- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Sept. 22

The Greenville News, South Carolina, on renewal of Export-Import Bank:

South Carolina stands to lose some jobs from General Electric Co. because Congress recklessly refused to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank that is a tool critically needed for companies doing business with foreign countries. The 400 jobs that GE is saying will go to France instead of three U.S. locations, including Greenville, really will be just the first domino to fall because some Republican congressmen have put hollow ideology above practical and tested solutions to real-world challenges.

Count Upstate congressmen Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney among the tea party Republican representatives who have marched blindly to the shrill call to allow the Ex-Im Bank to fold because it was performing a business service that they want left up to the private sector. In doing so, they have stubbornly ignored the solid reasons why Ex-Im bank was founded in the first place, why it has enjoyed eight decades of bipartisan support and how it has helped large and small businesses compete in a tough global economy and keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.

The Export-Import Bank, commonly referred to as Ex-Im, was founded 81 years ago, has been supported by 13 presidents and has helped make our country competitive when it comes to foreign trade. A visitor to Ex-Im’s website has been greeted with the following message for the past few months: “Due to a lapse in our authority, as of midnight on June 30th the Export-Import Bank of the United States ceased processing new applications or engaging in new business.”

The average American can be forgiven for not studying the history of Ex-Im, learning its importance to the American economy and appreciating its role in maintaining a vigorous manufacturing base in our country. Such grace cannot be extended to the average congressman, especially one who represents a manufacturing-rich district where people rely on real jobs, not think-tank rhetoric, to pay their bills, educate their children and save for retirement.

Congress routinely reauthorized Ex-Im over many decades because elected representatives understood the inherent value of the bank that has provided loans, guarantees and credit insurance to companies that want to sell products in the global marketplace. The bank does not rely on federal funding, despite some false information, but instead earns money that flows into the U.S. Treasury. It helps large businesses, such as GE, obtain credit for global power projects, but it also benefits thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses in our country.

Ex-Im is not “corporate welfare,” as has been mistakenly charged, and it does not provide government subsidies. “It does not compete with private lenders, so it doesn’t distort the free market,” Otis Rawls, then president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and Lewis Gossett, president of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, wrote in a column in May that was published by The Greenville News.

Busting another myth, they added, that “Ex-Im Bank is driven by demand - companies come to the bank, rather than the other way around. It does not ‘pick winners and losers’ - as some claim.” What Ex-Im does is maintain stringent rules for loans, and it has an impressive default rate of less than 1 percent on all loans.

Jeff Immelt, GE’s chief executive, had said in June, when it appeared Ex-Im would not be reauthorized, that his company would be forced to move jobs if denied the Ex-Im financing that in his view allowed GE to bid on large infrastructure projects. Without Ex-Im, the United States is the only major economy in the world without an export bank, GE said last week.

GE is vitally important to the Upstate economy. The company employs more than 3,000 people at its complex on Garlington Road, Rudolph Bell of The Greenville News reported last week. The company has said it sells 80 percent of the turbines made in Greenville to overseas markets and that about 30 percent of those deals have included Ex-Im financing.

The White House noted on its website that the Ex-Im Bank has financed the sale of more than $200 billion in U.S. exports over the last six years and supported more than 1.3 million private-sector American jobs. In South Carolina, between 2009 and 2014, Ex-Im directly supported 67 exporters, of which 35 were small businesses, for exports valued at $2.6 billion.

In June Immelt said his company would be forced to make some choices if Congress refused to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Last week, with Ex-Im closed for new business since July 1, shocking clarity was added to that statement with news that GE will put 400 jobs in France.

In June, Immelt said, “We’ll build these products in places where export financing is available because we have to.” Last week, our nation, and particularly the Upstate that is home to many GE jobs, got a discouraging view of the future in a world where a relatively few elected officials have left our country at a crushing disadvantage.

Congress needs to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank this month. Anything less than that signals the United States expects large and small businesses to play on an uneven global field.




Sept. 20

The Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, South Carolina, on the aftermath of police shooting that killed teen:

Paul and Angie Hammond are correct when they say they’ve waited long enough to see the dashboard video taken when their son was killed by a Seneca police officer.

It was July 26 when Lt. Mark Tiller shot Zachary Hammond, 19, in a Hardee’s parking lot. Hammond was on a date, and the woman he was dating was the target of a police drug bust. She was charged with simple possession of marijuana.

The Seneca police chief has said that Tiller fired in self-defense because Hammond was driving toward him.

The Hammonds naturally want to know what happened and why they lost their son. The community is justified in wondering how such a minor offense escalated into a fatal shooting.

And a high-definition camera owned by the public probably caught the event. But the video hasn’t been released.

As most law enforcement agencies do when one of their officers is involved in a shooting, the Seneca police turned the investigation over to the State Law Enforcement Division. This state agency is secretive, and documents that are normally public, including even incident reports, suddenly become unattainable secrets once SLED is in charge of an investigation.

The coroner’s report was released. It revealed only that Hammond had been shot once in the shoulder and once in the chest by a gun like those used by Seneca police.

But the Hammonds had an independent autopsy conducted. Their attorney says that it shows the bullets, fired through the open driver’s window, entered Hammond from behind and that he couldn’t have been driving at the officer when he was shot and couldn’t have represented a threat.

But no one other than law enforcement has seen the video.

SLED finished its investigation and turned over its report and all the evidence to the 10th Circuit Solicitor’s Office on Aug. 31. Solicitor Chrissy Adams has said it will be several more weeks before the video will be made public.

The Hammonds have appealed to the state Supreme Court to find out why and how their son died. They are now looking at filing a wrongful death lawsuit so that they can gain access to the video.

The situation is unjustifiable. State and local law enforcement agencies keep too much information secret when an officer is involved in a shooting, and this is precisely when they should be at their most open.

When a law enforcement officer shoots someone, the two overwhelming needs are to ensure that justice is done and to assure the community that justice will be done and the public is safe. That means telling and showing the public whether the shooting was justified and that the shooter will be prosecuted if the shooting was not justified.

While there are many questions about this shooting, the position of law enforcement is: Trust us. We’ve looked at it and decided the officer was justified in shooting this teenager. You don’t need to see the video. Some day we will make it public, but that will be up to us.

That’s not good enough. The Hammonds need to know why their son is gone. The community needs to know that it can trust its police. These investigations should be conducted with much more openness.




Sept. 22

The News & Courier of Charleston on plans for growth in city’s Upper Peninsula:

Fighting sprawl and preserving quality of life in a growing Charleston will require added density in areas well suited to that kind of development. Taller buildings, better street connectivity, mixed uses and other characteristics of denser communities mean residents spend less time in cars and have a reduced environmental impact.

But those benefits are only possible where dense developments are compatible with their surroundings, and at least two locations chosen for so-called “gathering place” projects in the Charleston area have rightly generated opposition. Indeed, the traffic situation on Maybank Highway alone should have precluded plans for nearly 600 new apartments on James Island.

Similarly, a plan to build a new 13-story development on the site of the old Sgt. Jasper apartment building on Broad Street has been strongly opposed by neighborhood associations and preservation groups.

In contrast, a proposal for taller and denser developments in the upper part of the Charleston peninsula enjoys nearly universal support.

Last month, the city Planning Commission unanimously approved a new zoning amendment that would create an Upper Peninsula District to the east of Interstate 26 and north of the Ravenel Bridge. On Tuesday, City Council will give the plan first reading.

Broadly, new developments in the Upper Peninsula District would be allowed taller maximum heights - up to 12 stories - as permitted by a special point system. Points are awarded for offering public benefits like green building design, workforce housing or bicycle and public transportation accommodations.

It’s an innovative idea to trade sustainable design elements and public amenities for extra stories. Critically, developments on properties under the jurisdiction of the Board of Architectural Review or the Design Review Board will still have to go through the normal approval process.

But if there’s any place in Charleston where taller buildings make sense, it’s the Upper Peninsula.

According to the ordinance before City Council, the district is “well suited for greater density and increased height due to its connectivity to major transportation routes . the expansive nature of its existing infrastructure and its relatively sparse population.” Indeed, the area is ripe for growth and revitalization.

Another critical component of the new zoning designation is the requirement that all buildings fronting primary streets provide an “active use” ground floor. That mandate discourages surface parking and should help build a more vibrant streetscape in one of the peninsula’s least pedestrian-friendly areas.

All new developments above a minimum size must also provide at least two different uses, meaning that most buildings will offer a mix of residential and commercial space.

Given the rising cost of housing in the Charleston area, it might be preferable to make workforce housing a requirement of new developments rather than part of the height incentive point system. And some sort of provision for low-cost commercial space could support homegrown small businesses threatened by high rents.

But those are minor quibbles with what is otherwise an overwhelmingly positive framework for growth in the Upper Peninsula.

As Charleston struggles with growth and the need for additional density, the Upper Peninsula District zoning ought to serve as a model. Previous efforts to encourage mixed-use “gathering places” have led to outsized developments in unsuitable suburban environments with inadequate road and transit systems to accommodate the added population.

But density can build a healthier, more attractive and more functional city with the right location and the right regulatory framework. With council approval of the new zoning ordinance, the Upper Peninsula District will have both.




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