A portal into the Palmetto State
SCDash.com informs, amplifies state data
By Bill Davis, senior editorFEB. 3, 2012 -- Pop quiz, hot shot!
How many jobs were added to the South Carolina labor force between August of 2010 and March of 2011?
How about the exact reduction in the number of building permits for privately owned single family homes that were filed between September of last year and the summer of 2007, before the Great Recession hit?
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a powerful data aggregator that collected pertinent, reliable information about the South Carolina economy that also had the ability to create easy-to-understand graphs and charts?
Now there is. Go to the front page of SCDash.com, the brainchild of several brainy types within the Darla Moore School of Business, and you can find exactly those two pieces of information.
If, thanks to the Internet and radio talk shows, misinformation has become as powerful as information, then this Web site may aid legislators and policymakers, the business community, professors and students, the public, and journalists to get what they need to explain and accelerate the state’s economy.
The amount of information on display at the Web site is massive, but broken down into easy to understand and compare chunks.
For instance, there are more than 207 results related to building permits across the state. It’s arguably a dry field of information, but not to a general contractor who may want to compare and graph the differences between various counties to see where he might need to move operations, or change from building single-family to multi-family homes to keep up with trends.
Douglas Woodward, the director of research at the business school and one of the brainy types overseeing the project for the past several years, said that time and time again he would have animated discussion with people about subjects, like the state’s employment curve, and they would be arguing their points using incorrect or old information.
Woodward said there will be problems with the automated search engine that produces the information contained at the Web site. It’s too big not to have something go wrong here and there, he said.
But a Moore school statistician helped construct the Web site and the parameters so that the information will most likely come from reliable sites, like the federal government.
But borrowing a page, almost literally from Wikipedia, Woodward said there would be an ongoing log where users can alert site administrators to potential problems.
Be clear, the information that SCDash.com contains already exists. One legislative staffer sniffed at the site, ironically pointing to boxes of data collected in his office of information that legislators already ignore when making policy decisions.
But Robert Appel, a policy wonk formerly at the conservative S.C. Policy Council and now a spokesman for the business school, argues that staffers and policy wonks already know where to go and whom to call to get the information they need, like the state’s budget office.
Appel says that this “one-stop” site erases a couple of steps, especially for the uninitiated. Much of the data on the site can be split by host of categories, like gender, race, county and time period.
Appel and Woodward stressed that the information presented has not been manipulated. That, apparently, will be left up to the user.
Frank Knapp, head of the state’s Small Business, said he could see how such an effort could only help the business community. “It’s good, I’m glad somebody did it,” he said.
Crystal ball: So, hot shot, what did you learn? Basically, that you’ve got a lot more to learn about South Carolina. And that there is now another tool to do so. And with what you learn, when you write or call your representative or senator, you can do so with more vigor and information. When the people “read,” the leaders will follow. Or is that “lead”?
House to unveil agenda, more
The House GOP will finally reveal its legislative agenda on the floor next week, calling for, among other things, reform of the retirement system and the state tax code.
In the Senate, debate will return to the subject of creating a Department of Administration. Both sides have been talking behind the scenes, and the likelihood of creating a DOA administered by the governor but with legislative oversight is becoming more and more likely.
- House Education. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. in 429 Blatt to discuss a bill that would require Clemson and USC football to play a series of home-and-home football games. More.
- Senate Education. The full committee will meet Wednesday at 10 a.m. in 209 Gressette to discuss two bills related to education benefits for those in the military. More.
- Senate Banking and Insurance. The full committee will meet Thursday at 11 a.m. in 308 Gressette to discuss bills related to the Department of Insurance and unfair trade practices. More.
One, for the road
Expect a bigger push for a road and infrastructure overhaul in the Lowcountry, especially around Charleston as soon as Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) returns from the hospital where he is being treated for a tick bite.
McConnell has consistently pushed for something to be done to ease the region’s traffic woes and shortage of major roadways in, out, and around the region. And this week, a single man threatening his own life atop the Cooper River Bridge, snarled traffic in the Charleston area, turning daily commutes into multi-hour slogs, will likely act as further fuel to McConnell’s fire.
Road to DOT’s futureA big test of how willing the Senate is to hand over more power to the governor is underway.
This week, the House approved a bill and sent it to the Senate that would place the Department of Transportation in the governor’s cabinet. The DOT has been a scandal mill over the past decade, with one complete administration overhaul and another in the offing in the face of massive late bill payments and encroaching shortfalls.
The expectation is that the Senate will want to do away with the DOT’s commission, but have it report to the nascent Department of Administration, which will likely be formed and report to the governor, but with legislative oversight.
Pay-for-play: Yea or nay?
The State Law Enforcement Division confirmed this week it was investigating a charge that a political ally of Treasurer Curtis Loftis may have taken part in a “pay-for-play” scenario when recruiting new money managers for the state’s $26 billion retirement pension investment fund.
Loftis is one of five members of a commission that oversees how the state invests its retirement funds via a host of outside money managers. Loftis said the complaint and the investigation were fallout from his challenging “Columbia insiders.”
Loftis and Gov. Nikki Haley have quarreled repeatedly over the scope of the other’s role in managing the state’s money since the two took office last year. Loftis’ ally has claimed he was merely “collateral damage” of the infighting.
Abortion: Everybody wins?
Don’t be fooled by the vote this week by a Senate subcommittee to recommend the state’s health insurance plan to stop paying for abortions in the case of rape.
The 3-2 vote along party lines wasn’t about policy; it was more likely about politics. Yes, the three conservative Republicans on the subcommittee may personally abhor the procedure, just as the two Democrats abhor the loss of a woman’s right to choose. But this is an election year, and all five legislators get to go back to their constituents and fire up their base with a hot-button topic.
Also, observers note there is no way this bill will survive the full Senate, the House, negotiations between the two chambers, the national scrutiny, the public outcry, etc.
Speaking to a leadership class from Anderson in the Statehouse, Gov. Nikki Haley said state government, like family budgets, can’t change how much it brings in, only what its spends out.
Haley apparently forgot how many family members have gotten second jobs to pay bills in much the same way, apparently, that politicians could raise taxes. Telling.
The Viagra strategy
A Virginia state senator filed a response bill in the Richmond Statehouse that could show milquetoast Democrats in the our Statehouse how to deal with bills billed extremist conservative legislators.
A bill proposed in the Virginia Senate, mimicking a South Carolina one, would require women to view an ultrasound of their fetus before being allowed to have an abortion. In response, Virginia state Sen. Janet Howell put an amendment on the bill that would require men to undergo a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test by a doctor before being allowed to be prescribed a prescription to treat erectile dysfunction.
Carrier is a "shining city upon the sea"
By Andy Brack, editor and publisher
FEB. 3, 2012 -- You can feel America’s promise and power aboard a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It’s where foreign policy meets reality.
A carrier is “100,000 tons of diplomacy that doesn’t need a permission slip,” one officer explained over a weekend tour in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast. “We’ll go where we want and stay as long as we need.”
With about 5,000 sailors and Marines on the USS Enterprise ramping up for a March deployment to the Persian Gulf, the integrated dance of the ship and its complement of destroyers, frigates and other vessels is a testament to the outstanding training, retraining and more training offered in the most powerful Navy in the world.
What makes the 1,123-foot carrier hum is its young trusted crew that shoulders and thrives on enormous responsibilities and 12-hour to 16-hour days every day that the ship is at sea.
“What makes it go are the 18-year-old kids,” said Capt. Doug Cochrane, a Navy helicopter pilot who now commands Naval Station Mayport near Jacksonville, Fla. “Our competitive advantage is these kids who can do anything and choose to serve their country.”
For Cpl. Terry Wilson, a Queens, N.Y., native who now is an avionics technician at Marine Corps Station Beaufort, the military offered a new beginning. Three years ago when he was 22, Wilson quit his job delivering packages and made what he called a “radical change” by joining the Marines.
“I’ve been nothing but content in the Marines,” he said Sunday over breakfast on the Enterprise. In his three years in the Corps, he said he has gotten a special kind of confidence that replaced a cockiness he had in New York. “You feel you can do anything.
Life on board a carrier isn’t easy. Wilson, attached to the ship as part of a Beaufort jet squadron, and his peers sleep in crowded rooms with bunks stacked three high. They work long hours and multi-task with various duties. But they’re committed to get the job done, day in and day out. It’s an inspiring show of will that more Americans would do well to emulate.
Just about everything that happens on a carrier focuses on supporting her 190 pilots and 60+ jets, including four F-18 squadrons and planes that do electronic jamming and offer in-the-sky radar. About 3,000 people make the ship run -- from a 20-year-old enlisted man in Air Traffic Control who guides jets in for night landings to cooks who prepare and serve thousands of meals daily. Another 1,500 people, including Wilson, focus on keeping the airplanes ready for flight.
During a Ready Room briefing for guests, Marine Lt. Col. Nate “Corky” Miller explained how every flight of F/A-18 Hornets took pilots about 14 hours from preparation and flying to debriefing. Miller, part of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 (the “Thunderbolts,” based in Beaufort), said jets also took about 12 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight to be able to “deploy its diplomacy.”
Visiting a carrier is an awesome experience. When jets take off from the black, rubber-coated flight deck, you can feel the blasts of heat from engines that rumble your body’s core. When they drop a tailhook to grab one of four two-inch cables across the deck, the scream of the landing is loud enough to make you wince, despite two layers of ear protection.
It is this raw power, as well as the dedication of a new generation of Americans to the fundamentals of service to the country, that sticks with visitors to the ship.
Before the United States was a country, Puritan leader John Winthrop described the promise of the new Massachusetts Bay colony as a “shining city upon a hill.” The image has been used for generations as a way to describe American exceptionalism -- the notion that the United States is different from other countries because it was the first new nation and a democracy “of the people.”
No better example of that exceptionalism is the strength and dedication exhibited by sailors and Marines like Wilson and Miller on the USS Enterprise, truly a shining city upon the sea.
Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report. You can read about what it feels like to land and take-off from a carrier here in our sister publication, CharlestonCurrents.com. Brack can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
AIA South Carolina
The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week, we shine our spotlight on the South Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The organization is the voice of the South Carolina architectural profession and the resource for its members in service to society. The association facilitates dialogue and the dissemination of knowledge that inspires and enables architects, policy makers and the public to engage creatively and credibly in promoting a better environment and future for all. Learn more: AIASC.
Charleston center opens new Women's Leadership InstituteBy Jane Perdue
Special to Statehouse Report
FEB. 3, 2012 -- Nearly 47 percent of South Carolina organizations have no women in decision-making roles according to a 2008 report by Clemson University's Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
| | Perdue
To prepare more women to step into decision-making roles, the Charleston, S.C., Center for Women has launched a new Women's Leadership Institute. The Institute is designed to teach Lowcountry women the skills and strategies necessary to beco me capable leaders. The Center for Women, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization and the only comprehensive women's development center in South Carolina, focuses on making personal and professional success an everyday event for women in the Lowcountry.
"A report from Catalyst, a research organization specializing in expanding opportunities for women and business, reveals that companies having more women in their leadership team have a 34 percent higher return to shareholders," says Jennet Robinson Alterman, executive director of the Center for Women. "Business, government and communities all face a multitude of critical issues and need a pool of women leaders and decision-makers who can resolve pertinent issues and help deliver improved financial performance. We believe the Center can play a key role in equipping local women with the right mix of knowledge, skills and abilities to help prepare them for these positions."
National research into women in business conducted by Braithwaite Innovation Group, a local professional development organization, shows that business women skilled in communications, negotiations, conflict resolution, and general leadership abilities are better positioned to assume more responsibility. I found the Lowcountry full of professional and executive women -- educators, entrepreneurs and former Fortune 100 company executives -- who have these skills and who are willing to pay it forward to improve the status of women in South Carolina. We have designed the Women's Leadership Institute sessions to be highly interactive, using discussion, practical application, assessments and experiential exercises. Our goal is maximizing learning about leading oneself, leading others and leading within organizations.
This is the first intensive skill development program offered by the Center for Women. Topics covered in the monthly sessions will assist local women in building a wide array of leadership skills as well as gaining a broader and deeper business perspective for their increased workplace, community, home and personal effectiveness. Women can choose to take as many or as few classes as their schedule permits. Each course adds value as a stand-alone session or as part of a comprehensive year-long program. Based on feedback from recent Center for Women program and event participants, the women's leadership classes will be held Saturday mornings, starting at 9:30 a.m. and will run for three hours.
For companies in the tri-county area who may not have learning and development opportunities or personnel in-house, this program provides them with affordable access to resources that would cost tens of thousands of dollars to create and deliver. "A Women's Leadership Development study conducted in December 2011 by Mercer Consulting revealed that 71 percent of firms do not have a clearly defined plan for developing women for leadership roles," noted Doretha Walker, past president of the Center for Women board of directors and also a leadership program faculty member. "This new program will provide a distinct cost effective advantage for Lowcountry employers looking to get ahead of the curve in training their female employees."
- For more information and to enroll, visit the Center for Women's Web site here.
Jane Perdue is a leadership and women's issues consultant, speaker, writer and principal, Braithwaite Innovation Group, a Charleston. S.C. based female-owned professional and organizational development company.
You can’t ignore ALECTo the Statehouse Report:
Your article on “Bullying the Vote” indicated that "The General Assembly spent much of last year codifying a measure that required S.C. voters to show photo identification to be able to vote," and that "State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Horry), chairman of the House election laws subcommittee and one of the many authors of the voter photo identification bill." Rep. Clemmons even took a swipe at ACORN, with the implication that ACORN had engaged in some sort of voter fraud these bills need to combat.
I doubt "many authors" burned midnight oil on the Photo ID bill, since it was a virtual copy of the "model" legislation being pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council -- ALEC. If you are going to do an article on Voter ID bills, you cannot ignore ALEC, its sponsors and which legislators attend their conferences.
-- Tom Stickler, Pawleys Island, SC
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Three up, two in middle, three down
Accountability. Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law this week a law expanding her inspector general’s power to investigate fraud in state agencies beyond just her cabinet. More.
BMW. The Upstate giant recently spent a cool half-million on solar panels that will provide electricity to a museum at its Spartanburg plant. More.
Campsen. Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Isle of Palms) was unrelenting in committee this week, in grilling DNR board members over the “sped-up” retirement of its executive director.
Dredging. The Senate, like the House last week, voted unanimously to support a measure that would trim DHEC’s ability to grant water-use permits to other states, but added the caveat that it must be approved not just through a maritime commission, but through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. More.
Dragging. The grand jury investigation into Lt. Gov. Ken Ard’s alleged illegal campaign activities has entered its seventh month, and some are calling for it to end with charges or just end, for the good of the state. More.
S.C. State. A $4 million deficit has left the school, according to a university trustee, on “life support.” More.
GOP. Republicans in the House and the Senate are pushing and advancing bills that would target and “punish” the unemployed for, arguably, mistakes made by Wall Street and the South Carolina legislature. Statehouse Report has long been reporting about how some legislators appear to introduce measures that target the vulnerable. More.
DHEC. The anti-union lawyer nominated to head DHEC doesn’t plan to leave her Charleston office to run the Columbia-based agency on a full-time basis. WHAT?!?! More.