Political News

South Carolina editorial roundup

Posted August 30

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Aug. 29

The Post and Courier of Charleston on bicyclists' safety:

A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association suggests that more people are using bicycles as a means of transportation rather than simply for recreation. That's a great thing. Unfortunately, it's also dangerous.

In 1975, the first year in which data were collected, the vast majority of bicyclist deaths on American roads were people under the age of 20. In 2015, the average age of a cyclist killed on the road was 45 — and the average age has steadily increased for more than a decade.

Bicyclists accounted for just 2.3 percent of some 35,000 total roadway fatalities in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available. But the number of bicyclists killed jumped more than 12 percent from the previous year, making it the deadliest year for cyclists since 2005.

All told, 818 cyclists were killed. More than half of those were not wearing a helmet. And alcohol was a factor, for either the bicyclist or car driver involved in a collision, in about a third of all deaths.

The report breaks bicyclists down into four groups — strong and fearless, enthused and confident, interested but concerned, and no way no how.

Taken together, the strong and fearless and enthused and confident groups make up about 8 percent of riders, and generally include people who bike to work and other common destinations.

But most people — about 60 percent — fall into the interested but concerned category. They would like to bike more, but don't feel like it's safe or convenient to do so.

Informal research conducted in the Charleston area bears out those numbers. The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (COG) recently found that 90 percent of survey respondents want more tax dollars to go toward bicycle and pedestrian facilities, but that only about a third feel safe walking or biking in current conditions, for example.

That reflects a major oversight in infrastructure planning. Increasing the number of people who regularly walk and bike is one of the easiest and most practical ways to reduce overall traffic congestion — not to mention being a healthy, recreational, environmentally friendly alternative to driving.

But given the region's stubbornness in making major investments toward safer, more convenient bike and pedestrian infrastructure, it's little wonder that bicycles still lag as a mode of commuting. About 2 percent of the Charleston population regularly gets around by bike.

There is plenty of room for improvement. Too bad, Charleston County Council isn't all that concerned. A years-long effort to convert one lane of the four-lane T. Allen Legare Bridge over the Ashley River for bicyclists and pedestrians fell through this month when council voted to abandon the plan.

As such, there is still no safe, convenient way to get across the Ashley River without a motor vehicle, and any potential solution, like allowing bikes back onto the James Island Connector, is likely years in the future. That's a major failure for connectivity — one that is endangering lives and holding the city back from realizing its full potential for transportation.

The number of Charleston area residents who would like to bike but don't feel safe points to the demand for safer infrastructure. And the nationwide rise in the number of cyclists killed points to the urgency of providing that infrastructure.

Bicyclists have a right to the road, too. And they have a right to live.

Online: http://www.postandcourier.com/

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Aug. 30

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on flood insurance:

Two years ago, a tropical system was in part responsible for record flooding in The T&D Region that followed more than 20 inches of rain in some localities. In 2026, the early autumn brought Hurricane Matthew, and while damage here was more from wind than rain, flooding was still a factor.

As is being shown again with Hurricane Harvey in Texas, flooding is a huge threat to people and property. And every time there is flooding, there is the painful outcry from some that they did not know their homes and property were not covered by insurance for flood losses. Flood insurance is separate from a homeowner's policy and varies in cost by the location. The more flood-prone a place, the higher the cost.

But this hurricane season, flood insurance itself is at risk.

Flood insurance for more than 200,000 home and business owners in South Carolina will soon dry up if Congress fails to fix the federal program responsible for paying their claims, writes Joshua Saks, legislative director of the National Wildlife Federation and a member of the SmarterSafer coalition.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which serves as the first line of defense against flood damage for more than 5 million policyholders nationwide, is $25 billion in debt and struggling to remain viable. The program is in need of reform, and the deadline is rapidly approaching for Congress to renew the program before it expires at the end of September.

Repairing the NFIP is imperative for the thousands of South Carolina policyholders it serves, especially since severe floods are becoming increasingly unpredictable, dangerous and deadly. Thankfully, there are several steps that lawmakers can take to cement the program's long-term viability and benefit policyholders and taxpayers alike.

Saks cites the steps:

. Create an opportunity for more private flood insurers to enter the marketplace. Currently, the flood insurance program does not do enough to bolster competition. Doing so would result in lower rates and better coverage for consumers, making rebuilding easier.

The House Financial Services Committee recently took an important step toward achieving this goal by passing a series of bills to reauthorize and reform the program, including bipartisan legislation aimed at providing private insurers an opportunity to enter the flood insurance marketplace. The Flood Insurance Market Parity Act will encourage the development of a private flood insurance market while giving states the right to regulate flood insurance.

. Make other reforms that will help solidify the NFIP's long-term success. One of these is to ensure that the most accurate risk-assessment tools, as well as modern technology, are being used to update flood maps. This will help lift the burden off of property owners for determining their own flood risks, and will give more flexibility to the NFIP and private insurers to offer rates that accurately reflect the risk that a property faces.

. Enhance storm-mitigation efforts. This will go a long way toward making communities more resilient and better able to withstand major storms. Financial assistance should be made available to low-income property owners to assist them with strengthening their property. Offering incentives, such as reduced insurance rates, will also encourage proactive measures that will prevent damage and save lives while reducing recovery costs following a disaster.

. Strengthen infrastructure and update building codes. Studies show that every $1 spent on mitigation efforts leads to $4 in reduced future disaster costs. Taking proactive mitigation efforts would not only save lives, but would prevent costly property damage in the future.

Congress is taking steps to make many of these reforms, but as Saks points out, time is running to pass comprehensive legislation. Without action, South Carolina residents may be unable to recover and rebuild following the next natural disaster.

Online: http://thetandd.com/

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Aug. 30

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach on low literacy rates:

Lack of reading, writing and basic math skills probably impacts the lives of more than 38,000 Horry County residents, and the number could be much higher.

The estimate is based on U.S. Census data showing that 38,621 Horry residents did not complete high school or a high school equivalency program. The high school graduate rate is the only local data currently tracked by the Horry County Literacy Council; executive director Angel Parry plans to generate much more local data.

Since starting in July, Parry's main focus has been updating the council's website, which is near completion, with a launch in September around the week of Sept. 24-30, National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. During AEFL week, the council is holding a fundraiser on Sept. 26 in Murrells Inlet.

The Horry County Literacy Council started in 1976 and has programs with one-on-one help in reading and spelling for people with learning difficulties, including dyslexia; learning and improving English; General Educational Development test preparation; and Read & Create. HCLC has 75 active tutors, helping people from ages 7 to 54.

In its third year, Read & Create had 55 children in a summer camp in Longs. Participants read a book, such as "The Giving Tree," discuss it with their tutors, then do a painting or drawing.

"Combining reading and artistic expression helps a child's self-esteem," Parry said.

Read & Create was developed by Annette Staehle of Murrells Inlet. The program will run for eight weeks this fall at Socastee Elementary School, in conjunction with an ESL program and again in early 2018. Staehle is vice president of the HCLC board.

ProLiteracy, the nation's largest organization working for adult literacy and basic education, says 15 percent of U.S. residents without a diploma don't have jobs.

"About one in six adults is still not literate, and approximately 67.4 million school-age children are not enrolled in school," Parry said.

"Low literacy costs the nation more than $200 billion each year in lost productivity, as well as an additional $1 billion to $2 billion in health and safety issues," said Kevin Morgan, ProLiteracy president and CEO.

The HCLC board is actively seeking at least two members to fill openings on the 12-member board. Pat Bush, former executive director and active with the council for many years, is the board president. The 10 active members include three new men.

Parry considers North Carolina home and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Mount Olive College. She was vice president of community impact for the Cape Fear Area United Way and most recently was training director for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.

Online: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/

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