Port Reform, Riley Pushes Crime Laws, School Offices Staying Put, Attention on DeMint 

News Blips

"I don't know any other (South Carolina) schools that are closing."

Charleston County School Board member Chris Collins in a failed attempt to argue his way out of closing local schools. The news from The (Rock Hill) Herald the next morning noted that two Chester County schools were expected to close. Knock on wood next time Mr. Collins. Knock on wood.

State Senate Considers Port Structure Reform

Charleston Sens. Glenn McConnell (R) and Robert Ford (D) took comments earlier this week on their proposed changes to the State Ports Authority that would require more legislative involvement and a shift in leadership at the struggling semi-state agency.

Noting the port was too big to fail, McConnell said, "We've got to take the politics out of the port's operations and demand that it be run like a business."

The restructuring would require a 20-year plan for port growth and include an oversight board that would report annually to the General Assembly. The proposal would also limit political appointments to the authority's board by requiring some knowledge in the Port business.

Meanwhile, the sitting authority created a 13-member search team to find a new president and CEO after the surprise exit of Bernard Groseclose last month. The team includes several current and former members of the authority, as well as regional business leaders and Ambassador David Wilkins, the former state House speaker.

Supporters of the long-planned Jasper County port are celebrating Groseclose's exit. The port, on track to be developed as a shared venture between Georgia and South Carolina, struggled for years to become reality due to Groseclose's early opposition.

"It's like Barack Obama becoming president," Sen. Clementa Pinckney (D-Ridgeland) told The Augusta Chronicle last week. "It's a breath of fresh air at the Ports Authority." —Greg Hambrick

Mayor Riley Pushes Crime Laws in Capital

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and Police Chief Greg Mullen took their campaign for crime reform to Columbia last week. After announcing earlier in January that he would renew his push for stricter sentencing for gun violations and more leeway in the treatment of paroled criminals, Riley gathered other mayors and police chiefs from across South Carolina last week to get his initiatives passed during this legislative session.

"We must all work together, large cities and small towns, to have the strongest and toughest criminal justice system," Riley says.

Among other efforts, the bills Riley has proposed would prohibit gun use by and allow warrantless searches of most convicted criminals and increase minimum sentences for gun violations. —Greg Hambrick

80 percent

That's the percent of South Carolinians polled who said that religion played an important part in their daily lives. It's unclear if praying that your car will start every morning counts. Alabama came in at 82 percent and Mississippi had 85 percent. Other interesting notes: Alaska was one of the unholiest states, while all 10 of the most faithful states were in the South. Source: Gallup

School Offices Staying Put

Consider the idea of selling off 75 Calhoun St. as weighed and rejected. The district agreed to weigh selling the building after parent complaints that the district was looking to close schools, but not the downtown office. Board members eventually voted to shutter five schools.

After reviewing the pros and cons, Bill Lewis, the district's building director, suggested last week that it would be best not to move. Consolidating services should be something the district aspires to, but Lewis told school board members that the office wouldn't go for much in the depressed real estate market and that the district would get even less out of the building because of a right of first refusal by the city that would include a drastically reduced price. He told the board that the money from the sale wouldn't pay for relocating. —Greg Hambrick

"I'm positive heating costs are lower."

William C. Briggman, director of the Office of Teacher Employment for the Charleston County School District, on what the district can offer New England teachers in a pitch to The Republican in Springfield, Mass. The local district in Springfield told the paper it has better starting salaries.

Jim DeMint Has Zero Friend Requests

Devoting most of his time to being the voice of dissension on any proposal with an "O" beside it, Sen. Jim DeMint was busy last week attacking the proposed stimulus plan.

DeMint told the conservative Heritage Foundation (otherwise known as his fan club) last week that the Obama administration would "create crisis and widespread panic" to get Congress to act swiftly on the economic package.

Meanwhile, other Republicans are busy attacking DeMint. Washington website Politico suggests that his colleagues think DeMint is just too much, noting "Republicans say privately that DeMint has done plenty to humiliate himself."

All of the media attention is doing DeMint some good. He was on This Week with George Stephanopoulos over the weekend. —Greg Hambrick


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