Loose Lips

Lou in black and white

Loose Lips

Saying anything bad about Lou Holtz might be a hanging offense in Gamecock country. The legendary football coach is being counted on to deliver the Cocks from their long losing streak, and folks don't care if he was Hitler's publicist as long as the home team wins.

While Holtz was too young to have worked for the Fürher, he has been a longtime supporter of Congress' most likely runner-up, N.C. Sen. Jesse Helms. Holtz got heat for doing a TV commercial for Helms while he was coach at the University of Arkansas. The spot, featuring Lou in Razorback paraphernalia, never aired.

Harvey Gantt, Helms' opposition in 1990 and 1996, says the new Gamecock head coach comes with the baggage of supporting "the extreme right side of the agenda." A spokesperson for USC said that Holtz is free to endorse politicians "as long as he does it as a private citizen and not the coach."

While the coach has been coy about his political inclinations since signing on with the Cocks (recently embarrassing presidential-wannabe Dan Quayle by publicly removing his name from a list of supporters), his recent remarks about the Confederate flag may draw some fire.

"What flag?" Holtz responded when asked to comment on the controversy.

Columbia NAACP President Lonnie Randolph hopes that Holtz will recognize that 90 percent of his team's front line is African American. "USC athletics made $26 million last year off of black athletes," Randolph said.

The NAACP is playing hard-ball. And if Holtz continues to court right-wing politics as the head Cock, he may find himself on the grill on the flag issue.

Missing the POINT

At the end of the last legislative session, Rep. Joe Neal (D-Richland) asked the House clerk to put an issue of the latest POINT on all the representatives' desks. Neal had just introduced the Environmental Accountability Act, which was that month's cover story.

A House security guard brought the papers to Neal the next day and told him the Speaker wouldn't allow him to put the papers on the floor. He also said that House Speaker David Wilkins (R-Greenville) told security to take the POINTs out of the rack in the lobby of the Blatt building, where they have been distributed for years.

Neal then placed the papers in envelopes to be delivered to the representatives. The sealed mail was once again intercepted by the Speaker and returned to Neal.

"It was clear that the Speaker didn't want the members to read the information about DHEC that was in the paper," Neal said.

After consultation with POINT's lawyer and the American Civil Liberties Union, the Speaker decided to let the House get the POINT. If you are a legislator and didn't get the last issue, call 800-849-1803 for your Speaker-proof edition of the paper, which we will send through the U.S. mail.

No fly zone

When three gay bars in Myrtle Beach were notified by the Myrtle Beach Zoning Board in April that they had to take their rainbow flags, one proprietor just said no. "My God," said Linda Roberts, owner of the Rainbow House Bistro, "if they can fly the Confederate flag over the State House, I should be able to fly the flag of my choice over my business."

Roberts was busted for flying an unapproved flag, fined $373 and threatened with losing her business license.

The list of flags which the Myrtle Beach zoning squad allows includes the Confederate one on the Bowery nightclub down the street from Roberts' place. It doesn't include rainbow flags.

After Roberts took her rainbow flag down, she painted rainbow triangles on her building. In July, the zoning board told her that the triangles constituted signs and she needed a permit for them. Roberts' application for a sign permit was denied, and she painted squiggles over the triangles. The zoning board told her those were illegal, too.

Roberts recruited the ACLU-SC in her fight against the city, but things didn't turn around until the city attorney got a call from Court TV, which was interested in profiling the case. Faced with airing their homophobia on national news, the city decided to allow Roberts to fly her rainbow flag while it reviews its no-fly ordinance.

DHEC überallis!

Those of you worried that DHEC isn't doing a great job can rest easy. The agency released a "customer service" survey in August that concluded "98 percent of South Carolinians who had used DHEC's services in the past five years said they would do so again."

Sounds great, but what choice do most people have?

Take a dump, take one

It's been nearly two years since a former employee at the Laidlaw hazardous waste dump reportedly told a DHEC inspector, "I know there's tears in the liner, 'cause I tore 'em." The liners are what the company claims will keep the dump's poisons from oozing into the groundwater and nearby Lake Marion. Torn liners are supposed to be repaired before the waste is added, but the worker said that wasn't always the case.

Locals figured that the company would get another free ride from DHEC, and were surprised when another DHEC inspector showed up this summer and questioned former employees.

The talk in Sumter is that a state grand jury in Columbia is considering criminal charges against the dump's operators. Since grand jury proceedings are secret, there is no official confirmation, but the buzz around town is that Claude Williams, a longtime employee at the dump, has been subpoenaed.

Citizens' protests and court battles for the past decade haven't been able to close the dump. Could it be that Attorney General Charlie Condon, the imperial wizard of the grand jury, is in a position to save South Carolina from something other than his own ambition?

Take a dump, take two

The hazardous waste dump in Sumter County has been known by many names: SCA Genstar, GSX, Laidlaw and now Safety Kleen. Local folks just call it the Pinewood dump because it's hard to keep up with who runs the place.

The most recent owner is a billion-dollar garbage mogul with operations in 48 states.

When the DHEC board voted in 1994 for Laidlaw to post a $135 million cash bond to insure clean up of accidents, both environmentalists and industry representatives were stunned.

But after Laidlaw spent more than $400,000 lobbying, and certain DHEC board members were replaced by Gov. David Beasley, no one was surprised when the DHEC board reversed itself. In spite of the fact that the legal owner of the dump was a local corporation with no real assets, and that it was created by Laidlaw's corporate parent to limit its liability, DHEC was willing to substitute a letter of assurance for the cash.

A lawsuit is scheduled in the State Court of Appeals Sept. 8. Led by Sumter Sen. Phil Leventis, citizens are suing DHEC for granting the company a permit, the Department of Natural Resources and the Santee Cooper Authorities are suing to bring back the cash bond, and the company is suing to expand the dump's capacity.

Do ethics laws apply to lawyers?

The state ethics laws prohibit a commissioner on a public board from being a lobbyist. So when Arnold Goodstein, a highway commissioner from Charleston, was twisting arms of Lowcountry senators at the end of last session, some people wondered how he could do that.

Goodstein was in town defending a DHEC regulation that would allow industries to release 10 percent more pollution into rivers than their permits allow, providing they could show that it wouldn't harm the environment. Goodstein argued the position of the Cooper River Water Users Association, which includes industrial heavyweights such as Westvaco and Bayer. It also includes the North Charleston Sewer Authority, which happens to be a client of Goodstein's law firm.

Goodstein claims that he was not lobbying; he was just "protecting the interest of (his) client." But Herb Hayden, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, says that is not how he reads the law. "If that were the case, Dwight Drake wouldn't have to register as a lobbyist for the video poker industry because he is also their attorney."

The Ethics Commission is meeting in September, and Goodstein may get the chance to defend his interpretation of the rules for attorney-commissioner-lobbyists.


Bravo to Zoe Sanders-Nettles for speaking up when silence was easier. At the annual Fourth Circuit judicial conference in Virginia in July, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rhenquist led the attendees in a sing-along that included a rendition of "Dixie."

After the refrain died out, Sanders-Nettles told Rhenquist that, while she enjoyed the sing-along, she didn't think that singing "Dixie" was appropriate. Asked why, Nettles responded, "It hurts people's feelings."

Her willingness to call a Supreme an extreme makes countless South Carolinians proud.

Name that Sleazeball!

The National Right to Life Committee recently supported the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 1999." This bill would grant fetuses unprecedented rights of federal protection.

Be the first caller to identify the South Carolina sponsor of this legislation and win a free trial subscription to POINT. (Hint: He had a front-row seat at last year's impeachment hearings.)


© Copyright by POINT, 1999