S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.1014.jump.htm

Doing what's right instead of doing what you can
By Andy Brack, Publisher

OCT. 12, 2007 - - Everybody knows you don't yell "Fire" in a crowded theater if there is no fire. Similarly, you don't phone in a pizza to be delivered to someone else when they don't want it.

Yes, we can actually yell "Fire" or order the pizza - - we have the ability and means to do so - but we don't. Why? Because it's not the right thing to do.

This week, let's take a look at things done in state government through an analogous ethical lens:

  • Photo illustration

    Jumpsuits. Sex creeps in prison may be forced to wear pink jumpsuits if they misbehave sexually, according to state Department of Corrections policy. Such a policy has been deemed to pass judicial muster. But just because the Department can discipline prisoners who commit sexual misconduct by making them wear pink jumpsuits, is it the right thing to do? Isn't it similar to behavior by Nazis more than 70 years ago when they forced gay men to wear pink triangles, Jews to wear yellow double triangles and gypsies to wear black triangles?

  • Food as discipline. The Corrections Department says it doesn't have a policy to withhold food from prisoners. But if a prisoner shows up at a meal dressed inappropriately, a Corrections officer will ask the inmate to dress properly or return to the cell. So while the policy doesn't say food can be withheld, food certainly seems to be part of a disciplinary process. Yes, the department can do it. But is it right?

  • Power plant. The state has granted a draft permit to allow Santee Cooper, a state-backed utility, to build a new coal-fired power plant in the Pee Dee. Unlike private power companies like Duke Power, Progress Energy or SCE&G, Santee Cooper doesn't have as many regulatory hoops to jump through. And at a time that the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina will invest $10 million a year in renewable energy and energy efficiencies because it believes South Carolinians can conserve, is it right for Santee Cooper to move forward - - even though it can?

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    Nuclear waste. Is it right to keep storing nuclear waste in South Carolina, especially in light of recent leakage stories at a low-level facility in Barnwell County (the state now says the water is safe) and reports of tritium in wells near a York County nuclear power plant? Yes, the law allows it to be done. But should we be doing it?

  • Education. In the modern age of computers, some poor schools in South Carolina, particularly those along the Interstate 95 corridor, still make do with old school books, inadequate facilities and a host of other problems. A state judge has ruled that the state should do more, but what has been done is a drop in the bucket. Is it right that there are huge inequities in public education across the state and lawmakers aren't attacking it with the zeal they have for tax cuts?

  • Training. The State newspaper recently pointed out that people who cut hair or color wigs must get 1,500 hours of state-certified training to be able to do their job. Police officers have to have 349 hours of training, the second lowest number in the nation. Yes, we can get more cops on the street with almost one-fifth of the training as beauticians. But is it right?

Policymakers face decisions every day on how to handle various issues. Many times, it seems they do what is politically expedient to be in a good position for the next election. Hence the focus on hot-button issues (abortion, gay marriage, tax cuts for rich folks) that really don't matter as much in the larger scheme of people's lives.

Hard decisions on things that really matter to people - - reducing poverty, increasing per capita wages, improving health care, bettering education so we're not at the bottom - - seem to be brushed over year after year.

Yes, our leaders can continue business as usual. They can force prisoners to wear pink jumpsuits or inadequately fund poor schools or fiddle with the tax code. But should they? Or should they do what leaders are supposed to do: lead and do what's right.

Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report, can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com. If you want to find sources for the statistics above, click here.

Recent commentary

Rammed earth construction used in SC

Pisé de terre, or “rammed earth,” is an ancient form of building construction. Clay is the basic material in rammed earth buildings. After laying a foundation of brick or stone, clay is poured into wooden molds and then tamped until solid. Additional layers are added until the walls reach the desired height, and the finished walls are coated with stucco.

The Church of the Holy Cross in Stateburg is built of "rammed earth" construction.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Dr. William W. Anderson, a Maryland native who settled in Stateburg in 1810, used it to create two of South Carolina’s most distinctive works of architecture: the Borough House and the Church of the Holy Cross. He was influenced by S. W. Johnson, who introduced methods of rammed earth construction to America through his book Rural Economy (1806). In 1821, Anderson used the technique to rebuild the wings of the Borough House, the main building at his Hill Crest Plantation, and several outbuildings.


S.C. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

In 1850, Anderson persuaded the Episcopal congregation of Stateburg to use pisé de terre in constructing the Church of the Holy Cross, a Gothic Revival structure designed by Charleston architect Edward C. Jones. The Borough House and its outbuildings constitute the largest complex of pisé de terre buildings in the United States. The U.S. Department of the Interior designated the Church of the Holy Cross and the Borough House as National Historic Landmarks in 1973 and 1978, respectively.

-- Entry by Daniel Vivien, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Debit debit

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

10/9: Solar power makes sense

To Statehouse Report:

With all of the problems SC has, the use of solar power seems unimportant. However, what better place for the use of solar panels to save energy? If the legislature would increase the tax credits to something substantial, maybe we could get some businesses that produce or install solar panels to come here.

-- Barbara Measter, Seabrook Island, SC

Recent feedback

9/30: Not for tax breaks, Bob Logan, Little River, SC
State needs affordable medical help, birth control, Roxanne Walker, Greenville, SC
Some good points in sex Ed column, Anne Badgley, Charleston, SC
Why insurance companies want to cancel policies, Dan Norfleet, Summerville, SC
Australia is tip of iceberg, John P. Ford, Sumter, S.C.
8/13: Americans have grown apathetic, David Whetsell, Lexington, S.C.


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Roadwork ahead
By Bill Davis, editor
Exclusive from the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

OCT. 12, 2007 -- "The problem facing this state is that we don't have enough revenue to meet the infrastructure needs of the state."

So sayeth Glenn McConnell, the Republican president pro tempore of the state Senate commenting on reform efforts afoot in Columbia to create a defined revenue stream for the money-hungry Department of Transportation.

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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NUMBER OF THE WEEK: $430 million
  • NEWS: Roadwork ahead, money problems
  • AGENDA: More meetings on tap
  • RADAR SCREEN:Outlook for civil liberties
  • PALMETTO POLITICS: Nobody got the joke
  • BLOGROLL: Rhetoric heating up
  • SCORECARD: Who's up and down for the last week
  • MEGAPHONE: Ever hear of Sherman?

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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.