the 2016 referendum put before the county's voters would quite possibly wither on the vine.

Apparently a number of the nearly 200 assembled for the meeting were not caught off guard. They knew or had heard that was the case. In fact, it had been a given out the gate that a penny sales tax with an eight-year cap might not raise the revenue hoped for. The figure, after all, was based on what are billed as best estimates and current financials.

The possibility always existed that the economy might not be as robust as anticipated. But the state was not anticipating any major economic changes. It did, in fact, anticipate steady growth. No fears of another 2008 crash and burn. By the same token, it was entirely possible that collections could exceed expectations, especially if Greenwood saw growth in the retail industry.

So just how off were things now that the county had two years of data to dive into ahead of the Aug. 28 announcement? By now, you know that a full third of the 27 projects are potentially in peril. And by now — although again, it's only an estimate — the county might come up $20 million shy of the nearly $88 million projected to be collected and that would, ostensibly fully fund those projects that dot the county.

You probably recall that when County Council brought forth the referendum, it included an array of projects, from an educational manufacturing center at Piedmont Tech to a park in south Greenwood. From a refurbishment of Katherine Hall in Ware Shoals to water lines being run to Harris Landing. Again, all tallied up there were 27 projects deemed the best of the best and worthy of funding with an extra penny attached to the county's sales tax rate. And while Greenwood County residents would be contributing to the projects through their own purchases, the best part of the idea is that non-county residents would help us reach that dollar goal. In short, it was and is reminiscent of the tax county residents voted in favor of to build the spillway at the Buzzard Roost dam while also funding the construction of the county's library.

But while that capital sales tax project exceeded expectations and sunset ahead of schedule, what voters approved this time around in 2016 appears to be falling short. Woefully short, at least at this point. So short, in fact, that county leaders thought it a good idea to let some of the project stakeholders know they might be in for a big Christmas disappointment.

Yes, with such a dire prediction based on two years of data collection, we agree it was a good idea to let Mayor Bruce Holland of Ware Shoals know that Katherine Hall is likely to remain a shell of its former self as the town's central gathering spot, to let Karen Park Jennings know that the Railroad Museum's planned depot exhibit hall has been derailed, to let Anne Craig know that renovations to the Arts Center will likely sit on a blank canvas.

Those people are considered the stakeholders who represent the 10 projects that could be left undone when the sales tax collection period ends in 2025. What county leadership apparently forgot, however, is that the voters and taxpayers of Greenwood County are also stakeholders. After all, 65% of those voters were convinced supporting the capital sales tax project was the right thing to do.

We were also convinced and threw our support behind the initiative. We, like most others, had every reason to believe that pen was put to paper, that costs and revenue projections were analyzed and honed and that all, if not most of the projects would come to fruition.

Frankly, we still believe a "yes" vote was the correct vote. Many viable and worthwhile projects will get done and, as such, prove to be positive initiatives for the county now and well into the future.

While the eight-year collection period is six years out and the outlook could change for the better, we and many others were scratching their heads after the Aug. 28 announcement and subsequent story that spelled out in more detail how far off the figures seem to be. OK, maybe $1 million or even $2 million, but as much as $20 million? Fuzzy math? Pie-in-the-sky get the votes math? It's easy to see why many residents are cynical about the matter, especially given how the potential revenue shortfall was unceremoniously rolled out.

County taxpayers and voters might feel a little less chapped about it all had there been a more public revelation and explanation of the situation. It would have been a good idea for the county manager, Toby Chappell, and the CPST projects manager, Josh Skinner, to make a formal presentation before County Council. In public session.

Sure, it doesn't look good that upwards of a third of the projects might not get done because upwards of $20 million might not get collected, but it looks worse when transparency took a back seat.

Think about it. The 2006 capital project sales tax that will fund the dam project and built the library are spelled out in great detail on the county's website. The 2016 CPST? Well, that has yet to find a home where residents — voters and taxpayers, that is — can track it.

"A politician should be able to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year, and after that, have the ability to explain why it didn't happen."

Agreed. The ability was there. It just did not happen without a good amount of effort.



Sept. 4

The Times and Democrat on the potential for a South Carolina Republican primary:

National poll numbers consistently show more than 50 percent of Americans disapprove of the job being done by President Donald Trump. But the numbers may be as misleading as the popular vote outcome in the 2016 presidential election. The president is unpopular in "blue" Democratic states and quite popular in traditionally "red" Republican states.

Fifty-three percent of voters in South Carolina said they approve of Trump — and 86% of Republicans approve, according to AP VoteCast, The Associated Press' nationwide survey of the 2018 midterm electorate.

And the numbers are holding. The Winthrop Poll from April showed nearly 80% of Republican or Republican-leaning South Carolinians approve of Trump.

The numbers and the lack of Republican opposition to Trump's re-election have had Republicans here considering whether to hold a primary election in 2020.

South Carolina's GOP Chairman Drew McKissick told The Associated Press in December that the party is weighing cancellation of its February 2020 presidential primary.

"The state party and the grassroots within the state, all around the state, totally support the president," McKissick said. "The purpose of political parties is to unify around the platform and elect candidates who will advance that platform."

South Carolina Republicans have reason to be proud of their primary. Since its 1980 inception, the winner in the "first in the South" primary has become the eventual Republican nominee in all but one year. Republican nominee Mitt Romney finished second behind winner Newt Gingrich in 2012. And in some years, the primary has been critical in reinvigorating the campaign of the eventual nominee after early setbacks in Iowa and New Hampshire.

There is, however, precedent for not holding a primary. In 1984, the GOP called off the GOP vote as President Ronald Reagan sought a second term. The same was done when President George W. Bush was seeking a second term in 2004.

As a rule, Republican presidents fair better in the general election when they face no primary opposition. That may not be the case with Trump.

The president thrives on campaigning. If states in which he is most popular do not hold primaries, far less attention will be paid to the GOP campaign than otherwise would be the norm. And that lack of attention will come as Democrats are amid a major race for the party's nomination.

South Carolina is a key battleground for those Democrats, with the primary on Feb. 29 falling fourth on the electoral calendar. And it will be only the second primary for the field of candidates. New Hampshire votes on Feb. 11 after Iowa's caucuses on Feb. 3 and before Nevada's caucuses on Feb. 22.

The Palmetto State is awash with Democratic hopefuls while Republicans, if there is to be no primary, essentially will remain on the sidelines.

More important now, however, in the primary decision is the presence of opposition to the president. Joining former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman and tea party favorite who is now a radio talk show host. Former S.C. Congressman Mark Sanford is also testing the waters and there remains the possibility that former Ohio Gov. John Kasich will enter the race.

The contenders may be considered long shots, but they are legitimate candidates.

Republicans have until 90 days before the primary date to notify the state whether they will be voting. In a solidly "red" state such as South Carolina with the numbers showing overwhelming support for Trump, Republicans and independents seemingly would welcome the opportunity to give the president a big primary victory.