Courier Letters to the Editor 1-18-17

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No logic or necessity for seventh seat

Dear Editor,

I attended the State Delegation meeting last week and put forth the concerns of the Pickens County Taxpayers Association.

We do not see the necessity or logic for adding a seventh seat to the school board. Currently there are six districts representing equal numbers of citizens — same as county council. Will adding another seat lead the board to one-seventh better decisions, better scholastic achievements and a better school district overall? We don’t think so. Nor do we believe the seventh seat will lead to a more harmonious school board. We believe the school board has a mandate to challenge and explore every idea for improving our schools — the best ideas winning out and being implemented. Public debate is the sign of a healthy democracy. The current proposal adds a seventh board member that is appointed by the delegation and will serve 5 1/2 years. This is another bad idea. Let the voters elect who will represent them on school matters. This would be a significant step backward and flies in the face of “one-person, one-vote” decision of the Supreme Court more than a half a century ago.

The legislative action in 2016 allocating more funding to specific areas of the road system was a start. However, no real government reform was passed. Curb powers of the SCDOT Commission or eliminate it. Eliminate the state infrastructure bank. After this is 100 percent complete, a per-gallon gas tax increase could be considered if necessary.

The state should follow the local government formula for allocating state revenue to counties and cities. During the recession the state reduced the revenue sharing to counties and cities and this has not been fully restored. It must be, because all counties and cities deserve what has been promised to them by the state.

Strengthen the Ethics Commission to handle legislator ethics concerns by establishing a non-legislator staffed commission.

Strengthen current law to protect citizens and their property rights to prevent government takings.

There has been a recent effort to put citizens under oath when giving testimony to legislative committees. This would “chill” citizen input. Bad idea.

Finally, the state legislature must strengthen the FOI Law. Too often local boards and councils work in the shadows to give citizens the run-around for information and charge excessive fees.

Dan Winchester

President, Pickens County Taxpayers Association



No need to add a school board seat

Dear Editor,

We do not need a seventh school board member in Pickens County, and here’s why:

In 2006, the nine-member school board ignored a NO VOTE by a voter referendum and spent twice as much as they asked for, raising taxes to get away with it.

The Pickens County Delegation removed the three “at-large” seats in 2007, leaving six districts that match those of the county council.

By 2011, the school board had gotten spending under control.

Tie votes were never problems. Less than 2 percent were tied, and those were resolved through compromise.

Seventh-seat legislation history:

In 2013, a seventh school board seat was proposed as a tactic to get another tax-and-spend member on the board by a newly formed vocal group called Concerned Citizens of Pickens County.

A special public hearing with the delegation was held in 2013 with over 100 people in attendance. Those speaking against the seventh seat outnumbered those in favor by 3-to-1.

In June of 2015, Reps. Clary and Collins (Clemson and Easley) appeased pro-tax-increase supporters (CCPC) by submitting Bill H. 4299 to add a seventh school board seat. The bill died in the Senate.

Taxpayers have said NO three times to this bill. Voters in Pickens County are overwhelmingly fiscal conservatives.

At the 2017 delegation meeting, those speaking against the seventh seat outnumbered those in favor by 7-to-2

How H. 3346 seventh school board member legislation will affect YOU the taxpayer:

If a seventh school board district is created, it will favor Easley, with two seats on the school board while other areas of Pickens County only have one.

Delegation will most likely appoint one of the bill’s public supporters, who supports a tax increase, will overspend taxpayer funding and borrow too much. And in 2022, when the lines are redrawn, Easley will be favored again.

H. 3346 will prevent parents from having a vote on who sets policies affecting their children through two election cycles (five years).

Redistricting will cost the county government money at a time when the state is not fully funding the county. Costs were estimated by Rodney Allen of the Pickens County Election Commission to exceed $40,000 for redistricting.

The at-large seat would likely come from Easley (no district should have a monopoly of two trustees on the board) and would therefore be in violation of the Federal Voter Rights Act.

Currently, all school board trustees are elected by the people directly every four years. Passage of this bill gives the delegation power to appoint the seventh member until November 2022. This means a school board member will be unelected and unaccountable to the voters for a 5 1/2-year term.

This bill also adds the requirement that the winning candidate must get more than 50 percent of the vote, not just the highest number of votes on election day. So some of these elections will now go to a run-off election. This rule doesn’t exist in Oconee, Greenville or Anderson for a reason. A Nov. 22 run-off election scenario would be only 10 percent vote in run-offs vs. 70 percent in general election. Therefore, 10 percent of the voters have elected a board member and most likely the majority of that 10 percent will be school district employees.

Steve Haynie, Rus Smith, Alex Saitta and Johnnelle Raines

Pickens County