Friday, April 02, 2010


On the Imposition of Fee’s for Coroner’s Reports

The Lancaster County Council is currently considering the imposition of fees on reports issued by the office of the Lancaster County Coroner.

The Lancaster News reported this, but failed to note that no fees would attach to reports issued to the family of the deceased.  These reports would be stamped “Not for use in any legal proceeding” (wording subject to change).

Under the proposal, coroner’s reports issued to insurance companies, lawyers, etc., will be subject to a fee, will not be stamped, and therefore will be useable in legal proceedings.

The fee is a normal cost of doing business for insurance companies and lawyers, and Lancaster County is one of perhaps a half-dozen counties in South Carolina who do not charge for coroner’s reports.

The fee is not going to have any impact on the costs normally incurred by families following the loss of a family member.

I support the proposal.

I do not believe that the taxpayers should be subsidizing insurance companies and lawyers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


A Capital Needs Assessment & The Comprehensive Plan

In these difficult economic times it is particularly difficult to entice people to talk about capital needs. However, capital projects are critical to the development of a thriving community.

The Comprehensive Plan is anything but. It is inventory of what currently exists in Lancaster County. It spells out nothing whatsoever as far as future capital projects. So is it a plan? Not from my perspective.

The County Council is proposing to take a look at capital needs in Lancaster County, and according to the current council members, they are proposing to look twenty to twenty-five years into the future.

However, I do have a problem with County Council being the one doing the looking. This needs to be a community effort. If the public does not lead the way, it will fail.

I propose that representatives of the major elected governmental entities in Lancaster County (County Council, School Board, Lancaster City Council, Heath Springs Town Council, and Kershaw Town Council) as well as representatives of the Indian Land community (where we can reasonably expect to see a new municipality incorporated in the not too distant future) get together to name a committee of private citizens to look at capital needs countywide.

This committee should be charged with holding public meetings throughout Lancaster County for the purpose of soliciting public input. County and municipal department heads should be invited to communicate their needs as well.

The committee will need to work closely with the Planning Department , the Lancaster County Planning Commission, and the City of Lancaster Planning Commission.

What is crucial is that the Capital Needs Assessment and the revisions to the Comprehensive Plan must originate with the people.

I am not going to deceive anyone here.  If the County Council decides to go with a process something along the lines of what I have spelled out, I would very much like to head up that effort.

When we start to talk about capital needs, it will be all too easy to limit ourselves to immediate needs, and to avoid looking down the road. However, looking down the road is crucial. We must not limit our vision to five or ten years down the road. We must look forward fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five years into the future.

Some vocal residents of Lancaster County have expressed disdain at the construction of a new courthouse, particularly considering the current economic conditions. I would counter by pointing out that if the past leadership of Lancaster County, dating back twenty-five, even fifty years ago, had possessed a little bit of vision, perhaps we could have done something during a more hospitable economic climate, rather than being forced to act in the midst of a severe economic recession.

Everyone needs to understand that a capital needs assessment is not a commitment to expend monies. It is a realization of what we would like to have.

Each of us is going to have differing ideas about what capital needs are important, about the order in which capital needs should be addressed, about how much should be expended for each capital need, and about how each capital need should be funded.

For example, I believe that where possible, some of our capital needs should be addressed through private investment. As a case on point, I believe that development that creates new burdens on existing infrastructure should be required to fund, at least in part, such new infrastructure construction and upgrades to existing infrastructure as may be necessary to support that development.

One general construction provision I would advocate would be that Lancaster County, its municipalities, and the School Board bar any new public construction making use of a flat roof. My great grandfather, a prominent local architect, strenuously opposed the use of flat roofs prior to the construction of Dobson Elementary School, Erwin Farm Elementary School, and McDonald Green Elementary School. However, the proponents proceeded with flat roofs, with the unfortunate consequence that they leaked, constantly. When I attended McDonald Green Elementary School, every time that it rained, we placed all of the trash cans in the hallway under the various leak points.

What are some of the capital needs that I envision for Lancaster County? What follows are my ideas. You may have wholly different ideas. You may have additions to and/or deletions from my list. That is fine. I don’t pretend that my ideas are the beginning, middle, or end of this discussion. They have no more or less validity than any ideas expressed by any other contributor.

I know that there will be those who will say that we can’t afford all of this. At the present time they are correct. However, the wise person plans for what he wants, and then acquires what he can as conditions permit.

The plan that we put together cannot be static. Needs rise and fall. Perceptions change. Wants and desires change. We should plan to update our plan on an annual basis, with major revisions targeted for every five years.

Each of us needs to contribute our ideas to this discussion. What is it that we feel is important? What is it that we need to do immediately? What is it that we feel can wait?

Be assured that we will not all agree. However, we each need to be willing to listen, with an open mind, and to work together for a bright future for Lancaster County.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Property Tax Breakdown

For a number of years, I have tried to get the Lancaster County Council to provide a property tax breakdown on property tax notices for some of the major expenditures, specifically -

Unfortunately, to this point I have had no success.

However, after talking to several council members recently, I have hopes that 2010 may be the year when this change may appear on your property tax notices.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Fort Hood Massacre

Last week, a United States Army Officer of the Muslim faith entered an Army Readiness Center at Fort Hood, Texas, where he shot and killed 13 people, and wounded an additional 30 people.

Subsequent reports indicate that the shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had been in contact with Anwar al Awlaki, an American-born cleric now living in Yemen, where he operates a website advocating attacks against the United States.

The United States Army, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement entities are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the massacre, and have not yet made any determination as to the specific charges that will be brought against Major Hasan.

I hope that he will be charged with treason against the United States.  However, “political correctness” may prevent a charge of treason from being brought.

Regardless of the charge or charges eventually brought against Major Hasan, there are more important issues to be considered.

If an individual cannot set their country of origin, ethnic background, or religion second to their loyalty to the United States, should we permit that person to hold United States citizenship?

In a similar vein, should we permit a citizen of the United States to concurrently hold citizenship in another country?

Personally, I don’t feel that holding multiple citizenships is in the best interests of the United States, since its always leaves open the question of the national loyalty of the individual.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Motor Vehicle Policy

The Lancaster County Council adopted a resolution on Monday, November 2nd, 2009, which seek to hold County employees liable for negligent damage to County-owned vehicles.

Sounds good, right?  Well, probably not.

As written, the employee would be liable to a maximum of $1,000 per occurrence, and the policy would appear to exclude any other avenue of recovery.

What happens if an employee is driving a County-owned vehicle, is speeding, loses control, and totals the vehicle?  The employee is out a maximum of $1,000 and may lose his or her job, in which case, the County may not even receive the $1,000.  Could the County sue the employee for the negligent loss of the vehicle?  It does not appear so to me.

Even worse, as opposed to a County employee, a volunteer involved in any damage to or loss of a vehicle would have no liability whatsoever, except that the volunteer does not appear to have the same immunity from a lawsuit that appears to be implicit in the resolution in respect to County employees.

The distinction between County employees and volunteers is unlikely to engender good feelings between the two groups.

I suggest that the intent of the resolution is good, but that the implementation may well come back to haunt the Lancaster County Council.  That conclusion seems all too appropriate in light of the fact that the resolution was adopted at the first meeting following Halloween.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Health Care Reform Challenge

On September 7th, 2009, in a speech to the AFL-CIO, President Obama challenged opponents to the Democratic health care reform proposals set forth in H.R. 3200 to come up with their own proposals.

Then on September 9th, 2009, in a speech to a Joint Session of Congress, President Obama again challenged opponents to come up with their own proposals.

Of course, as became apparent during the sometimes raucous town hall meetings held during the August recess, many, and likely a majority, of us feel that the Democratic proposals offer nothing more than the nationalization of our health care system, which will ultimately result in health care rationing, likely based upon an individual’s potential contribution to society, an idea advocated by some of President Obama’s closest advisors.  Massive tax increases and unsustainable deficits will ultimately force the United States into bankruptcy and economic ruin.

I will take up President Obama on his challenge by laying out specific reform proposals.  However, unlike the Democratic proposals, for the most part, these reforms operate within the private sector.

The health care system is in need of reform. I don’t think that any of us disagree with that assertion. Where we disagree is in what kind of reform we need.

I see changes to the following areas as the best approach to health care reform:

These changes will make the health care system more responsible to the needs of the people, while addressing major problems, in the health insurance industry, in the health care delivery system, in the legal profession, and in government regulatory oversight.


Some people have expressed the concern that the requirement that the plaintiff pay court costs and legal fees if a jury finds that a lawsuit was unwarranted will discourage legitimate filings.  I disagree.  This provision is targeted at otherwise egregious cases where the intent of the plaintiff is to extort money from the defendant, who in the current environment may be encouraged to accept an otherwise unjust settlement, reasoning that it is cheaper to settle than to win a Pyrrhic victory.

Revision History

Sunday, September 27, 2009



I get so tired of repeating myself, but I will go for it one more time.

There are State and Federal requirements for courthouses.

The Old Robert Mills Courthouse did not meet these requirements, and had not met them for many years.

Unlike other jurisdictions throughout the State, where local officials had periodically renovated their courthouses, backward looking people in Lancaster had successfully blocked each and every attempt to spend money to renovate the Old Robert Mills Courthouse.

Frustrated judges, tired of inadequate security, inadequate space, overflowing toilets, and other problems too numerous to mention, had complained to local officials and to Court Administration for years, and had reached the end of their patience.

Lancaster County was left with two choices.

Construct a new courthouse, meeting all State and Federal requirements or have the courthouse shutdown.

As I have explained previously, shutting down the courthouse would have been financially disastrous for the taxpayers of Lancaster County.  Trials would have had to be moved to another County, with all expenses, including lease payments for the use of the other County's facilities, security, and transportation, paid by the taxpayers of Lancaster County.

Renovating the existing Old Robert Mills Courthouse was no longer an option, since the additions and renovations necessary to meet all State and Federal requirements would have cost more than the cost of building a new Courthouse.

You have to understand that the Old Robert Mills Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, and any and all renovations have to approved.

The County Council was left with no option but to put the issue of a new courthouse to the voters.

Unfortunately, an arsonist then struck, torching both the courthouse and the solicitor's office within days of each other.

For anyone to suggest that any elected official, appointed official, or employee of local government would advocate the torching of the most historic structure in Lancaster County is absurd, and demonstrates the kind of ignorance and backward thinking that over many years successfully prevented needed renovations to the Old Robert Mills Courthouse.

However, once the arsonist had struck, County Council's options became even more limited.  There was no longer a choice as to building a new courthouse.  There was only a choice of how to pay for it.

Many people have questioned why Lancaster County does not simply use an existing vacant building.  The simple answer is that these building do not meet the State and Federal guidelines.

Others have suggested that Lancaster County continue to hold court in the old Wamsutta store building on the Highway 9 bypass.  That also is not an option.  First, it does not meet the State and Federal requirements.  We are able to use it temporarily because the Chief Justice of the South Carolina State Supreme Court granted Lancaster County a temporary waiver.  For your information, she did not have to grant that waiver.  Second, the old Wamsutta store lies outside the incorporated area of the City of Lancaster.  A courthouse must be located within the incorporated limits of the County seat.  Again the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court granted Lancaster County a temporary waiver.  And again, she did not have to grant that waiver.

I hope that this rather long explanation will put an end to the bickering over the construction of the new courthouse.  However, I doubt that that will be the case.

There seem to be far too many people who are unable or unwilling to look beyond the end of their noses.

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