Our Kathryn gets after McMaster

Kathryn called my attention to a piece in The Free Times about our fellow Rotarian Henry McMaster (“Henry McMaster: Slumlord Millionaire?”), and I moaned about how it was way too long to get to… not realizing that she wanted me to read it because she was quoted in it extensively. I’ll quote a portion of it, and you can go to The Free Times for the rest:

The whole spectacle regarding the McMasters and their lawsuit makes University Hill resident Kathryn Fenner bristle. She’s the vice president of the University Hill Neighborhood Association and serves on the city’s code-enforcement task force, a blue-ribbon committee that was set up to make recommendations on city ordinances.

Fenner has observed Peggy McMaster for years — Peggy sits on the board of the neighborhood association — and Fenner’s house is surrounded by five properties the McMasters own.
Sitting in her modern, brightly colored, sun-lit living room with two large dogs playing around her, Fenner launches into an all-out assault on the way Henry and Peggy McMaster have handled their role as local landlords in the neighborhood. To her, their actions have been offensive.
The McMasters, she says, have a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy with their tenants regarding the city’s over-occupancy laws. As an attorney, she finds it laughable that Henry is appealing a zoning ordinance because she thinks he’s clearly ignoring precedent of the law.
But that’s the thing with the McMasters, Fenner says: They have a sense of entitlement that allows them to act like complete hypocrites, apparently without even realizing they’re doing it.
“I think that if you are supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer in the state, you probably shouldn’t be nodding and winking at lawbreaking,” she says.
She’s speaking specifically about occupancy laws, which several tenants admitted to Free Times they were breaking but said they had a wink-and-nod agreement with their landlords about doing.
Henry has fought hard against the city to keep on doing what he’s doing and several tenants are happy their landlords are going to bat for them — with good reason. The McMasters enjoy more rent money coming in and renters end up paying less individually.
But it’s the way Henry has been doing it that bothers Fenner so much.
In testimony he gave on his wife’s behalf to the zoning board in 2007, McMaster said, “The constitution says if you’re a single housekeeping unit you may not be the traditional family, but you’re a family just the same and you’re not hurting anything any more than a traditional family.”
That really bothers Fenner, a self-described Democrat, who took umbrage to McMaster’s staunch, headline-grabbing opposition to same-sex unions when a constitutional amendment to ban state recognition of them was put on the ballot in 2006.
“What offends me chiefly is the hypocrisy,” Fenner says. “The hypocrisy that we’re going to protect non-traditional families when we can make a buck out of it and we’re going to pillory non-traditional families when we can make political bucks out of it.”

23 thoughts on “Our Kathryn gets after McMaster

  1. Michael P.

    So Kathryn is the nosy old lady in the neighborhood in her neighborhood. Not surprising.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    “As an attorney, she finds it laughable that Henry is appealing a zoning ordinance because she thinks he’s clearly ignoring precedent of the law.”

    and Henry lost that case, as of today. Frivolous-lawsuit-filing sanctions, you think?


  3. Kathryn Fenner

    and I wanted you to read it because it was relevant to fitness to serve as governor, far more so than Nikki ‘n’ Will (“Wikki”? “Nill”?)….

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Actually, Michael P. I am 50, which is generally middle-aged, and I have said many times, even in in the interview, I generally don’t care what you do behind closed doors as long as it doesn’t have an undue impact at street level. Overcrowding does. For example, we don’t have enough on-street parking in my neighborhood for every dwelling unit to park one car on the street.
    If you don’t keep in-town properties up, your tax base erodes and you get flight of the well-to-do to the suburbs, with all the traffic and sprawl and…

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    An 11.5 year old German Shepherd Dog and a 4 year old Weimaraner– German American bitches, like me!


  6. Michael P.

    Now you know why I packed up and moved from Shandon to Lexington six years ago… If it wasn’t college parties next door it was the leaf rakers ringing the doorbell at 7:00 on Sunday morning. Plus I can now state that I haven’t had a single thing stolen out of my yard since moving.

    I bet those college kids are already calling you “the mean old lady next door”. FYI, 50 is 20 years into “middle-aged”.

  7. Phillip

    Michael, if college parties next door bothered you wouldn’t it be worse if too many people lived in that house to begin with? That’s the kind of thing Kathryn is fighting for.

    Chacun a son gout, as they say re Shandon vs. Lexington. For us, the ability to go to stores, grocery, PO, restaurants, work, day care, etc. either without having to get in a car or if so, driving less than 5 minutes, and no fighting traffic, is worth it. In the age of “tough oil” that’s going to be more critical. And for people who prefer to live in a more in-town environment, it’s important that everybody play by the same rules, to make life more tolerable for everybody. Kathryn’s activism is democracy in action at its finest, at the neighborhood level.

  8. bud

    Michael, I hate to tell you this but you can’t run away from crime. Our very nice middle-class neighborhood in Lexington had a major burglary epidemic a couple years ago. The perpetrators mostly stole stuff out of vehicles, including laptops and other expensive electronic devices. It was very scary for a while. Once patrols were stepped up the thefts stopped. Not sure if the thiefs were ever apprehended.

  9. Brad

    Bud, I think Rachel Maddow does a good job, based on the few times I’ve seen her.

    She interviewed me in 2008 when she was on Al Franken’s old radio network, and despite my suspicions about something I regarded as the left-wing equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, I was favorably impressed with her.

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    When the kids who shot and killed US Attorney Michael Messer in front of Bud Ferillo’s house a few years back finished in our neighborhood, they headed to Wildewood, where one lived, to continue their spree.

    We have lowered our crime rate dramatically since then, in large part because we worked tirelessly (John Stucker and Tommy Gregory) to get pedestrian level lighting on our sidewalks. We also coordinate our citizens’ crime-prevention and detection efforts with CPD. Do we still have property crime–sure, but mostly from unlocked sheds and stuff left in plain sight in vehicles. There’s no silver bullet against stupid.

  11. Mark Stewart

    I think it’s a problem when people feel forced to lock a backyard shed to keep junk from being stolen. That iss quality of life right there.

    Wondering who is in your trespassing in your back yard is just one step from wondering who is in your house.

    The problem is that property crimes are tolerated. They really represent the way “regular people” are impacted by the pervasiveness of drugs and poverty. That $200 weed-eater will take care of someone’s need for a fix.

    I would personally put those property crime issues before the concern over occupancy density of the neighborhoods immediately surrounding a major instituition of higher learning. Density isn’t a bad thing for a community and it does sort of seem like asking kids to live down on Bluff Road is hardly the answer. At the same time, I do sympathize with adults who want to live near the school; but at the heart of it they are probably in the area for the same reasons the kids want to be there, too.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    @Mark Stewart– Do I wish I could leave my purse unattended in the school auditorium at Aiken High in 1975? Sure, but my wallet got stolen–a cheap lesson given how little a 10th grader kept in her wallet in those days. Back 50s or 60s, they had PSA asking you to “Don’t help a good boy go bad” by leaving valuables out in your car. I just finished watching a Charles Dickens dramatization, and it was the same back then.
    My brother’s stolen minivan was recovered in Philadelphia with mail in it obviously left there by the thieves, and the police there were not interested–too busy with “real” crime–which is so wrong! CPD is far more responsive in my experience. Of course “no broken windows” policies can have a wonderful positive impact on crime,although it may have been overstated, and that’s a huge part of why I spent so much time on the Code Enforcement Task Force.

    Overcrowding, however, can lead to electrical problems and other fire safety issues, as well as the general appearance (broken windows) that over-crowded residences tend to take on. A neighbor was nearly burned out of her house when the student house next door burned down–she did have to vacate while extensive repairs were made to her house (fortunately she was away with her dogs at the time, or I shudder to think what might have happened)–our houses are so close together already, and most were built w/o cars in mind, so there’s no where to park, except maybe on the front yard, such as it is, or blocking the sidewalks. Overcrowding IS a safety issue, not just a scofflaw problem.

    Appropriately occupied houses can still be party houses, and we follow CPD’s advice to call them as soon as a party gets too loud. There have been incidents of armed robbery during out-of-control parties, for example.

    Target reduction can help reduce the back yard breakins–as well as a lot of the other crimes. If everyone locked his shed or doors, sooner or later petty criminals would be deterred. Real hard-core criminals will get in if they really want to, but casual junkies can’t pull a Topkapi.

    Target reduction is also important in terms of reducing the crimes of opportunity brought on by over-served (drunk) people, who tend to be disproportionately underaged, as well, staggering our streets in the wee hours, and other behaviors that may seem trivial at the time.

    Excessive density that exceeds the amount the community was designed for is a real issue. University Hill is already extremely dense, even if occupied as it was originally built–mostly single family.

  13. Phillip

    Mark, in a real college town like this the issue extends well beyond University Hill. The owner to us next door in Old Shandon tried to convert an outbuilding into another rentable space before our neighborhood association showed him evidence that it was against city code and would not be tolerated. But at the same time the students living in that same house over the years have been fine neighbors and no real problems. (though parking on the front lawn, also a violation, makes the neighborhood look crappier than it needs to). Indeed many of the people who live in-town (and this would include Cayce (the Avenues, etc.) too, are staff or faculty at USC and having the city be student-livable-friendly is vitally important to them too. It’s all about striking the right balances. When somebody gets greedy, exploitative, tries to game the system, that’s when everything gets out of whack.

  14. Kathryn Fenner

    One rap we get, and some of my neighbors do deserve, is that we hate students. I do not hate students, and I enjoy living among them, so long as they behave reasonably. Most of them do. Fortunately, the growth of the student complexes with shuttle buses that drop you off right in the middle of campus, and which have tons of student-friendly amenities, as well as the Greek Village, has tended to remove the more party-oriented element. We do have some animal-house-types, but mostly dog-owning, frisbee-throwers, international students and visually-impaired people who don’t have cars, graduate students, kids involved with the Shack Church on Greene St–a pretty sedate bunch all told. A lot of student issues arise from the transients–students walking through on their way from Five Points back to the dorms–using real estate signs to joust with, hollering and rebel-yelling in the wee hours, and attracting muggers.

  15. Ralph Hightower

    I totally agree with Kathryn Fenner’s position. Columbia’s ordinace clearly restricts the number of unrelated people from cohabitating a house within the zone.

    Now SC Attorney General, and SC GOP Gubernatorial candidate for Governor could circumvent the Columbia city ordinance by packing as many people as possible illegal aliens as possible into one rental unit to maximize the rent: grandpas, granmas, father, mother, sons, daughers, aunts, uncles, cousins…

    But then, Henry would be liable for violating Federal laws concerning illegal aliens.

  16. Ralph Hightower

    (Columbia slumlord E. W. Cromartie == Columbia slumlord Henry McMaster)
    both are slum lords;
    both are slub lords;

    EW and Henry are one and the same in their manglement of their rental properties.

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