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Snow And Ice, Crime and Murder - Damage Control?
2/5/2014 4:32:00 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Last week I had several heated discussions with friends about local governments’ reaction to the winter storm that paralyzed the metropolitan Charleston area. I think our government did a poor job of managing transportation. Several of my friends said they did what they should have to insure public safety.

That’s one of the things I want to write about, but there’s something else about the tragedy of Black on Black homicide I’ll get to in a minute.

About the winter storm, I had one friend hang up on me as we discussed it. I was thoroughly outdone about the community’s shutdown due to the storm. My friend got tired of my gripping and just hung up the phone. I’m a native Charlestonian, so I’m not used to driving in snow either. But why do you shut down a community as big as Charleston’s because of that little bit of snow and ice? My friend said its better to err on the side of caution.

I agree. But this community pays our traffic planners and administrators a lot of good money to plan for stuff like that. We pay engineers and consultants a lot of money to plan for such situations. But I guess as they show us daily with the traffic gridlocks we experience in good weather, they must have something on their minds other than efficient flow of traffic through our major arteries.

In addition, several shelters around the city were ill-equipped to deal with the true impact of the winter storm as some unfortunate souls were left to fend for themselves in the snow.

I think the people we depend on to plan and build our traffic infrastructure are in cahoots with contractors and their suppliers. Remember the East Cooper Mark Clark expanding concrete debacle? That’s was a structural oversight that cost us out the ying yang. As soon as they build something, it’s obsolete.

I don’t think we should let our public officials off the hook with the public safety argument. Shutting down our community is the easy way out. What is it they say - expect the unexpected.

Our government officials knew the storm was coming. They told us to make contingency plans yet they failed to do the same. They had us running to the stores like it was armageddon, but they had no contingency for the major bridges that likely would ice as temperatures dropped?

And after the fiasco they still put public lives in jeopardy on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge as icicles fell onto the bridge deck. That reminded me of the concrete expansion deal - after thought rather than forethought. I say no pass for local government officials.

So what about all our bad drivers who don’t know what to do in the snow? All of that is stuff that can be fixed. We can start with better training for our drivers. I know some cats out there who have no business with a drivers license.

Our state’s drivers are the nation’s second worse, according to several sources. We rank number one in careless driving and have the second highest number of traffic fatalities per miles driven. But that’s enough ranting and raving about our drivers and that winter storm lest you too hang up on me.

What I really want to get to is a thought I’ve had the past couple of weeks as we recoil from the Black on Black murders we’ve recently seen in our community. I’ve been wondering what it’s going to take for our community to make a move to stop the violence. Rallies and community forums are good - you gotta start somewhere - but after nearly two decades of rampant killings, it's time for action.

Mrs. Sarah Greene came in the office the other day. She’s frustrated. She said we have to start working to turn the little kids away from the violence because it’s too late for the big ones. I’ve always been resistant to that school of thought. That’s a lot of people to throw away.

But I’m reminded of a comment my classmate, retired Charleston Police Maj. Ronald Hamilton said some 20 years ago - if you don’t catch kids by age 13 or so, all you’re doing is damage control. Beyond damage control, I’m thinking our community can take a clue from some other groups. One of them is Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

I once interviewed a cop in the crime stoppers office. He told me how Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) has had tremendous success since it formed in 1980. What started as a mother’s outrage in north Florida grew into one of the greatest and most successful grassroots efforts in American history.

Like so many Black mothers outraged by the violence that took the lives of their sons, MADD’s mothers are driven by their pain. But what they did that we haven’t done is they organized. And instead of accepting the statistics they sought to change the laws and influence the lawmakers.

Maybe that’s what we should do, organize. Not just organize another rally or community forum, but organize to influence the factors that contribute to the deaths of our sons.

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