Thumbs up to the local powers that be who have scheduled a community conversation about race and relationship building. S.C. Rep. Terry Alexander, a Democrat from Florence who doubles as a pastor, is the leader who has called for the forum in the aftermath of another terrible round of tragic police shootings. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Savannah Gove Baptist Church in Florence. Alexander has invited representatives from the local police and sheriff’s offices, and he strongly encourages attendance by faith leaders, elected officials, educators and citizens of all races in this community. The forum is open to all people. We would love to see the church packed. We hope everyone behaves civilly. Alexander said we all need to focus on community building and relationship building. This is an overdue conversation. “We have to learn how to talk to each other,” Alexander said. We also need to learn how to listen to each other.


Thumbs up to Pat Gibson-Hye Moore. The Florence City Council member-elect started this difficult conversation Thursday. She called a news conference to express her dismay that black men and women are being killed needlessly by police officers, but she emphasized that responding to violence with violence is never the right answer. She spoke just a few hours before five police officers were shot fatally in an ambush in Dallas. “Everything here is calm,” she said of Florence, “but who knows what could happen if this violence spreads across the country? You never know what might click with a troubled young person.” She doesn’t see that happening here. “We have a good police force that works with our communities and responds to situations appropriately.”


Thumbs up to law enforcement officials. The questionable actions of a few can reflect poorly on all, but in heated situations, the best of us don’t always react well. Officers and deputies risk their lives to protect us. Most of them are good people, and they aren’t appreciated enough. The tough jobs they are paid so little to do are getting tougher. It’s a sad, sad world in which we are living.


Thumbs up to Duke Energy Progress. The utility announced this week that it is seeking a rate increase. Shouldn’t bills going up deserve a thumbs down? Well … nobody wants to pay more for anything these days, but this would be the first rate increase in 28 years. That’s right. Twenty-eight years. Duke Energy officials are emphasizing three points: 1) The largest part of the proposed increase would pay for new generation that has replaced older, less-efficient coal plants. 2) The impact of a proposed 14.5 percent increase would be lessened by lower fuel charges that take effect this month, reducing the impact on customer bills to an 11.6 percent increase. 3) Customers would still have lower rates than 1988, when adjusted for inflation. Our biggest question: How in the world did Duke Energy customers escape any increases for almost three decades? The rate increase must be approved by the Public Service Commission of South Carolina. Public hearings will be held, including one later this summer in Florence. A final evidentiary hearing will be held this fall in Columbia, where the PSCSC will consider written and oral testimony. We urge people who have questions to attend.


Thumbs up to the Masterworks Choir, which has returned from a June 17-26 trip to Italy. During that 10-day tour, 38 singers, music director Will Carswell and organist Beverly Hazelwood performed. The schedule included three formal and two informal performances. The choir performed in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, at the Chianti Music Festival in Castellina, in the Duomo of Lucca, in the Church of San Marcello and at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Hazelwood presented an organ recital in the Church of St. Ignazio in Rome. Bravo! We wish we could have been there.


Thumbs up to Seth Collins, an up-and-coming musician from Florence who now lives in Savannah, Georgia. The 25-year-old independent artist was profiled Thursday in the Currents section of the Morning News by reporter Deborah Swearingen. It was the first in a series called “Soundcheck | Notes on music in the Pee Dee.” Collins started singing and jamming on his acoustic guitar two years ago at local bars and venues, and he already has come to play an instrumental role in the music scene around the Pee Dee. The singer-songwriter has a Southern rock sound with a “honky tonk-type feel.”


Thumbs up, thumbs down is a regular feature of the Morning News and appears each Saturday on our Opinion page. We seek nominations for both good and bad deeds from our readers. Send nominations to us by email at Be sure use the word “thumb” in the subject and include a contact number. Thumbs can also be mailed to us c/o The Morning News, 310 S. Dargan St., Florence, S.C., 29506.

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