Thumbs up to leaders from the Florence County Council and the city of Florence for sitting down Wednesday and engaging in a much-needed dialogue about parking in downtown Florence. We suggested a few weeks ago that the county was dragging its heels in regard to plans for a second parking deck. We’ll take that back. The county produced a blueprint that it unveiled in April that showed a proposed deck in the northeast corner of the Florence County Complex grounds. That would replace some surface parking spaces. Talks were delayed while the city waited for the results of a study that it had commissioned. That report, delivered late in August, took longer than expected. Now, where once it seemed the city was restless about wanting a second deck, it now seems content to wait a few years at the recommendation of the study. The county wants a deck now. We see that immediate need, too. The issue: Who will pay for it? The reasonable solution would be for the city and county to each pay half of $10 million for what would be a three-story deck. But is three stories enough? Four would mean many more parking spaces at an extra cost of, say $2.5 million. That would be a good investment. In hindsight, we wonder if the city deck that is about to open on East Cheves Street should have been built at least one level higher. The need eventually will be there for a third downtown deck. The city can be patient and see where growth leads to the best location, and when that time comes, the city can pay for it all. Near the end of Wednesday’s meeting, leaders on both sides agreed to continue meeting monthly. We applaud that agreement. Two things: These should be open meetings. Others such as Francis Marion University President Fred Carter and Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce President Mike Miller should be invited to the table, at least occasionally. FMU is a big stakeholder downtown. Carter is a skilled broker who has the best interests of the city and county in his heart. Miller would represent downtown businesses well.

Thumbs up to Duke Energy, city and county public works departments and emergency management officials for making Tropical Storm Hermine’s punch as painless as possible. We got some much-needed rain a week ago. We didn’t need the stiff winds, but the amount of storm damage seemed surprisingly low. Power seemed to be restored at a reasonable rate. Power went out just before midnight at the Morning News’ printing facility on the northwest outskirts of Florence. We had to print Saturday’s edition elsewhere. We apologize for late delivery, but most of our customers were understanding. Duke restored power Saturday morning, and that was that. Things could have been worse. The storm could have rolled through on Saturday or Sunday. That would have disrupted NASCAR racing in Darlington.

Thumbs up to Tonita Perry for organizing the Voter Education Symposium that was held Thursday evening at the Poyner Adult Education School auditorium. David White and Jacob Butler, political science professors from Francis Marion University and Morris College in Sumter, respectively, spoke well about the process of government, and they shared some keen insight on politics past and present. Matt Moore and Jaime Harrison, the chairmen of the South Carolina Republican and Democratic parties, respectively, helped the audience understand party positions on key issues. They were remarkably and delightfully congenial. They say they are friends. They have been appearing together frequently at functions all over the state. They traveled from Columbia to Florence and back together. They even ate barbecue together before Thursday’s program. If only all Republicans and Democrats could get along so well despite some major differences in opinions. We only wish they were running for office. The one disappointment Thursday was the low turnout. Fewer than 100 people attended the symposium. As one attendee noted after the program, the small crowd illustrated the biggest problem that plagues us today: apathy.

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 letters@florencenews.com. 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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