You probably already saw that Richland County Councilman Greg Pearce has joined the majority of the county’s legislative delegation in calling on the problem members of the Recreation Commission to resign — and threatening to freeze their funding if they don’t.
That was good. Now there’s this…
Joel Lourie has sent me a copy of a letter from Carl Blackstone, president and CEO of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, making the same demand. Here’s a PDF of the letter. It’s one of those PDFs that won’t let me grab text for an excerpt, but here’s a screenshot:
Lest you wonder whether Mr. Blackstone is speaking for the whole Chamber, he tells lawmakers at the end, “The Columbia Chamber and I join you in your call for change.”
Joel welcomed the business community’s involvement, to say the least. He told me he met with some folks at the Chamber last week and the Recreation Commission mess was “all they wanted to talk about.”
“Our delegation needs to hear from you,” he said he told Chamber leaders. “I want our delegation to feel the heat.”
Of course, most of the delegation was already there.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say this sort of stance by the Chamber is unprecedented, but I’ll say I don’t remember having seen the group stepping out into local political controversy to this extent since the late Ike McLeese was president.
So, the question rises — how much longer can self-exiled director Brown’s friends on the board continue to hold out in the face of this gathering consensus?
Whoa! Did I just scoop Ron Aiken on this? I’m not seeing it on his site….
But I see the letter is dated the 6th, so maybe he had this last week…
Just got a call back from Carl as I was leaving a Community Relations Council meeting. I’ll have an addendum when I get to my laptop at home…
Dang. I got home late, then had to leave to go pick up my car where the garage had left it with the keys inside, then got home again, and finally ate… and never got around to writing that addendum.
Then, this morning, I left the notes at home.
When I have them again, I’ll write a short, separate post…
While they are politely asking these persons to resign, do ya’ think the County Council might find some way to redesign that commission so that they can simply fire the folks who don’t do their job?
The county can’t do that. This is a special purpose district, a creature of the Legislature….
Oh, it’s a creature alright. I’m just trying to decide what kind. Cyclops, Minotaur, Hydra…
I wonder if some activist might not want to figure out how to get the issue of these single county special purpose districts, which are contrary to state constitutional law (Home Rule), before a court that might do something about them?
It’s such a mess.
The Delegation can’t fire anybody, or reconfigure the commission. Also, the delegation can’t do away with it — the whole Legislature would have to act. And constitutionally, the Legislature (I think; I’m a little fuzzy on this — were I still at the paper I’d ask Cindi before writing it) can’t pass legislation that affects just one small part of the state.
You need a movement to overcome legislative inertia and get them to do away with ALL such SPDs. Which means a movement that can overcome perhaps 500 separate constituencies, each of which would see it as a matter of institutional survival. Also, many of them provide popular services and generally get good press. The Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission comes to mind.
The SPDs sell themselves by saying, Look at all the fine, vital services (such as fire protection, water, other utilities) we provide — ignoring the fact that those services can be provided at least as well under a more rational governance…
Why won’t Nikki Haley use her power to remove them? Is there really a fear of backlash from the black community?
Or do we think there is some type of buyout/negotiation/job reassignment going on behind the scenes? A Lillian McBride style shuffle? I hope not but wouldn’t be surprised.
The legislature may not pass single county bills, but –ta da–it does…
Why does a county need a staff this large to run playgrounds? I’d think a couple guys to mow the grass should be sufficient. I don’t see the need for a bunch of overprice white collar positions.
Claus, You must remember that this agency stands alone, does not report to any other unit of government. And this is a big part of the problem. It has to have its own human resource, finance, accounting, maintenance and supervisory personnel. They have several recreational complexes they run, along with many programs. Most all these Special Purpose Districts, as Brad points out above, should report as line agencies under an elected board (in this case Richland County Council). But they report to nobody. The legislature creates them, appoints a board, requires funding, and sends them on their way.
How did we get here?
Well, it started with the fact that before the Home Rule Act in 1975, there were no county governments to speak of. In keeping with our Legislature-centric form of government in SC, since colonial days, local matters were largely handled by the county legislative delegation. They appointed school boards, approved budgets, basically ran everything.
And when some new need arose — say, there was a large growth in population in one part of a county, and folks in that area didn’t have access to proper fire protection, a fire district would be created, a board appointed, and it would be empowered to raise taxes, hire staff, buy fire trucks, etc.
Eventually, you’d likely have three or four fire districts, ,multiple water districts, recreation districts, etc. — not to mention multiple school districts — all in the same county. Just a crazy level of fragmentation, with all these individual little governments running them.
The Home Rule Act created county governments, and put them under elected councils. That would have been the time to dissolve all those SPDs. That did not happen…
And why mus there be a separate line item on our property tax bills for the Recreation Commission? Their funding should come from a budget controlled at the county level – that could be the first line of defense to hold them accountable.
It’s always been a pet peeve of mine that I pay for those parks but can’t use many of the facilities because they are rented out to leagues. What exactly do I get for the portion of my tax bill that goes to the parks? Access to a swing set? Which also leads me to wonder why we have so many fields and outdoor basketball courts on school grounds paid for by property taxes and yet they are enclosed by a perimeter of fences around both the field AND the school grounds… most of those fields sit unused during the evenings and weekends.
Couldn’t the SC legislature pass a law that specifically places all the SPDs under each county government? Seems like that way, each county could decide which SPDs to keep, which ones to drop, and generally keep the SPDs accountable.
I don’t really know much about the logistics of all of it, but that seems sort of possible, right?