Guest blog by my good friend Monica Hill. Who is as informed as anyone I know on this subject, and is a FIERCE advocate for children! Know that as you read …
I have been watching the DSS stuff lately and have been hesitant to weigh in. But now I think I can add a few things from my perspective as a citizen. I thank Nikki on a regular basis for naming Lillian Koller as the director of DSS. Things have changed “for the good” in a major way since she took over. DSS is a bloated government agency that will never be perfect. I wish it would go away. I wish it COULD go away. Lillian hired people to work for her to manage the Child Welfare system. Lillian is of course where the buck stops, but she hired people who were experts in their fields. It’s been painful for DSS to change their policy and procedures. I have seen people say we are talking about children and not numbers. True, but the only way to say there has been change for the better is to measure, which means numbers.
Let me point out here that the people responsible for the deaths of children are THE ONES WHO BEAT THEM OR STRANGLE THEM OR BURN THEM TO DEATH. A child is returned home WITH COURT APPROVAL, never on DSS’s whim. A judge reviews each case with DSS recommendations and the recommendations of the Guardian Ad Litem. Sometimes they all disagree but it is the JUDGE who rules. Yet, we have Chief Justice Toal back at her spot with Katrina’s vote…interesting. Family Court is also not perfect, though there are judges coming on board who are listening to the new laws and the children’s advocates. So when a child is returned to a toxic situation, where are the family members who want to take their grandchildren in? Where are the neighbors who know the situation next door? Where is law enforcement who have made multiple visits? People are screaming for children to be removed from bad situations, yet relatives are a huge part of the problem. They enable, perpetuate, or ignore the problems. Or that is how they were raised and what is so wrong with that???
DSS has been forced to think in a new way and change is not easy. There are counties that are trying hard to do better. There are counties who haven’t yet gotten it. There had been a hiring freeze at DSS until recently, so when a caseworker left that person was not replaced. So there were case workers with 50-70 cases. One child=one case. A caseworker is required to see each child once a month, plus do the paperwork required, plus arrange and see that family visits are done timely and monitor those visits. Then the child needs to be taken to therapy, transported for various reasons, and the foster parents need DSS support. Plus keep track of the various parents’ locations and make sure they have court notices and notices of other meetings in a timely fashion. Even I can do the math on this one. 70 children means multiple visits several days of a month and the children are spread out in multiple counties. This visit is the most important thing a caseworker does.
So, back to Lillian. She is not the most personable person I have ever met (as in her awful testimony she gave Wed). She hires people to handle the “people” side of DSS. She manages the dollars. Things changed for the better at DSS when she was hired as director. Yes, there are problems, always will be. Yes, children have gone home who shouldn’t have. Children have not come into care who should have. We will always have this problem. Let me add that DSS doesn’t remove children, law enforcement does it. DSS doesn’t return children, the Family Court judge does. So let’s look at the Family Court system, too. Let’s put this passion to fight for children in all the areas it’s needed. Are any of you signing up to be a foster parent? Are any of you signing up to be respite care for foster parents? Do you have any skills that can help an agency train and encourage and teach parents lacking in skills? Do you donate money to the Foster Parent Association? Do any of you look at the SC Heart Gallery so you can step up and adopt a child who needs a family?
Senator Tom Corbin represents a portion of Spartanburg County; we are so fortunate to have him in our delegation!!! If you like Lee Bright’s votes, if you appreciate Shane Martin’s subtle and comical put downs of scamps like Larry Martin, you will love and respect Tom Corbin, one of the Back Row Boys! Here’s an opportunity to get to know him a little better.
MEET & GREET BBQ
Your State Senator
APRIL 28 – MONDAY
5:30 – 7:30 PM
Old Train Depot
100 North Shamrock Avenue
$25 PER PERSON
Children under 18 Free
with Accompanying Adult
RSVP to LaDonna Ryggs
Paid for and endorsed by Tom Corbin for State Senate. If received by a registered South Carolina lobbyist, please disregard. Maximum contributions allowed by South Carolina Law is $1,000 per individual per election cycle. Contributions are not tax deductible for IRS purposes. South Carolina does not permit cash donations.
Monday at 4 PM the Committee meetings begin, where all the good stuff is discussed and presented.
General meeting begins at 5:30 PM.
Location Admin Building on Church Street.
Perhaps there will be leftover hats!
If you would like receive a copy of each month’s agenda ahead of the meetings, email Debbie Ziegler …
Quite a drama the past few days surrounding DSS director Lillian Koller, an appointee of Gov. Nikki Haley.
From everything I read (just Google it to see for yourself), and I followed it live on Twitter, Lillian Koller had a disastrous day in the Senate hearing Wednesday. Sheâ€™s the head of DSS, and some horrific stories have been told.
Nikki defends her on Facebook AND calls out Katrina Shealy!!!!
I am so proud of Dir. Lillian Koller and her testimony in front of the Senate sub committee. She has answered all questions with full transparency. Amazing that senators are criticizing her for setting goals and accomplishing them. She has dramatically improved the agency since she took over in 2010 in spite of this political games by certain senators.
Dir. Koller is not an Atheist. I wish you and Sen. Shealy would quit spreading that lie. She is Jewish and the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
And Senator Shealy responded:
Just saw on the Governor’s Facebook page that I had called Director Koller a name…for the record that is not true! Rumors are just that and just like everyone else when I heard those rumors I asked her staff which I assume now is saying I said that!! This I not a great day in SC when you talk to the Gov’s staff in confidence and it shows up on her Facebook page.
Facebook is where it’s at politically in South Carolina. If you are not currently on Facebook you should be. I think we need to have another BlogCon soon … where we can all learn together how to better use social media.
Katrina Shealy has a new Facebook page where you can stay up to date on all the updates on the DSS situation. Which seems beyond comprehension.
Yesterday I posted a pretty neutral news blog on Bass Pro Shops coming to Spartanburg. I made a few goofs about hats and bowling. The Spartanburg Tea Party has a long standing and well documented stand against tax breaks/incentives for big companies at the expense of small, long-established companies. Nonetheless, we occasionally get stuff like this in comments, likely from people who don’t know us well/haven’t been following us long, who knows why. So I’m taking this time to reaffirm our position by posting this series of comments.
Thereâ€™s a lot of very un-Tea Party things going on here. Iâ€™m surprised to see many supposed Tea Party supporters excited about this. As more details emerge, your enthusiasm may wane.
I will not support this businessâ€¦well, not any more than Iâ€™m forced to by our government.
Always amused by these Negative Nellys. â€śUn-Tea Party!â€ť â€śsupposed Tea Party!â€ť As if we are unaware of the â€śin lieu of taxâ€ť negotiations that go on with these economic dealsâ€ť. â€™cause weâ€™ve only blogged about them DOZENS and DOZENS of times in our blogâ€™s history, and educated many many folks previously unaware of that aspect of business coming to SC. But until we turn over enough seats at local and state levels, these deals will continue, since I have no magic wand to stop then (checks pockets). Nope. Still no wand. In the meantime, a little fun about hats and bowling and weâ€™re suddenly â€śUn-Tea Partyâ€ť.
Any time anyone who has â€śability to complainâ€ť on their activist resume wants to stack up their measurable impact on our countyâ€™s budget â€¦ transparency â€¦ elected officials â€¦ policies â€¦ votes taken â€¦ positions changed â€¦ campaigns impacted against mine â€¦ since I wrote the rather neutral if truth be told news on our blog, Iâ€™m down with that.
Part of our reason for local blogging is to inform, and Bass Pro Shops coming to Spartanburg is news. And it is news that involves our County Council. Try to reasonably sort out our alerting our readers of that development and a little joshing about hats and bowling into the long term picture of our established stance against â€śfee in lieu ofâ€ť.
Hereâ€™s a very substantial blog from May 2011 detailing our stance on unfair tax advantage re: Amazon. That blog, along with others from that time documents our communications with our representatives, and provides much commentary and information on why these deals are bad for our state â€¦ and county. It is one of many weâ€™ve posted on this issue. You know, from our â€śsupposed Tea Party.â€ť
Occasionally I have to set the record straight and stand up for our Spartanburg Tea Party folks who have spent a few years now calling elected officials about this tax incentive issue … writing letters to the editor … traveling to Columbia for hearings … educating their friends and family about the economic realities. We have a good track record on this issue.
I don’t know Cliff, but it seems he also doesn’t know us if he thinks a comment about Hats and Bowling makes us “supposed Tea Party”. Our folks have been on the ground, on the phone, and on top of this situation for a few years.
UPDATED: Cliff and I have had a bit more conversation. I think we’re okay.
I wasn’t trying to hit a nerve and wasn’t calling you un-tea party. At least I didn’t mean to…apologies if I did.
I didn’t complain about you posting the news, just commented that many “Tea Party” people I know are excessively excited about this and they don’t really know the details. I don’t believe you know (or have considered) all the details…it’s not just the fee in lieu of taxes, there’s more to this.
Keep watching the news as some of the back end stuff should come out soon…if not, then I’ll come back and share.
However, as a business owner and taxpayer, I will never support these types of deals (no matter how many blogs are written)…even if they do create some jobs. Seriously, I could hire 2 more people (not much, I know) if I could get the same tax deal. Small businesses are getting smashed by the various levels of government with fees, regulations and taxes, and big business gets the breaks. I can’t support that.
Fair enough. Apology accepted. I hope you read my Amazon blog to satisfy your concerns about our stance. We do know this issue overall quite well; there may be some specifics about Bass yet to come out, but I think we have solidly demonstrated we are against incentives, no matter if the jobs are in our backyard or not.
Yes, I have a fierce protection about our organization and especially our folks who have done a lot of work on this and other issues, and a few “supposed tea party” remarks will get my interest. thanks for the dialogue.
I invite Cliff to send me a guest blog sharing more of what he knows about this situation at a time he deems appropriate.
There is often a page of “quick hits” at TheState.com, today’s edition has some news worth bringing…
A bill banning abortion in South Carolina beyond 19 weeks of pregnancy has stalled in the state Senate, with lawmakers raising concerns the proposal also would ban contraception.
A Medical Affairs subcommittee postponed a vote on the bill Wednesday. Senators said the bill is too broad. Debate likely will continue later this month.
Proposal giving hiring preference to vets advances
A bill allowing S.C. employers to give hiring preference to veterans and spouses of disabled veterans has advanced in the Senate.
The bill advanced Wednesday to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.
State could buy some alternative-fuel school buses
A state budget proposal would provide new buses that run on alternative fuel to S.C. school districts willing to pay part of the bill.
The Senate Finance Committee approved Wednesday creating a pilot program for up to three districts. The alternative-fuel buses are expected to cost roughly $10,000 more than the $82,000 average for regular-route buses.
There is a bit more on each story at the link above. I’d say we are NOT moving in the right direction in South Carolina when our legislators cannot pass a bill that protects the unborn, but think it’s a good idea to pay MORE for school buses because “alternative fuel!”
Sadly we can only impact the House this election cycle, but … you have two years to find a credible, electable Senate challenger in YOUR district, raise money to fund his/her campaign, and raise up a volunteer team.
So this is what Roger Nutt was all excited about … I think they gave away HATS!
Bass Pro Shops plans to locate a 120,000-square-foot store in Spartanburg County near BMW.
The store will be the primary anchor for a 75-acre mixed use development that will include retail, hotels and restaurants. The new Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store is slated to open in 2016.
â€śThis is going to be a facility that will bring people here to experience the Southern hospitality that Spartanburg has to offer,â€ť Britt said in welcoming the company.
The store will be the primary anchor for a 75-acre mixed use development that will include retail, hotels and restaurants. The new Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store is slated to open in 2016.
I read there will be BOWLING! Who’s down for a Spartanburg Tea Party bowling league team???
The day I heard about the two “Speaker Protection Bills” last week I immediately called my Representative Bill Chumley. We spoke twice that day.
The takeaway I got was … and I heard/read this various other places … it’s possible the bill as presented was not the bill as filed. But Bill being Bill, he said he was going to look into it and get some research done and get back to me.
We’ve spoken 2 more times. Bill is a thorough guy. Today he told me after his review, he’s drawn up the paperwork to remove his name, and will do so on the 29th, the next day they are in session.
My take, and I think Bill agreed, was that the actual probability of the Attorney General doing something so felonious in the immediate future was dim compared to the potential downside of a rushed bill, set out without referral, and at a very suspect time. If there truly is a wee gap that exists re: prosecution of the AG and “other officers”, it has existed for a long time. And if it needs to be addressed, South Carolina will be better served addressing it a) through regular order and b) after the Speaker’s current legal issues are completely resolved.
Cibby’s guest blog:
About three weeks ago I went out my back door to get something from the patio, and a mourning dove flew out of the hanging planter under the eave. I peeked in and found two small eggs! Since then Iâ€™ve tried to limit my presence in the vicinity of that planter but have watched that dove sit on those eggs every day, all day, rain or shine. When I do have to be close to her adopted nest, I move slowly and even talk quietly to this mom-to-be. I have no idea if we have hatchlings yet. She watches me closely, but no longer flies off when Iâ€™m nearby.
Where, youâ€™re wondering, am I going here? What Iâ€™m being allowed to witness on fairly close terms is a total devotion by a being to a cause. I understand this is a dove, not a human, and this behavior is instinctive and not a conscious choice, but I canâ€™t help but feel a little awed by it. What if this immersion into whatâ€™s important is something that we activists could bottle and distribute far and wide. OK, I understand we have jobs and families that demand our time and energy. I even now understand how a family memberâ€™s health totally consumes you when something goes wrong. But we must increase our numbers and we must do everything in our power.
Our county, state and nation have problems. Many of our elected officials have lost sight of their purpose and who they are responsible to and are even opting to ignore the laws that limit them and they vowed to uphold. They must be reminded. We must commit ourselves to worthwhile causes and make sure that we are informed on the issues and candidates. Those in office must be contacted in order to let them know that we are aware and watching. If they act in wrong ways, they must be replaced.
None of us is able to dedicate ourselves 24/7 like that little dove to her eggs, but we can commit in some way. The 2010 election cycle showed that activism can affect outcomes. We cannot allow the disappointment two years later to doom us to fail in 2014 as the stakes are even higher.
Study up. Stand up. Join up. We have candidates and reforms and changes that must be successfully hatched in order to preserve our republic. (In the meantime, Iâ€™m worried about that dove. She has to be hungry and thirsty!)
My two cents,
Today is April 15th: Tax Day for the US Government and many state governments. Americans continue to face a tremendous tax burden, to the tune of $4.5 trillion in federal, state, and local taxes in 2014. This is more than Americans will spend on food, clothing, and housing combined this year. Washington continues to increase the nationâ€™s debt to over $17.5 Trillion, which means every person living in the United States today, including children, would be saddled with a $55,304 bill to pay off the debt in addition to the taxes already paid.
Politicians are kicking the can down the road rather than solving our problems. Ultimately, my generation and my daughterâ€™s generation will be left with the bill, which is why I encourage people in my generation to pay attention to politics â€“ the decisions being made today will affect your life. I am running because we need real solutions to our problems. We all know that the solutions are not coming from the same people who created the problems. If we want to fix our country, we have to start in our local communities.
The first step we need to take as a County is reforming our budget process. Like most governments, we use a traditional budgeting process that uses last yearâ€™s budget as a baseline and adjust spending based on new revenue or a decrease in revenue. The problem with this approach is that itâ€™s incremental â€“ previous spending items are rarely revisited to ensure the spending is accomplishing the desired results.
A better approach is budgeting for results, which starts with a zero-based budget â€“ every dollar is on the table each year and each department must make the case for why they need the funds. The budgeting for results approach makes sure this process is fair for the taxpayer and for county departments. The process increases transparency – spending is allocated per program or expenditure based on a clearly defined list of results and priorities that the county would like to achieve. The next year, programs can be measured against their results. Programs that are not working get cut and reallocated to other programs â€“ our taxpayer dollars are too valuable to waste on programs that do not work. Programs and departments that are achieving results on higher priority items are rewarded. This is exactly how we balance our budgets at home around the dining room table. I believe our first priorities should be public safety and roads and infrastructure. Everything else comes after that with clear and open input from our county departments and taxpayers. I will not take the easy path of across-the-board spending cuts that jeopardize our public safety and punish departments who are being good stewards of taxpayer services.
Prioritizing spending is not necessary only in lean budget years. Our tax revenues will increase as a county, either from our economy continuing to improve or full funding of the Local Government Fund. When those new revenues come in, we need council-members who will prioritize that new spending so we are not in the same position a few years down the road trying to find cuts or raise taxes. Reforming our budget process means hard work, but we owe it to the taxpayers and our county employees who are doing the best they can with limited resources. I am willing to roll up my sleeves and do the hard work! I ask you to stand with me!