- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Sept. 24

Times & Democrat, Orangeburg, South Carolina, on poverty and homelessness:

When you don’t see people on the streets in the stereotypical image of the homeless, the tendency is to believe the problem does not exist. Yet knowing that in a poor state the counties of The T&D; Region are among the poorest, it’s shortsighted not to recognize that the problem being identified with the numbers of homeless school children is applicable to our community.

U.S. Education Department statistics released Monday show that a record number of 1.3 million homeless children were enrolled in U.S. schools in the 2012-13 school year - an 8 percent increase in a year’s time. In addition, school districts reported that nearly 76,000 of these students were living on their own, such as runaways.

In South Carolina, the number of homeless children and youth enrolled in public schools also reached a record, the Education Department numbers show. The 11,436 in K-12 schools is an increase of 9 percent from the previous year.

Ironically, 82 percent of South Carolina children included in the Education Department data are not recognized as homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which prioritizes homeless single adults. Advocates for homeless children say that as a result, 9,422 of South Carolina’s homeless children are eligible for educational assistance through local schools, but not HUD services including shelter, short-term housing, and assistance with obtaining permanent housing.




Sept. 23

Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on ethics reform:

In a state with such weak ethics laws, it’s remarkable the number of S.C. public officials who get in trouble for unethical activities.

Thank goodness for quarterly financial reports that elected officials must file to show the amount of money they’ve raised, from whom, the amount they’ve spent and what they’ve spent it on.

One of the few checks the public has on its public officials elected to the Statehouse and statewide office, the reports have raised red flags of possible wrongdoing time and time again.

Most recently, it was Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, who resigned last year during hearings that he broke ethics rules by using campaign money to pay for items at a sex shop, make a car payment and pay other personal expenses.

And in 2012, Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, R-Florence, resigned and pleaded guilty to ethics charges, including using campaign money to buy iPads, clothes, football tickets and more.

Now, former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, faces nine charges of public corruption and has been suspended from office. Most of the charges stem from alleged misuse of campaign funds for personal use.

A centerpiece for ethics reform must be allowing an outside entity, likely the S.C. Ethics Commission, to police lawmakers, ending the practice of them policing themselves. Currently, a committee of House members secretly investigate House members accused of unethical activity and a committee of senators does the same in the Senate.

Many senators, led by Senate Ethics Committee chairman Luke Rankin, R-Horry, say the Senate does a good job of supervising its members and that a total revamping of ethics law is unnecessary.

Assuming that is true, it would be impractical to allow one body to police itself but require the other to yield to independent oversight. Both bodies need to get on board with an outside entity overseeing ethics matters if for no other reason than to increase public trust in the process.

A second needed reform is a requirement that public officials disclose all sources of income. The change would help safeguard against undue influence on legislative negotiations and voting.

Those two changes alone would go a long way in improving our dated ethics laws that were passed after another ethics scandal, Lost Trust. Until then, only a portion of wrongdoing is likely being caught because of the financial reports.




Sept. 23

The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, on White House intruder:

A 42-year-old intruder entered the White House Friday in less time and with less trouble than a tourist waiting in line for a guided tour might encounter.

Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez, who apparently suffers from mental problems, scaled the 7-foot spiked fence that surrounds the White House, ran across the front lawn and walked inside through an open door where he was stopped by a security guard. Fortunately, President Barack Obama and his family had left the grounds about 10 minutes before Gonzalez arrived.

Reports state that Gonzalez was carrying a pocket knife and had left 800 rounds of ammunition, two hatchets and a machete in his car. His intentions are unclear but he had no weapon on him other than the knife.

The easy breaching of White House security nonetheless is disconcerting. What if Gonzalez been heavily armed and tried to shoot his way into the White House?

Various members of Congress stated the obvious: The Secret Service didn’t do its job. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., attributed the ineffective protection to an “atrophy of concern.”

There could be something to that. Few attempts have been made in recent years to break into the White House, and none have been as successful as Gonzales’ mad dash.

Agents guarding the White House might have become a little complacent. And the charge that the Secret Service needs to shape up is bolstered by recent stories about agents’ wild parties while off duty in foreign cities where they were part of the presidential entourage.

Security agents already had erected large concrete posts along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to keep vehicles away. The posts went up after a car crashed into the front gate of the White House.

This week, a second waist-high fence, about 8 feet from the existing fence, was placed along part of the White House grounds, pushing pedestrians that much farther away from “The People’s House.” The number of Secret Service agents patrolling the grounds also was increased, including at least one with a dog.

Times have changed since President Harry Truman used to take unescorted walks outside the White House. And tourists now will be farther away than ever from the fence.



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