Voters aren't ready for change 

Missed Opportunities

Riding high on a campaign theme of change, Barack Obama's win in Iowa seemingly set the stage for a victory less than a week later in the New Hampshire primary. But when it came time, voters in the Granite State opted to support a member of the party's old guard, Hillary Clinton.

Democrats in South Carolina will get their chance to demonstrate how much they want change Jan. 26. I suspect the state's voters, especially those locally, will pass on the opportunity. Traditionally, South Carolinians don't like change. Many seem to prefer things as they were 200 years ago.

For more than 200 years, the office of the president of the United States has been occupied by a white male member of the ruling class. Sure, over the years there's been bickering and indecisiveness among them, but they've never let a minority into that elite club. Personally, I don't see it happening this election cycle either.

Despite some serious problems stemming from our national leadership, I don't think America is ready for change. In 2004, even though our foreign policy was dysfunctional and our domestic well-being was in poor shape, we allowed the architect of all of that ill health to waltz back into office for another four years. I'm thinking in November we'll reinstate a duplicate of the current administration, though it may take on a female form.

Last year, local voters gave me some indication of how little they want change. In June, North Charleston voters had the opportunity to make a change, voting out Mayor Keith Summey, who had been in power for 12 years. Over the course of that time, the city's crime rate has risen, giving North Charleston the dubious distinction of being one of the nation's most dangerous cities.

And in November, Charleston voters had the opportunity to vote out Mayor Joe Riley, who has been in power for 32 years, during which time the city's black population decreased from over 60 percent of the total population to less than 40 percent.

North Charleston is where the majority of the county's failing public schools are located, and the city's unemployment rate is among the state's highest.

When it comes to fighting crime, North Charleston city council members tell me they're doing that by hiring more police officers. But that's a no-win situation when failing schools continue to produce more dropouts with few opportunities for gainful employment. Illegal activities have become a viable option for some of the city's residents. The city's idea of changing the community is to build more high-end housing and encourage commercial development when clearly its population needs education and employment.

Meanwhile in Charleston, change comes in a pretty package of new development, streetscaping, and gentrification that some estimate will displace more than half the peninsula's black population. The promise of affordable housing for these residents is an illusion.

A community activist friend took me to a housing development in Porters Court where three- and four- bedroom homes have been constructed for low to moderate income families. The reality, however, is many of the black families displaced from the Bogard Street neighborhood can't afford the average $175,000 cost of the homes, so they're being marketed to single individuals with moderate incomes.

As long as voters keep the same old leaders in place, true change will never happen.


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