How Long South Carolina, How Long …?
By Phil Noble
In 1934, Gov. Ibra Blackwood signed legislation to create the South Carolina Public Service Authority that became known as Santee Cooper. This state-owned enterprise grew to become the state’s largest power producer serving all 46 counties in the state. Thanks to a special law passed by the legislature in 2007 that essentially eliminated all financial risk, Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric and Gas tried to build two nuclear reactors at a cost of $9 billion.
Today, the project is dead – mired in scandal and corruption. Estimates are the failed project will cost the average South Carolina family of four $9,000 that they will be paying for 60 years. The disgraced president of Santee Cooper (a state employee) left with a $16 million golden parachute and the five senior executives of SCE&G paid themselves $21 million in ‘performance bonuses’ during the time the project was failing.
How long South Carolina, how long must we wait for honest power companies that fairly serve the people of South Carolina and not themselves – and an honest and independent legislature that we want, need and deserve?
In 1993, 39 largely rural school districts in what became known as the Corridor of Shame, filed suit seeking to have the courts rule that their students were being denied an adequate education and asked the courts to mandate that the legislature provided a reasonable education. In 2014 – 21 years later – the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the students were not receiving a ‘minimally adequate’ education and mandated that the state legislature enact measures to remedy the inequities.
Today, three years after the court’s ruling, the legislature has done virtually nothing and recently U.S. News and World Report ranked South Carolina’s schools the worst of any of the 50 states.
How long South Carolina, how long must our children wait to receive the type of education they want, need and deserve?
In 1990, the state house Lost Trust corruption scandal broke wide open and led to convictions of 27 legislators, lobbyists and political insiders on vote buying and corruption charges. Eventually, 10 percent of the state legislature were found guilty. In response, so-called ethics legislation was passed which dealt with a few of the most blatant and corrupt activities of lobbyists and legislators.
Today, another state house corruption scandal has broken and thus far the Speaker of the House, the last two House Majority Leaders and a senior senator have been indicted and found guilty – with the senator’s charges still pending. Estimates are there may be as many as 15-20 more indictments to come.
How long South Carolina, how long must we wait for the legislature to pass meaningful anti-corruption legislation and give us the open and honest government that we want, need and deserve?
In 1952, Charleston Judge Waites J. Waring ruled in what became known as the Clarendon County cases that segregation in public education was per se a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The case was combined with four other cases and became Brown v. Board of Education and on May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal was unconstitutional.
Today, in many areas of South Carolina the public schools have largely become re-segregated. With the rise of private schools, many of which cater almost exclusively to white students, the public schools in many parts of the state are largely segregated – overwhelmingly either black or white.
How long South Carolina, how long must our school children wait before they can go to fully desegregated schools so that they can learn to live, work and play with students of all races in schools that looks like the South Carolina that they want, need and deserve?
In 1965, prior to the Voting Rights Act, African Americans were systematically excluded from voting in significant numbers in South Carolina. The federal courts mandated that changes in certain provisions of states’ voting law required ‘pre-clearance’ to ensure fair registration and voting.
Today, pre-clearance is gone and the South Carolina legislature has passed a variety of measures under the heading of Voter ID laws that make it more difficult for African Americans, older and younger voters to participate in elections. Last year, an analysis found that 63,756 minority registered voters could be blocked from the polls by the state’s new voter ID law.
How long South Carolina, how long must we wait before our legislature abandons the vestiges of segregation and allows all of our people equal access and equal protection for their most basic right to vote that they want, need and deserve?
In the late 1990’s, South Carolina’s pension system was essentially fully funded and our state’s teachers, law enforcement officers and state employees were secure in the knowledge that their pensions would be there for them and their years of service would be honored.
Today, the state has an unfunded pension liability of $24 billion and the legislature has refused to do little more than kick the can down the road and not provide an adequate and fair pension so that our retirees can live with dignity.
How long South Carolina, how long does our state have to suffer from gross, politically motivated financial mismanagement that has created confusion and uncertainty for our state’s workers who want only to live out their retirement with the security and peace of mind that they want, need and deserve.
For generations, our state has been full of potential – huge, unrealized potential. For years, our states politicians have told us to lower our sights, forego our ambitions and forget about the dreams of our children and grandchildren – and simply accept whatever the political class did.
How long South Carolina, how long must we accept this corrupt political system and forgo what we want, need and deserve before we say – no more?
We can do better, we deserve better, radically better – NOW.
This column was inspired by Huey P. Long’s Evangeline Speech in the 1923 Louisiana race for governor. His speech asked how long the people of the state must wait for political change to come and benefit the people and not the political class. It is now considered an American classic.
Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston, is founder of World Class Scholars and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and get his columns at www.PhilNoble.com.