- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Dec. 10

The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on arson case:

Details of the arson of the Yemassee Fire Department and Town Hall reads like a whodunit novel, keeping readers guessing as to what really happened.

Last month, two volunteer firemen allegedly attempted to burn the small town’s fire station while a third firefighter with whom they were feuding was inside, according to police reports. Fortunately, those inside the building were able to escape the blaze. And volunteer firemen Chris Williams, 22, and Dominique Thompson, 21, both of Yemassee, were charged with second-degree arson and attempted murder.

The reason for the arson? A spat over a fire mask, according to a police report.

We’re glad to see Mayor Jerry Cook and Fire Chief Paul Holmes not buying this as the reason.

“It has got to be explained why, instead of doing what normally happens with a disagreement, they’re destroying a whole town,” Holmes said.

Cook also has questions about whether a third person might have suggested the men burn the building, which houses the town’s records.

And other questions linger as to who started a Nov. 18 fire and a series of other unsolved fires in Yemassee. Could those fires be related to the most recent one?

Enough questions exist to warrant the S.C. Law Enforcement Division taking the lead in the investigation. The state entity has the expertise, resources and time to investigate these types of complicated cases that small towns do not. It also enjoys an arm’s length distance from those involved in the case, lessening the likelihood of conflicts of interest and biased conclusions.

SLED is already assisting in the case, but if it became the lead agency, it could have much more direct say in what follows.

Maybe the state can also bring clarity to Thompson’s work history. Disagreement exists over whether he was still a volunteer with the department or whether he quit following a fire at his own home during which no Yemassee volunteer firefighters were available to respond.

It’s just one more strange twist in this Yemassee puzzlement. Here’s hoping it can be solved quickly.




Dec. 10

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on fixing the DSS:

The thought of rebuilding the broken S.C. Department of Social Services is a daunting challenge, considering the multitude of problems revealed over the last year.

First there’s the tragic legacy of children dying while under DSS supervision. Meanwhile, many case workers have borne unacceptably burdensome loads.

Then there have been problems at the top. The former director resigned after losing the confidence of legislators investigating her department. Some DSS staff refused to give legislators information about staffing levels.

But dissolving DSS altogether and splitting its functions between the state Health and Human Services Department and a new Family Protective Services department is an intimidating solution.

The idea is being proposed by S.C. Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, who as a member of the Senate’s DSS Oversight Subcommittee has committed untold hours and energy to unraveling the knotty DSS situation.

No question, major changes must be made. DSS clearly has been unable to manage adequately all its duties.

It is worth exploring whether HHS would be a better steward of welfare and Medicaid programs, as recommended by Sen. Shealy.

The task of caring for the state’s most vulnerable children, many from abusive homes, goes far beyond finding a safe place for them to stay and making sure welfare recipients search for jobs.

Until the unemployed and underemployed are able to find jobs that pay well enough to support a family, those children will continue to be vulnerable.




Dec. 4

Morning News, Florence, South Carolina, on Jay Lucas and state needs:

We have had nothing but flattering things to say about S.C. Rep. Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, since it became apparent a few months ago that he would be the state’s next Speaker of the House.

Now that he has been elected by his peers, it has become apparent that some of our glowing words were not glowing enough.

On the day before his Tuesday ascension, Lucas spoke to the Florence Rotary Club. His shared two primary goals, one general and the other specific. In general, Lucas wants to bring more inclusiveness to a House that had been ruled tightly since 2006 by Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston. Specifically, Lucas wants what we want.

“There is a tremendous push now in Columbia to have ethics reform,” Lucas said.

Be not afraid. Education isn’t going to be ignored. Roads won’t be overlooked.

But ethics reform has been long overdue. It never stood a chance under the leadership of Harrell, whose alleged ethical transgressions led to his downfall. He was suspended in September and resigned in October after he was convicted on six of nine ethics charges. Harrell was accused of using campaign funds for personal use and false reporting of candidate campaign disclosures.

When Lucas spoke to fellow representatives Tuesday, House members strongly applauded at the mention of ethics report.

“Sunlight is always the best disinfectant,” Lucas said. “The days of ‘just trust me, it’s fine’ have passed.”

Lucas’ friends and admirers aren’t limited to the House, or even the Republican Party. Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, is a fellow Hartsville attorney who went to law school with Lucas at the University of South Carolina.

“I think he’s able to transform, and it’s because he will end up empowering others,” Malloy said. “He brings that part of change. . It’s already been evident in his last almost three months in these committees.”

Lucas has good relationships with the most powerful figures in the state: Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Hugh K Leatherman Sr., R-Florence, Senate president pro tempore.

Back to Lucas’ goal of moving the state forward in a more “inclusive” manner. We loved the song that he sang at the Florence Rotary Club.

“In talking with the House membership, there’s been a feeling they’ve not been involved in the process to the extent they want, so we’re going to try to bring them in and get them more responsibilities and work harder,” Lucas said.

“And, quite frankly, we’ll be able to put out a better product.”

Quite frankly, the S.C. House and the state overall is in very good hands.



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