Stopping the vote

Recently S.C. Sen. Larry Grooms made a call to the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission and got a scheduled vote on I-526 removed from the agenda. I recognize that Mr. Grooms is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, yet he has no business ordering the DOT Commission to halt a scheduled vote. In addition, Sen. Grooms is from Berkeley County. Why is a Berkeley County representative sticking his nose into Charleston County business?

State government is structured to prevent a select few from controlling everything that happens. Yet the action taken by Sen. Grooms is a fine example of powerful political leaders forcing changes where they have no authority.

As taxpayers, we should ask what Sen. Grooms has to gain or lose by getting involved in a low priority, highly controversial, very expensive highway project in a county that didn’t elect him.

What is it about this project that has involved so many Democratic and Republican state, county and city politicians? Why is it so important to take almost any measures to keep it alive? It’s simple: They’ve made a lot of promises and owe a lot of people.

Who is going to pay for this project? The taxpayers of South Carolina. By the time this project is finished each of us will have paid between $3,000 and $5,000.

I-26 and the port of Charleston have a lot more economic value than the completion of I-526. Let’s put our tax dollars where they will do the most good. It’s not Joe’s Island, it’s Johns Island and it needs to stay that way. Tell your elected officials. They need to know.

Joe Hodapp

Maybank Highway

Johns Island

Moral compass

As we watch our politicians in Washington demonstrate how our nation has lost its sense of direction, we must ask ourselves how we have contributed to this disgrace. We elected the politicians. They are a reflection of our beliefs. When was the last time you challenged a politician on his votes on moral and ethical grounds?

Is the Affordable Care Act debate about forcing citizens to pay for health care they do not want? We are forced to have car insurance, to pay for Social Security and to wear seat belts because society realized that we cannot afford the costly consequences of neglect. How is this debate any different?

The debate should be about how we continue to ignore over 40 million Americans living in fear of a health crisis that could destroy their lives. America supports social causes all over the world, and we deny our own people a fundamental right to secure, affordable health benefits.

Heaven forbid that you have lost your job and are in financial distress or, even worse, you have experienced a high-risk disease or you are over 55 and without a company health plan. Your health care costs will either bankrupt you, or you will stay uninsured and pray that you make it to 65 without a serious illness.

The system is not perfect, so the debate should be about improving it. It is time for us to reset our moral compass and demand our politicians debate a compassionate future rather than continue our morally bankrupt course.

John Ptolemy

Saint Julien Drive

Eutawville

Fitting venue

Over the years I have heard local voices say that they have no problem with contemporary architecture but they have not seen any good contemporary architecture proposed in Charleston. It is time for those naysayers to be put on notice because, with the construction of the Spaulding Paolozzi Center at 292 Meeting St., we would have a truly great piece of contemporary architecture and a fitting venue in which to teach architectural design and preservation in the historic city.

The scale and massing of the building are excellent in terms of how it relates to the immediate neighborhood, and also to the overall rhythm and urban fabric of the city.

The relationships with the adjacent historic buildings are exceptional due to a skillfully handled combination of building forms and outdoor spaces. The tradition of Charleston gardens is a significant part of this exceptional design.

The strong sense of entry from Meeting Street will welcome the community into the building and encourage them to become engaged in the education of designers who will lead the architectural design and preservation of Charleston going forward.

The materials and detailing used in the building reflect Charleston’s history of architectural craft in masonry, metal and stucco brought forward through the power of 21st century design technology.

Perhaps most importantly, the design of this building is inspired by the strength of the sunlight in Charleston, and the many ways of responding to it through shading and screening which have been the basis of Charleston’s cutting-edge architectural design for the past 250 years.

This is a very significant architectural event in the history of Charleston, and I encourage the Board of Architectural Review to approve it unconditionally so that Charleston can continue its longstanding role of leadership in architectural design and preservation in America.

Robert C.Schmitt, FAIA

Architect

Deepwood Drive

Charleston

Federal fiasco

As taxpayers, we are on the hook for $634 million that appears to have been wasted on the Affordable Health Care website. The rollout has been a fiasco, and now the administration is undergoing a “tech surge” likely to boost our total cost to $1 billion or more.

To compound the issue, the Department of Health and Human Services spent $56 million in 2012 to conduct 140 conferences across the United States. That is an average of $400,000 per conference. If that doesn’t constitute abuse, tell me what does.

Lastly, HHS made the decision not to advise the president prior to the launch about problems it was having.

The devil is in the details, and all senior people should have been engaged throughout the process. I wonder if the president knows how to roll up his sleeves and become immersed in the details of his most important legislative bill. He knows how to roll up his sleeves when he is on the campaign trail. Campaigning is fun. Tending to the details is hard work.

Now is the time to replace HHS Secretary Sebelius.

ED GILLIGAN

Marsh Hawk Lane

Kiawah Island

CCSD 101

I read with interest Barry Goldsmith’s review of Diane Ravitch’s latest book, “Reign of Error.” It was interesting to note Dr. Ravitch’s shift from endorsing No Child Left Behind and its focus on test scores and school labeling to a more credible caution against using a standardized test score to grade school success.

Mr. Goldsmith, however, was incorrect when he stated that “entire faculties lost their jobs” based on test scores, “as happened in Charleston County at four elementary schools: Burns, North Charleston, Sanders Clyde, and Memminger.” This is just not the case.

Those four schools were part of a well thought out plan called the Renaissance Project, whose goal is to change the schools’ culture, teaching, learning and student outcomes in these four schools. Teachers were offered an extended contract (212 days vs. 190 days) in order to participate in professional development, requiring them to indicate their desire to return to the school.

Multiple factors including classroom observations from multiple observers, professional qualities and experience and student growth data were considered and analyzed prior to offering a teacher a contract in one of the four schools. Other teachers desiring to teach in a Renaissance school had to participate in the district’s rigorous interview process before being eligible to interview for a position. Student test data in isolation was never used as a reason not to hire a teacher at a Renaissance school.

Some teachers could not commit to the extended contract and received jobs in other CCSD schools. No teacher from any of the four schools lost her job and entire faculties were not replaced.

TERRI H. NICHOLS

Associate Superintendent

Elem. Learning Community

Chas. County School District

Coleman Boulevard

Mount Pleasant