South Carolina editorial roundup
Posted 4:49 p.m. Wednesday
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier of Charleston on seismic testing for offshore oil:
Often business interests and environmentalists are at loggerheads: Development versus conservation.
But the two have found common ground on a worthy issue affecting the Atlantic Coast. They oppose seismic testing for offshore oil.
Of course, Big Oil is an exception. It wants to test for oil deposits in case the federal government changes plans and permits drilling offshore.
But business owners and organizations from New Jersey to Georgia have stepped up to oppose testing because, despite what the oil companies promise, they know the damage such testing can do to marine life.
And why would companies want to test for oil or gas if they weren't hoping to drill for it?
The newly formed Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast (BAPAC) recognizes that the practice of seismic testing can prove unhealthy to fish, whales, dolphins and sea turtles. And they recognize that jeopardizing those resources could jeopardize businesses like tourism and commercial fishing.
Further, drilling poses the very real danger of black crude oil spills gumming up the beaches and stretches of marsh that feed tourism. Then there are the exceedingly ugly industrial complexes needed on shore to support the drilling.
That's not what tourists come to see. And it's not why people decide to move to the coast, buy real estate, pay taxes and shop.
Indeed, the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce organized a meeting last week in North Myrtle Beach for business executives to talk about BAPAC's goals — the No. 1 being to prevent seismic testing.
Frank Knapp, chamber president and CEO, called it "the destructive demon seed that grows up into the deservedly feared offshore drilling."
BAPAC says that nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product along the Atlantic coast rely on a healthy ocean ecosystem.
Tim O'Brien of the International Game Fish Association said it would "deplete our valuable resource with far-reaching, negative economic impacts."
Karen Brown, president and CEO of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, said it "must be stopped."
Matt Gamble of Nature Adventures Outfitters in Mount Pleasant said his customers expect to see "healthy and plentiful marine life."
Then there are restaurants, hotels, real estate sales and rentals, and retail outlets that all stand to suffer from oil testing or drilling.
BAPAC expects to gather the signatures of owners of many, varied businesses that want to stop seismic testing. Those will be shared with Department of Interior officials, members of Congress and the White House.
Some will sign to protect marine life. Some will sign to protect beaches. And some will sign to protect businesses.
All will be doing their best to ward off an environmental, economic disaster before it begins.
The Greenville News on police video from a July Black Lives Matter protest in Greenville:
Hours of police video from this past summer's Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Greenville provides a gritty, unfiltered picture of what happened on a hot July night when tensions flared here and around the country.
The videos were obtained by The Greenville News via the Freedom of Information Act. Reporter Romando Dixson and digital producer Bria Felicien spent hours poring over the videos to provide the clearest picture they could of the events.
Thankfully, and to the credit of both police and the marchers, Greenville's protest didn't turn violent. There were minimal confrontations between police and the protesters, and law enforcement did its best to let frustrated citizens voice their opinions just days after two black men were killed by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and five police officers were killed while watching over a Dallas protest about those shootings.
There are several important takeaways from Greenville's march and our coverage.
First, media outlets have a duty to request and review public documents and videos of law enforcement activities and then present the findings (and the raw documents) to the public. We take seriously our First Amendment responsibilities, and that was the primary factor in obtaining, reviewing and condensing the dash cam and body cam videos and making them available.
As Dixson wrote in his report, The News used the video to illustrate the challenges officers dealt with during the event, including trying to monitor a demonstration for more than three and a half hours without knowing exactly where protesters were going or how long they would be marching.
Second, from the videos it is clear that by and large Greenville Police officers and Greenville County Sheriff's deputies went out of their way to accommodate the protest. They drew a line at allowing the protest to shut down Interstate 385 and took action to break up the protest when tensions were at their peak.
In a report by Dixson that accompanied the video, Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller rightly defended his department's decisions that night, including the arrests it made.
"It had been a tough week all the way around for police and African-American communities across the country," Miller told Dixson. "We were trying to give folks an opportunity to share their feelings about that and be sensitive to that and compassionate enough to allow a little bit of flexibility.
"I got criticized for that, but I still think it was the right thing to do."
Third, dash cameras and body cameras are immensely valuable to the public Greenville News photographers were live on the scene, and provided coverage as it unfolded. But none of our initial video came close to providing the sort of audio and video detail available in the dash cams and body cams. Law enforcement officers work for the public. Dash cameras and body cameras give taxpayers an unfiltered, unbiased means to hold officers accountable.
Video of the protests showed no egregious activity by officers or the public. But had anyone acted in a way that demanded disciplinary action, it would have been preserved for the public to see. This video is more evidence in the ever-stronger argument in favor of having all law enforcement officers wear body cameras while on duty.
Documentation of events such as this is vital to our ability as a community. It can help us to be ready for the next time a similar event occurs, and can be a guide for everyone involved for how to best conduct themselves.
The Sun News of Myrtle Beach on South Carolina Senate rules:
Depending on which senator is talking about the S.C. Senate rules, they hinder progress or are good for the Senate as a deliberative body and protect the rights of the minority.
"Senate rules are the biggest single problem in making progress," said Greg Hembree of Little River.
He alludes to the inglorious demise of legislation that would have placed mo-peds under state traffic laws like other motor vehicles, including motorcycles. Mo-peds and their operators remain totally unregulated in South Carolina; neither the two-wheelers nor their drivers are required to have licenses.
The General Assembly passed reasonable reform but Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed the legislation, claiming it would be wrong to require mo-ped operators to wear reflective vests and to require that riders under age 21 wear helmets. The House overrode the veto, but one senator, Gerald Malloy of Hartsville, blocked a vote to override by delaying action. It was late and everyone was tired and ready to leave. Soon there was no quorum and no vote.
"It was terribly frustrating," Hembree said after the legislature adjourned, sans mo-ped reform. "I want everybody to remember how this feels," Hembree told his fellow Republicans, to have come so close and be hamstrung by a single member of the Senate. Hembree remains determind to work again in the upcoming session of the General Assembly for mo-ped regulation. "Passing laws is not supposed to be easy," Malloy says.
Both Hembree and Malloy are on a special committee named by Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman to study senate rules. Sen. Luke Rankin of Myrtle Beach also is on the committee. Other members include Majority Leader Shane Massey of Edgefield, Minority Leader Nikki Setzler of West Columbia and Ronnie Cromer of Prosperity who has been chairman of the Rules Committee.
Hembree and Malloy also share assignment to another special committee on guns. Malloy, a Democrat, is chairman of the guns committee, which held a public hearing Thursday in Greenville, the first of four.
Malloy's view of the Senate rules differ considerably from Hembree's. "The Senate rules are very, very good rules," Malloy says. "The minority deserves an opportunity to be heard. The Senate rules are there to protect the minority." Republicans have held the Senate majority since 2001. Malloy says the rules are based on Thomas Jefferson's rules of order. "Every senator should have a right to stop or start" deliberations and so forth. "The Senate is the deliberate body."
On the mo-ped reform legislation, Malloy says his objection was to the requirement for protective vests. "I missed it" when the Senate approved the House version of the mo-ped legislation that went to the governor. Malloy acknowledges that on the override attempt he "used the Senate rules to say 'present'."
As to changing the rules, Malloy says, "I think there's always room for improvement." That's not slamming shut the door, but it suggests change is far more difficult than regulating mo-peds.