- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Aug. 8

The Post and Courier of Charleston on flood safety:

State officials are working to improve the oversight and maintenance of private dams in the wake of the great flood of last October.

But a new federal report suggests there is more to be done to keep South Carolinians safe. The findings of the National Weather Service should be incorporated into a comprehensive plan for better preparation and response.

The October flooding swamped many homes, inundated extensive farmland and, sadly, took 19 lives. Recovery is ongoing.

The Weather Service report highlights some successes in dealing with the floods - forecasting in plenty of time for people to prepare, and communicating well through social media to keep the public informed.

But the report also reveals obstacles that must be overcome before the next significant rainfall.

For example, emergency management and community officials were instructed by local weather forecast offices (WFOs) to look at flood maps on a federal website, to better understand the potential extent of flooding in certain areas. But the Weather Service reported that information was lacking for places such as the Pee Dee Basin because Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) studies were either not up to date or nonexistent.

On the one hand, FEMA cited the need for an impact-focused flood map that would take all the relevant information into account in order to simplify the forecasting process.

On the other, WFOs feel there were not enough stream and tidal gauges for forecasters to accurately predict the extent of flooding in certain areas. That includes the overflow of many streams that ended up washing out roads and bridges. In fact, Charleston County’s WFO specifically expressed a need for more tidal gauges so as to better assess coastal flooding.

Multiple dams, many of them too small to be state regulated, were breached during the flood, causing widespread damage. Those that are less than 25 feet tall and retain less than 16.29 million gallons of water are not regulated by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Therefore, the Dam Break Model program used by the NWS lacked important information about unregulated dams. This program was also handicapped by outdated software, according to the report.

Dam-related issues were complicated by the fact that maintenance and monitoring of dams in South Carolina are taken care of by private owners who may not always be in a position to do so.

The Weather Service found that keeping software programs up to date with modern technology and ensuring more rigorous assessment of water levels through the installation of gauges as needed would improve response in the event of another such weather disaster.

These weaknesses should be addressed by both state and federal weather and safety programs. Making emergency response programs more efficient could mean sparing residents more loss and heartache.




Aug. 7

The Greenville News on the recent indictments of three former state Department of Transportation employees and a contractor on corruption charges :

On the one hand, the recent indictments of three former state Department of Transportation employees and a contractor on corruption charges may seem to validate the concerns some have about an agency that has a troubled reputation.

Fraud, waste and abuse - the trifecta of big-government critics - often are cited as the main reasons DOT should not be given a stable, long-term revenue source to ensure the state’s system of roads and highways is properly maintained. Last week’s indictments will doubtless be used, and in fact already are in some quarters, to give teeth to those arguments.

A more charitable view would be that the indictments of Charles W. Shirley, Allen Kent Ray, Curtis C. Singleton and Joe Edward Butler show DOT is serious about cleaning up corruption within its ranks, and the ongoing investigation is a positive sign for those who want to funnel more money to the agency.

That’s certainly the tone that state Transportation Secretary Christy Hall set in her comments after the indictments. “SCDOT has zero tolerance for wrongdoing of any kind,” Hall said in a statement.

DOT Chairman Mike Wooten told Greenville News reporter Tim Smith that it was the agency itself that brought the alleged corruption to the attention of law enforcement. The agency, he said, welcomes the probe.

That should be good news to taxpayers who are concerned about would-be corruption in an agency that spends a significant amount of taxpayer money and needs even more.

Which brings us to the more important point: Even after South Carolina lawmakers passed a funding and reform plan that will provide an additional $4.3 billion to DOT over about 10 years, the state’s infrastructure needs still are significant.

Come January, as we said, opponents of DOT funding will point to the corruption in the District 1 Office of the DOT as a reason to hold back funding and push ahead with more sweeping restructuring of the agency. They’ll use this issue to distract taxpayers from the still more than $1 billion-per-year deficit in DOT funding.

While we certainly would not favor giving vast sums of money to an agency that will waste it, the DOT has a very important responsibility, one that is essential to the economic well-being of this state and to the safety of every South Carolinian who drives. South Carolina’s roads are generally in poor condition, and some business leaders have said it could hurt the state’s economy. Already, area residents pay increased auto repair bills and are at greater risk of accidents because of the road-funding deficit.

Maintaining roads demands adequate DOT funding and efforts to clean up corruption. As long as DOT proves it is actively seeking out and eliminating corruption, the potential existence of malfeasance should not be used as an excuse to withhold needed funding.

As Wooten rightly stated in Smith’s recent report, “I believe that DOT has been the favorite can to be kicked by the blogs and the naysayers for the past three or four years, and this just adds ammunition to those who are convinced that the agency is corrupt. But for those people who really understand how DOT does business, I think it should be the opposite, it should be that we won’t tolerate this and we’re going to prosecute people when they are caught doing wrong.”

That’s well said, and in no way excuses any corruption within an agency of state government. But it should serve as an indication to lawmakers and taxpayers that this agency is trying to be responsible with the funding it gets. On the flip side, it also is an invitation for taxpayers and their representatives to hold the DOT and every state agency accountable for how they spend tax money.




Aug. 3

The (Columbia) State on former University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier:

When he became the University of South Carolina’s 32nd football coach in November 2004, Steve Spurrier asked a simple question. “Why not us?”

“Why not the University of South Carolina Gamecocks?”

He admitted to borrowing the first question from the Boston Red Sox, who just weeks earlier had broken an 86-year “curse” by winning the World Series.

At the time, many believed a similar curse haunted the Gamecocks. Six losing seasons in 10 years. Just three bowl wins and one conference championship ever. Gut-wrenching, last-second losses. Blowout defeats.

But during the next nine seasons, Coach Spurrier answered his own questions by transforming the Gamecocks. With his cockiness and confidence, Mr. Spurrier showed USC can win big in college football.

Last week, the coach severed his formal ties to the university.

He had already quit as the head coach, leaving the sidelines during the 2015 season. This year, he served as a special ambassador at USC for seven months before resigning to accept a similar role at the University of Florida, his alma mater. As a USC ambassador, Mr. Spurrier was paid about $8,300 a month to, as he said, talk to boosters, occasionally meet with athletic director Ray Tanner and “shake a few hands.”

Gamecock fans shouldn’t fault Mr. Spurrier for returning to the University of Florida. That’s where he won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as a player, won six SEC championships and one national championship as the Gators’ coach, and met his wife of 50 years, Jerri.

Instead, fans should be grateful that Mr. Spurrier not only won a lot of games, but proved the Chicken Curse was a myth and big victories can be routine.

Under Coach Spurrier, USC climbed to near the top of college football. The Gamecocks won 11 games for three straight seasons, captured the SEC East championship in 2010, and finished the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons ranked among Top 10. They won four straight bowls, including two over traditional powers Michigan and Nebraska.

More importantly for many USC fans, the Gamecocks beat Clemson five straight seasons. That was unprecedented in a rivalry the Tigers lead 67-42-4.

South Carolina fans no longer just hoped to beat Georgia, Tennessee and Florida; they expected to win. The Gamecocks even beat top-ranked Alabama in 2010.

With Coach Spurrier, South Carolina recruited some of the best players in the state and the nation, including running back Marcus Lattimore and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Mr. Clowney was the nation’s top recruit in 2011 and was the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. The Gamecocks finished the 2013 season by beating Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. Their final ranking was No. 4, the highest in history.

Unfortunately for USC, that proved to be the high-water mark of Mr. Spurrier’s tenure at USC. In 2014, the Gamecocks barely eked out a winning season. When they started 2015 with a 2-4 record, he left the sidelines for good.

Mr. Spurrier is clearly South Carolina’s best football coach ever. He won more games than any other Gamecock coach - 86 - and his team’s overall talent was the school’s best.

From all indications, USC played by the rules in recruiting players and keeping them eligible under NCAA guidelines. In the years before he arrived, several USC players had run-ins with the law. Those troubles diminished greatly under Steve Spurrier.

Mr. Spurrier is known for his quips and digs at opponents. Some of the barbs have been unnecessary, but he enlivened interviews and news conferences.

His biggest disappointment at South Carolina was not winning a Southeastern Conference championship or a national title.

His biggest failing, however, was not leaving South Carolina at the top. It’s clear from last year’s 3-9 record, which included a loss to The Citadel, that USC no longer had enough All-America and All-SEC players to compete for division, conference or national championships. Only the most optimistic fans think the 2016 Gamecocks will win 11 games, qualify for a major bowl or beat a top-10 team. It may be several seasons before USC enjoys that success again.

That is Mr. Spurrier’s fault.

But he showed USC fans that those achievements are possible. He proved any football team with confidence, good coaching and great players is not cursed.

Twelve years ago, Steve Spurrier asked: “Why not the South Carolina Gamecocks?” His answer: No reason at all.

We congratulate him on his new position back at his alma mater.

In Columbia, meanwhile, USC’s new head coach, Will Muschamp, will seek to answer that question again.



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