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Magistrate Appointment Represents Cronyism
5/13/2015 4:02:15 PM

By Barney Blakeney

I first heard of the brewing battle a couple of weeks ago during a conversation with former Charleston Sen. Robert Ford. Later somebody else brought up the subject, but by then I was so incensed with the thought, I tuned the person out. I didn’t want to get caught up in a fight about the reappointment of North Area Magistrate Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley.

Initially I thought the fight would be about Ford’s replacement, Sen. Marlon Kimpson who won a hotly contested Senate Dist. 42 race to win the seat after Ford stepped down amid allegations of ethics violations. The Columbia native has been a marked man ever since.

He didn’t help himself when he failed to name a Black person to an appointment on the Charleston County Airport Authority last year. His choice, Margaret Seidler, I think was a good one. But she ain’t Black. Being Black ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. We’ve got two on the board now, brothers Teddie and Spencer Pryor. Rev. Ed McClain preceded them.

Anywho, Kimpson opened another can of worms with his choices to fill the North Area magistrate’s position last week. Now I ain’t got nothin’ against Ganaway-Pasley. I met her years ago with her late husband Richard Ganaway. That fella was a helluva guy. He perhaps is most responsible for single member districts for North Charleston City Council. He was a hard worker for the city and its Black community.

But the Ganaway story, then and now, is one that brings me immense pride and sorrow. The Ganaway brothers, Richard and Eddie hold special places in local Black History.

Eddie’s academic credentials (The first African American to earn a degree from The College of Charleston in 1971) only was eclipsed by his brother’s civic activities (Richard was the first African American elected to North Charleston City Council). He also was the first Black to run for mayor in the city. I’m proud to call both men friends.

But when Richard died in 2002 I was dismayed at the appointment of his widow, Stephanie to his seat as a magistrate. You see, Richard, as brilliant Richard as he was and as deserved as his 1984 appointment to the seat had been, the whole thing smacked of political cronyism. When his wife was appointed to succeed him, as smart a woman as she is, the political perk thing blew the roof off the sucker. Nobody said anything. Me neither. It just was accepted.

I remember thinking at the time that Black folks had sacrificed and died to win the privilege to vote and participate fully in the American electoral system. The motivation was to end political cronyism that locked us out of the system in the first place. And here we were participating and benefiting from that same unfair system.

That’s why I just tuned out conversation about magistrate appointments the past couple of weeks. I asked Kimpson what was going on in passing conversation one day a couple of weeks ago and he said some things were in the works and that he couldn’t talk about. I accepted his response.

I had mixed emotions about Ganaway-Pasley not being reappointed. Like I said, she’s a smart woman and Ford told me how through training, she’s equipped herself to serve admirably. But the political perks have got to stop.

Of course, it didn’t stop three years ago when Ford and the county’s senate delegation got North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey’s daughter, Annie Summey-Fuller, appointed to her mother’s former seat as a magistrate.

Them Summeys seem to have inherited the Lowcountry’s scepter as reigning leaders. As the Beatles said in one of their songs, they get by with a little help from their friends - a slew of Black ones in North Charleston.

When all is said and done political cronyism is alive and well locally as it is elsewhere around the state. It keeps all of the power and a lot of the money concentrated in the hands of a few select people and groups. But that’s not how our government is supposed to work.

It pains me to see Black folks engage in the same vices that we historically have challenged other folks for engaging. This sister once gave me a lecture about altruism and idealism, but it ain’t all that complicated.

Some folks made some serious sacrifices so that we, Black and white, could be here at this point in American History. We owe them more. I applaud Kimpson’s stand bucking the status quo. We need a few more good men like him.

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