Letters to the Editor 1-6-16

Saitta talks district’s options

Dear Editor,

I’m sure most read the article where the school district paid architects $50,000 to study the possible refitting, consolidation or closing of six buildings that included Hagood, the old Pickens Middle, Northside school in Easley and the district office, B.J. Skelton and the operations buildings. They came back with three alternatives: Plan A was to do nothing, which had a $5 million price tag. Plan B was to close Hagood and renovate it, plus do some new construction at B.J. Skelton. Various district administrative functions would then be moved into those two buildings. The total cost of Plan B is $15 million. Plan C was to close Hagood and renovate it, plus renovate the old Pickens Middle at a total cost of $22 million. All district administration functions would be moved into those two buildings.

There are two key aspects here — closing Ben Hagood and more building renovations and new construction.

The administration and board majority are moving in the direction of larger class sizes and larger schools. That’s the wrong direction. They eliminated 55 classroom teaching positions in the last two years or so. I voted against that. The plan is to eliminate 12 to 18 more teaching positions next year. Now they are proposing Hagood be closed. I oppose that, too. Simply put, I support the principle of smaller class sizes and smaller schools, in order to provide students more personalized instruction with their teachers.

The school district just finished spending $387 million, building seven new schools and renovating another 20. The district barely has the money to maintain its new buildings, much less the funds for more building plans running in the $15 to $22 million range.

If they move forward, they’ll have to borrow more. The district is still saddled with more than $300 million in construction debt (nine times the legal limit, thanks to the Greenville Plan). And they’ll have to raise taxes to fund the additional loans. If they funded Plan B over, let’s say, five years, that would be a seven-mill property tax increase. Plan C would be a 10-mill increase. School taxes have already risen from 128 to 165 mills due to the building program.

Not only do I oppose what the architects presented, but I opposed paying them $50,000 to do the study in the first place. The last eight years the district paid architects nearly $25 million in fees (enough to build a middle school). Architects make money by charging fees for drawing up plans, and if those plans are built, they charge a percentage on the size of the job. The bigger the plans, the more they make. It is not surprising that even their do-nothing alternative (Plan A) had a $5 million price tag.

We are a school district, not a construction company. Instead, the district should shift its focus back to educating children, maintain its new buildings and work on paying down some of its $300 million in staggering debt.

Alex Saitta

School board trustee


On flaws in the system

Dear Editor,

I am writing about an article I read in the Dec. l6 paper regarding the conviction and sentence of a man who killed a man in Pickens County. I’m writing this as a man who is currently incarcerated in federal prison. I feel it necessary to bring to the attention of you and your readers the disparity of treatment between the state and federal governments.

According to your article, Benjamin Anthony Vinson willfully possessed and displayed a shotgun during the commission of a violent crime. After ultimately pleading guilty to manslaughter, Mr. Vinson was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

I, too, possessed a gun illegally. Due to the fact that I had a prior felony conviction, my possession of that gun was a federal crime. At the time of my sentencing, the judge, prosecutor and probation felt that my prior felony was violent — violent enough that I should be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years — twice that of Mr. Vinson, who killed a man.

Since my conviction, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled that the prior crime used to enhance my sentence to 15 years is not a crime that can be used to enhance my sentence. As a result, my maximum sentence could not be greater than 10 years. However, due to flaws in our federal laws and an obstructionist federal judiciary, I sit in prison, serving the 12th year of my sentence.

That I am incarcerated illegally is not in dispute. Neither is the fact that I will spend more time in prison for possessing a gun than Mr. Vinson will for using one. Obviously, our system, while great, is greatly flawed. I encourage you and your readers to help do something to fix it.

Bradley Shane Sheppard

Federal Prison Camp


HUD and Obama’s stealth plan

Dear Editor,

There are so many things people are stressed about when it comes to government lately. And here’s another stressor.

The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule is a huge stress maker that many of you are probably unaware of. HUD (Housing Urban Development) revealed this plan last year, and without a doubt this is Obama’s most radical stealth attack on local control.

This is just another way for the federal government to control voting. Move in a bunch of people who typically vote Democrat and bingo, we will no longer have a conservative Upstate here in South Carolina.

If enough county councils would stand up and refuse to comply, then HUD would hopefully back down. No county has given pushback yet. Unless your county council takes a stand, you will lose any control over housing decisions. If local governments would stop taking HUD grants, that might help. It is time government starts treating property owners as property owners and not slaves to federal government overreach.

This plan will destroy your property rights, property values will go down, crime will increase in all neighborhoods and local home rule will be erased.

It requires every single community that uses HUD grants to do demographic analyses to see if enough minorities and low-income people are living in every neighborhood. HUD will search people’s personal records in each neighborhood for their race, color, religion, etc.

If HUD determines there aren’t enough people in each category, HUD alone will claim an “imbalance.” This will force social engineering without your consent.

We the people must do everything we can to prevent this from happening!

Every neighborhood will be re-evaluated every five years. There will no longer be a choice of the kind of neighborhood you wish to live in, because they will all be the same.

Home rule and local control in the U.S.A. will be eradicated.

HUD is already searching the last Census reports to find out about your neighborhood.

The recent passage of the Omnibus Bill actually increased HUD’s budget by $2.6 billion, which gave them plenty of funds at the federal level.

Please flood Congress with calls supporting S.1909, which will stop this from taking place. You can go to, and on the right hand side click “Obama order will destroy local government” and sign a petition.

 Johnnelle Raines