May 25, 2015

Lowcountry designated as a “Promise Zone” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

A rural swath of the Lowcountry has been designated as a “Promise Zone” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development image.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development image.

The plan allows trained federal workers to help affected counties apply for grants, particularly for applications submitted towards education, jobs, and low-income housing. HUD Secretary Julian Castro announced the new Promise Zones in a press conference Tuesday.

The US Department of Agriculture’s State Director for Rural South Carolina Vernita Dore told South Carolina Radio Network that the program also works on increasing public/private partnerships. “It’s an opportunity for communities to work together with local leaders to increase economic opportunities and educational opportunities, to leverage private investment, enhance public health and other priorities indicated by the communities.”

The designation gives impoverished areas of the communities a leg up in obtaining grants and other federal assistance, she said. “It’s a big collaborative effort between, or among, private businesses, federal, state, local officials, faith based, non-profits and communities with all of them working together,” Dore said.

The Lowcountry Promise Zone community is one of eight selected from 123 applications from 36 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. Each urban, rural, and tribal Promise Zone applicant was asked to put together a clear description of how the Promise Zone designation would accelerate and strengthen the community’s own efforts at comprehensive community revitalization. Each Promise Zone will be coordinated by a lead community based organization in partnership with the Obama Administration.

The other Promise Zones announced Tuesday include Camden, New Jersey; Hartford, Connecticut; Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Sacramento, California; and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance, an economic development entity that covers the region, will oversee the program. More than 90,000 people live in the affected areas of Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.

Partners with the Lowcountry include: Promise Zone included: South Carolina Housing Authority; South Carolina Department of Commerce; Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina; South Carolina Department of Agriculture; South Carolina Victim’s Assistance Network; GrowFoods Carolina; Palmetto Project; and the Lowcountry Council of Governments.

A release sent by HUD on Tuesday said Southern Carolina would work on strategies to expand local and regional food systems and the agricultural sector to create new job opportunities, as well as create a revolving loan fund to help enable private investment in community development.

SC State announces $100K donation as more trustees resign

SC State Acting President Franklin Evans (at left) and National Alumni Association President Vernell Brown hold the check symbolizing Tuesday's donation

SC State Acting President Franklin Evans (at left) and National Alumni Association President Vernell Brown hold the check symbolizing Tuesday’s donation

South Carolina State University leaders on Tuesday announced a $100,000 total donation from alumni that will be used for scholarship endowments in the future.

The announcement comes as the school’s future direction is still uncertain. Legislators are close to removing all of SC State’s trustees and four board members have resigned since last week.

“Today’s establishment of this endowed scholarship fund by our alumni association sends a resounding message that South Carolina State University is alive,” Acting President Franklin Evans said in a press conference at the Statehouse. “And that it’s not going anywhere.”

The donation will help expand the school’s current $7.5 million endowment, according to university spokeswoman Sonja Bennett. She said it is one of the largest donations in recent memory for the state’s only public historically-black school. And it comes as the college struggles through what is perhaps its most trying time.

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USC president to visit Upstate campus after no-confidence vote in chancellor there


Image: USC-Upstate

USC-Upstate Chancellor Tom Moore

University of South Carolina system President Harris Pastides says he plans to soon visit the Spartanburg campus in response to a no-confidence vote against the school’s chancellor.

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reports faculty members at University of South Carolina-Upstate approved a no confidence vote against Chancellor Tom Moore 96-58 on Friday. The vote is not legally binding, but is meant to serve as a “wake-up call” to school administrators, according to supporters.  Pastides said in a statement he thinks USC-Upstate is making tremendous strides and plans to come to Spartanburg to meet with Moore and faculty members and discuss the vote.

Moore told faculty members before the vote that he has set aside $100,000 for faculty salaries and is hiring six new tenure-track professors. He said he has improved the school’s financial status and apologized for his poor communication skills.

Faculty at the school began turning on Moore last May after more than $450,000 in cuts was announced and school leaders said they would close Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. While the center remains open one year later, the campus child development center did not survive the cuts.

Some of the Gender Studies Center’s supporters claimed the closure was retaliation by state leaders for the school planning to host several gay-themed events in April 2014. The event was canceled after complaints from legislators. Moore said the cuts were “unfortunate timing,” but just coincidence.

“I don’t take this vote lightly,” Moore said in a statement. “I remain committed to this institution and committed to my role as its leader. In the weeks and months ahead, I hope we can come together and focus on students, building our university, addressing the challenges ahead and embracing our successes.”


House moves towards ‘compromise’ in replacing SC State trustees

SC State logoState House leaders said Thursday they are offering a compromise for legislation the would oust the board of trustees at struggling South Carolina State University.

Both the House and Senate want to remove the school’s current board, but remain divided on who would replace them. The Senate wants a new interim five-member board chosen by primarily by legislative budget and education committee leaders, while the House proposal would have members of the Budget and Control Board (the governor, State Treasurer, Comptroller General, and the House and Senate budget chairmen) make the appointments.

The House on Thursday passed what its leaders viewed as compromise: instead of five members, the new SC State board would have seven. It would combine both bills so that each elected official in both versions would pick the new panel.

“We’re all very anxious to get to a resolution and to compromise,” said State Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Cayce, who floated the idea. “Hopefully, this amendment will get us there.”

The House voted 89-7 in support of their compromise language. All “no” voted came from members of the Legislative Black Caucus, who said they preferred the Senate version.

Bingham had hoped the Senate would take up the matter before adjourning for the weekend, but senators did not take up the bill Thursday. They are expected to take it up once they return next Tuesday.

An audit into SC State found the school will owe vendors and the state nearly $24 million by July. Many legislators blame dysfunction and lack of action by the board for making financial problems worse as the school struggles with decreasing enrollment and declining federal scholarship aid. The board claims state lawmakers have not fully funded the school as needed.

The college’s board of trustees were meeting in executive session as the House voted to replace them. They were still meeting as of Thursday afternoon.

SC Big Story: Senate revives bonds package to pay for college construction

A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.

The state Senate’s budget committee has voted to revive a bonds package that seeks to raise nearly $237 million for construction projects at colleges and technical colleges. The State newspaper reports the Senate Finance Committee approved the borrowing package by a 16-5 vote Wednesday.

The package is much smaller than the nearly $500 million approved by the House budget committee last month. That version was tossed out of next year’s proposed budget after Gov. Nikki Haley and many House Republicans came out against the idea.

The Governor’s Office is warning it will veto this new proposal as well should it reach her desk. But the leader of the Senate Republicans said he’s not sure the bond package will even clear the Senate, where it would require a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, one of Haley’s allies in the Senate, said a two-thirds vote would be needed.

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