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Falcons help rivals in feel-good moment

By Mac Banks  |  Fort Mill Times
Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools may be rivals, but after Friday night, it’s safe to say they aren’t bitter rivals.

In the final minute of the boys’ varsity basketball game, Fort Mill senior Matt Kjeldsen checked into the game to a deafening roar from the Jackets’ crowd.

Kjeldsen, 6-8, known at “Big Matt” is a high-functioning autistic, immediately got involved in the action as Nation Ford purposely turned the ball over to him and then fouled him trying to send him to the line. But he needed to be foul again, gently, to get his opportunity.

Nation Ford’s Ian Corley, who scored seven points in the game for the Falcons, committed the second intentional foul after Fort Mill inbounded the ball, sending Kjeldsen to the foul line. Corley’s foul was his fifth, forcing him to foul out of the game.

Kjeldsen hit the second of two free throws, again causing the entire crowd – both the home and visiting fans – into a frenzy.

Kjeldsen’s points weren’t the first of the season he has scored. He has played in four games for Fort Mill and is averaging one point and one rebound per game, according to the Yellow Jackets’ stats on MaxPreps.com.

Corley also exited the game to applause, Fort Mill fans included, with the crowd standing and cheering his unselfish gesture. Corley was even thanked by Fort Mill staff working the scoring table and referees working the game.

Afterward the game, Twitter exploded among both Fort Mill and Nation Ford students talking about Kjeldsen’s play and Corley’s selfless act.

Fort Mill won the game 48-36.

Click here to watch a video of Big Matt sinking his free-throw.

“Credibility” by Stuart Neiman

"Credibility" by Stuart Neiman

“Credibility” by Stuart Neiman

 

“Deflated” from The Times and Democrat

"Deflated" from The Times and Democrat

“Deflated” from The Times and Democrat

 

“Off Your Meds” from The Times and Democrat

"Off Your Meds" from The Times and Democrat

“Off Your Meds” from The Times and Democrat

 

The $130 Million Scandal – “Someone Needs to Go to Jail”

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

by Phil Noble

“Someone needs to go to jail.”

These were the words of outrage of freshman SC Legislator Cezar McKnight when discussing the scandal of the $123 million in fines the state has paid for its 25-year failure to comply with federal law with regard to deadbeat dads. The question is, can this young reformer do something about this, or will politics as usual in South Carolina prevail?

First the legislator and then then scandal.

Cezar McKnight is a 41-year-old freshman legislator from Kingstree who wants to make a difference. A native son, Cezar went away to school and came back to his hometown with a law degree and a determination to change things. Two years ago, he ran against long-term incumbent Sen. Yancey McGill and almost knocked him off, losing by only 81 votes.

And when Sen. McGill unexpectedly became Lt. Gov. McGill in June of last year, there was a good old fashioned political brawl in the Pee Dee and when all the smoke cleared, Rep. Ronnie Sabb was Senator Sabb and McKnight was the new Representative from State House District 101.

Now the scandal. Last week, I was in the neighborhood and dropped in on Cezar for lunch after his first week in the legislature. On the one hand he was all excited about the prospects of being in a position to “do something” but a bit underwhelmed by what he saw and heard on his first week on the job.

We talked about some ideas and issues that he might become involved with and then I mentioned the ongoing scandal with the so called deadbeat dad computer system, which I had been researching for a future column.

The facts of the scandal are these: In 1992, the US Congress passed a law that said every state had to build a statewide computerized tracking system to enforce the collection of child support payments. In short, the system would track deadbeat dads as they moved from place to place with different jobs, thus ensuring that they paid their child support payments.

Now, here it is nearly 25 years later, and South Carolina is the only state that doesn’t have an operational system, and as a result the state has been assessed over $123 million in penalties. Yes, you read that right — $123 million. And the most recent estimate is that we are still as long as four years, and God know how many more millions in fines away from having a workable system.

The more we talked, the more exercised and upset Cezar became. By the time the cheese cake dessert arrived, he was so livid about the whole thing that I got to eat all the cheesecake that he had ordered for us to share. He didn’t even notice.

On Tuesday after we talked on Friday, as soon as he was back in Columbia for the beginning of the Legislative week, Cezar went right to work. He tracked down and called the folks at Department of Social Services who are responsible and within hours he had the latest information on what was happening.

He was outraged by what he found. He forwarded me the information with a one sentence email: “Someone needs to go to jail.” Later on the phone he elaborated in comments that could not be printed in a family newspaper.

So here it is folks. This is the opening scene of a South Carolina version of the great classic movie with Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In both cases, an eager, well-intentioned young man comes to the capital and is outraged by what he finds. In SC, it’s obvious incompetence at best and outright fraud at worst – $123 million in fines when we as a state don’t have the money to provide adequate nutrition and health care for our children or decently paid teachers in “minimally adequate” schools.

I don’t know what is going to happen now. Will Cezar be like Jimmy Stewart, with right winning out in the end? Or will all of this just get lost in the shuffle of Columbia.

I know what should happen — see Cezar’s jail comment above — and I know what Cezar wants to see happen. But politics as usual in Columbia is, well, politics as usual in Columbia.

I’m not much for happy fairy tale endings, see Mr. Smith movie for that; after all it was a Hollywood movie and not real life.

But this is about something really important. It’s not about Cezar or computer systems or corruption or incompetence or politics as usual. It’s about us and what kind of government we will have.

The question is fundamental and basic: Can a decent person who wants to do the right thing make a difference and make a change in South Carolina state government, when things are so clearly and so obviously wrong and in need of real change?

I’m not sure what the answer will be; it’s an open question. But as for me, I’m betting on Cezar.

Stay tuned.

Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group founded by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform. phil@scnewdemocrats.org   www.SCNewDemocrats.org

“Mitt for three” by Stuart Neiman

"Mitt for three" by Stuart Neiman

“Mitt for three” by Stuart Neiman

“Drawing Security” from The Times and Democrat

"Drawing Security" from The Times and Democrat

“Drawing Security” from The Times and Democrat

 

“Diversify” from The Times and Democrat

"Diversify" from The Times and Democrat

“Diversify” from The Times and Democrat

“Old School” from The Times and Democrat

"Old School" from The Times and Democrat

“Old School” from The Times and Democrat

The Moral Test of Government in SC

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

by Phil Noble

This week Gov. Nikki Haley was sworn in for her second four-year term and a new legislature convened in the Statehouse. This seems like an appropriate time to look back on their record over the last four years.

Gov. Haley delivered a short Inaugural Address in which she laid out her ideas for the next four years. This caused me to begin to think about the standards and measures we use to evaluate what government does and what it ought to do.

In short: What is the test by which we should judge what government should do?

In thinking about what would be a good standard, I began by Googling a number of terms, such as “economic test of government,” “accountability test of government,” “effectiveness test of government,” and “moral test of government.”

Most of these searches turned up lots of items, none of which were particularly useful. The last search turned up a quote from Hubert Humphrey that I had heard long ago but forgotten.

“The moral test of government,” Humphrey said, “is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

What a wonderful idea – and a wonderful standard to measure what government is doing. So let’s apply this standard and the standard of her own words in her Inaugural Address to Gov. Haley’s past four years in office.

Test one: “…those who are in the dawn of life, the children.”

In her Inaugural Address, Haley said, “In the South Carolina I dream of, a daughter of Dillon starts each day with the same hope and possibilities as a son of Greenville.”

Last month, Gov. Haley filed a motion with the SC Supreme Court asking them to overturn their recent decision in the Abbeville education case. After 21 years of litigation, the SC Supreme Court ruled that students in the plaintiff districts were not even receiving the “minimally adequate” education to which they are entitled under previous Supreme Court rulings, and ordered the governor and the legislature to act expeditiously to begin to fix the problem.

One of the plaintiff counties where the schools were ruled so inadequate was … Dillon.

After the above line in Gov. Haley’s address, she said, “In that South Carolina, a single mother of two feeling stuck in her job knows that if she wants it, a better opportunity is waiting just around the corner.”

But for that “single mother of two feeling stuck in her job,” the court-ordered child support from her children’s father is vital. And the Haley administration has failed to ensure she gets it.

South Carolina is the only state in the union that does not have an adequate computer system to track the earnings of “deadbeat dads” across county lines to ensure that they pay their child support. In fairness to Haley, the system has been broken since before she came to office but in her four years she has not given it sufficient priority to get it fixed. Every other state in the union has figured it out, but not South Carolina and we have paid more than $100 million in Federal fines for this failure.

Yes, you read that right — more than $100 million in fines … and the problem continues today under Gov. Haley.

Test Two: “…those who are in the shadows of life, the sick…”

Gov. Haley didn’t say anything about heath care in her Inaugural Address, nothing at all. This is really not too surprising given what she has done, or more importantly has not done, on health care in the last four years.

What she has done is turn down $11 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid in South Carolina. Yes, that’s a ‘b’ as in billion. This is not the place for a long discussion of federal health care policy, but the simple fact is that this $11 billion would have provided health care for 500,000 of our friends and neighbors who need health care and can’t afford it.

And this $11 billion would have created tens of thousands of jobs for health care and construction workers and a whole lot more. Her actions did not raise or lower our taxes by one penny, but it did ensure that the tax money we paid into the system to fund the expansion went to other states – she gave our health care dollars to other states.

Test Three: “…those that are…needy…” Gov. Haley didn’t say anything about the needy in her Inaugural Address. But she will have to say something soon – in a court of law.

Last week, she and the state of South Carolina were sued over widespread deficiencies in the child foster-care system. The suit says that the system has endangered thousands of children, many of whom were dehumanized, belittled and abused. The suit received national media attention; National Public Radio cited “years of high-profile problems including the death of five children.”

Test Four: “… those that are…handicapped”. Once again, Gov. Haley didn’t say anything in her Inaugural Address about these folks, nor did she say anything about the recent suit where Judge Michael Baxley ruled against the state prison system for its treatment of the mentally handicapped.

The Judge’s ruling detailed the treatment of the handicapped in SC prisons: “…inmates have died in the SC Department of Corrections for lack of basic mental health care and hundreds more remain substantially at risk for serious physical injury, mental decompensation, and profound permanent mental illness.” That is the proper, antiseptic legal language of a judge; this is the language of one journalist describing one case: “…mentally ill inmates are routinely caged (naked) for days in their own feces and urine, having to literally eat where they s—t.”

And what has Gov. Haley done or said to deal with these problems since the Judge’s ruling? Nothing that we have been able to find.

So, I’ll leave it to you, the people of South Carolina, to make your own evaluation of Gov. Haley’s score on the moral test of government.

One thing she did say: “It’s a great day in South Carolina.”

The question is, for whom?

Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrat, an independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform. phil@scnewdemocrat.org   www.SCNewDemocrats.org.

Lawmakers Spend Campaign Funds on Their Businesses

By Rick Brundrett for TheNerve.org
January 14, 2015

In the 2008 and 2012 elections, S.C. Sen. Thomas Alexander faced little or no formal opposition.

Yet from December 2008 through May last year, the Oconee County Republican and chairman of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee reported spending a total of $36,657 in campaign funds on labeled printing, mailings and office supplies from a business he owns, called Alexander’s Office Supply, The Nerve found in a review of his quarterly campaign reports filed with the State Ethics Commission. Of the total, $11,310 was listed as having been spent for the 2016 election period, records show.

Alexander, who was first elected to the Senate in 1994 and previously served in the S.C. House from 1987-94, isn’t the only legislative leader in recent years who has spent campaign funds on his own business, The Nerve’s review found. Read the rest of this entry »

Speaker Jay Lucas open session

Speaker Lucas at the dais. Photo by Sam Holland

Speaker Lucas at the dais. Photo by Sam Holland

Speaker Jay Lucas open session

Speaker Lucas pledges allegiance. Photo by Sam Holland

Speaker Lucas pledges allegiance. Photo by Sam Holland

Speaker Jay Lucas open session

Speaker Lucas pounds the first session of the house to order. Photo by Sam Holland

Speaker Lucas pounds the first session of the House to order. Photo by Sam Holland

Combs Trial 1/12/2015

Defense attorney Wally Fayssoux, standing, calls for a mistrial in court on Monday. Former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs, right, is accused of murder in the shooting death of Bernard Bailey. Photo by Larry Hardy, The Times and Democrat.

Defense attorney Wally Fayssoux, standing, calls for a mistrial in court on Monday. Former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs, right, is accused of murder in the shooting death of Bernard Bailey. Photo by Larry Hardy, The Times and Democrat.

“Move Over Jeb” by Stuart Neiman

"Move Over Jeb" by Stuart Neiman

“Move Over Jeb” by Stuart Neiman

“Draw!” from The Times and Democrat

"Draw!" from The Times and Democrat

“Draw!” from The Times and Democrat

“Off Course” from The Times and Democrat

"Off Course" from The Times and Democrat

“Off Course” from The Times and Democrat

 

Combs murder trial, Day 3

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe shows the jury the gun Richard Combs used to shoot Bernard Bailey. Photo by Larry Hardy, The Times and Democrat.

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe shows the jury the gun Richard Combs used to shoot Bernard Bailey. Photo by Larry Hardy, The Times and Democrat.

Combs murder trial – Day 3

Samuel Bower testified as an expert witness for the defense in the field of law enforcement training in Friday's, Jan. 9, 2015, gives testimony for the murder trial of Richard Combs. Photo by Larry Hardy, The Times and Democrat.

Samuel Bower testified as an expert witness for the defense in the field of law enforcement training in Friday’s, Jan. 9, 2015, gives testimony for the murder trial of Richard Combs. Photo by Larry Hardy, The Times and Democrat.