Feb. 22, 2004
Note: This free weekly issue of S.C. Statehouse Report
has been delayed for a couple of days due to illness. Thank
you for your patience.
State has failed
SC Statehouse Report
FEB. 22, 2004 - More than 70 years ago, Lee County was home
to 24,096 people. Today, 16.5 percent fewer people - - some
20,119 residents - - live there.
areas like Greenville, Mount Pleasant and Bluffton are experiencing
whopping growth, Lee County is one of seven rural counties
in the state with negative growth since 1930, according to
U.S. Census figures. Another eight rural counties have had
relatively flat population growth of less than 15 percent
over 70 years.
What makes these counties' situations tougher are the lack
of job opportunities available to rural residents. Of the
15 counties with negative or flat growth, there are more with
double-digit unemployment rates (Union, Marlboro, McCormick,
Chester, Fairfield, Williamsburg) than the four with rates
that are less than the state's 6.1 percent average (Allendale,
Bamberg, Calhoun and Saluda).
"You cannot sustain economic growth in this state with
30 percent of your population lagging behind," said Sen.
John Matthews, D-Orangeburg.
Matthews says there's a belt of rural counties that follows
the Interstate 95 corridor that tend to offer less opportunity,
have higher unemployment and lower population growth. A similar
belt that stretches from Chester to McCormick counties separates
the Upstate from the Midlands.
The map is shown above. To look at a chart with the unemployment
and growth numbers, click here.
In short, looking at population growth over the years and
comparing it to unemployment rates highlights the two South
Carolinas - - rural South Carolina where life, in many ways,
is much like it was years ago, and the vibrant growing areas
of metropolitan South Carolina.
Matthews says the state has failed rural areas.
"Their gaps are not closing primarily because of public
policy," he said. "You have to change public policy
to give these rural communities a chance to be what they can
be. In order to change this state, we're going to have to
invest in the Interstate 95 corridor."
He says education - - the great equalizer - - is the key.
Better education in rural areas will help encourage and sustain
In large part, access to a good education is a big reason
why rural areas are suing the state over education funding.
Observers will tell you rural schools already generally get
more dollars per capita than urban and suburban schools. But
experts are testifying in the ongoing Manning trial that rural
schools don't get enough money to provide the same quality
of education that kids are getting in growing areas.
Mike Gulledge, director of the State Budget and Control Board's
office of local government, agrees that schools, as well as
access to good roads, are vitally important for rural communities
to flourish. But basic infrastructure needs have to be in
"You also have to have water and sewer infrastructure,"
he said. "Where you have the development in the state
is where you have the water and sewer infrastructure. An industry
doesn't want to be made a promise of what could be there -
- they want the infrastructure in place."
State Reps. Harry Ott, R-Calhoun, and Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville,
have organized the new House Rural Caucus as a group of more
than five dozen members - - half of the membership of the
House - - with ties to rural communities. The new caucus has
the potential to be a powerful player in state politics if
it wields its muscle.
In the coming week, the caucus will seek to address some
of the long-standing infrastructure inequities felt by rural
communities by introducing a bill to create a Rural Infrastructure
Bank. Ott explained a bill to be introduced would reorganize
$35 million to $50 million of current state funds for rural
communities into a central repository from which rural areas
could borrow to build the infrastructure they need to attract
more economic opportunities.
For years, South Carolina's economic developers have focused
growth on urban areas. Instead of continuing to exacerbate
gaps and ignore rural areas, state leaders need to boost rural
economic efforts by thinking outside the box with innovative
ideas like a Rural Infrastructure Bank.
It's time for the state to stop the failed economic policies
of the past for rural areas. South Carolina needs to close
gaps and create opportunity for the hundreds of thousands
of rural residents who have been left behind. Remember, they're
If elections were left to pollsters
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:
2/15: Preserving marriage isn't discrimination
To the editor:
In your opinion of 2/15/04,
if you are trying to make a point by using
the race issue it does not apply. Preserving the marriage
institution as a
union between a man and a woman is not blatant discrimination
as you claim.
This country has been built on the family unit. The lynchpin
of the family
is the man and woman. The problems in this country from education,
crime, entertainment, and drugs in sports are blamed on the
breakdown of the
family structure. We are talking morals and values.
The marriage issue has to do with how families are going
to find the answers
to all the outside influences that are causing the younger
lose their way. The gays are the ones putting election year
the needs of the county.
-- Chuck Landau, Hilton Head, SC
2/15: Gay marriage
issue is election-year politics
To the editor:
Marriage should be for people who make lifetime commitments
to each other and actually intend to keep them. Gay people
want only a single opportunity to pledge in their long-term
relationships what Rep. [John Graham] Altman has pledged and
breached at least twice in his own. And just how is it that
Rep. Altman became the spokesperson for the institution of
marriage in South Carolina anyway? Is there some "Frequent
Flyer-type" program that the rest of us don't know about?
Any straight person in SC can have a few too many cocktails
at the local pub, run to the nearest wedding chapel, parrot
a few appropriate phrases and settle down for a week or so
of wedded bliss and be in Divorce Court in a week. While the
example may be a bit extreme, the ability of the straight
couple to marry frivolously in SC is only exceeded by the
couple's ability to divorce just as frivolously. The point
is that with no forethought or public scrutiny whatsoever,
the most frivolously married straight couple instantly receives
1,049 federal rights and benefits and hundreds more state
benefits that are denied to gay couples. Many of those gay
relationships have withstood the assaults of bigots like John
Graham Altman III for thirty, forty and fifty years.
As parents of a gay son, we wish someone would explain to
us how one human being loving another human being as much
as our son loved his [late] partner in any way threatens the
so-called sanctity of anyone's heterosexual marriage. The
"sanctity of marriage" rallying cry is simply a
sugar-coated justification for anti-gay legislation and gay-bashing...just
as "state's rights" was a sugarcoated justification
for segregation and lynching...and it is born of the same
kind of hatred. It is a fraudulent issue.
The institution of marriage doesn't need protection from
loving, caring gay South Carolinians like our son and his
partner; it needs protection from demagogues and hypocrites
like John Graham Altman III ....Mr. Altman and his cronies
need to spend more time on real issues that deeply affect
South Carolinians like paying off the $800 million budget
deficit they ran up last year rather than grandstanding on
the issue of this imaginary assault on the institution of
marriage. If we can move SC beyond Altman's election year
"chumming of the waters" on this issue, we might
actually find that gay people do a better job of strengthening
the institution of marriage than people like Rep. Altman do.
They certainly couldn't do any worse.
-- James A. and Irene F. Smith, Charleston, SC
Editor's Note: This letter has been
edited for length. Altman was not mentioned in the 2/15
story, but has been quoted in various media as opposing
gay marriage. Also, the Smith's son, Charles, is an announced
candidate seeking to replace Altman in the SC House.
2/15: Gay marriage
would impact state
Your article which supposes that the gay marriage
laws are only fluff and have no bearing on the function of
our state are flawed. What you fail to recognize is that a
marriage is also a state recognized relationship which has
certain inherent rights and privileges. It would have a significant
impact on SC businesses if all gay relationships had the right
of survivorship, the tax advantages in probate, the life and
health insurance benefits, and the right to retirement benefits
of a gay partners, if all gay relationships were given the
sanctity of marriage. These are enormous cost burdens on business
alone, not even to mention the morality issues.
By declaring these issues as "GOP grandstanding"
you have displayed not only your own bias, but your lack of
understanding of the issues. There are natural limits imposed
by God or nature, whichever you choose, that should be respected
by all humans.
-- Stuart King, Florence, SC
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