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NYC mayor in Orangeburg: Invest in children, seniors, families (with links to N.Y. Daily News coverage)

An instant connection of “kindred spirits” resulted in the mayor of the largest city in the United States traveling to the City of Orangeburg.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, first lady Chirlane McCray, took part in the Sunday worship service at Victory Tabernacle Deliverance Temple, where City of Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler is the bishop.

N.Y. Daily News coverage of Bill de Blasio visit to Orangeburg

Butler and de Blasio met at the U.S. Conference of Mayors and had an instant connection, according to the two elected officials.

“Mayor Butler and I met and we were instantly friends and I heard, immediately, how much he wanted to find new ways to move Orangeburg forward, and that he had a passion,” de Blasio said.

Butler said, “There were a lot of mayors there, but our spirits agreed, and I think we just have kindred spirits. We wanted to see things happen and we wanted to see our territory thrive, and I just knew that I could learn from him.”

N.Y York Daily News video of mayor's Orangeburg visit

The NYC mayor said, “Mayors have a special bond, and we were both involved in the U.S. Conference of Mayors. When mayors meet and share values, there is a special connection because we are the ‘get things done people.’ When you meet someone who you know is that kind of person, it connects.”

Butler was also on the receiving end of praise from de Blasio.

“He has a passion for moving this city forward, and I said let’s work together, let’s share ideas because every city learns from every other city,” de Blasio said of Butler.

In his short visit to Orangeburg, de Blasio stated that he was impressed.

“There’s energy, there’s spirit, there’s pride and it feels to me like a place ready to move forward,” he said.

The congregation heard a speech delivered by de Blasio that addressed some of what the NYC mayor views as issues facing the country.

“We’re the most productive people in the world. We’re the hardest-working people in the world, but we’re not getting back what we deserve for that hard work. For decades and decades everyday people have been falling behind, but meanwhile a very small group of people, millionaires and billionaires, are getting wealthier and wealthier,” de Blasio said.

“It was the government that helped them every step of the way to help them get wealthier and wealthier and wealthier. It was the government that didn’t help all of the good working people in this country move forward,” he said.

“This was not an accident, this was an agenda,” he stated.

He called for investment in working people, stating it could be a solution to the many problems around the country.

“We’re going to have to invest in those young children, we’re going to have to invest in those seniors who need health care, we’re going to have to invest in families,” de Blasio stated.

The Democratic mayor stated that New York City residents have seen legislation passed providing every child with free, high-quality pre-K education; free after-school programs for all middle school students; a guaranteed minimum of two weeks of paid vacation for all who are employed; paid sick days for all who are employed and guaranteed health care for all who don’t have insurance, de Blasio stated.

“These are things that we deserve, and these are the things we can achieve if we demand them,” he said.

He says he still has not decided if he will be running for president in 2020.

“Chirlane and I are in the middle of conversation with our family, and that’s the most important decision. We certainly have not ruled out a run for the presidency and we’re going to be traveling around talking about the kind of message you heard today, and making a decision sooner, rather than later.” 

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Edisto offers miles of fun; landings provide easy access to river

Kayakers, canoers and other boaters seeking a place to relax and have fun can find several spots to access and enjoy the Edisto River.

The north and south forks of the river flow through Orangeburg County and offer more than 10 river access sites.

According to Friends of the Edisto, the access sites include:

North Fork

• Pooles Mill Landing at Hwy. 3 bridge, near Lexington County line.

• Jones Bridge Landing at Hwy. 394 bridge, near North.

• Carson Park Landing at Hwy. 321 bridge, near North.

• Slab Landing Road bridge, near Wolfton.

• Baughman Landing at Shillings Bridge Road bridge, west of Orangeburg.

• Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg.

• Orangeburg Landing in the park below Hwy. 301/601 bridge.

• Livingston Landing off Road 49, south of Orangeburg near the fish hatchery.

• Pou’s Landing (private access, off Road 49, south of Orangeburg beyond the fish hatchery).

• Rowe’s Bridge Landing at Road 39 bridge, near Rowesville.

• Kill Kare Landing off Road 63, west of Branchville.

South Fork

• Hog Pen Landing below Hwy. 3 bridge, near Springfield.

• Ness Bridge Landing at Hwy. 70 bridge, near Finland, west of Cope.

Kayakers and canoers from the community and across the nation frequent the black water river.

The Blackwater River Race is held annually during the Festival of Roses. The 6.4-mile race begins at Baughman Landing and ends at Orangeburg Landing.

The race resumed in 2018 after a hiatus caused by an abundance of debris blocking the waterway due to storms and flooding. Areas of the river were impassable, but county officials made an effort to rid the waterways of the debris and were successful in doing so last year.

More information about kayak trails and access sites can be found at or

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Orangeburg County School District plans to purchase property; superintendent says no added cost to taxpayers

Orangeburg County's new school district is planning to buy property to house instructional and technology staff, Interim Superintendent Dr. Zona Jefferson said.

Trustees discussed the property purchase and personnel matters in closed, executive session before the start of the second February meeting. The meeting was held in the cafeteria of Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5’s Nix Learning Center.

During open session, the board approved a resolution declaring its intent to use debt service funds to purchase the property. No cost was discussed, and Chairwoman Peggy James-Tyler said that the district couldn’t name a possible location at this point.

According to Jefferson, funds for the purchase would come from debt service millage, with no millage increase for taxpayers.

In other business:

Branchville students win state awards

COPE -- Students from Branchville/Lockett schools recently brought home a number of state-level awards in academics, visual arts, photography and more from the S.C. Beta Club conventions.

• In the superintendent’s report, Jefferson said, “We are making great strides to ensure we are ready for a smooth transition.”

Lawmakers approved legislation last year requiring the merger of the county’s three school districts into one by July 2019. The consolidation transition committee has been planning for the combination of school districts 3, 4 and 5 into a unified district.

The three districts end their work on June 30, with July 1 being the first official day of operation for the new, consolidated school district.

As part of that transition, information technology staff members in each of the three districts have been working together toward migration and setup of services for the new consolidated district, according to Eric Ham, District 5’s head of information technology.

The special education directors of each of the three districts also reported on merging of their departments’ services.

According to Dr. Tawana Nash, District 5’s executive director of special education, the combined district will serve about 1,700 special education students – with District 3 having about 400 students, District 4 about 500 and District 5 about 800 at present.

All current staff members are needed and more may be required, based on projected enrollment and the needs of the students.

• Trustees gave first reading once again to several policy drafts that were revised since the last meeting. The policies dealt with foundations and basic commitments, fiscal management, support services and facilities planning and development.

“We will have further discussion of each and every one of these,” said South Carolina School Boards Association General Counsel Dr. Tiffany Richardson.

Richardson has been assisting the board with drafting policies and other matters for the new consolidated district.

• Richardson said that per the board’s request, the duties of a parliamentarian – a post that will be filled later by a board member -- have been added to an organization policy draft. She also recommended that the district change the date for board officer elections.

Jefferson said that the elections should be held in November so that officers would be established by December before the beginning of the new year.

Another policy change discussed was adding language that would set per-diem mileage and expense reimbursement for trustees according to state rates.

• The board discussed whether the district should retain only an outside attorney or have in-house counsel as well. No decision was made.

• Trustees voted to ask District 5 to waive a policy that would require board stipends to be paid as direct bank deposits. One trustee would prefer to receive payment as a paper check, according to Jefferson.

Trustees were split in their voting, with James-Tyler casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of making the request.

• The board approved a standard professional contract format for faculty and staff members. The process would include on-site background checks, Jefferson said, and the district’s teacher recruiters would have all the tools for interviewing potential employees at job fairs.

• Jefferson said she would prefer to have a financial report presented at each of the board’s two monthly meetings, not just once monthly. Trustees approved the request.

• The board voted to approve school and work calendars for the 2019-2020 school year. Jefferson said that staff in all three current districts discussed and voted on the calendar drafts.

Teachers are to report for work days and staff development Aug. 12-16, and the first day for students to report to school will be Aug. 19.

• Trustees will meet in Santee on April 2-3 for a strategic planning session, including drafting a mission statement, statement of beliefs and discussion of goals.

• The board’s next meeting will be held Tuesday, March 12 at a location to be announced later.

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Man gets 5 years in prison for drugs; guilty plea includes marijuana, cocaine; other charges dropped

A 40-year-old Neeses man pleaded guilty to multiple drug charges last month before Circuit Judge Maite Murphy.

Risheen Israel Pender of 301 Hutto Road pleaded guilty to:

• Second-offense possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

• Possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine within close proximity to Howard Middle School.

• First-offense possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

• Possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a violent felony.

Murphy sentenced him to five years in prison. He was given credit for having already served 125 days.

Investigators were patrolling Jamison Avenue around 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2018 when they saw Pender inside of a parked vehicle on a vacant lot.

When investigators approached Pender to see if he had permission to be at the site, they saw a bag of narcotics stuffed inside the driver’s side door.

Investigators searched the vehicle and said they found various illegal narcotics and a pistol stolen in 2016 from a residence located less than a mile from where investigators initially saw Pender.

Investigators say when they frisked Pender, they discovered he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

As a result of his guilty plea, prosecutors dismissed the following charges:

• Possession with intent to distribute Xanax.

• Possession with intent to distribute ecstasy.

• Possession with intent to distribute “Molly.”

• Possession with intent to distribute Xanax near a school.

• Possession with intent to distribute “Molly” near a school.

• Possession with intent to distribute ecstasy near a school.

• Possession of a stolen firearm.