Search

Search Amazon Here

Local

Comment is Free

These are our editorials and columns.

Wednesday
Dec212016

Opinion: Artificial Tree Making Christmas Merry for County Budget

By Greg Wilson/Publisher, The Anderson Observer 

When Anderson County Council approved the purchase the 28-foot Majestic Mountain Pine artificial Christmas tree last year, there were more than a few wondering if the news was good tidings of great joy. 

Some argued in favor of planting another live tree, something to replace the non-traditional magnolia tree which was dying on the town square after being damaged by an ice storm. But experts were united that the land in front of the new courthouse was not fertile soil for a live tree to flourish. 

The other option was to buy a cut live tree and haul it to the square every holiday season. The cost of buying, transporting and hauling away a comparably side live tree would have been roughly $5,000 a year, plus the cost of lights and decorations (which though not reoccurring, is costly).  

Added to the annual cost is a two week of labor costs to the county, since traditionally it has taken a week to set up and a week to take down a cut live tree on the square, including the time to decorate and undecorated the tree. The price tag based on needed personnel totals $7,000. 

So the annual costs of a cut live tree in the 25-30-foot range would have cost the county, assuming costs remain constant (which is unlikely), roughly $12,000 per year.  

Instead, the county purchased a 28-foot Majestic Mountain Pine, fully decorated and lighted artificial tree for $25,000 last year. That tree, which has been wildly popular with citizens, is expected to deck the downtown halls for close to two decades. 

The cost of setting up and taking down the artificial tree, something that takes less than two days to set up and two days to set down, 12 days less than a cut live tree, bringing labor costs of only $600 to the county.

As a result, the purchase of the artificial tree will save Anderson County more than $180,000 over the next two decades. Based on current pricing and labor rates, the total cost of a cut live tree, including purchase, transportation and all labor costs, would total $240,000 over the next 20 years. 

The cost, including labor and maintenance and updates for the current artificial tree (including a planned upgrade), will total less than $60,000.  

This does not include the increased traffic downtown from the visitors, many of whom come to see the decorations and stay to eat downtown or visit Carolina Wren Park to ice skate. 

Added to the huge financial benefit is the fact that folks seem to really, really like the current tree. People drive downtown to talk family pictures in front of it, people have been married in front of it, kids and others have made winter scarves, hats and gloves and hung them on the tree for our area’s needy. It also really does dress up the center of downtown in the best possible way.

Call it the gift that keeps on giving, thanks to so forward thinking by leadership in Anderson County. 

So if you see you council representative, thank them. And thank Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns, who loves Christmas perhaps as much as I do, and I start listening to holiday tunes in late summer. It was his vision and research that led to the path to purchase the tree.

And if you want to shoot the family photo in front of the tree downtown, you still have more than a week to do so.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday
Dec012016

Anderson Voter Registration Office Stellar Example of Public Service

By Greg Wilson/Publisher, Anderson Observer

It has been almost a month now, but it's never too late to express gratitude.

No matter how you voted in early November, the folks at the Anderson County Department of Voter Registration and Elections deserve praise as shining examples of public service at its best during the entire process.

The department moved into a new facility on North Main Street earlier this year, one so much more inviting and customer friendly than the old hallways of the former Bailes building. But it is the people behind the counters and in the offices at Voter Registration and Elections that Anderson County can be especially proud of this year.

During the managing of the long lines of absentee voters who stretched around the block downtown for weeks leading right through the big election day itself, the employees of Voter Registration and Elections were polite, professional and prepared.

From helping the elderly, disabled or others who needed a little help - such as providing chairs for them in the long lines - to the smiles and cheerful attitudes that marked every interaction I witnessed this year, this group went far beyond the call of duty in their work.

It’s important to remember these are our friends and neighbors, working long hours under a mound of regulations and restrictions, behind the process that protects this sacred responsibility of Democracy.

And they proved themselves in stellar fashion.

But their work is never done. New elections are coming and they are in preparation mode again. But now would be a good time to stop by the office and offer thanks for their dedication and hard work. A dozen doughnuts from Krispy Kreme would make the thank you all the sweeter.

The holidays are a good excuse to be generous with our gratitude toward those doing something well and in the process making Anderson County a better place to work, live and vote.

So thank you to all the hard-working employees who made this crazy election year a little easier to manage.

Wednesday
Nov302016

Veteran Teacher Says Standardized Tests Useless

By Peter Greene

Is there such a thing as a useful standardized test?

To have this conversation, we have to get one thing out of the way. If you believe (and I think some school reformers sincerely do) that the only reason that teachers oppose the current high stakes test-and-punish status quo is because their self-serving union tells them to, you are blinding yourself to some real issues.

First, there is a real gulf between national union leadership and rank-and-file teachers precisely because union opposition to reformer policies has usually been tepid. Teacher opposition to testing comes first and foremost from teachers who have been watching testing become a toxic, destructive element in our classrooms that interferes with our ability to deliver real education. It’s detrimental to our students. And it is used in many places to deliver a professional verdict on our schools and ourselves with an accuracy no greater than a roll of the dice.

Opposition to testing also comes from other people who see how it plays out on the ground: parents. The Opt Out movement — in which hundreds of thousands of parents have not allowed their children to take state-mandated accountability standardized tests — was not created by teachers. It is not led by teachers — and in some places, it is actually potentially damaging to teachers under the current bizarre test-driven accountability system.

So if you imagine that test opposition is some sort of political ploy engineered top-down by unions, you are kidding yourself.

None of That Answers the Question, so Let’s Get Back To It

If I am such a dedicated opponent of standardized testing, what do I propose as an acceptable substitute?

Let’s first clarify our rather fuzzy terms.

“Standardized” Test?

Come to think of it, we’d better clarify “test” as well. For many folks, it’s only a “test” if the student is answering questions. A five-page paper assignment, for instance, is usually not called a test. In fact, the more open-ended the assessment, the less likely folks are to call it a “test.”

“Standardized” when applied to a test can mean any or all (well, most) of the following: mass-produced, mass-administered, simultaneously mass-administered, objective, created by a third party, scored by a third party, reported to a third party, formative, summative, norm-referenced or criterion-referenced.

This broad palate of definitions means that conversations about standardized testing often run at cross-purposes. A teacher talking about performance assessment task piloting in New Hampshire may think she is making a case for standardization, while I think that performance assessment is pretty much the opposite of standardized testing. There’s a lot of this happening in testing debates — people arguing unproductively because they have very different things in mind.

Acceptable substitute for what purpose?

The confusion is further exacerbated by a myriad of stated and unstated purposes for standardized testing. This confusion about purpose has emerged as a huge issue in the ed debates because far too many of the amateurs designing testing policy don’t understand this at all. At. All.

It’s not just that corporate school reformers argue that you can make the pig gain weight by measuring it. It’s that they also assert that the scales used for weighing the pig can also be used to measure the voltage of your house’s electrical system and the rate of water flow in the Upper Mississippi.

If we want to find an acceptable test, we have to first declare what the test is going to be used for.

Ranking schools, students and teachers

This is where purpose becomes important. I can’t think of a good test for achieving the goal of ranking students, teachers and schools — for which many of today’s “accountability” tests are used — because I don’t think these goals are worth achieving. As a teacher, I don’t need to know how my student compares to students in Idaho. I don’t need to know that as a parent, either.

It’s a fool’s game to compare teachers to other teachers, schools to other schools, and students to other students. First of all, I can only make the comparison based on a narrowly defined criteria. Otherwise I’m reduced to deciding if my insensitive smart flabby artist student ranks lower or higher than my sensitive tall winning cross-country racer student. The comparison only has meaning if it is based on narrow criteria (which student answered the most math problems correctly on Tuesday) — but what good is a narrowly defined comparison?

If I find that my smart, funny wife is not as smart and funny as some other woman, should I be unhappy in my marriage? If this delicious steak is not as delicious as the steak I had last night, should I spit it out? If all the teachers in my school are great, should it be closed down because some other school has greater ones?

The signature feature of a ranking system is that it locates losers. But what decent teacher would stand in front of a class of 30 on the first day of school and say, “Five of you will turn out to be losers.”

Ranking and rating means that even if everyone is excellent, the least excellent must be marked Below Basic or Underperforming or Just Not Good Enough. A system based on ranking and rating is a system that assumes that in every endeavor, there are people who just aren’t good enough. I reject that view of the world, and so I reject any testing system designed to reinforce that view. If everybody in my classroom does a great job, everybody in my classroom gets an A.

Providing feedback for parents

Here we have a standardization problem because not all parents want the same feedback. Is she getting an A? Is she passing? Is she developing a better grasp of abstract language particularly as used in classic literature? Is she okay? Does she seem happy? These are all types of feedback I’ve been asked for by some parents. What one measuring tool would satisfy all those questions?

Standardized testing is repeatedly sold with the myth of the clueless parents, the parents who have no idea how their students are doing. But the solution to this problem is transparency, the levels of which can be controlled by the parents.

For example, the electronic gradebook. Our parents can look up their students any time and see exactly what I see when I pull up the gradebook. Some of my parents look every day. Some look never. Some look and then call or email me to ask, “So what exactly was this one assignment.”

When we control the available information, we do parents a disservice. Only revealing the grade at report card time is a disservice. But anyone who has taught at a school with big detailed portfolio gradeless systems can tell the story of the parent who looked at all that data and said, “Look, can you just tell me what grade she’s getting?”

Parents deserve just as much feedback as they want. Standardized testing has nothing to do with providing that.

Feedback for teachers

Any decent teacher generates this kind of data daily. Any lousy teacher will have no use for standardized test data even if it arrives on gold-clothed ponies.

You are dodging the question

Okay, yes. I’ve laid out my usual assortment of objections to standardized testing, but I still haven’t said what would be an acceptable substitute. If you’re still here, I’ll try to address that now.

What qualities would an acceptable-to-me standardized test have?

If I ever were to find a standardized test that I could live with (or even date regularly), this is what it would look like.

Criterion-based (and so, objective)

If I’m going to measure my students against a standard, not against each other, I can use the test to answer the question, “Do my students know how to find verbs” or “Can my students identify dependent clauses?” If every student in my class can’t potentially get a top score, I’m not interested. And if it’s not objectively scoreable, it’s no help. That means that no standardized test is going to be used for any higher-order critical thinking-type skills.

(This is part of the whole point of Depth of Knowledge testing love — it creates the illusion that higher order stuff can be scored objectively. But it can’t).

It is possible to come up with standardized questions. I once had a textbook with great literature questions — but I still had to evaluate the answers myself.

In fact, I can only see using a standardized test for checking the lowest levels of simple operations — simple recall, basic application.

As Close to Authentic as Possible

I want a task that actually assesses what it claims to assess. Multiple-choice questions don’t assess writing skills. Click-and-drag questions don’t assess critical thinking.

Transparent

This ought to go without saying, but if I, the teacher, don’t get to see the questions, the answers, and the exact results from my students, then, no, thank you. I can do better myself.

Adaptable

I rarely re-use my own test-like assessments; instead, I make new ones each year to fit the class and the instruction. Particularly when I’m working summative assessments, I’ll create something that focuses on the issues with which we are addressing. For instance, if we’re solid on spotting infinitive phrases but have trouble picking out gerunds used as direct objects, I can design a test that will help both me and my students.

Expertise and Convenience

There are lots of things I don’t know. Materials prepared by people who are experts in particular areas are a necessary aid, and those sometimes include assessments. I’m happy to have an expert in a particular field in my classroom.

And at some points, I can use the convenience of having something pre-built to save me some time.

So, the acceptable alternative…?

Do I really think that there are no necessary standardized tests?

Well, it is true that we all use standardization because we don’t completely individualize everything from assessment through evaluation — but that’s a hugely broad definition of “standardized.”

By that standard, everything used with two or more students is a standardized test — and it may be useful to think of standardization as a sliding scale. The more we broaden the reach of the assessment, the more students we try to make it each, and the more we try to make the grading of the test be quick and uniform, the less useful the assessment becomes. A test that you can give to every student in America and which can be scored in just a week will by necessity be inauthentic and measure little.

So for best classroom assessment, we stay as close to the individualized specifics end as we possibly can. The more that an assessment is developed in response to specific instruction by a specific teacher of specific students, the more useful that assessment will be in performing the most useful function of any test — telling students and teachers where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Yes, that information is not what the policymakers would really like to have. But the information they would like to have is completely useless to me in the classroom (and so far, they’ve found no reliable method for either collecting or using such information anyway). I’m not convinced that information can be collected by standardized tests anyway.

I’m not saying that all standardized tests are evil. And stripped of baseless high-stakes consequences, their awfulness is greatly reduced. There are standardized tools that are tolerable, and a few that might rise to the level of useful.

But necessary?

Still zero.

Peter Greene,  a veteran teacher of English in a small town in Pennsylvania, wrote on his  lively Curmudgucation blog that he has found himself in conversations about standardized testing that go something like this: people who like standardized testing defend it to the max while he counters that the number of standardized tests necessary for students to take is zero.

For taking that position he writes, he has been called a “union shill,” lectured that data from these tests are the life blood of education, and asked to be explain what the alternative to standardized testing is. Here in this post, he explains his thinking. This is a shortened version of the original, which you can find here.

Tuesday
Nov222016

JFK Assassination a Reminder: The Struggle Continues


The year was 1963. It started off as just another beautiful day. I was in class at Annapolis Elementary School on Green Street. Suddenly, my homeroom teacher came into our classroom. She was crying. She told us that we were dismissed and could go home early.

We shouted in joy and in unison. It was a Friday and we were getting out of school early.

I lived in downtown Annapolis at the time. I was a walker. As I joined with my friends in taking the short walk from Green Street to Pinkney Street, I noticed that all of the adults were either crying or agitated. I had no idea why.

When I reached my home, my family had surrounded a small black-and-white television set. Some of them were crying. As I looked at the television screen, I saw a reporter, who said, "President Kennedy has been shot."

Some people in my family pontificated that this happned because President John F. Kennedy was trying to help African-Americans. Others thought he was killed because of his ideology.

Even though, I was just a youngster, I instinctively knew that something serious had taken place. The assassination of President Kennedy was my first recognition that America had lost its innocence.

I have been an eyewitness to history. I have seen bullets and not ballots change the course of history.

I lived through the assassinations of President Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, all in one decade. The places in Dallas, Harlem, Memphis and Los Angles where each of these men were gunned down are stark reminders of what a bullet can do and how dreams can be shattered. 

How different America might have been had any of these leaders lived longer. President Kennedy's call to action -- when he said, "My fellow Americans, ask not what you country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" – inspired a whole generation, including me.

I saw firsthand that people responded to his call of service. Students marched for peace and civil rights. Leaders advocated racial equality. Environmentalists worked to preserve the Earth. There was a sense that we were part of a great movement for social change.

Then the unthinkable happen -- one assassination after another.

I wept when Malcolm was murdered. I prayed when Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down. And after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, it took me a long time to believe that change could come from ballots and not bullets.

On this 53rd anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination and looking ahead to the inauguration of a president-elect who became more famous for advocating building walls than building bridges, my faith is unshaken. I have faith in the future.

I know that there is a power in the universe that put wetness in water and blue in the sky, and that allows birds to fly. I know that history is replete with examples of progress being made against great obstacles. I know that every knock-down is not a knockout.

Every now and then, it is important to reflect on the words of President Kennedy when he said, "Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind." It was the Rev. King who said, "Only when it gets dark enough can you see the stars."

I believe that our best days are ahead of us. In the words of Frederick Douglass, "Where there is progress, there is struggle."

On the anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, it is in that spirit that I say A Luta Continua, which in Portuguese means the struggle continues.

Carl Snowden is a longtime civil rights activist from Annapolis. Contact him at carl_snowden@hotmail.com.

Monday
Nov072016

Voting "Yes" on Extending Council Terms Good for County

By Greg Wilson/Publisher, Anderson Observer

One of the most significant issue on the ballot tomorrow in Anderson County is the referendum to extend county council seats to serve staggered, four-year terms. 

It is a good idea, a move which could really benefit Anderson County long-term. 

There are a number of reasons to vote in favor of this change. Under the current two-year set up, a new council member barely has any time to gain a solid understanding of the way things work before it’s time to start running another campaign. Voters should want their elected county council representatives to build good working relationships not only with their fellow council members, but with department heads, key front line workers and with members of the others in the area.

There is virtually no way to do this in a single, two-year term. 

Most other counties in the state seem to understand this, which is why 43 of our 46 counties have four-year terms. It allows an elected council member to concentrate on serving the citizens of Anderson County without being forced to shift attention to running for office after only a year in the position.

Some argue if congressional candidates are limited to two-year terms, why change county council’s terms to four years?

The answer is simple. Congressional candidates, state and national, have staff members - many of whom have served in those positions for years - to help them hit the ground running. They also have substantial numbers of colleagues in their respective offices who have the time and staff to help newcomers settle into office and understand how things run. 

County council members are serving in part-time positions, with a single clerk and no other staff. Many of them work full-time jobs and find it almost impossible to get acclimated to their office quickly. They are expected to learn on the part-time job, as well as stay on top of issues which can shift and change quickly. There are no scores of colleagues who have held office for years to ease them into the job. 

Four-year terms would also all council members to be the stewards of the county’s best interests, instead of being squeezed into becoming proxy votes for their districts on controversial issues. This allows for a long-term strategic planning when looking out for the what is best for the entire county and its citizens.

Finally, four-year terms could have the additional benefit, as it has in other counties in the state, of attracting more candidates who would be interested in serving at least a single four-year term, but are intimidated by the specter of the shorter two-year cycle.

Voting yes on changing the current system to one which better serves Anderson County could be another step toward better government.

Sunday
Nov062016

Opinion: Election has Never Been This Important

by Dan Harvell, Chairman, Anderson County Republican Party

Years ago, when the Clintons were first running for the presidency, I wrote an editorial of warning what these two students of socialist radical Sol Alinsky would attempt to do with America.  I made these predictions based on known facts about their Alinsky ties, as well as their documented political mis-doings in Arkansas. Dan Harvell At the time, I underestimated the determination of them and their fellow leftist, liberal Democrats.

The Clintons did plenty to shift America’s track towards far-left liberalism and shrewdly laid the groundwork for what Obama has now managed to achieve.  A quick read of Alinskys Rules for Radicals is a shocking reminder of what government run by leftists has done to our God-blessed nation.

One of Alinsky’s most used “rules” has proven most prophetic as employed by Democrats.  Divide the country by all means possible in order to take advantage of political gain.  

Obama ran on a platform of “uniting the nation” and has done nothing but the opposite.  Race relations - improved greatly over recent decades - have been decimated by the Democrats using Alinsky’s rules.  Respect for law enforcement is now at an all-time low thanks to Obama’s and Democrat leaders’ constant railings.  Democrats continue to slash military spending and weaken our defenses while threatening our safety with open borders and irresponsible and illegal immigration. 

They have engaged confusion to blur the lines of what is moral, ethical and traditional concerning America’s centuries old values.  If these leftists continue their quest, unchecked by weak Republican “leadership,” our America as we have known it will disappear.  Their “values” trend towards a nation where God is marginalized if not ignored causing our religious freedoms to become more challenged.  These liberals place less value on marriage and family tradition while promoting new tolerances.  They seek to control our lives with extreme government control and call for every penny of tax they can extract from us.  Federally controlled lower education is their incubator of childrens’ minds while higher education is their proving grounds for leftist, socialistic generations going forward.   They appear relentless to gain and retain more power and ultimate control.  

While most of the 17 original Republican presidential candidates proved more politically palatable than Donald Trump, Trump emerged the winner for undeniable reasons.  

Trump is America’s response to eight years of a feeble Obama apologizing for America wherever he traveled the world stage.  But no more than a Republican congress that failed to stand on Republican values and campaign promises.   Senate leader McConnell. House Speaker Boehner and moderate, compromising Republicans brought us to this point.  And make no mistake; this point is likely one of no return if Hillary Clinton wins.  

Looking into the eyes of my little grandchildren, I cannot help but frightfully wonder what they might see within their lifetimes if these leftists keep the White House, Republicans fail to stand and further leftist, socialist trends steam ahead.   A Communistic society is at the end of the tunnel and that end is getting ever closer.  The incredible following of Bernie Sanders should be a wakeup call for America.   

Our nation is starved for a true leader, one who stands strong unapologetically for the greatness of America.  I pray America realizes the Clintons and associates for the criminal operatives they are.  Hillary and Bill have lied continuously, used their positions to extort money from foreign countries (many not our friends), sold out America in exchange for Democrat power and control and will threaten our safety and security far beyond what Obama has already done.  

Should America’s voters allow the Clintons back in the White House, we have seen nothing yet.  And tragically, our children and grandchildren will suffer for what our generation allowed. 

Sunday
Nov062016

Opinion: Reject Donald Trump’s Republican Party

By: Jaime Harrison, Chairman S.C. Democratic Party

Our nation stands at a crossroads like no other we have encountered for well over a century.  At no time since the 19th century have the two political parties presented such starkly different visions for our country. 

The Republican Party of Donald Trump presents a dark vision of a nation in decline.  In Trump’s America, we are forced to wall ourselves off from the principles that have made us an exceptional nation. Jaime Harrison

The Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton offers a vision of a nation that tackles our challenges with confidence, unity, and openness.  These qualities have always been America’s source of strength. 

For the past 14 years, South Carolina has experienced full Republican control of our state government, with nothing to show for it but lagging schools, crumbling roads, low wages, poor health, and staggering rates of violence against women.  To fix these problems, we must elect Democrats to the General Assembly next Tuesday and a Democratic governor in 2018.

With our state’s experiences over the past 14 years, we know how dangerous it would be to give the Republican Party full control over the federal government, especially under a President Trump and a Congress run by the ideological extremists who currently dominate the Republican caucuses. 

Donald Trump’s bigotry represents the culmination of the Republican Party’s regrettable evolution that began in 1948 with Strom Thurmond’s split with President Truman over civil rights and accelerated during the Civil Rights Movement.

But make no mistake: Donald Trump’s Republican Party is not the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan, who supported comprehensive immigration policies and an America that supported our democratic allies, not authoritarian rulers.  It is not the party of George H.W. Bush, who reportedly will vote for Hillary Clinton, or the party of George W. Bush, who reportedly might.

Closer to home, Donald Trump’s Republican Party is not the Republican Party of our late governors Jim Edwards and Carroll Campbell, conservative pragmatists who worked across the aisle.  It is not the party of Strom Thurmond, who believed that South Carolina’s representatives in Congress should look out for the interests of South Carolinians.  Senator Thurmond, unlike most of our state’s current Republicans in Congress, would have voted to provide relief for South Carolina farmers devastated by last year’s flood. 

Donald Trump’s Republican Party would cut pathways to opportunity from Head Start to Pell Grants to job training.  Democrats will expand opportunity so every American can succeed in the 21st century economy. 

Donald Trump’s Republican Party would kick 20 million people off their health insurance plans, reversing the progress that has reduced the uninsured rate to its lowest level ever, and has refused to expand Medicaid, causing nearly 200 South Carolinians to die prematurely every year.  Democrats will fix and improve Obamacare. 

Donald Trump’s Republican Party would leave the minimum wage at poverty levels, harming not only those who earn it but also harming businesses deprived of a strong customer base.  Democrats will raise it so that no one who works lives in poverty but rather can be an integral part of our economy. 

Donald Trump’s Republican Party would cut taxes on the wealthiest, exploding the national debt by trillions of dollars.  Democrats will cut taxes on the middle class and those striving to enter the middle class in a fiscally responsible way, because we know our economy can only grow from the middle out, not the top down. 

Donald Trump’s Republican Party would toe the NRA line against any reasonable gun safety measures that have been shown to work.  Democrats, consistent with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, will demand completed universal background checks with no exceptions and no loopholes. 

Donald Trump’s Republican Party would reverse all of the progress we have made on safeguarding the future of our planet against the threat of climate change (which they deny), threatening the existence of low-lying cities like Charleston and increasing the frequency and intensity of disasters like last year’s flood and the ongoing refugee crisis.  Democrats will build on the global progress we have made. 

The majority of South Carolinians agree with Democrats, not Republicans, on each of these issues.  If you are one of these South Carolinians, you should vote for Democrats up and down the ballot on Tuesday. 

Jaime Harrison is the Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. This oped was submitted by Anderson County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Kay.

Friday
Oct282016

Vehicle Fee Would Pave Way for Progress in Anderson

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

UPDATED OCT. 28

There’s a big economic pothole facing Anderson County, one which is getting deeper every year. 

In spite of the state lawmakers pledge to do something about the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges, their efforts have done nothing to smooth out the 1,535 miles of county roads in Anderson or the 163 bridges for which the county is responsible. We cannot count on the state to sufficiently maintain state roads, much less our county roads.

Just to maintain this roads/bridges infrastructure in the county would require $7.5 million per year. The reality is, however, ongoing sustainable funding for our roads and bridges is not in sight. County council has pieced together a variety of temporary funding sources for 2016, but it was far short of the amount needed just to put band aids on our crumbling roads.

Meanwhile, Anderson County’s population is booming. The population has nearly doubled since 1970, and has grown by nearly 35,000 since 2000. 

This growth has created an accelerated demand for services, but an increase in taxes and fees have not kept pace with the population growth to provide for the growing population. The county’s base millage rate remains among the lowest in the state. 

When county council meets Tuesday night, it will finally consider a $30-per-vehicle fee. Out of each fee, $25 will be used to repair roads and $5 from each fee will be used for litter control. It is the perfect time to consider a vehicle fee in Anderson County and help pave the way for our future.

Currently 23 counties in South Carolina have vehicle fees. Horry County has the highest fees at $50 per year, while Abbeville County boasts the lowest - and oddest - at $13.99. The statewide average is roughly $24 per year per vehicle. 

I have talked to leadership in almost all of Anderson’s charitable organizations, and most agreed that even the working poor and those on fixed incomes could absorb such modest fees if it meant better roads. 

A number of national studies also suggest that well-maintained roads more than offset the cost of vehicle fees in savings on tires and other mechanical repairs. 

So there is no reason not to act now.

If Anderson County approved the $25 annual vehicle fee, with a provision that the money can never be used for any purpose other than road and bridge maintenance and repair, it would generate more than $4.3 million annually. 

A $30 per vehicle fee would bring in $5.2 million, close to enough to actually repair and maintain the county’s road system. 

Breaking down the math, a $35 vehicle fee would cost the average owner 10.4 cents a day.

Essentially, the fee means that every owner of a vehicle would be providing a sustainable source of funding Anderson County roads and bridges at a cost of pennies per day. 

Martin Luther once wrote, “When we preach the truth, the dogs begin to bark.” And so will the barking begin if county council proposes an annual vehicle fee. There are those who protest any increase in taxes and fees, no matter the efficacy of the decision. And it the county suffers from such hollow barking.

In the past, one owner of classic cars in the county protested that it would be costly for him to pay fees for his fleet of 10 antique vehicles. Such protests are just short of silly. Anyone with the means to collect such vehicles is certainly able to fund the county roads on which the person will drive to car shows. 

Since the recession of 2008, Anderson County Council has been sensitive to any increase in taxes or fees. In the years 2008-2012, such prudence made sense. 

But today, Anderson County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Wages are up, new jobs are everywhere and more on the way. The county has more international investment than any other in South Carolina, with more than 50 companies representing 23 nations calling Anderson home. 

The new industrial park in Sandy Springs and continued attention to quality of life and other issues which are crucial to economic development, Anderson cannot afford to allow our roads to continue to crumble.

But that is exactly what could happen if a sustainable funding source is not found soon. 

Let’s hope council sees the wisdom of a vehicle fee to provide these funds, and passes the first reading of this good ordinance Tuesday night.

Wednesday
Oct262016

I Dropped Out of County Council Race, But I'm Not Done

By Liz Carey

Last year, when Anderson County Council was presented with information about our county parks not being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, comments were made that we should just close them instead of bring them up to date. 

And then council decided they couldn’t allocate anymore funds to upgrade and maintain KidVenture at the Anderson Sports and Event Center.  

How is it possible that our county council could decide that the best thing for our children is not to fix and maintain a county park? How is it possible that our county council instead handed the responsibility for paying for renovations to the park to a group of dedicated community members who knew something had to be done?  

I was furious. I still am. So I decided to run for council.  

I went to finance meetings and got even madder. Two sets of finance meetings. One with the finance committee. One with another member of council. That means two sets of budget requests from each department. That means separate meetings with each department head and their employees to answer questions about their budget requests. That means two print outs of packets from each department not only for the department head, but for the council members and anyone else who shows up for the finance meetings. And it’s all because members of our council can’t get along with each other.  

What kind of fiscal responsibility is that?  

In some cases, council couldn’t even get along with county employees. We’ve lost good employees for the county because of council. And instead of replacing them, council has asked the remaining employees to do more with less. 

It’s infuriating.  

When I started this run for council, I wanted to see us pass the hospitality tax. It just makes good sense. If I told you that for an extra 60 cents on your next dinner for two, that you’d get upgraded parks, county events like our neighboring counties have and more money freed up in the general budget to fix roads and bridges, wouldn’t you take it?  

When I started this race, I wanted to be the bridge that works to bring council together. I wanted to help bring an end to micromanaging and macroconflict. I wanted to work toward sensible choices when it comes to repairing our roads and bridges. I wanted to make a difference.  

But, because of situations out of my control, my family and I had to move. With affordable rental housing for families in short supply here, we had to take the first thing we could find. I thought the house we chose was in District 1. 

I was wrong.  

And because of that, I’m dropping out of the race for Anderson County Council District 1. 

When I started this, I was told “You should run as a Republican. No Democrat will ever win a council seat in your district.” And that may be true, but the fact is, I’m not a Republican. I wasn’t willing to lie to people about who I was in order to win a race. 

And I had people tell me to not worry about where we lived unless someone found out. But I can’t do that either, because that would be lying too. 

County council candidates have to live in the district’s they represent. I no longer do. To misrepresent myself wouldn’t be fair to the constituents of District 1, my opponent or to the rest of council. I can’t do that. I just can.  

I know there are some candidates for political office who will do and say just about anything to et elected. And we’ve all seen how disgusted by that kind of activity we all really are. 

People often say “I wish someone would stand up and do something about that.”  

Well, I am someone. I am standing up and saying something. I am standing before my supporters and my fellow citizens and saying “I’m not going to lie to win.”

I still want to be your council person. I still want to see micromanaging and macroconflict on council come to an end. I still want to see responsible spending on roads, bridges and parks in our county. 

I will continue to work in politics and I will continue to work with those who need me or want me to help make Anderson a better place to live, work and play in. And I will continue to toward an election run in the next cycle.  

And I’ll continue to do it as honestly and ethically as I can. 

It’s the only way I know how to do it. 

Tuesday
Oct252016

Sexual Assault Has Reached Tipping Point