Your View | Letters to the Editor | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | November 19, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: November 15, 2017 at 10:56 am
Elections at schools could be unsafe
As I approached Cottageville Elementary School on Tuesday Nov. 9, I was shocked to see signs of an election being held at the school. I was further surprised to find that the front doors to the school were literally wide open.
As a parent attending a ceremony, I followed the safety procedures for entering the school by signing in and receiving my visitor sticker. I believe if I had chosen to, I could have walked through the open doors and gone where I pleased, since the doors were open and absolutely no security in place to stop me from having done just that.
As a result of the removal of all security precautions, I signed my child out of school. I am blessed that I have the ability to quickly change my schedule and not have to throw caution to the wind as many parents had to do. I would much rather err on the side safety rather than the possibility of living with guilt and regret for rest of my life in the event of a tragedy.
In my opinion, it was extremely poor planning. Since I am not knowledgeable in the procedures determining where polling places can be held, I called the Voter Registration office in Walterboro. It was then that I spoke to Angela Upchurch. She explained to me that she had looked around Cottageville for a suitable place and decided Cottageville Elementary School was the only one.
I pointed out that there are several churches, the post office and the old elementary school building to name a few alternatives to exposing our children to anyone who walked in the door. Sure, people who have committed felonies are not allowed to vote but what or who’s stopping them from walking in anyway? No one.
With all of the injuries and fatalities we’ve seen on the news lately, I believe our children were intentionally exposed to a potential disaster.
Thank you for your concern in this matter.
Bergdahl’s story is not as simple as many believe
Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl didn’t escape unpunished. Convicted of desertion, an Army Colonel and military judge dishonorably discharged Bergdahl from the Army. Although the President avoided military selective service during the Vietnam War, he is critical of Bergdahl’s combat performance and his punishment. A President with no military experience shouldn’t assume he would have been more courageous.
Soldiers react to combat differently. While deployed to Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, the stress of combat caught up to Sergeant Bergdahl. He left his post, was captured and held prisoner for five years by a tribe loyal to Taliban. The decision to abandon his post was suicidal. Bergdahl had a better chance of being killed than captured.
A civilian who enlists in the Army must complete Army basic training. During initial training the recruit must meet standards established by the Army in order to remain in the Army and continue training. A soldier assigned to the infantry completes the Army infantry course before being sent to an infantry battalion where performance evaluations continue. Before the battalion deploys, the command has the opportunity to determine if each soldier is suitable for deployment and request replacements if necessary.
The United States Army evaluated Sergeant Bergdahl for military service as a civilian, an Army recruit, a basic infantryman and then as an Army infantryman assigned to an infantry battalion about to deploy. The United States Army found Sergeant Bergdahl mentally and physically qualified for combat.
Fear affects everyone in unexpected ways. In Afghanistan the battalion should have determined that Sergeant Bergdahl was becoming a risk to himself and the battalion. Bergdahl should have been evaluated to determine his fitness for duty. If Bergdahl’s conduct warranted punishment, he could have been expeditiously court-martialed, returned to the States, and discharged before he abandoned his post and endangered the lives of the soldiers searching for him. Someone in Sergeant Bergdahl’s chain of command should have recognized he had a problem long before he abandoned his post.
Sergeant Bergdahl is an American who, with the best intentions, volunteered to become a soldier for the United States during a time of war. After he was deployed, Sergeant Bergdahl developed a problem recognizable by other soldiers in his platoon. When the platoon recognized a problem, then the battalion should have been informed.
Sergeant Bergdahl suffered a lapse of reason that was preventable. He failed the Army only after the Army failed him. He will spend the rest of his life dealing with this incident, which is a punishment I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
Sergeant Bergdahl’s story, like the experience of many military veterans, isn’t as simple as a Presidential tweet would have you believe.
Why is airport expansion necessary?
I understand that during the recent Republican municipal election forum that a Walterboro resident expressed concern about the low-flying aircraft over her home near the Lowcountry Regional Airport. The candidates apparently tried to pass responsibility to the FAA, stating that the takeoff/landing altitudes are regulated by that federal agency.
What these candidates did not explain (and some may not have known) is that the FAA usually requires an airport to conduct an environmental assessment when it lengthens and strengthens a runway, as was done between 2001-2003. Runway 5/23 (which is the runway closest to the residential areas near the intersection of North Lemacks Street and Robertson Boulevard) was lengthened to 6,002 feet, which made it the longest runway at the airport. The FAA granted the airport a “categorical exclusion” and did not require an assessment, which would have studied, among other things, the impact of the jets and planes taking off and landing so close to residential areas.
In a letter dated May 1, 2017, a group of concerned citizens petitioned the Walterboro-Colleton County Airport Commission to investigate alternate flight paths that would require aircraft traffic to avoid flying over residential areas, and to use other runways aside from Runway 5/23. We have never received a reply, and in my requests for information from the FAA, I have never been advised that an environmental assessment has been ordered.
The residents of the North Lemacks Street Neighborhood are bearing the brunt of the noise and safety concerns. In addition, two historic districts containing approximately 200 houses, churches and other structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places are being negatively impacted.
By the time this letter is published the municipal elections will have been held. Do the city council members and mayor have any intention of addressing this problem? How about the county council members? The airport commission is comprised of members of both, as well as the county treasurer, the county auditor and other officials.
I first went to an airport commission meeting to complain about the problem in April 2016. I did not know at the time that a new business, Lowcountry Aviation, was trying to lease approximately six acres of airport property adjacent to a runway. The lease was approved on Jan. 3, 2017, and the company is now seeking approval for a “fuel farm.” The language in the ordinance stated that the company was going to handle “aircraft management; aircraft maintenance/repair/overhaul, including electronic/avionic components; aircraft modifications and upgrades; engineering design; aircraft paint; charter airline services; flight training and simulation; aircraft brokerage; aircraft rentals; aircraft on-ground services; and aircraft storage services.” A sign posted at the airport terminal advertises that the company offers “general maintenance; aircraft weighing; engine boroscope; interior refurbishment; electronic propeller balancing; helicopter main rotor track and balance; and annual and phase inspections.” How many more jets and planes will be taking off and landing at the airport once this company starts conducting business?
The South Carolina legislature passed job tax credit incentives to cover this new business. Readers have expressed excitement at the prospect of new jobs, but businesses that qualify for these job tax credits do not have to hire workers from Colleton County — the jobs only have to be created in Colleton County. How many local residents have this type of training or experience? Lowcountry Aviation has represented it is going to invest $3.2 million and hire 127 full-time employees. Isn’t it more likely that former Boeing employees who have been laid off from their jobs in North Charleston would be among the obvious candidates? (Boeing announced a layoff of 200 employees last June.) Should Colleton County residents have their health and safety threatened, their peace and quiet ruined and their homes devalued in favor of out-of-county workers who would simply drive to and from Walterboro for work?
Who is looking out for the best interests of those who are bearing the negative impacts? Why won’t the airport commission take action now before the situation gets worse? Why are taxpayers underwriting the cost of a $1.6 million expansion of the airport terminal — and why was this expansion even necessary?
Los Angeles, Calif.
Others can bring a wealth of new ideas
Having lived here for the past five years now, it didn’t take me long to understand the small city politics. It’s kind of like the Napoleonic complex whereby only the short people rule. That’s fine — or is it?
Maybe I am taller, maybe I have bigger visions or maybe I know that small is just small.
I am not here to undermine your city or your comfort zones. I just would like you to thrive and not become a ghost town. We could thrive here like Charleston or Beaufort, Bluffton and other similar destinations without the overkill of too much too soon.
Yes, this is a beautiful city and I love being here. I have met so many “tall ideas” people here who also have been blocked by the select few. I personally have been blocked for trying to offer free services to my city — everything from lectures at our hospital on appropriate topics, collective advertising for our main street businesses, community murals for downtown and even simpler ideas like setting up a coffee house for our youth. Many people shot down have lived here forever, born and raised here, and they have just given up. Many have told me of history here and that’s fine. But realize today is the most important day to move forward and look upward.
I think it’s very narrow-minded for people to blow their own horns so much. If you really do good, people know that without being told. Vote in a few newcomers. They are not trying to destroy or rattle the hubs that run this city. They want this city to grow and prosper and to move forward in community and real cooperation and lifted spirits. This is not a good time to alienate others. It’s a time to grow stronger.
Yes, let’s keep it simple. Focus on important principles. Core issues desperately cry for recognition. This small opening for others can make our world different. Don’t bully the good guys. We all do not wan to be left behind. Each person counts. Each voice counts. Each vote will count.
I will never stop advocating for higher good. I will continue to want higher good for my community. I will follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others…”
I wish good luck to all our candidates. Maybe next year on Brag About Walterboro signs we can write “Love new ideas,” “Welcome newcomers,” “One community united.”
Please set egos aside and know others can bring a wealth of new ideas. Maybe we will all prosper.