Steve Morrison in his community

October 27, 2013 

Local attorney Steve Morrison voices his concerns to Richland 2 school board members about a vote on new attendance lines at five high schools during a district meeting at Polo Road Elementary School.

FILE PHOTOGRAPH — The State Buy Photo

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Steve Morrison’s wasn’t an occasional citizenship. He was part of the fabric of his community, getting involved in issues across Columbia.

Some examples:

On Richland 2 attendance lines

Morrison’s commitment to equalizing public school education led him to intervene in a controversial rezoning of Richland 2 high schools in November 2011.

There was outcry from parents that the district, in making way for a fifth high school, was creating a two-tier school system of affluent and poor schools, with minority and poor students primarily located at two high schools.

Morrison appeared at a district board meeting and urged the board not to “aggregate poverty in one school.” Relying on his extensive legal experience, he reminded the board that poor students thrive in schools with mixed socio-economic populations. The board shelved the plan and later approved a more equitable rezoning plan.

On the debate about homeless people and Main Street

Morrison weighed in earlier this month on Columbia’s discussion of its homeless population.

In an Oct. 4 Opinion column for The State newspaper, he reminded everyone that the homeless population wasn’t monolithic, that his work with the United Way had taught him that homeless people are individuals, with their own individual issues and needs.

“I urge all of us to start seeing the individual, to hear the stories of the men and women our community has helped and to focus the discussion on serving the needs of the individual men and women in a way that respects their personal human dignity.

“If we do this, the many solutions needed – mental health access, residential and out-patient addiction treatment, temporary shelter, long-term shelter, access to affordable housing, family services, access to health care, emergency clothing, safe public restrooms, daily bread, etc. – will become obvious to all concerned. And in the process, the monolithic ‘homeless population’ will gain a human face.”

On historic preservation and community values

City leaders were caught off guard in 2012 when George Elmore’s historic 5-and-10 cent store, a historic, African-American landmark on Gervais Street, was torn down.

Morrison, a former Historic Columbia Foundation board president, weighed in.

He said city leadership “across the board” needs to become educated on landmarks and the need to preserve them.

“It’s like standing at Monticello or Mount Vernon,” Morrison said. “You think: ‘I know George Washington just a little bit.’ And now we can only know George Elmore through his stories, and not his place. That’s why it’s important to save special places.”

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