Gov. Haley Visits Anderson; Angie Stringer Honored at Event

Governor Nikki Haley spoke today at the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting at the Anderson County Civic Center.

During the event Anderson County Communications Director Angie Stringer was honored as Leadership Anderson Alumni of the Year. 


Saying Goodbye to "The Voice of the People"

The Morning Show on Anderson’s WRIX-FM 103.1, the last local FM radio station in the county, exhaled its final breath at midnight Friday, when the new satellite-fed WHQA Southern gospel music begins broadcasting on the once-local signal. 

More than 40 callers chimed in to praise the show and bemoan the exit of the Anderson institution. The well-wishers included long-time listeners, public officials and former Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston. Dozens of others emailed, sent texts, posted on the show's Facebook page and called to leave best wishes off the air. 

The move marks the end of a long era of local programming and community involvement by a station founded on the show’s concept of serving as “The Voice of the People” in Anderson for the past 30-plus years. 

“I think this is a sad day for Anderson County,” said Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns. “The station has been a part of the fabric of this community for so many years, with the daily morning show serving as a valuable and unique source of local news and information. It has also served as an advocate of the agencies and people doing good things in our community in ways no one else has. It will be sorely missed.”

WHQA will no longer carry local programming such as “The Morning Show” (now hosted by Greg Wilson and Aly Haley), though it will continue to run the current classic hits format until the FCC finalizes the sale of the station in mid-or-late February. Once the transfer of ownership is complete, the new station will carry Southern Gospel music piped in via satellite. 

The Morning Show has indeed served as a conduit for news and information in the community since the early 1980s when station owner Matt Phillips and his co-host Beverly “Bev” Brandon started a ball rolling which soon became an essential element for almost anyone doing anything in the community. While no politician or other local leader or business was able to avoid Bev’s sharp tongue (and who didn’t entertaining her take on community events), the pair never turned away from being first in line when a need arose in the community, offering hundreds of one-air hours to helping the community.

The Morning Show was first and foremost local, sometimes to a fault. Current Morning Show Co-Host Greg Wilson said the show has always been about Anderson and Anderson County and the folks who live nearby, who drive here to attend church, to work, shop, eat, attend arts and entertainment events. On a good day, the FM signal carries west past Lavonia, Ga., north beyond Highlands, N.C., and south and east to Greenwood.  

For years it was the Matt and Bev Morning Show, where the show evolved into a wild ride of entertaining by unpredictable and untamed promotion of community fundraisers, charitable organizations, and of WRIX itself. Bev’s outrageousness (her rants, rumors, facts and almost everything in-between) even led to the Anderson Independent-Mail adding a very Bev-like section to their editorial page called “Straight Talk” in the mid-1980s. 

That spirit lived on with the hosts who followed them on the Morning Show, John Woodson, George Ducworth, Michael “Pork Chop” Branch, and current hosts Greg Wilson and Aly Haley.  

“The Morning Show” was the best of what local radio has to offer. It helped unite a community, reminding listeners that even though the place they call home is changing faster than anyone can track, we still live in a special place where people have not forgotten what makes Anderson and its people wonderful. The show helped give folks a sense of place, serving as a reminder of what has gone before and putting in context of what is happening today.  

Want to know the name of the guy who ran the old “Shining Tower” restaurant back in the 50s and 60s? Call The Morning Show. Somebody will call with an answer and usually add a story as a bonus. (It was Vic Wilson, and he always gave the kids a roll of Life Savers at checkout). 

Need to promote a fundraiser for a child with cancer, a church building project or just about any other project aimed at helping a neighbor? Call The Morning Show. 

In other words, “The Morning Show” was more than a time slot, it was truly the self-proclaimed “voice of the people” for Anderson. And it was run by hosts who love this community and who are committed to making our hometown a better place to work and live.

“My family reaches back seven generations in this community, and Aly and I have tried to make The Morning Show all about advocacy for any group or individual doing anything to make Anderson County a better place to work and live,” Wilson said. “We love Anderson, and do everything we can to make the show a daily local source for news and other useful information you just can’t get anywhere else. Nothing else offers a format as instantaneous as radio. It is indeed sad to know we are about to lose one more local institution.”

AIM, Meals on Wheels, the Haven of Rest, the Good Neighbor Cupboard and other local churches and agencies were a regular part of the show, as were advocates for awaress of mental illness, senior citizens issues and many other groups. It served as a town hall for those needing to get the word out. And now it is no more.

“We believe Anderson is an amazing place to work and live,” said Haley, whose family also runs several generations deep in the community. “Being forced to say goodbye to the opportunity we have had to serve this community through the Morning Show is very difficult. For many of our older listeners who do not have internet access nor subscribe to a printed newspaper, we were their only source or local news, weather, traffic and other events. They’ll miss us, and we’ll miss them.”

Former-owner Tom Ervin, a Greenville attorney who previously served as a judge and a state legislator, bought WRIX 103.1 FM, WANS 1280 AM and WRIX 1020 AM in August 2013, with the promise of maintaining a commitment to local involvement. 

At the time of the sale in 2013, Ervin said: 

"Our immediate focus is to continue to provide positive programming for this great community.  Local radio is special...special to its loyal listeners, special to its advertisers and it is special to me,” Ervin said at the time of the purchase.  “Our mission is to provide quality programs, delivered in a professional manner, that focus on the latest news, sports, weather, and stories of local interest to our listening audience. Folks will hear some new and exciting things but they will also be able to tune in to some of the core programming that has always been the cornerstone of WRIX and its sister stations" he added. 

But after 18 months, which included a failed bid for governor (which The State newspaper reported Ervin cost almost $5 million), Ervin likely needed revenue to recoup some of his losses.

Ervin formally agreed in December to donate the stations to a the non-profit, The Power Foundation in Greenville, in exchange for an $800,000 tax deduction plus an undisclosed amount of cash to purchase the properties where the radio towers reside. This after Ervin declined to consider an offer from a group local capital investors to keep the station a local presence and continue it’s role as “the voice of the people.” 

John R. McClure Jr., president of The Power Foundation, a nonprofit foundation in Greenville that operates 17 Christian stations covering 10 states, is expected to announce details for the stations in the days ahead, including plans for WANS, which has added a low-power FM translator to compliment the WANS 1280 AM signal, and a proposal for a christian teaching format station at the daytime-hours-only gospel WRIX 1020 AM (which has been off the air for several months), and with Southern gospel music broadcasting on the new WHQA (formerly WRIX) 103.1 FM. 

After Friday morning’s final show, Wilson and Haley expressed gratitude to the listeners and sponsors who had put the show and the station on a path to be successful.

“We are so thankful for all our of listeners and sponsors for supporting the Morning Show,” Wilson said. “We share their concern and dismay that we have been cancelled.” 

“Our listnerers, sponsors and supporters have been incredible," said Haley. "They are like family, and we will miss them. And the Morning Show and the December format change to classic hits throughout the day had put us on a fast track to financial stability and success. It's too bad we weren’t give the opportunity to continue.”


Haley Creates Domestic Violence Task Force

On Thursday, Gov. Nikki Haley was joined by an army of victim’s rights advocates, law enforcement agency officials and criminal justice heads at the State House to sign an executive order creating the South Carolina Domestic Violence Task Force.

Haley, who will chair the task force, said it will begin to meet within a year and hold quarterly public meetings to share results and listen to those who have been a victim of domestic violence.

The task force’s main goals will be to work in several phases collecting data from counties around the state, identifying specific problems causing domestic violence and implementing approved solutions for combating and preventing domestic violence in future generations.

Haley said she is confident the task force will produce results.

“I’m a mom, I’m a wife and I’m a sister, and I’ve got to protect those around me,” Haley said. “But, in order to protect those around me, we have to change the culture. If we don’t, we will continue to see generational cycles of domestic violence in South Carolina.”

South Carolina has been ranked top in the nation for women killed by men in domestic-violence related incidents. Haley said she hopes the task force will be the beginning of the end for the upward trend of victims killed by domestic partners in the state.

Haley said the task force is divided into three subcommittees aimed at tackling the different angles of the ongoing issue.

South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling will lead the division on criminal justice. Richele Taylor, the director for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, will head the division on community outreach. And Katie Morgan, a division director at the Department of Social Services, will lead the division on victim and offender services.



Lawmakers Ponder S.C. Weird Judge Election System

When S.C. lawmakers cast votes in judicial elections next week, one race pitting the spouse of a lawmaker against a 16-year incumbent will raise questions about how South Carolina chooses its judges.

Running for an Administrative Law Court seat are Bill Funderburk – the husband of Democratic state Rep. Laurie Funderburk of Camden – and Carolyn Matthews of Columbia, the 16-year incumbent seeking re-election to the $107,000-a-year post.

No state law bars the spouse of a lawmaker from running for judge, but the drama unfolding in the contest has lawmakers wincing at the fight for the seat and how it will reflect on them.

“It only amplifies or casts into question the whole role of the General Assembly of voting in these races to begin with,” said state Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, a member of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission that vets judicial candidates’ qualifications.

“It's a very uncomfortable position for all of us to be in,” said Martin, who has pledged to vote for Matthews but is rethinking his vote.

It’s a discomfort that Rep. Funderburk will deal with by not casting a vote in the race next Wednesday, one of 22 judicial contests the General Assembly will decide.

“They’re running on their merits,” Funderburk told The State of the candidates. “As far as anything else anyone is saying, you'll have to talk to them.”

Bill Funderburk, a part-time municipal judge in Camden and retired attorney for the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, said his legislator-wife has taken no actions on his behalf.

“The fact that I’m a lawyer doesn't have anything to do with who I’m married to,” he said. “Whether people vote for me is their decision on my merits.”

But the Funderburks have been under fire from opponents.

Matthews’ husband, John McAllister, said his wife’s challenger should withdraw from the race to avoid the conflict of interest created by being married to a member of the judge-selecting General Assembly.

McAllister sent a letter to House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, Thursday asking him to encourage Rep. Funderburk to tell her husband to exit the race.

“Every judge in this state is in danger of being the victim of cronyism, and in this case, nepotism every time they offer for re-election,” McAllister wrote, also calling for Rep. Funderburk to be removed from an ethics-related committee.

“Members are reluctant to vote against one of their own,” McAllister told The State Thursday, calling recent criticism of his wife’s work ethic “scurrilous.”

Lucas’ office had no comment.

South Carolina is one of three states where legislators elect judges, and the only state of those where candidates are not nominated by the governor.

Full Story Here


Report: S.C. Failing Grades on Small Business; Low Wages

A new report gives South Carolina failing grades in terms of small business and microenterprise ownership as well as jobs being low-wage.

The data, compiled in CFED’s 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard and released Thursday by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), underscore the critical need to secure recurring funding for the state’s new Microenterprise Development Act, passed in 2014, which would jump start economic opportunity for communities across South Carolina. The Scorecard ranked the state 41st for small business ownership and 31st for microenterprise ownership. The report also found that 33.2% of South Carolina’s jobs are low-wage, ranking it 45th among states.

“We applaud the South Carolina General Assembly’s efforts to improve microbusiness ownership by passing the Microenterprise Development Act of 2014. Funded initially by the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the Act created the state-funded Microenterprise Partnership Program,” said Bernie Mazyck, President and CEO of the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development. “This will help build wealth among low-income families and communities by allowing more residents to start and build their own businesses.” 

South Carolina received a “D” in the area of Financial Assets & Income, a reflection of the state’s high level of income poverty (ranking 44th) and the large number of consumers with subprime credit rates and borrowers with debt 90 or more days past due (ranked 46th and 49th, respectively). The state ranked 42nd in the number of unbanked households and 46th in the number of underbanked households, with 25.6% of households still turning to alternative financial services despite owning a mainstream bank account. South Carolina’s rating of “F” in Businesses & Jobs, mentioned above, was further driven by ranking 49th in business ownership by race, with the rate of business ownership 2.5 times as high as the rate for workers of color.

The state also received a rating of “D” in Education, a grade underscored by low levels of degree attainment from high school and beyond. South Carolina ranked 46th in four-year degrees by income, with the rate of degree attainment in people in the top 20% of earners 5.6 times as high as the rate among the lowest earning 20%. The state received a “D” in Health Care, due in part to high rate of uninsured households (18.5%, ranked 37th).

The Scorecard also evaluates 68 different policy measures to determine how well states are addressing the challenges facings residents. While the data show that South Carolina has made good strides toward adopting supportive policies in Housing & Homeownership, the state varies widely in its overall rankings across all of the issue areas, highlighting the difficulty of adopting policies that address the full spectrum of needs for the state’s low- and moderate income families. In the five policy issue areas addressed by the Scorecard, South Carolina ranked 33rd in Financial Assets & Income, 38th in Businesses & Jobs, 3rd in Housing & Homeownership, 22nd in Health Care and 44th in Education.

To read an analysis of key findings from the 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, click here. To access the complete Scorecard, visit http://assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard


WYFF: 58% of Anderson School Buses Over 15 Years Old

WYFF News 4 Investigates analyzed the approximately 5,500 school buses in South Carolina's fleet.  The buses are owned and maintained by the state, not the school districts.  Over 60 percent of the buses are more than 15 years old, according to data provided by the Department of Education.

Ryan Cothran, director of public safety and transportation for Spartanburg School District 5, showed WYFF News 4 Investigates the district's 34 buses.  He said they range in age from early 1990s models to 2014 models.  He said a 1988 model bus is supposed to be a spare, but it's used nearly every day because other buses break.  Cothran said the problems can stem from cold weather or just old age.

Cothran said the buses are safe and inspected every month.

"They do not let them leave the lot if there's anything wrong with them," Cothran said.

But when there is something wrong, Cothran said ultimately the students suffer.  

"They might be 30, 40 minutes late, might be late to class, might not get breakfast at school," Cothran said.  

WYFF News 4 Investigates analyzed the school buses in the Upstate, based on information provided by the Department of Education.  Here is a look at the approximate percentage of buses in Upstate counties that are older than model year 2000.  According to the data below, there are two bus shops in Greenville County.  

Anderson: 58%
Abbeville: 60%
Cherokee: 76%
Greenville: 53%
Greenwood: 64%
Laurens: 62%
Oconee: 62%
Pickens: 60%
Spartanburg: 62%
Taylors: 57%

In Georgia, the local school districts purchase and own their buses.  In North Carolina, the buses are purchased with money from the local school districts, and also state money.  

South Carolina law recommends that the state replace around 360 buses each year, but it's not a requirement.  Last year, the Department of Education said only nine buses were replaced.

Before South Carolina's Superintendent of Education, Mick Zais, finished his term in January, he submitted his budget request for the fiscal year, and requested $34 million to buy new buses.  He said they cost about $82,000 apiece, and right now the state is spending around $12,000 on each bus to keep it running.

"They're inefficient and expensive to operate, and we're being penny wise and pound foolish because we save money when we replace those old buses.  Every year, I go over to the General Assembly and beg for money to replace our aging buses," Zais said.

The new Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman, will take up the issue when lawmakers consider the request for money for new school buses in the coming months. 

It will be a tough sell, according to Sen. Wes Hayes, (R) York County. Hayes is chair of the Senate Finance K-12 Education Subcommittee.  Hayes said replacing the old buses is a priority but, "We only have so much money."  

Zais said the Department of Education does receive some unclaimed lottery dollars, but he said it's not enough to compensate for the inadequate funding.

The vast majority of South Carolina's school buses, even the new ones, run on diesel fuel.  The Department of Education said school buses are replaced based on each district's need.


Missing Anderson Man Found

UPDATE: Phillip Gillenwater has been located.  He was found about 5 miles away from his home.  He is okay but will be transported to the hospital to be checked out.

The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance to help locate Phillip James Gillenwater.   

Phillip has been missing since midnight last night from 209 Old North Church Road in Anderson.  

He is described as a white male, age 30, 6’, 150 lbs., with long brown hair and a beard.  He was last seen wearing a blue Adidas hooded sweatshirt, blue sweatpants and gray shoes.

Per the family, Phillip suffers from a mental disorder for which he takes medication.  He has the functionality of a 10 year old but may become confused and/or agitated if approached.  Anyone who locates Phillip is advised to use caution and call 911.


S.C. House Passes Bill to Revamp Ethics 

The S.C. House unanimously passed legislation Wednesday to revamp the S.C. Ethics Commission to investigate complaints against all public officials.

“The House has made unprecedented progress in working together to repair the fractured relationship between the public and their elected officials,” House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said in a statement.

The newly structured Ethics Commission would be made up of 12 members — four each appointed by the governor and Supreme Court, and two each appointed by the House and Senate.

The bill requires one more perfunctory reading and then will head to the Senate for debate.

The House has passed three of its roughly 20 ethics bills, including another that bars public officials from having political action committees.

“By establishing an independent investigation, the public can rest assured that each case will receive unbiased attention,” Lucas said in a statement. “Additionally, we have eliminated the influence of PACs in hopes that politics will become more honest and transparent.”



Rep. Jonathon Hill Wants Judges to Take Morals Quiz

A Republican S.C. House member wants to know about the “personal relationship” that would-be state judges have with the “Supreme Being,” whether they would perform a gay marriage and how they would rule if a woman sued for equal pay.

“Those things … would give an indication of how ... they see the world, and how you see the world is going to have everything to do with how you see law, and how a judge should treat law,” said state Rep. Jonathon Hill, who issued the 30-question survey.

State staffers quickly squelched the survey as improper.

Candidates for judgeships are barred ethically from responding to some of the questions, said University of South Carolina law school ethics expert Greg Adams, referencing the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.

“Answering these questions amounts to a promise to decide future cases in accordance with this political pledge,” Adams said.

Adams also said some of the questions amount to a religious test to hold public office, barred by the U.S. Constitution.

Judicial elections are controversial in South Carolina, where legislators elect judges. Some criticize the process for giving the Legislature too much control over the judicial branch of government, threatening its independence and injecting too much politics into the process.

Hill said he tried not to ask leading questions because he wanted honest answers. “If you’re a candidate and you tell me ... what you think I want to hear … that doesn’t help me at all.”

None of the candidates had responded to the questionnaire as of Tuesday afternoon, Hill said.

Full Story Here

Here are the questions:

Questions asked:

1. Name

2. What religious or community organizations are you actively involved in, if any?

3. As an attorney, what has been your greatest achievement?

4. What Federal or State Justice do you most closely identify with or respect? Please explain why.

5. Do you agree or disagree with the Judge Manning’s ruling in Harrell v. Wilson, that only the House Ethics Committee has the authority to investigate the Speaker of the House.

6. Do you agree or disagree with the majority decision in Abbeville County School District v. State of South Carolina? Please explain why.

7. Do you agree or disagree with the majority decision in Anderson v. South Carolina Election Commission which disqualified hundreds of challengers in the Republican and Democrat primaries?

8. Should the Constitution be interpreted according to the original intent, or is it an evolving document with flexibility for the issues of today? Please explain.

9. Do you believe in the “Supreme Being” (SC Constitution, Article VI, Section 2)? What is the nature of this being? What is your personal relationship to this being? What relevance does this being have on the position of judge? Please be specific.

10. Will you make prayer and religious displays (such as the Ten Commandments) a part of your court? Please explain why or why not.

11. Is there ever at time you would make a decision influenced by foreign legal systems and/or international law? Please explain why.

12. What role will precedents play in your decisions? What if you disagree with the precedent?

13. If a state and federal law conflict, under what circumstances would you rule in favor of upholding the state law?

14. Please name an example of a Federal violation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and state how you would respond as a state-level judge.

15. What role do you wish to play in effecting policy change?

16. What factors would motivate you to assign the maximum penalty for a crime, given a guilty verdict? What about the minimum penalty?

17. What is jury nullification, and what is your perspective on it?

18. Are there cases you would feel a need to recuse yourself from? If so, what cases would those be?

19. Would you ever assign the death penalty in a particular case? Under what circumstances?

20. In a case where someone was assaulted because he was gay, would you consider it a “hate crime” and increase the penalty?

21. Do you believe unborn children have rights? If so, how would those factor in to your decisions as a judge?

22. How would you handle a murder case in which the victim had actually requested help committing suicide?

23. Do you agree or disagree with the argument that homosexual marriage is a “right” protected under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which would render S.C.’s 2006 marriage amendment unconstitutional. Please explain why.

24. Would you perform a homosexual marriage, either voluntarily or involuntarily?

25. Does the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution apply only to the militia and military, or to the people at large?

26. Given a case where a local gun restriction ordinance was being challenged, would you uphold the ordinance or strike it down? What factors would play into that decision?

27. If a woman sued her employer because she was paid a lower rate than her male coworkers, would you rule in her favor or not? Please explain why.

28. Do you see any conflict of interest allowing legislators who are practicing attorneys to vote in your race?

29. Would you like to see the current judicial selection process changed? If so, how?

30. South Carolina is currently a right-to-work state. Is this a position you will support or work to undermine in your rulings?


Judge Throws Out Convictions of Friendship Nine

A South Carolina judge on Wednesday threw out the convictions of the Friendship Nine, who were jailed in 1961 after a sit-in protest in Rock Hill, South Carolina, during the civil rights movement.

"Today is a victory in race relations in America," said Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said in a news conference following the ruling. "It is a new day."

The prosecutor who pushed for this momentous day, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett of Rock Hill, cited King's father when explaining to CNN on Tuesday why he was motivated to take up the cause of the Friendship Nine: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."


Haley, House Take Different Paths to Fixing Roads

Gov. Nikki Haley brought reinforcements to a news conference Wednesday to help push her proposal to raise money for fixing the state’s aging roads and bridges through a gas-tax increase coupled with a cut in the income tax.

But House Democrats, who held a counter conference immediately after, noted that the support was coming from Haley’s hand-picked Cabinet members: Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt, Department of Transportation chief Janet Oakley and Department of Parks, Revenue and Tourism Director Duane Parrish.

“We are now the state with the highest income tax in the Southeast,” Haley said. “We are now a state that is not going to look as competitive.”

Haley’s plan has been met with mixed reactions. It would raise the tax on gasoline by 10 cents over three years while reducing the state income tax from 7 percent to 5 percent over 10 years. It also calls for restructuring the Department of Transportation.

Hitt said an income tax cut would bring South Carolina a lot of attention, while Oakley said the gas tax increase would be a first step toward restoring the state’s roads. Haley’s plan, combined with revenue from the sales tax on vehicles, would generate about $400 million a year, while DOT has said it needs an additional $1.4 billion a year to maintain and improve the state’s roads.

Haley said DOT has a lot of wants and needs, and her plan addresses the agency’s needs.

“This is not the last time we’re going to talk about roads,” Haley said. “That’s always going to be a conversation.”

Afterward, state Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, dismissed the proposal, labeling it “not a roads plan,” and adding that’s why “she now wants to consider this a tax reform plan.”

Smith said Haley’s plan is “ill conceived” and claimed it is not being given serious consideration by the Legislature; it hasn’t been filed as a bill and her proposal has not been taken up by any committee.


Anderson County Finance Committe to Meet Friday 

The Andersson County Council Finance Committee will meet Friday at 1 p.m. in the council chambers of the historic courthouse downtown.

The public is invited.


Fuel Spills After Truck Crash on S.C. 178

A tractor trailer crash caused a fuel leak Tuesday evening on Highway 178 and Baugh Road in Anderson County.

A WYFF News 4 photographer on the scene said the truck leaked its own fuel, and that a hazmat crew responded to clean up the mess. The wreck involved a car as well. No one was hurt in the wreck, according to Anderson County deputies.