Nelson Mandela called education “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and USC is illustrating that idea by remaking itself into a self-directed power over a world it has defined as its own. From lining up first at the Richland County transportation penny tax trough to cutting the legs out from under a developer trying to build in its territory, the powerful estate calls on its minions in the county and city to parlay its wishes into results.
One can see USC’s influence just by walking down Lincoln Street to its palatial entrance to the basketball arena at the crossroads of McGuire Way and Dawn Staley Way. Partially funded by penny sales tax money, those streets and sidewalks are made in slate gray tones of beautiful tile and brick, adorned by fancy new lighting, medians and trees since mundane streets of asphalt and boring concrete sidewalks aren’t good enough for the powerful.
Meantime, Richland County shovels out more penny tax money to expand Bluff Road, primarily benefiting the 85,250 USC faithful who arrive from I-77 seven weekends a year.
The Revenue Department was correct in wanting to audit the county’s use of penny sales tax money, since the desires of the powerful seem to override the needs of the taxpayer.
USC’s control over the city became more visible as it argued that a proposed apartment building would cast too large a shadow over the USC horseshoe (and the president’s front door). The Columbia’s Design/Development Review Commission, apparently hearing the protests, asked developers to make changes. In calculating its own economic benefit to the city (an incredible $4.16 billion per year), USC should have deducted the loss of significant property taxes, since the developer’s decision not to fight USC allowed the USC Foundation to purchase this valuable piece of property, transforming it into a non-taxpaying asset, since the foundation is a non-profit entity funded by tax-deductible contributions from the rich and powerful.
We taxpayers will take it on the chin every time a new tax is dreamed up unless we stop believing governments and educational institutions and rise up against all tax increases.