- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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April 21

The Post and Courier of Charleston on panhandling:

Charleston can’t legally ban panhandling. A 2014 court ruling found a constitutional right to ask for money on the street. But panhandling isn’t a great thing for a lot of reasons.



It irritates and intimidates pedestrians and business owners. It puts pedestrians at risk when they have to walk around people sitting on the sidewalk, using limited safe space. It means support systems for homeless and jobless people are failing.

Panhandling already is prohibited on the side of roads and in certain places such as within a few feet of an ATM. But concerns persist, particularly in popular tourist sections of downtown Charleston.

So the city is right to continue working on the issue. And its solution is a sensible one.

People will no longer be able to sit or lie on sidewalks in the main business districts of King or Market streets, both of which have experienced an uptick in panhandling in the past few years.

Sitting or lying along either of those streets is dangerous. Sidewalks are narrow and there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, so people get pushed into the street. That’s not just an annoyance or an inconvenience - it pits people against cars.

The conventional wisdom about panhandlers - that they’re lazy freeloaders who use the money to buy alcohol or drugs - isn’t generally true. Studies have shown that the average panhandler is an older, disabled, minority man who earns $25 or less per day and spends it mostly on food.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that giving out money on the street is a good idea. Other studies have shown that tourist areas like King and Market streets - where passers-by tend to have cash and feel generous - attract more panhandlers.

And even when people spend the money on necessities, it’s better for their long-term safety and well-being to get professional help.

That’s the most critical part of the city’s new plan. Rather than immediately handing out citations, police officers and city officials have been directed to offer rides to shelters, contact information for aid organizations and other forms of assistance.

Research shows that homeless people say they need the most help finding a job, finding housing, paying rent or other bills and getting training or medical care. Different organizations in the area provide those services, but making a connection is key.

It’s about getting panhandlers not just off the streets, but into a stable living situation with a more reliable source of income.

To that end, the city also plans to open a daytime assistance shelter where homeless people could take showers, do laundry and get other kinds of help. Currently, area shelters operate mostly at night. That’s a critical gap, and building the new facility should be a priority.

In the meantime, city officials are right to address panhandling as humanely and as narrowly focused as possible. The new rules seem to strike a compassionate balance between protecting public safety and ensuring that homeless people get the help they need.

After all, banning panhandling isn’t the answer. Rather, the goal should be working toward a city where panhandling isn’t necessary.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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April 25

Index-Journal on unlimited credit for the South Carolina Department of Corrections:

Well, that was quick.

Most everyone in the state would agree that sooner than later is the right time to deal with the rise in prison violence in the state, especially in light of the Lee Correctional uprising just more than a week ago that resulted in seven prisoner deaths.

But Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive order issued Monday seems, at least on the surface, to be a bit overzealous in that it gives Bryan Stirling, director of the state Department of Corrections, carte blanche to spend and hire at will.

It’s hard to say where the money needed will be coming from, but McMaster essentially empowered Stirling to determine compensation levels for corrections officers and hire however many officers/guards he needs.

Moreover, he can bypass normal protocol in doing so, which is a bit disconcerting. That’s not to say that government is often slow to respond, given the many hoops it puts itself through when it comes to hiring and firing, but to allow the director to bypass human resource management regulations and hire on the spot should raise more than one or two eyebrows. We certainly don’t want or need positions to be filled by people whose motives for seeking employment might prove detrimental to prison security. Please tell us, Governor, that at the very least any and all applicants will have background checks.

Again, however, with all that said and done it is hard to fathom exactly how the bills will be paid when the governor is allowing Stirling not only to hire at will, but also have no caps on overtime pay, along with no apparent caps on salaries. The executive order also gives Stirling boundless leeway in buying and contracting equipment without legislative approval.

There is no question that the situation in our state’s prison is dire. Too few employees, pay that does not adequately compensate corrections officers for the dangerous work they do within the walls and fences. Contraband in the form of cellphones and drugs are rampant throughout and contribute to the rise in crime and violence within the prisons.

The executive order, however, seems like a knee-jerk reaction to the growing and festering problem. We have to wonder, if the money that would have allowed a more orderly increase in personnel and equipment has been in the state’s treasury all along, why wasn’t the prison crisis handled accordingly months ago? And if it isn’t readily available, pray tell how will no-limits credit card issued to Stirling be paid?

What’s in your wallet?

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com/

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April 25

The Times & Democrat on rural roads:

South Carolinians are seeing the results from their extra money going to the gasoline tax. The S.C. Department of Transportation has an aggressive plan for road and bridge repairs. If you travel a bad road, the fixes can’t come soon enough, but the work going on in many locations is visible.

Amid the focus on repairs of roads and bridges, the SCDOT is not stepping back from another aspect of the plan for improvements in the state’s transportation system.

SCDOT has announced the awarding of two projects as a part of the Rural Roads Safety Program.

. Lexington County - U.S. 178 from near Batesburg to near Pelion. The contractor is the Lane Construction Corp. at a contract value of $11,314,833.07.

. Lexington County - S.C. 302 beginning at the Aiken County line and continuing approximately a mile beyond the Town of Edmund. The contractor is ATC Site Construction at a contract value of $5,407,973.63.

Both projects will include four feet of shoulder widening, centerline and edge line rumble strips, clear zone improvements, upgraded signing and asphalt pavement resurfacing.

SCDOT has already undertaken more than 46 miles of Rural Road Safety projects connected to resurfacing projects. However, these two projects are the first stand-alone Rural Road Safety Projects in SCDOT’s 10-Year Plan.

The Rural Roads Safety Program is one of four SCDOT priorities in its 10-Year Plan.

Repeating the reasoning behind the focus on rural roads announced in 2017, SCDOT Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said, “South Carolina’s fatality rate is the highest in the nation. This program has been designed to target the worst of the worst roads in our state. 30 percent of our fatalities and serious injuries are happening on just 5 percent of our network. These two projects and those like them will enable us to begin to reclaim the safety features on the major roads that connect our communities together.”

Many people think of “rural” as secondary roads - which are plenty dangerous - but the top priority will be on the rural primary highways and interstates where the accident and death rates are highest.

And nowhere is the improvement plan more relevant than in The T&D; Region, which is home to 150 of the 1,957 miles of priority roads identified by Hall.

Orangeburg, a rural county that is the state’s second-largest in land area, annually has a highway toll near the top in per-capita deaths.

Local roads and highways included in the rural improvement plan are:

. All of Interstate 26 in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

. All of Interstate 95 in Orangeburg County.

. U.S. Highway 301 from Orangeburg to Santee.

. S.C. Highway 4 from Orangeburg to Springfield.

. S.C. Highway 6 in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

. Small portions of U.S. 78 and U.S. 178 in Orangeburg County, and U.S. 601 in Calhoun.

While fixing potholes and repaving are priorities in road maintenance and repair - and are vital in order for South Carolinians too see that basic repairs are being prioritized - making improvements such as those outlined in the Rural Roads Safety Program could do much to make traveling here and in other rural areas a lot safer.

Online: http://thetandd.com/

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