Originally created 04/02/00

A child murder plot; a pivotal S.C. primary



THERE'S LOCAL and even national soul-searching after the arrest of three Martinez boys -- two 11-year-olds and a 13-year-old -- for an elaborate plan to take two parents hostage and kill them. A sister of one of the 11-year-olds, who says she had a gun pointed to her head, foiled the plot by escaping and telling all to parents and Columbia County lawmen.

The parents, naturally, were stunned. Yet it is disconcerting that the mother said "they are good kids" while the father downplayed the gravity of the plot. While one feels for the parents, who wonder what triggered all this, there's no getting around massive evidence that points to an incredibly evil scheme.

Again we see dysfunctional American kids -- this time from a "nice" suburb -- on display.

I recall Darrell Scott, father of a Columbine High School murder victim, sharing powerful thoughts before a congressional panel: Killing by kids from supposedly normal homes "should force us to see where the real blame lies. ... Much of the blame lies here in this (hearing) room. Your laws ignore our deepest needs."

We all consist of body, soul and spirit, Scott said. "When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual influences were present within our constitutional systems for most of our nation's history. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing we open the doors to hatred and violence."

There clearly needs to be a spiritual and moral awakening -- especially among all too many Baby-Boomer parents who grew up during the "If It Feels Good, Do It" 1960s generation. The movie Boogie Nights dramatically illustrates what happens when all values and taboos are thrown overboard. Many jaded youngsters know the Internet, but don't know right from wrong.

The late Roy Lowrie, a prime mover of the religious private school movement, predicted 10 years ago the demise of the public school system was "a decade away." Public schools, he said, were being held together by that large cadre of loyal, competent and God-fearing teachers who were raised in a generation steeped in Judeo-Christian values. But they are getter wearier, he said, and will retire.

"What's happening," Lowrie concluded, "is that their removal is like chiseling out all the mortar in a brick building. When the mortar's gone, the building will fall."

Is this fear legitimate? Will there be enough teachers, parents and role models who know right from wrong to be there for our children in years to come?

ANIC clout grows

The Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. will be the player in transforming Augusta for years to come.

It was born last year to assist low- and middle-income housing development/rehabilitation in blighted areas. Now the 13-member ANIC board will spend, or transfer to other entities, money from a $10 million state grant secured by Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta. New projects range from a Springfield Village Park and an aquarium study to Augusta Canal enhancement and a biotech/biomedical authority.

ANIC's new missions demand even more openness and accountability, especially since it must eventually "pass" funding to other entities like the cutting-edge biotech authority. Anything that fosters biotech start-up firms is welcomed -- and ANIC board members Walker (the Senate majority leader) and Rep. Robin Williams (the Republican with the most appropriations clout) deserve special credit.

That so-called `pork'

Legislators Walker, Williams and Rep. Jack Connell are slammed by a few vocal cynics for -- horrors! -- bringing home "pork." But let's be blunt. Twenty-five years ago, Augusta was dead -- with little to do or to see. Our quality of life has been vastly enhanced in just the past decade by legislators on appropriations committees who fund public-private enterprises that create jobs while expanding Augusta's economic, cultural, sports, recreation and tourism vistas. Most of the "pork" coming to Augusta this year (with the possible exception of the aquarium) is not waste. It will translate into everything from new infrastructure to better and expanded community health care.

Who'd be the best rep?

Since South Carolina House District 83 (North Augusta and Belvedere) is heavily Republican, the winner of Tuesday's GOP primary will be the next representative. Eddie Butler, Don Smith and Arthur Shealy agree on most policy issues. Aiken County Councilman Butler, however, has taken hits for "wavering" on the Confederate flag because he favors a compromise where the historic banner would be moved from atop the Statehouse to the grounds by the Wade Hampton statue.

Butler's heart is in the right place on education reform issues; Smith strikes me as a little fuzzy on some. Conservative tax lawyer Shealy seems the most well-rounded on major state issues.

Phil Kent is senior editorial writer for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3327 or philkent@augustachronicle.com