Thursday, October 16, 2008

Legality of Absentee Voting Locations

You may have read in the Aiken Standard about the controversy over Aiken County having satellite absentee voting locations in Kalmia Plaza, North August and Wagener. The paragraph below is an excerpt from the SC Code of Laws. Note the first sentence. It is amazing there is any question about where absentee voting can take place. This election is bound to be contentious. I hope the Secretary of State and Board of Elections will follow the exact letter of the law to avoid the throwing out of any ballots cast in good faith.

In each county there must be established an absentee voting precinct located in the office of the county board of registration. The county election commission, municipal election commission, county committee for each political party, or executive committee of each municipal party in the case of primary elections is responsible for the tabulation and reporting of ballots at the absentee voting precinct. The absentee ballots must remain in the custody of the county board of registration until transferred to the county election commission, municipal election commission, county committee for each political party or executive committee of each municipal party for the purpose of tabulation and reporting as provided in Section 7-15-420.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Aiken County Open Land Trust has a New Name



The Aiken County Open Land Trust (ACOLT) has been active in land conservation in Aiken County since 1991. Now ACOLT has been reborn as the Aiken Land Conservancy (ALC). ALC continues to advise local landowners on the best ways to conserve their lands for generations to come. In addition, ALC continues to manage over 450 acres of local lands that are owned by the Land Trust. Check out their website Conserve Aiken


October 13 City Council Meeting

WHISKEY ROAD ANNEXATION – The city recently received the Judge’s signed Court Order for the law suit initiated by the City with the South Carolina Department of Transportation. We are happy to say that the City was successful in this law suit with the Judge declaring that the annexation from Pine Log Road to Talatha Church Road was done properly and legally. Our Legal Department had confirmed that SCDOT cannot challenge the Whiskey Road Annexation Ordinance since no appeal has been filed within the 30 day period.

This has significance from two perspectives. First and most important it gives the City control of Whiskey Road which will allow us to be more aggressive in implementing more stringent traffic measures. We can now consider medians, turn restrictions, light synchronization and other measures to improve the traffic flow on Whiskey Road. Second, it permits annexation of properties along Whiskey Road. Where we have discretionary authority, I will generally oppose annexation unless it is in the clear interests of the City of Aiken. There are some properties which will be annexed as a result of previous agreements to furnish water service.

ENHANCED TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT UNIT GRANT AWARD – Governor Mark Sanford has notified us that we will soon be receiving $93,754 for our Enhanced Traffic Enforcement Unit. These monies are used for our Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (HEAT) Public Safety Officers who operate the black Dodge Chargers. Our HEAT Officers, CPL Chris Carter and PSO Jason Griffin are providing a valuable public safety service to our city.

CROSLAND PARK INITIATIVE – One of the major goals of the Council is the stabilization of Crosland Park. On October 2, 2008, city representatives met with six churches and several non-profit agencies to discuss strategy concerning the rebirth of Crosland Park. We are asking all the parties who sign the Memorandum of Understanding to join together to create a coalition which will help change the community. We believe by the purchase of homes and providing services to meet the needs of these citizens, we will be able to meet the greater needs of the Crosland Park neighborhood. Council will consider further actions to include sidewalks, street lighting, landscaping, and additional recreational opportunities. City Council will soon be asked to formally make a commitment to the programs needed in Crosland Park.

CITY PAVING SCHEDULE – Paving has been delayed two weeks. I was just notified about this delay on Monday, Oct 13.

PUBLIC SAFETY MONTHLY ACTIVITIES REPORT – I continue to be surprised by the large number of 911 calls that Public Safety deals with each month. Last month, for example, they received 2, 459 911 calls. Public Safety issued 950 traffic related tickets, completed 141 traffic accident reports, and arrested 300 people. Based on numbers alone, our Public Safety Department is providing outstanding service to our citizens. I would like to see more education to help prevent abuse of the 911 emergency call network. Public Safety is considering establishing a system to better communicate to the public the number and types of incidents it deals with. If you want some details, please look in the Annual Report I mentioned in my last email. It is also available at the city web site (http://www.aiken.net/).

NEW SPCA FACILITY AND DOG PARK – At our meeting on Monday, we will have the second and final reading on the new SPCA facility which will be co-located with the Dog Park.

JUNK CARS AND OVERGROWN LOTS – We will have a work session which will begin at 6:30 to discuss junk cars and overgrown lots. One of the City Council’s goals over the last few years has been to improve neighborhoods within our city. One of the frequently asked questions at neighborhood meetings is what can be done with overgrown lots and abandoned cars. At our work session, we will discuss our current codes concerning overgrown lots versus how other cities in South Carolina have been able to deal with these problems. Based on this discussion, City Council can decide whether to stay with our current procedures or modify them based on this information. Our current system for dealing with overgrown lots is a three step process which can take as long as 45 days. This system consumes too much staff time and creates a frustrating delay for neighbors. We will look at systems used by Spartanburg, Columbia, and Anderson. I expect we will reduce our maximum 45 day system for dealing with overgrown lots to a more reasonable 10-15 day time frame and make it easier to deal with repeat offenders.

With regard to inoperable vehicles, the process of identifying, contacting, and arranging for towing is a long one. It can take up to 35 days before an attempt is made to issue an Ordinance Summons for Livability Court and then several more weeks for the court date, decision, and implementation. It is in the interest of the neighborhood to remove vehicles that do not run and it is in the interest of the vehicle owner to have a fair process. Some jurisdictions provide a monetary incentive to car owners who participate in a voluntary removal program. The program is self-financing. The owner of an inoperable vehicle sells the title to the City for $75.00. The Public Works Department then tows the vehicle to a vehicle recycling facility and receives between $342 and $600 for the title. The City of Anderson has a program like this which we will discuss.

Please note that during a work session, City Council and the public can discuss an issue and provide staff with enough information to determine a suitable course of action. We do not vote or take any action whatsoever during a work session other than give general guidance to staff. City staff can then determine whether to place the items discussed at a future City Council meeting for action. I expect that we will deal with these two issues soon. We do have the authority, however, to add an item to the agenda providing it is approved by a majority of the Council. I am not sure this will happen to these two items, but it could.

CITY COUNCIL AGENDA – Keep in mind that City Council agendas are available on line. The agenda includes supporting documents that we review to determine a course of action. The link for Monday’s City Council agenda is http://www.aiken.net/weblink7/docview.aspx?id=82450.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Aiken County General Election Information


Citizens will be interested to learn that the number of registered voters in Aiken County has jumped from approximately 81,000 in January of 2008 to 90,000 as of this week. This is an increase of 11 percent.  Obviously there is extraordinary interest in the elections this year and it is vitally important for every qualified citizen to cast his or her vote. If you have any question about your voting precinct or other registration data you can check your personal information at the following link http://www.scvotes.org
If you are not already registered to vote you will not be able to vote in one of the most important elections ever to be held in the United States of America. If you are registered please be certain to vote.
The following release gives full details on who is qualified to be an absentee voter and where and when they can vote.


"Absentee voting for the November 4, 2008, General Election will begin next week
There are several key points voters need to be aware of.
1.  SOUTH CAROLINA DOES NOT HAVE EARLY VOTING.  Everyone who votes before election day must have a valid, legal reason to vote.  You must have a reason to cast an absentee ballot.  It is a violation of the South Carolina Code of Laws to fraudulently apply for an absentee ballot.  The list of legal reasons is listed below.
(1) students attending school outside the county of their residence, their spouses, and dependents residing with them;
(2) members of the Armed Forces and Merchant Marines of the United States, their spouses, and dependents residing with them;
(3) persons serving with the American Red Cross or with the United Service Organizations (USO) who are attached to and serving with the Armed Forces of the United States, their spouses, and dependents residing with them;
(4) persons in employment (who by virtue of their employment are working a shift from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.);
(5) physically disabled persons;
(6) governmental employees, their spouses, and dependents residing with them, who are outside their county of residence from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Election Day);
(7) electors with a death or funeral in the family within a three-day period before the election;
(8) persons on vacation (who by virtue of vacation plans will be absent from their county of residence on election day);
(9) certified poll watchers, poll managers, county voter registration board members and staff, county election commission members and staff working on election day;
(10) overseas citizens;
(11) persons attending sick or physically disabled persons;
(12) persons admitted to hospitals as emergency patients on the day of an election or within a four-day period before the election;
(13) persons who will be serving as jurors in a state or federal court on election day;
(14) persons sixty-five years of age or older;
(15) persons confined to a jail or pre-trial facility pending disposition of arrest or trial.
If you do not meet one of these reasons, you CANNOT vote an absentee ballot.  You can only vote at your polling place on November 4.
PLEASE NOTE: The Aiken County Elections Commission has decided that absentee voting can only be done at the Voter Registration and Elections Office, 916 Vaucluse Road, Aiken  
The satellite locations mentioned below will not be open. 

II.  Absentee voting will begin October 13 at the Kalmia Mall, located at 1680 Richland Avenue, West.  The hours will be Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Our standard practice is to offer selected weekend hours: Sunday, October 19, 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, October 25, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, November 1, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. 
III.  Absentee voting will also be held in North Augusta at the Nancy Carson Library, located at 135 Edgefield Road, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the following dates:  October 17, October 20, October 23, October 24. 
IV.  Absentee voting will be held in Wagener at the Roy Warner Park, located at 4287 Festival Trail Road, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on October 22."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Update on City of Aiken Issues

October 4, 2008

NEW SPCA ANIMAL SHELTER AND CITY DOG PARK – City Council passed on first reading an ordinance to annex ten acres of property fronting on Willow Road just behind Willow Run Industrial Park. The area is accessed from Rudy Mason highway or from Beaufort Street. As proposed, the facility would house many more animals than the current facility can. Part of the facility, including the Dog Park and 3,550 sq ft of the 20,000 sq ft building, would be paid by the City. The Dog Park would be built first with the remainder of the facility completed when SPCA fundraising permits. In addition to the animal shelter, the facility would include a Regional Spay/Neuter Clinic servicing residents of the City of Aiken. Aiken County and other communities in the region. There are traffic concerns which need to be addressed at the next reading which will be at the next City Council meeting on October 13.

APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS – I am pleased to announce the appointment of Derek Martin to the City of Aiken Recreation Commission. I nominated him on Monday and expect he will be confirmed at our next meeting on October 13. I also reappointed Don Barnes to the General Aviation Commission and Mary Ella Brown to the Community Development Committee.

RECOGNITION OF THE CITY OF AIKEN’S PARKS, RECREATION, & TOURISM DEPARTMENT – Each year the South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association recognizes four agencies across the state as “Agency of the Year” based on their population. Early this month the Association recognized the City of Aiken as the 2008 Agency of the Year in the population category of 25,000 to 50,000. We are one of the smallest cities in this class, along with other cities such as Rock Hill, Irmo-Chapin, the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, etc. Since 1975 the City has been awarded this recognition sixteen times. Congratulations to Aiken PRT.

CITY PAVING SCHEDULE – Many streets in the Houndslake area will be repaved soon. This includes the following:

Peninsula Point from Laurel Ridge Circle to Cul-de-sac
Laurel Ridge Circle including semicircle
Palm Drive from Cherry Drive to Elm Street
Farrington Point from Troon Way to Cul-de-sac
Lindrick Court from Troon Way to Cul-de-sac
RaintreeCourt from Bedford Place to End
Bellreive Drive from Trail Ridge Road to Bellreive Drive
Bellreive Place from Bellreive Drive to Cul-de-sac
Hagen Court from Bellreive Drive to Cul-de-sac
Inverary Court from Bellreive Drive to Cul-de-sac
Midlothian Court East and West from Bellreive Drive to Cul-de-sac
Trail Ridge Court from Trail Ridge Road to Cul-de-sac
Essex Court from Winged Foot Drive to Cul-de-sac
Woodwind Way from Aberdeen Drive to Cul-de-sac

Paving was supposed to begin on Monday, September 29. Look for door hangers or signs announcing the paving in your area.

CITY OF AIKEN ANNUAL REPORT – The City presented the 2007-2008 Annual Report to the Council. This report contains very important and interesting information about all city departments. It represents an internal review by each department of their activities for the past year and summarizes progress to meet the goals and policies based on the budget approved by City Council. I have asked for a copy in email format so I can provide you with some of the more interesting information in periodic reports. If you have the time, you can review the report at the following link:
http://www.aiken.net/WebLink7/docview.aspx?id=79304.

CONGRESS MOVES TO PROTECT IDENTITIES - A bill that will require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to remove social security numbers from new Medicare cards has passed its first congressional hurdle. On 29 September the House passed HR 6600, The Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2008, sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). This act mandates the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services establish cost-effective procedures to ensure that a Social Security account number is not displayed, coded, or embedded on Medicare cards issued on or after the effective date of this legislation.
The legislation will also allow for individuals currently holding Medicare cards to receive new cards no later than 3 years after enactment of this bill.
Having Social Security numbers on Medicare cards makes seniors very susceptible to identity theft, a problem that has become more and more popular in recent years. Now that the House has passed H.R. 6600 the Senate must take up the measure.

OPERATION MAIL CALL – Congratulations to our local cable provider, Atlantic Broadband, for implementing a program designed to bring families closer to loved ones serving in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. They provide free internet for the duration of the assignment to this dangerous part of the world. So far, a dozen Aiken families have taken advantage of the program. If you know of someone, husband, wife, son, daughter, father, or mother, with a son, daughter, or spouse serving in the Persian Gulf or Afghanistan, please call 888-301-8649 to schedule an installation of equipment. The program is offered to residents of Aiken County and was recently expanded to Barnwell, Bamberg, and Allendale Counties.