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Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

December 24, 2019 GMT

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Dec. 23

The Post and Courier on whether Legislature should require public disclosure of donations from and to inauguration committees:

We’re sure the nonprofits that received the leftovers from Gov. Henry McMaster’s inauguration fund were delighted by the early Christmas gift. They all seem to be worthy recipients of charitable donations.

But there’s something troubling about the way South Carolina regulates — or, more to the point, does not regulate — donations to and from inauguration committees.

Like previous S.C. governors, Mr. McMaster voluntarily limited the size of donations he would accept for his January festivities. He voluntarily disclosed the list of donors earlier this year. And with last week’s announcement that he’s donating $315,000 to four charities, he voluntarily disclosed what he was doing with money left over from the inauguration.

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The key word in all of those sentences is “voluntary.” As in, it’s totally at a governor’s discretion whether to do the sorts of things that state law requires political candidates to do with their campaign accounts.

That means a governor one day could refuse to make this information public, or could accept much larger donations than the maximum $25,000 that Mr. McMaster accepted. Potentially worse, a governor could leave some names off of those lists, while claiming they were complete. Don’t think any of this is possible? We would remind you that presidential candidates used to voluntarily disclose their income tax returns. Until one didn’t.

Donations to inaugural committees don’t help governors the same way as donations to campaign accounts, which can determine whether they win the election. And some companies like getting their names listed as sponsors of inaugural events and getting tickets to the inaugural ball, and special seating at the inauguration itself. But governors want their inauguration festivities to be impressive, so making big donations does in fact give big donors an opportunity to ingratiate themselves to the governor in much the same way campaign donations can.

It’s no coincidence that in addition to reading like a who’s who of corporate South Carolina, the donation list also read like a who’s who of companies and organizations that lobby the governor and the Legislature: Dominion, Duke and NextEra Energy, the S.C. Hospital Association, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association of S.C., Advance America, TitleMax, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Boeing, BMW.

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Having other people’s money to give away once the inauguration is over also helps governors, who can take credit for being incredibly generous, which can’t hurt them in the future. (State law allows governors and other elected officials to give campaign funds to charities, and they often do.)

Privately funded inauguration festivities have a long tradition, in our state and elsewhere. And we certainly don’t think taxpayers should have to fund inaugural events, beyond the swearing-in ceremony itself. But we also don’t think we should have to rely on the goodwill of governors to set limits on donations or, even more importantly, disclose this information.

The Legislature should require public disclosure of donations to and by these committees, just like it does for campaign donations and expenditures, and should set a limit on maximum donations. And since he has been such a strong advocate of ethics and disclosure laws throughout his political career, we can think of no one better than Gov. McMaster to lead the effort to write those requirements into state law.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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Dec. 23

The Times and Democrat on customer complaints during the holidays:

OK, so there are two days to go. Despite all you may read about issues facing Americans, the big thing today is getting ready for Christmas. For many, that means getting serious about last-minute shopping.

Merchants are counting on today to be a big one ahead of trying to do all the late business they can on Christmas Eve. The environment is rife for customers to become distressed and full of complaints -- not exactly in the spirit of the season.

Guess what, there’s a case to be made that complaints on this day or any other may not be such a bad thing. They can provide opportunities to improve the business for the long run.

“Turning those complaints into positives depends largely on two factors,” says Alex Zlatin, (www.alexzlatin.com), the author of the book “Responsible Dental Ownership.” “One, how well business owners and their team handle unhappy customers directly one-on-one, and two, devising solutions for specific customer issues that keep coming up.”

Zlatin had more than 10 years of management experience before he accepted the position of CEO of dental practice management company Maxim Software Systems.

In terms of direct customer service, studies show complaining customers could end up being some of a business’ best customers. Harvard Business Review found that those who have a complaint handled in under five minutes spend more on future purchases.

As for developing long-term solutions for common problems customers bring up, Zlatin says a business should make a habit of documenting all customer complaints, then discuss those issues as a team. Another way is to send out customer surveys that include a wide range of questions geared to improving the company’s processes and customer service.

“The bottom line is, the way a business handles its customer complaints determines its success or failure in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” Zlatin says. “Businesses that turn complaints into opportunities for building closer relationships with customers are the ones that are most likely to grow and prosper. Prompt and systematic handling of customer complaints has a positive impact on the major business areas.”

Zlatin says dealing with customer complaints effectively can help a business in the following ways:

- Earning customer loyalty. When customers tell you about a problem they’ve had with your company, they expect you to correct it – and if you do, they might show their appreciation with future purchases. “If you don’t correct it promptly,” Zlatin says, “there’s a good chance you will lose them.”

- Attracting more customers. Ignoring customer complaints altogether or putting them on low priority can cost a business dearly. “Annoyed customers might share a bad experience on social media or in person, turning potential buyers away,” Zlatin says.

- Boosting overall performance. “Taking action based on customer complaints helps you improve your processes,” Zlatin says. “Issues you otherwise might not have realized you had will no longer hold your business back.”

Here’s the challenge on a hectic day like this one two days before Christmas: “Don’t take customer complaints personally. But do take them seriously. If you don’t, they’ll think you don’t value their business or opinions. Before long, you won’t be complaining about customers’ complaints, but about having fewer customers.”

Online: https://thetandd.com/

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Dec. 21

The Aiken Standard on keeping the city clean:

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Two decades ago, when Lou Holtz arrived to take over the University of South Carolina football program, his first view of the Palmetto State wasn’t a positive one.

“They must have the cleanest cars in the country because all the trash is on the outside,” Holtz told a reporter.

The comment ruffled feathers and touched off anti-litter movements across the state. But it didn’t entirely solve the problem.

Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker, at a recent Rotary Club of Aiken meeting, said litter is the “biggest single constituent complaint I get.”

Anyone driving around Aiken County can see the problem. It’s particularly bad along some of the major highways and intersections.

We all know there is no excuse for littering. Fortunately, leaders like Bunker are speaking out and trying to increase awareness.

Keep Aiken County Beautiful conducted the first Community Appearance Index earlier this year. The tool, according to the website, visually assesses the overall appearance of communities through litter, graffiti and junk vehicles, among other things.

At least 10 roads were checked in each of the eight council districts, and rated on a scale of 1-4 with 1 being the best and 4 being the worst. The Litter Index came in at 2.2 for Aiken County, which is considered slightly littered by Keep America Beautiful standards.

Bunker described the littering problem as a cultural issue, and one that needs to change.

“There are a lot of people for whom rolling down the window and throwing out (trash from) their fast food is just accepted,” he said. “It’s just fine because they’ve always done it that way.”

Enforcement can be problematic because officers need to observe the litter bugs in order to issue tickets.

A recent letter to the editor also addressed the topic, and correctly pointed out that the volunteers who participate in the Adopt-A-Highway trash pickup program can make a small difference. The author’s group recently picked up more than 500 alcoholic beverage containers, the majority beer cans or bottles, along the stretch of highway they patrol.

Why does this matter? For starters, civic pride is at stake. No one wants to live in a community filled with litter. Aiken and its surrounding areas are quite charming, and attract thousands of visitors each year.

And then there is the potential economic impact. Bunker said it’s embarrassing when county leaders bring in potential clients “who are not used to this kind of thing.”

Let’s band together to cut down on litter and keep our county beautiful.

Online: https://www.aikenstandard.com/