Don’t wait to fix those potholes

February 24, 2014 

Temperatures as high as 70 degrees so close behind the recent winter storm are the gift that keeps on giving.

All major roads – and some neighborhood streets – bear the scars of extreme weather. Potholes dot the entire township. And they are only going to get bigger.

Although many drivers are aware of the problem – some sections of Hwy. 21, for example, have taken on a lunar quality – and take evasive action, others learn the hard way. There’s nothing like a flat tire, bent rim and the cost of a new alignment to get a driver’s attention.

The occurrence of potholes are no one’s fault except Mother Nature’s. Until an impervious, long-lasting and cost effective road surface is available, it’s a simple case of cause and effect: liquid in the form of rain, snow or melting snow or ice fills cracks in the surface and when that liquid later freezes, it expands, weakening the surface material and causing cracks to widen into holes.

There’s no viable solution to preventing the potholes, but public works officials, mostly state and county in this instance, know how to fix them. Whether it’s wholesale re-surfacing or filling and patching, this is the bread and butter of public road crews. It’s perplexing that the state and county departments of transportation, which were so well-prepared for the storm, first deploying crews spreading brine, sand, salt and de-icing solution, then later snow plows, seem paralyzed by the aftermath.

We understand that road repair can be arduous and costly. Assessments are needed. Traffic has to be diverted. Unexpected rain delays cause scheduling problems. But a plan to swiftly deal with the fallout from a winter storm should be in place and executed much sooner than we’re seeing.

With a few warm days, the opportunity to head outdoors without a heavy coat has been welcomed by winter weary residents. It’s just too bad we all risk serious car damage if we try to enjoy it too far from home.

Solicitors have been warned

Apparently, comments made last fall by S.C. Supreme Court Justice Donald W. Beatty at a solicitor’s conference left a few noses out of joint. In essence, Beatty told prosecutors the same thing that defense attorneys are often reminded of, that professional misconduct will not be tolerated.

The suggestion that any solicitor in the state would even consider such infractions as witness intimidation or withholding evidence, let alone engage in them, seems to have offended prosecutors to the core. Later, 13 of South Carolina’s 16 solicitors publicly called for Justice Beatty to be disqualified from hearing appeals in criminal cases and disciplinary matters involving prosecutors. In other words, they wanted him neutered.

Maybe the solicitors protest too much; In 2013, the S.C. Supreme Court had to address the alleged misconduct of an assistant solicitor in the ninth circuit. We’d like to believe all prosecutors play by the rules all the time, but that would be naive. Solicitors also have an ax to grind against Beatty because he wants the courts, not the prosecuting attorneys, to control the docket. The timing of a case can sometimes make all the difference in who’s going to prevail. No one with an interest in the outcome should have that power. Both prosecution and defense should start on neutral ground.

Solicitors wield tremendous power. Lives are literally in their hands at times. It’s understandable that they might want to resist greater scrutiny or yield any control. That’s just human nature. But prosecution, defense and the impartial bench are all there to serve a common interest – justice. For all three to work in tandem, it seems reasonable that one side shouldn’t have an inordinate amount of power compared to any of the others.

Justice Beatty was correct to issue his warning and if solicitors’ feelings were hurt, they should get over it.

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