Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

(Columbia) The State. Sept. 27, 2021.

Editorial: SC representatives should join GOP’s Graham, vote yes on $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill

Infrastructure, perhaps more than any service government oversees, affects all of us.

“Republicans, democrats, libertarians, vegetarians, we’re all on the road and we’re sitting on the road way too long,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday during a roundtable in Charleston on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill set to go before the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Graham, a former city attorney, also understands that all politics is local and it is roads and bridges, as well as electricity, water and internet service, that his constituents need and use everyday.

It is local elected officials who hear from residents about the potholes that damage their cars or the bridge closure that forces them to travel out of their way.

During the roundtable with some of those local leaders, Graham joked that “I made a promise to myself never to run for city council or county council because it’s too hard. People expect you to do stuff all the time. At my job, people are surprised if we ever do anything. It’s actually a pretty good deal.”

He added, “We’re not doing a whole lot in Washington that’s constructive, but maybe this bill might be.”

He’s not wrong about the surprise part.

According to the Pew Research Center, trust in government is low, but a significant majority of Americans still expect the federal government to provide clean air and water and high-quality K-12 education for all Americans. The center’s survey also found “More modest majorities say it is the government’s responsibility to provide health insurance (64%), adequate income in retirement (58%) and an adequate standard of living (56%).”

He’s also right that passage of the infrastructure bill is an opportunity for the legislative branch of government to do something constructive.

Graham was among 19 republican senators who voted for it on Aug. 10. His vote led several county GOP organizations to censure Graham for betraying conservative values, but Graham said Monday that if the bill doesn’t pass in the House of Representatives that “it will be heartbreaking because the need is overwhelming.”

He’s not wrong there, either.

The legislation includes $4.6 billion in highway funding for the Palmetto State along with $274 million in bridge replacement and rehabilitation funding, and $70 million to assist in the deployment of electric vehicles and charging stations over the next five years.

If you’ve driven lately or had trouble connecting to the internet in certain parts of the state, you know our infrastructure needs the money.

Graham noted that the future of South Carolina, home to major automobile manufacturers like BMW and Volvo, is also dependent on making improvements, including electric vehicle charging stations, now to ready the state for what’s next.

Graham, first elected to the Senate in 2002, also knows that at some point democrats and republicans have to go beyond ideological differences to do what’s best for their communities.

“If you want your port deepened, you better help somebody else deepen theirs,” Graham said.

GOP Sen. Tim Scott did not join Graham in supporting the infrastructure bill in August, but this week’s vote is a chance for South Carolina’s seven representatives to do what’s best for the state, its people and its economy.

We urge them to vote yes on the infrastructure bill.

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The (Charleston) Post and Courier. Sept. 26, 2021.

Editorial: Greenland discoveries should turn up the heat on Charleston climate action

As those of us in Charleston and other coastal cities gradually brace for rising seas, heavier rains and other challenges posed by climate change, it’s important to bear in mind that we can control only so much. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work urgently to adapt as best we can; just the opposite. We have to work even harder on the strategies we have because there are still so many things we don’t know — many of which could make our situation even more dire.

Ice melting hundreds or even thousands of miles away can have a big impact here in the form of rising sea levels, and our warming planet is speeding up all this melting. A 2019 study of 19,000 glaciers worldwide that tracked measurements over the past several decades found that ice is melting almost everywhere, generally more quickly than previously thought; the world is losing an estimated 369 billion tons of glacial ice each year, a rate five times faster than what was recorded in the mid-20th century.

But the story is actually much more complicated than the bathtub concept expressed in this simple formula: warming air + glaciers = more ocean water and higher seas.

As Post and Courier reporter Tony Bartelme explains in a special report on Greenland, the climate and geological changes on the world’s largest island (Australia is larger but is considered a continent rather than an island) can be expected to have an outsized impact on South Carolina’s coast, compared to other parts of the world.

That’s partly because Greenland’s massive ice sheet, which covers 80% of the country’s land mass about a mile deep on average, has its own gravity, which pulls water in the North Atlantic toward it. This actually increases the current sea levels near it but lowers them farther away, in places such as Charleston, which is about 3,000 miles to the south. So its melting glaciers not only add more water to the ocean but also reduce the island’s gravitational pull that draws water away from Charleston (much like the moon draws it away, except Greenland’s pull isn’t cyclical).

Unfortunately, that’s not all. The warming planet actually causes ocean water to expand, so there’s not only more water in the ocean, but it needs more room and climbs up shorelines.

And Greenland’s heavy ice sheet not only exerts gravity, but the sheet’s meltwater also affects the massive ocean currents that scientists call the AMOC, short for Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. The AMOC includes the Gulf Stream, which flows past the East Coast so forcefully that it actually pulls water away from our beaches, keeping our current sea level about 3 feet lower than it otherwise would be. Or at least that’s normally the case. As Mr. Bartelme explains: “Greenland’s massive ice melt has tossed a giant wrench into this important system. In 2009, when the AMOC slowed, sea levels in New England suddenly rose 5 inches for about a year. Scientists say the AMOC system has slowed by 15%, and by some measures is at its weakest point in 1,600 years.”

So Greenland’s near-term fate will greatly affect us, much more than we realized only a few years ago.

As Josh Willis, a climate scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who has been working in Greenland, told Mr. Bartelme: “The gravity issue may represent a small increase in Charleston’s sea level, let’s say 20%, and ocean currents might be another 20%, and thermal expansion (of the oceans) another 20%, but once you add up these and other 20 percents out there, you have a problem.”

These findings, most made or confirmed during the past decade, should humble us in several ways, beginning with the reality that we don’t know what else scientists might discover in the coming years. And while these findings certainly paint a more dire portrait, it likely will take a long time before a majority of us embrace them, especially given how divisive our nation has become. As much as we’re learning, researchers still have no consensus on one of our biggest questions: Exactly how fast will the sea rise here before this century’s end?

That answer will clarify the extent to which we in South Carolina should defend our coast and the extent to which we should retreat. Until we know, we must trust in our best guess, and prepare for the worst.

Charleston rightly deserves credit for recognizing it has a problem — a recognition fueled not only by scientific research but even more so by several years of significant storms and ever-present flooding since 2015. While we also will need national and global action to prevent the worst climate change scenarios and mitigate the impacts of global warming, all we can truly count on is what we do ourselves.

Understanding more about what’s happening in Greenland should bolster Charleston leaders’ determination to pursue their multi-prong efforts to adapt to living with more water. We also will need national and global action to prevent the worst climate change scenarios and mitigate the impacts of global warming — efforts that some have projected will cost $3 billion, perhaps more, in Charleston alone. It won’t be easy to come up with that money, and we can’t be sure exactly how effective our efforts will be. But we have no choice: The alternative is simply too horrible to contemplate.

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The (Orangeburg) Times and Democrat. Sept. 27, 2021.

Editorial: Hurricanes remain threat in October

Once South Carolina generally accepted that its biggest risk of hurricanes ended as September was coming to a close. Recent years with Hurricanes Matthews and Irma have shown that early October poses a threat also.

As we hope that 2021 will spare us the worst of Mother Nature’s storms, we remember these days 33 years ago in 1989 when South Carolina was reeling under the impact from Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm that struck near Charleston on Sept. 21. The storm caused severe damage far inland, including damaging 246 homes and causing an estimated real estate damage of $40 million in Orangeburg County alone.

Hurricanes and tropical storms have been a way of life for the Palmetto State since the first settlers set foot on its rich soil. And they have changed the course of history.

The National Weather Service has recorded hundreds of hurricanes and tropical storms that hit North America since Colonial times. But at least one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit South Carolina brought a benefit along with it.

The Spanish Repulse Hurricane was the first recorded hurricane to hit North America. It made landfall just below Charleston on Sept. 4, 1686, and lasted two days.

The storm came just in time to repulse an attack by the Spanish on the lower Carolina settlements, probably near modern day Folly Beach.

Unfortunately, it also caused much damage to the settlement, driving ships onto land, destroying crops and houses and killing many people.

The second recorded hurricane, known as the Rising Sun Hurricane, also made landfall near Charleston. It hit on Sept. 14, 1700. It flooded the streets of the city, ruined crops and property and caused at least 70 deaths.

The storm damaged numerous ships, including a Scottish vessel called the Rising Sun, killing all sailors on board.

The National Weather Service lists several hundred hurricanes and tropical storms that hit the United States from 1686 to the present. Some did minor damage while others were devastating.

The Great Carolina Hurricane, a Category 3 storm, made landfall just below Savannah on Sept. 7, 1854. It lasted two days and caused great property damage from high winds and storm surge in Charleston.

On Aug. 25, 1885, an unnamed Category 2 hurricane hit Charleston. It destroyed all except one of the city’s wharves and damaged 90 percent of its buildings, causing damage totaling $2 million. Many lives were lost in the storm.

For more than 300 years, South Carolina and its neighboring states have faced major and minor hurricanes and tropical storms. In the early days, the community had little or no warning that the disastrous storms were about to strike.

Thankfully, those in a hurricane’s path today are in a much better position than their ancestors to weather the storm. Hurricanes are tracked and mapped for days or even weeks, making it possible to predict the potential tracks of the storms, along with wind speeds, storm surge and the impact on inland areas.

Evacuation routes are planned out for different areas along the coast and emergency shelters are set up across the state. In addition, lanes on interstates and major highways are reversed, allowing residents of threatened areas to evacuate more efficiently.

September is ending and October is nearly here. Eyes will remain on the tropics, which history tells us can produce devastating storms that threaten the entire Southeast. It is advised not to rush time, but when it comes to hurricanes, mid-October cannot get here soon enough.

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(Columbia) The State. Sept. 22, 2021.

Editorial: Racism is thriving and we need to talk about it

Talking about racism will continue to be uncomfortable for those who do not experience it until we talk about it, and talk about it, and talk about it some more.

By its very nature, racism is vile and ugly, a pervasive corruption that tarnishes everything it touches.

So when racism appears in our schools - in whatever form - it must be confronted directly, not set aside as unfortunate incidents or one-time events.

Early in 2021, the Bluffton High School community got a harsh reminder, as if it needed one, that racism was alive and well within its walls. A Snapchat photo taken by a white student spread on social media. The photo of three Black students was labeled with the words “f------ monkeys.”

After the photo appeared, Beaufort County School District Superintendent Frank Rodriguez announced the district would form a task force to tackle racism and said the student who took the photo faced disciplinary action.

But many months later, three Black Beaufort County school board members are frustrated at a task force, known as the Student Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, that they believe appears to be nothing more than window dressing.

In interviews with our reporter, they called out the group for a lack of transparency, diversity of opinion and, perhaps most importantly, its failure to address the photo that brought them together.

Board member Melvin Campbell called it “a political move. (Rodriguez is) projecting what appears to be an initiative.”

At a recent school board meeting, Lakinsha Swinton, the administrator in charge of the task force, told the board that the students met early this summer and defined what diversity meant to them, talked about their experiences, took photos with Rodriguez and received certificates of appreciation.

But did the group ever actually discuss the photo labeled “f------ monkeys?”

No.

The task force’s membership, board member Earl Campbell argued, also didn’t actually include the type of students who might benefit most from it. “I’m looking for the other students. The students who could have been responsible for some of the things that generated this in the first place,” he told The Island Packet.

“Once you can stomach it, that (racism) does exist, you can start working to change that,” fellow board member Will Smith said.

Smith is right.

Racism is not a one off. It is thriving and we have to admit it.

School districts and corporations can form diversity task forces and bandy about the terms diversity, equity and inclusion all day long, but until these conversations happen racism isn’t going anywhere.

Three days after Rodriguez announced the creation of the task force, students from May River High School spray painted Nazi swastikas and several racial slurs on the construction site of an unfinished Hardeeville hotel.

They included “monkey” written on an unfinished elevator shaft. On the roof, “white power” and the N-word were written in orange spray paint.

As punishment, those students were required to write a three-page essay about hate crimes, pay $1,083 in restitution, and do 50 hours of community service.

Did those punishments have any long-lasting effects? Only those students know what is in their hearts and minds.

What we do know is that Beaufort County and every other school district in South Carolina must accept the challenge not only to admit racism exists, but to embrace being antiracist.

“No one is born racist or antiracist; these result from the choices we make,” the National Museum of African American History & Culture notes on its website.

What schools must do is demonstrate to our children that those choices must be made each and every day.

The task force was a first step, but we urge Beaufort County schools to make the group’s mission clear to the public, find a way to measure its progress, and challenge the beliefs of students like the one who posted that original image.

Other school districts should put themselves in Beaufort County’s position and consider their own responses to the racism coming from within.

How will they respond the next time someone scrawls the N-word on a desk, appears at a party in black face or posts a hate-filled video?

Talk about racism now.

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