- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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June 1

The State of Columbia on Fort Jackson’s centennial:

For 100 years, the Midlands and South Carolina have benefited from the foresight of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce during World War I.

With America being pulled closer to the fighting in Europe and the country unprepared for war, chamber officials pushed the Midlands as the site for an Army training camp. They argued to the Army that land formerly owned by the late Wade Hampton would be an excellent location for military training. The chamber also led a drive to raise money to buy the land.

Those efforts paid off on May 19, 1917, when Maj. Douglas MacArthur announced that Columbia had been chosen for a training base. A few days later, The Columbia Record newspaper predicted the base would provide an economic boost to the community.

For most of the past year, the fort has been celebrating its centennial. That observance will culminate during the next week with several events, including a free concert Saturday evening at Hilton Field with country music stars Hunter Hayes and Kellie Pickler.

Columbians have many reasons to join the celebration. One of the biggest dates back to The Record’s prediction more than 100 years ago. It’s frightening to imagine our economy without the more than 7,600 people who work at Fort Jackson or the nearly 70,000 soldiers who train there each year. While nearly 50,000 of those soldiers are basic trainees confined to the base, many others live in our community. They buy groceries, clothing, cars and electronics. They eat in our restaurants, and they attend community festivals and sporting events.

Every Thursday, about 5,000 parents, friends and others from around the country descend on Columbia for graduation ceremonies at the nation’s largest basic training base. Those families fill up restaurants and hotels, and they then return home to tell others about Columbia and South Carolina.

The Columbia Metropolitan Airport estimates that 20 percent of its traffic is related to the military.

Fort Jackson’s total economic impact on South Carolina is estimated at $2.3 billion a year, according to a study by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. The study said Fort Jackson directly employs 7,620 people and is ultimately responsible for more than 20,000 jobs.

The Midlands also benefits because Fort Jackson is such a good community partner. Its officers and other soldiers volunteer in the community, participate in parades, coordinate with area law enforcement officials, and host an annual Fourth of July celebration. All of the commanding generals - despite their duties - have been visible in the community.

We also benefit from the types of training conducted at Fort Jackson. In communities where active combat units are based, some soldiers - though certainly not most - can get rowdy from time to time as they unwind from the stress of war.

At Fort Jackson, basic trainees are restricted to the fort until graduation day, when they’re allowed to spend a few hours off base with families and friends. But even on graduation day, the recruits must return to the fort by early evening. They are simply given few opportunities to get into trouble - at least off base.

Of course, the fort conducts other training as well. But soldiers involved with those other 18 missions, including the U.S. Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, tend to be so committed to their careers that they’re unlikely to break the law.

For Columbia and the Midlands, Fort Jackson is a near-perfect neighbor. It generates lots of business and creates few problems.

But those aren’t the biggest reasons for Columbia to appreciate Fort Jackson. The biggest is that the fort, every day, fulfills its “Victory Starts Here” mission. Since 1917, the fort has trained nearly 1 million soldiers who have sacrificed to keep America free. Those soldiers ensure we have freedom of speech, the freedom to worship as we please and the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

On Sunday, The State’s Jeff Wilkinson introduced you to five soldiers who trained at Fort Jackson and later won the Medal of Honor: PFC Charles H. Barker of Pickens County, Sgt. Richmond H. Hilton of Kershaw County, Lance Cpl. James D. Howe of Six Mile in Pickens County, Cpl. Freddie Stowers of Sandy Springs and 1st Lt. Charles Q. Williams, who was born in Charleston and lived in Columbia after serving in Vietnam.

President Donald Trump last month proposed a federal budget that calls for a new round of military base closures. Many South Carolinians likely remember that a previous round of base closures cost us the Charleston Naval Shipyard.

Nationally, it may be prudent to close some military bases, and every community will surely fight to keep its base.

But we think the argument for Fort Jackson is irrefutable, in part because of its size, its current missions and its relationship with the community. Just like the Columbia chamber more than 100 years ago, people in the Midlands need to stand tall for Fort Jackson.

Local leaders call us the most military-friendly community in the nation, and maybe we are. But we doubt there’s a more community-friendly military base than Fort Jackson.

So a hearty happy birthday to Fort Jackson. Let’s stay friends for at least another 100 years.

Online: https://www.thestate.com/

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June 2

The Greenville News on Todd Kohlhepp’s sentencing:

Katie Carver wasn’t fully prepared to be in the same space with Todd Kohlhepp, the man who took the life of her brother, Charles David Carver. She wanted to see Kohlhepp and to ask him a question. When the day finally came, seeing the sullen, silent man in the orange jumpsuit was a huge letdown, Katie Carver said.

Kohlhepp wasn’t allowed to say much when he entered 14 guilty pleas in the deaths of seven people and the kidnapping and sexual assault of Kala Brown. (The Greenville News and the Independent Mail do not normally name sexual assault victims, but Brown talked publicly about her ordeal on a national television program.)

Katie Carver, 25, wasn’t permitted to ask Kohlhepp why. Why did he kill the big brother she loved so deeply? The one she’d grown up believing was younger than her because her birthday appeared before his on the calendar. “Kid logic,” she called it.

David’s mother, Joanne Shiflet, had months to work out her anger. When authorities found David’s body last November, buried on the murderer’s property, “we could have strung him up from the nearest tree,” she said.

The passage of time - and prayer - have eased her anger. In the last few months, she and her husband Jaye have made peace with God about one thing. They no longer want the state to execute Kohlhepp.

If there was ever anyone who deserved to die for his crimes, it is Kohlhepp. He has confessed to seven murders, some dating back 13 years. In the end, the Shiflets and other families, along with Kala Brown, who Kohlhepp kept in a cage on his property, signed off on life sentences.

This is the best possible outcome for everyone involved. For one, what’s the point of sentencing a man to die if the state has no way to kill him? South Carolina already has 38 people on the waiting list to be executed. Like many states, it hasn’t figured out how to carry them out. Officials have found it difficult to acquire the drugs needed to administer death by lethal injection. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Ricky Lee Blackwell was the last person sentenced to die in South Carolina. His case was also prosecuted by Barnette’s office. Blackwell was convicted in 2014 of the 2009 kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Brooke Center.

Kohlhepp’s list of crimes is unspeakable. He should never see the light of day. He will likely be housed in one of six high security prisons run by the South Carolina Department of Corrections at a cost of $19,935 annually, said Sommer Sharpe, a spokesman with the DOC.

Since the state doesn’t have the means to execute those on death row, 7th Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette saw no reason to pursue the death penalty for Kohlhepp. Such cases can take up to two years to bring to trial and the appeals process can stretch for years.

Officials in Barnette’s office met with the families several times to explain every step in the process, said Murray Glenn, a spokesman for the Solicitor’s Office.

“Everyone agreed that Todd Kohlhepp is deserving of the death penalty but the situation is much more complex than that. We had many meetings where we talked about what was realistic. Our goal was to make sure everyone understood what was achievable. We know from experience that it is a long path throughout the appeals process.”

“We felt comfortable that he was responsible and the evidence showed that,” Glenn said. “We wrote into the contract that if he were to escape the case would come back to us.”

Because of the age of the Super Bike murders, the victims’ families were in different places emotionally, Glenn said.

“What made this case somewhat unusual was the quantity of victims. There were 50 people and eight different families,” he said.

Joanne Shiflet feels a sense of relief that she no longer has to worry about going to court. She knows how difficult it was for prosecutors to get this point. She is thankful for the police officers in Anderson and the court officials in Spartanburg who made an impossible situation more bearable.

She prefers instead to think about all the things her son David used to do to brighten her day. His silly jokes and the inspirational messages he used to send her from Pinterest. Those messages that don’t come anymore.

Online: https://www.greenvilleonline.com/

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June 5

The Index-Journal of Greenwood on energy alternatives:

They’re not blowin’ off steam. They’re not just letting loose with so much hot air. But they are a gas.

Landfills seem such a waste - literally and figuratively - and so it is good when there can be something gained from them. That’s the case with the partnership between the Greenwood County landfill and Fujifilm, a partnership that has been going on for a decade now and shows no signs of stopping.

Renewable energy is the byproduct of the partnership. Fujifilm is able to turn the landfill’s methane gas into a source of fuel for natural gas burners at the plant. It’s a fantastic arrangement as the byproduct of the public landfill can be captured and put to good use, rather than allowed to escape into the atmosphere at an amount that nearly matches the carbon emissions of 5,550 vehicles a year. Plus, the plant has a source of energy that about equates to what it would take to heat 1,500 homes a year.

The partnership between Greenwood County and Fujifilm is a model for other communities. When and where feasible, such plans should be put into action.

It is heartening to see what many of our industries are doing in the area of energy use. This newspaper also recently shared news about the Velux plant’s solar energy farm. This has nothing to with the Paris climate agreement and whether one believes in global warming. Really, it just makes plain good sense to recycle, to turn landfill methane gas into a power source, to conserve energy and to harness the sun’s energy.

Think about it. It’s something known all too well to those who grew up during the Great Depression, a time when virtually no one could afford not to recycle and conserve.

Online: https://www.indexjournal.com/

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