South Carolina editorial roundup

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Dec. 6

The Post and Courier of Charleston on former state Chief Supreme Court Justice Ernest A. Finney Jr.:

Some will remember Ernest A. Finney Jr. for his civil rights achievements. Some will remember him for what he accomplished as chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court. He deserves to be remembered for both.

Justice Finney studied the law and got his degree from South Carolina State when black lawyers were not invited to state Bar conventions. But he went anyway — as a waiter.

Then he went on to practice law, serve as one of the state's first black legislators of the 20th century, be named as the state's first black circuit judge, rise to become South Carolina's first black member of the Supreme Court since Reconstruction and end his career as Chief Justice.

His life was the essence of what the civil rights movement aimed to attain. And his scholarship, judgment and perseverance as a lawyer, judge and justice made a major impact on jurisprudence in the state.

Justice Finney, who died Sunday at the age of 86, combined his two passions by representing thousands of people in civil rights disputes. Among them were the Friendship Nine, black residents who were jailed for participating in a sit-in at a segregated Rock Hill lunch counter in 1961.

As a Supreme Court Justice, he played a role in a 1999 case that is still in the news. The court concluded that all schoolchildren in the state were entitled to a "minimally adequate education." The Legislature and educators continue to be reminded that they have failed to do so.

That same year, the court disallowed the Legislature its appeal to ask voters to consider video gambling. That effectively ended the scourge of video gambling in South Carolina.

Judge Finney was one of the founders of the Legislative Black Caucus. He received honorary degrees from The Citadel, Johnson C. Smith University, S.C. State University, Morris College and Claflin College.

It is clear why the Ernest A. Finney Jr. Civil Rights Museum was so named in 2012 in Columbia. And why the legacy of this honourable man is one for which South Carolina should be grateful.

Online: http://www.postandcourier.com/

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Dec. 5

The Island Packet of Hilton Head Island on The Beaufort County Board of Education:

The Beaufort County Board of Education had a disgraceful meltdown last week.

When one board member called the police on another member during a secret meeting where board members cursed and threatened one another, the board hit a low that a civilized people should not think was possible.

For about two years now — beginning shortly after Superintendent Jeff Moss was hired and quickly enabled his wife to take a new $90,000 job in the central office — the board has plunged to deeper and deeper depths of dysfunction.

Among the lows have been public rebukes from one board member to another, using outside counsel. We have gotten accustomed to veiled threats of lawsuits and juvenile cattiness. Chairman Earl Campbell said board critics could "go to hell."

Now this.

The board members should be mortified, but they appear to be oblivious to any standard of appropriate behaviour.

Meanwhile, they are spinning farther away from actual leadership, which the school district needs. This board is leading, but in the wrong direction. Board members are showing students how not to succeed in life. They are a poor reflection not only on themselves, but on all of Beaufort County.

How can we stress enough that this is unacceptable?

Maybe their dysfunction gets described as the white hats vs. the black hats in the sharply divided board — again in the long shadow of Superintendent Moss. The board is bitterly split between allegiance to Moss, and those who will raise questions, which then makes them the victim of bullying.

But, in truth, they are all the bad guys, including Moss. They all are a detriment to the students and teachers who plow on with the added burden of a board and administration that the public cannot trust and finds unacceptable.

In truth, the personalities in the room will have to change before this ox gets out of the ditch.

But we offer, once again, the simplest advice to move forward: Meet in public.

If they simply conduct public business in public, maybe the most egregious behaviour would not occur. That might mean we could avoid the cursing, name-calling and threats that prompted one board member to call the cops on another during a meeting.

Let them start by respecting the law, and then perhaps they could act with respect for one another.

Board members recently blew off the Freedom of Information Act as not even a factor when a board quorum showed up for a town hall meeting, which then became an illegal, unannounced public meeting. Board member after board member saw breaking the law as no problem. They also revealed a total ignorance of the law. They acted as if they could interpret the law however they wished. And all but one, who walked out, took the side of noncompliance.

The board again blew off the law by going behind closed doors this week to have their meltdown, ironically, while apparently discussing how they can better get along. That should have been a public discussion.

If the board would start by coming out into the sunshine, maybe the worst of their behaviour could be somewhat sanitized.

Online: http://www.islandpacket.com/

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Dec. 1

The Times & Democrat of Orangeburg on highway danger:

The Thanksgiving holiday has passed. The period from Wednesday, Nov. 22, to through Sunday, Nov. 26, saw another eight people die on South Carolina's highways.

As of Nov. 26, 868 lives have been lost on the road, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety. If there is any good news in that, the toll is 64 people less than the 932 killed at the same time a year ago.

The number of dead is staggering when put in the context of the lives lost and other lives so horrendously impacted.

In this, the happy season, the danger on the roads is high. Traffic is heavy and parties abound. People are rushing about shopping and trying to get everything done. Inattention, impaired driving, speeding: All are factors in traditionally making the holidays dangerous.

For Thanksgiving, the S.C. Department of Public Safety implemented a crackdown on texting and driving. The necessity for such is established by the deadly numbers: Prior to Thanksgiving 2017, South Carolina had seen an estimated 13,872 crashes resulting in 38 fatalities as a direct result of drivers using cellphones and other mobile devices behind the wheel.

The Thanksgiving enforcement was part of the ongoing "Operation STOP" initiative and was called "STOP Texting and Driving."

It focuses on a problem that is very real at all times - not just Thanksgiving.

Most of us try to be decent, courteous drivers, but somehow bad habits creep up, which can put ourselves and others in danger. When you think about proper car safety, you automatically think of seat belts, following the speed limit or using your blinkers. But cellphones are increasingly at the root of bad driving habits.

Texting while driving has become just as dangerous as drinking and driving - with young people and their cellphone culture being particularly prone to misuse of the devices while driving. But older people are guilty too.

As Americans have become more aware of the dangers of using mobile devices behind the wheel, car and wireless manufacturers have increasingly offered hands-free and speech-recognition technologies as safer alternatives. But they are not foolproof.

Because of the number of accidents related to mobile phone use, there remains a push in some jurisdictions to make all uses of the devices while driving illegal. Some states and locales have enacted laws to ban use of a handheld mobile phone use while driving. In some cases, restrictions are directed only to minors or newly qualified license holders.

Regardless of the law and whether a driver is using a hands-free device or a handheld mobile phone, he or she still needs to exercise good driving judgment. No one should have to explain why texting is outlawed. But even just talking on the phone can become the source of distraction that results in disaster.

The road is a dangerous place. Every bit of concentration by drivers is needed.

Do the math and you'll know just how much danger you're in with distractions: If your car is moving at 65 mph, in just 3 seconds you'll travel the length of a football field. Think of how many hits can happen.

Online: http://thetandd.com/


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