Straight Talk!

The Honeycutt Chronicles

 by Nora Honeycutt
 

April 28, 2011

Nora Honeycutt

I guess the only problem with being “fly paper for freaks” is, well … being “fly paper for freaks.” Everyone makes jokes about attracting the crazies, but let me tell you something, you actually have no idea what that means until you spend a week with good ole me.

I guess it all started when I was about 9 years old. There was a man who lived about a half mile from my house named Jimmy Freeman. I don’t have to change his name to protect the crazy, because he’s about 3,000 miles away now, in a “special” place for other people like him.

Anyway, Jimmy Freeman tried to kidnap me. Given, it was poorly executed. Then again, I guess it was the best a crazy person could come up with. What exactly does a psycho say to himself when he’s plotting a kidnapping? “This huge family is having a party outside, this is the perfect time to drive slowly by and try to kidnap this freakishly tall 9-year-old while everyone is looking at me,” or something like that. Plans were foiled when my dad saw what was happening and picked up the first thing he could find (which happened to be a roller skate — true story) and hurled it at his windshield. This may seem crazy in itself but let me tell you, my dad is about 6’6 and all American Indian, so he slipped into Cherokee warrior mode and literally chased him down the street. No worries, the roller skate flying at his head at 90 miles per hour made him drop me and focus on “The Great Escape” which consisted of him driving the half mile to his house and running inside like he wasn’t about to receive the beat-down of his life. I’ll leave the rest of that story to your imagination.

Fast forward to The Mall in Longview, Texas, at about 15 years old with my friend Kristina. All we wanted to do was be seen. That’s what 15-wannabe-25-year-olds do, right? Go to the mall and pretend we’re the “bomb-diggity” and everyone wants to be us. Ha. Apparently we caught the eye of some random English “filmmakers” who thought we were perfect for the “role” they were casting. We said no, of course, but in the middle of us saying “no,” these so-called stars of English stage and screen were busted by the local P.D. for running the largest child porn ring in the tri-state area. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but Texas is a pretty big state.

This is followed by a few years of a bona-fide Internet stalker who was also a “preacher” with — ready for this? — seven kids! I suspect there was a compound-type family involved in there somewhere, but I didn’t research, and frankly, I’d rather not know.

Then there was my first trip to visit my brother here in Beaufort , when my friend and I got the GRAND idea to ride a Greyhound Bus because “it’ll be an adventure!” I guess I can partially take the blame for the crazies I met on that trip because, let’s face it, it’s a Greyhound Bus. I also think my parents should take some amount of blame for ALLOWING this hair-brained scheme to evolve into actual reality. You can just say the words “Greyhound Bus” and freaks will come out of the walls. Really, just try it.

Anyway, on that lovely trip we met a man named Bubba (that was really his name) and he was from Georgia. He took up both seats on his row, and I don’t mean with his luggage. It is what it is, I’m just saying, he was my first marriage proposal. (It was tough, but I said no.) I also met a rapper who wanted to put my name in his song, so if you hear a song that talks about “Nora,” that’s all me. Jealous? Don’t be. He changed his destination to Beaufort because he said “we were meant to be together, and I was his muse.” I had to call the police the minute we arrived in Beaufort because he wouldn’t stop following me. Nope, you can’t make this stuff up.

In the years after, I got held at gunpoint by guerillas in the jungles of Belize; followed and accused of being a drug-lord in the small Mexican town of Reynosa (if you knew me, this would be more funny than scary); and was once held at customs in Honduras because they thought I was Honduran and trying to sneak into the states. Yep, you caught me. The only 6-foot-tall blonde Honduran in history, trying to sneak into the Unite States … damn. Plans foiled again.

Believe it or not, the list goes on. Yes, I’m almost 30, so there is TONS more freak activity in my life, but unless there is some sort of bug zapper-type freak-repelling device available of which I am not aware, I’m afraid I’m going to have to just log this stuff in my personal diary and deal with it.

Stay tuned, I’m about to start selling tickets to this freak-show! Oh, and if you’re one of “them” — you know, one of the freaks — stop it.

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Pam’s P.O.V.

Relay is reason to celebrate

By Pamela Brownstein

April 28, 2011

When the clock strikes 7 on Friday night, there will be a party going on in Beaufort that will last all night and won’t stop until 7 in the morning. There will be food, music, dancing, prizes, men dressed as women — need I say more?

And, no, this will not be happening on my porch (that’s not until Halloween). This celebration will be set up around the track at Beaufort Middle School and it is not to be missed. Hundreds of volunteers have been meeting and planning for months about how to make this event fun for everyone.

Relay For Life is a fundraiser for The American Cancer Society that takes place in communities across the country. This unique overnight event “represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day, cancer will be eliminated,” according to http://www.relayforlife.org.

The Beaufort Relay For Life has 59 teams and has raised more than $45,000 so far. On Friday, all of those teams will be there set up with tents and booths around the track, selling everything from food to face painting. There is a carnival-like atmosphere and a great place to bring the whole family. This year’s theme is “Everyday is a Holiday, Celebrate Life” so teams have chosen a certain holiday to decorate their booths. And if you spot men dressed as women asking you for money, don’t panic, they are competing for the title of Miss. Relay. The person who raises the most money wins.

While the focus is mainly on fun, there are also serious moments during Relay For Life. Cancer survivors are recognized during a Survivors Lap and they will tell inspiring stories about overcoming the disease. Also, hundreds of white paper bags, called luminaries, will be filled with sand and a candle and placed around the track. As night falls, all the candles will be lit, and everyone is encouraged to walk the track and read the luminaries that have been adorned with the names of survivors or in memory of loved ones who lost their lives to cancer.

This event is intensely personal to me because my mother died from breast cancer in October. She was such a warm, courageous, amazing person, and she loved to have a good time. I know she will be looking down and will be proud of all our hard work, dedication and ability to pull off an awesome party.

I hope you can find the time Friday to come to Relay For Life to support your family and friends and see members of the community working together and having fun for a worthy cause.

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DISTRICT IMPROVES ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

By Jim Bequette

January 6, 2011

During the period it was my privilege to serve as Lady’s Island representative on the Beaufort County School Board the District made considerable strides forward in the improvement of academic performance.  When Dr. Valerie Truesdale was hired the Board set as one of the objectives that all schools in the district would meet or exceed the state levels in academic performance within three years. Many schools have met that objective while the others have made significant progress toward that goal but aren’t there yet.

Some of the changes made as part of the effort to ensure the District was moving toward the goal of meeting or exceeding state levels of academic performance were significant.  Some of these changes include:

-        Twenty days were added to the school year for students who are not performing at grade level.  The Measured Academic Performance (MAP) test was fully implemented.

-         At the beginning of the school year all students from kindergarten through grade eight take a test that shows where the student is compared to his grade level.  Each teacher then develops a program to bring each pupil toward grade level.   At the end of the year each is tested again to measure the progress made.  This program also measures the effectiveness of the teacher along with other evaluation  criteria

-        The pre-K program for four-year olds was implemented.  To enroll in this each child must show    by testing that he/she will not be ready for kindergarten in a year.  At the end of their school year that ended in June, 78% of the pre-K students tested as ready for Kindergarten

In spite of our best efforts reading or the inability to read remains a very real problem in Beaufort County. There is no magic cure to the problem and a great deal of effort is being directed toward solving the problem.  However, I am convinced that if we are to succeed in the long term we must have all children reading at grade level early in their education so they will be able to understand more advanced work in middle and high school years.  This in turn will reduce drop-out rates because more students will be able to handle high school courses or even college courses offered to high school students.

As I retire from the Board please know that it was a privilege and  pleasure to work with Dr. Truesdale and the rest of the Board on these and many other changes to benefit our students. I wish my successor Bill Evans every success during his tenure as a school board representative for District 7.

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Using the Same Tax Dollars a Little Differently to Implement The City’s Vision

By Mayor Billy Keyserling

October 28, 2010

Over the course of the past six months, I have referenced the City’s Comprehensive plan that, unlike other plans, sets specific goals for growing the City from within and requiring certain tasks be completed within certain time frames.

I have also written about how City Council charged the Beaufort-Port Royal Joint Planning Commission and the City Redevelopment Commission with taking actions necessary to accomplish these lofty but accomplishable goals.

And in my last essay, I wrote about building our future through redevelopment based on the principles of our historic foundation through infill redevelopment and a form base code. A central downtown, surrounded by walkable neighborhoods, appropriate open spaces, civic spaces and institutions is, I believe, what we all want.

How do we get there without spending more of your hard earned taxes?

By reallocating already budgeted financial resources, City Council last week took yet another step by providing both Commissions with the tools they to implement what we have asked them to do.

While the City’s Redevelopment Commission will take the lead, working hand-in-hand with City Council and staff, they will be supported by a team of highly experienced and nationally recognized community development professionals including The Lawrence Group (which facilitated and wrote the city’s recent Comprehensive Plan) and a Beaufort firm, Metrocology, which is led by Demetri Baches.

Bringing outside expertise to provide hands on redevelopment expertise will jump-start the critical process of transforming plans into action and eventually create the growth we need to sustain our little city.

With 300 years of lessons about what works and what doesn’t in city planning, we are setting a new course, one that organizes civic infrastructure with private sector development to build “civitas” – the complete city.

Beaufort’s Northwest Quadrant, named one of the nation’s “best old-house neighborhoods” by This Old House magazine, presents an example of what is taking place in one neighborhood and will be followed by others. Small businesses, professional services and neighbors are working with the City and residents to rejuvenate the once-blighted and previously neglected community. The downtown core needs this, as do some of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Within the next two years will complete the Beaufort Civic Master Plan and, after many years of inaction, implement the Redevelopment Commission’s aggressive agenda.

The Civic Master Plan will establish principles and standards that all public and private development will follow. The team will identify and promote investment and reinvestment opportunities, block by block in each neighborhood throughout the entire City, not just one or two neighborhoods Each neighborhood has its history, unique character and physical attributes upon which we will respect, build upon and not destroy.

The Civic Master Plan will be visual and will give residents and businesses a clear picture of what is intended: expectations will be set, there should be less guessing about what works and what does not work and we will, in effect, have a tool to use to stimulate various development and/or redevelopment opportunities throughout Beaufort.

The annual expense of doing all this is equivalent to what the City already budgeted for its zoning administration team and consulting contracts.  The existing zoning team and consultants will be folded into what will be called the new City Building Team and all will work side-by-side.

By reorganizing, reallocating and reprioritizing resources, we strive to keep the lid on spending while bringing essential resources to the table. Planning for the future, and working with the private sector to build the future, is a key investment in Beaufort’s fourth century and beyond.

The Lawrence Group is a nationally recognized planning, design, development and project delivery firm headquartered in St. Louis with their regional office in Davidson, NC, led by Managing Principal Craig Lewis.

What we’re really doing is taking the Vision plan created by the people of the City of Beaufort and turning it into an action plan of bricks and mortar and streets and redevelopment and reinvestment. All this, together, is what will keep Beaufort the vibrant, appealing city that has steered through 300 years of ups and downs.

Metrocology is a Beaufort-based strategic planning and consulting firm led by Demetri Baches.  Formerly a director with the internationally acclaimed planning and design firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), based in Miami, Baches currently heads up DPZ’s work in Asia and Australia as a Partner of DPZ Pacific.

Both Lewis and Baches are certified by the American Planning Association and by the Congress for the New Urbanism, an organization that promotes walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions. In addition, Lewis is a LEED accredited professional, meaning he helps buildings, developments, and communities ensure a more sustainable future.

Parallel to the Redevelopment Commission’s work plan, the City is also planning a transition from its current conventional zoning practices to a form-based coding strategy over the next 18-24 months. This requires a complete re-tooling in administrative expertise and a block-level, detailed planning process to ensure success.

The form-based code effort is a partnership between Beaufort County, the Town of Port Royal and the City. The Lawrence Group/Metrocology team will share its planning expertise in the new approach to zoning. They have applied this in numerous communities throughout the world and also administer these codes for local communities.

To complete the work program, the Lawrence Group/Metrocology team will engage, manage, coordinate, and employ a number of other local and regional consulting firms to participate in this team approach.   The Beaufort area is blessed with a multitude of capable and experienced companies and individuals.  It will be easy to draw on these community assets as required by the ambitious work program ahead.

What we ask of you is to “think big”.  Look at your neighborhood and determine what are its positives and negatives.  What, if anything is missing?  What, if any, issues need to be addressed? When the Team comes through to assess and strategize about the steps necessary to spur investment and/or improve matters, we need you to participate by voicing your suggestions and ideas.  It’s that simple.  Most of what needs to be done to re-energize our City involves having the confidence to re-energize ourselves.  The rest involves individual and neighborhood involvement, innovative thinking and seasoned experience.

I am proud to say we have laid out the plans and it is time to go to work. Fortunately, by reorganizing existing resources and being more efficient with those that remain, we are able to forge ahead to ensure the vibrant city we all deserve.

As usual, I invite your thoughts and comments.  My email is billy@islc.net

Billy Keyserling

Mayor

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88-Year Old Respected Female Legislator Takes Stand

Harriet Keyserling urges women to vote for “Agenda over Gender” and support Sheheen

October 21, 2010

Dismayed by Nikki Haley’s lackluster performance in the S.C. House of Representatives, one of South Carolina’s early female legislators, eighty-eight-year-old Harriet Keyserling, is blogging in support of Vincent Sheheen for S.C. Governor in 2010.

Eighty-eight-year-old Harriet Keyserling was the first woman from Beaufort to be elected to the South Carolina State Legislature, serving in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993.

When Nikki Haley was running for the S.C. House of Representatives six years ago, Keyserling was part of a committee that was backing her.

Now dismayed by Haley’s voting record in the S.C. House, Keyserling–known for her political support of education and environmental issues–has teamed with Madeleine McGee, a member of Sullivan’s Island Town Council; and with Kit Smith, longtime member of Richland County Council, to form “Women for Sheheen,” a grassroots organization opposing Haley and supporting the election of Vincent Sheheen as governor of South Carolina.

As supporters across the state–including an increasing number of Republicans–join Women for Sheheen, Haley’s lead has dropped from 17 to 5 points: and the momentum is with Sheheen.

Keyserling’s website, “Agenda over Gender” (www.womenforsheheen.com <http://www.womenforsheheen.com> ), includes an open letter on behalf of the “bi-partisan group of women” in favor of preventing Nikki Haley from taking her “ineffective” politics to the Governor’s Mansion.

The letter <http://womenforsheheen.com/?page_id=2> , which has been signed by more than 600 women, details Haley’s support of funding cuts for education, cultural agencies, and health services; and it contrasts Haley’s political agenda–including the elimination of corporate taxes in favor of reinstating the tax on food–with Vincent Sheheen’s work to create bi-partisan reform groups.

For additional information, connect with more than 1000 supporters of Women for Sheheen on facebook (www.facebook.com/womenforsheheen <http://www.facebook.com/womenforsheheen> ), or go to www.womenforsheheen.com <http://www.womenforsheheen.com>, where Keyserling’s letter and blog, “Agenda over Gender,” are posted.

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BILL EVANS

Candidate for District 7 School Board Representative

October 7, 2010

I am uniquely qualified to represent Lady’s Island, Dataw Island and Pigeon Point on the Beaufort County Board of Education. I have deep roots in Beaufort County, having lived and worked for the school district for 24 years. For the past six years I have lived on Lady’s Island. My extensive experience with local schools and my history of community involvement through school activities and as a volunteer provide me specialized knowledge and insight to the challenges and successes of our school system.

I have lived and worked in several different parts of the county, which gives me significant perspective into the individual problems and needs within the county as a whole.

I already have a deep understanding of the schools in District 7. I know many of the principals on a personal basis and have a strong working relationship with many of the district office staff. This will enhance my ability to get things done – and done quickly — because a level of trust and knowledge already exists. Additionally, I have good relationships with other School Board members and with many other community leaders, both in business and political office.

I have three primary goals in running for this position:

First, we must work as an entire Board of Education with the County Council and Legislative Delegation to develop legislation that provides for fair and consistent education funding across the state. This does not have to mean more taxes, in fact it should not, but it should mean an overhaul of the present system to see that districts such as ours receive a fair share of funding from the state and remove some of the inequitable burden on local homeowners and businesses that exists now. This provides for the needs of the district, including the ability to recruit and retain the best staff possible.

Second, we must ensure that there is rigorous instruction designed to meet the needs of individual students. We must have teachers who are willing and able to teach to these individual needs and we must have administrators, particularly at the schools, who are trained in recognizing proper instruction and have the skills to help improve instruction as necessary. This should lead us to continuous academic progress and the attainment of both local and state goals of student achievement. This approach will also boost graduation rates because students will receive more personalized instruction and guidance.

Third, discipline needs to be a cornerstone of the relationship between the schools, students and parents. Discipline policies and practices should keep students in school receiving instruction as much as possible. When they are suspended and sent home, they not only miss out on key learning, but without adult supervision they also have more opportunities to get into further trouble. That doesn’t help the student, it doesn’t help the family and it certainly doesn’t help the community. Misbehaving students should receive consequences on their own time and should include the possibility of service to the school.

Students who are violent or habitually disruptive need to be isolated from those who are dedicated learners; in doing this we need to make sure that we identify the problems these students are having and set up programs to address and correct these issues. But we also must recognize our responsibility to the dedicated learners and protect their learning from habitually disruptive students.

I have seen what works and what doesn’t work over my 24 years as a district administrator working at Hilton Head, Beaufort and Battery Creek high schools as well as the district office. During the past three years I served as the school district’s ombudsman, fielding questions and concerns from parents and community members and seeking resolutions to those issues. These experiences all gave me a clear picture of our district and the needs and expectations of our various communities. I’ve also spent more than a decade as a high school principal at Beaufort High, Battery Creek High and Hilton Head High. I know what’s reasonable to expect and what simply won’t work. In these times of extremely tight finances, we cannot afford the time or the cost of programs that don’t bring true value to our students – and my background in education and in Beaufort County Schools will help bring that voice to the School Board.

Living and working in Beaufort County for many years, my family has received a great deal. My long history of community involvement and volunteerism leads me to this election for the School Board District 7 seat as yet another way to give back to the community. I need your support to bring excellence into our schools. Thank you and please vote.

For more information visit www.billevansschoolboard, friend us at Facebook at Bill Evans School Board, or contact me at billevansschoolboard@gmail.com.

Editor’s Note: The above article was prepared by Mr. Evans in response to a request by LIBPA for an article on the subject of his choice as a method of allowing the members of the community to become better informed regarding the District 7 candidates for School Board.

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BRINGING NEW PERSPECTIVES TO USUAL ACTIVITIES

By Robert White, Candidate for District 7 School Board Representative

October 7, 2010

I spent 36+ years in education working as a successful classroom teacher, principal of a state and federal award-winning high school, acting associate superintendent, assistant superintendent for administration and human resources and university adjunct professor teaching future administrators. I worked closely with school boards as part of a central office leadership team during which time I experienced first-hand the selection of a superintendent, helped develop district-wide school budgets and helped create an enhanced benefits program while saving many thousands of dollars annually. Additionally, I became experienced regarding a wealth of issues common to all school districts. I understand the role of the school board and value both community and system-wide collaboration.

In talking with school personnel as well as the general public here in Beaufort, I have heard more thoughts and questions that really boil down to a matter of communication. “Why doesn’t the school board make test information printouts quicker?”  “Why was my child disciplined when he/she was just taking up for another child?”  “Why do we do so much testing?”  Although all of the questions are good ones, there is an equally good answer for each and every one. Effective communication is a two-way street with both parties responsible to both talk and listen. Everyone must be aware. This is also true with the more global issue of school system goals.  Agree or not agree, all parties must understand where the other is coming from. Without clear, shared communication by and between all publics, it is impossible to have the best schools.  Facts become lost in rumor mills, people feel less appreciated and, ultimately, the students suffer. Accountability becomes incomplete especially as a tool for helping individuals and the district as a whole to get better.  While the very use of the words “accountability” and “communication” in the same breath makes one think of more work, the reality is that excellent communication actually can help people work smarter and more efficiently as well as get better results while having more community support.

As an example of taking current programs and organizing those efforts to achieve more, I would encourage the school system to consider refining the current School Improvement program.  Each school has a local School Improvement Council which is charged with developing goals and objectives for that school.  Council membership includes parents, teachers, business leaders, the principal and, at the high school level, students. Required by the state and already in basic form, these plans are designed to have individual school goals and should also include school system goals. These plans should flow to the superintendent and the school board for their review. In turn, while personnel evaluations by law are private, the superintendent could foster a principal evaluation component that includes review of each school’s progress in meeting the goals of the school plan. In this fashion, the school board goals flow down to the individual schools and the individual school’s goals flow back to the school board. Two-way, top to bottom and bottom to top communication is fostered with development of a common language among all stake holders.  By using this process the school board would have better monitoring of progress being made by the school district, better understanding of individual school issues and how school sites are addressing local as well as system wide goals and objectives. The board also would gain a clearer understanding of how the support staff is helping each school improve. Likewise, the system could use these reports to prepare clear, understandable reviews of progress toward and accomplishment of goals for the general public. A systemic approach that fosters understanding and accountability among all parties develops understanding and buy in for the common goals of the schools and the school district. When all parties understand and appreciate the needs of the other, more support and effort result. Once again, using what is already in place to get more results is just one of the ideas I have for moving the schools forward.

Having studied Beaufort County Public Schools and believing that everything in education must be student and teacher focused, I see much good in our schools. However, all organizations are either getting better or getting worse. No organization stays the same. I know that we as a community would choose for our schools to get better, and the general community must be part of this effort. I believe that I have some ideas which can help the system to improve and new perspectives to bring to our dialogue. We owe it to our teachers to listen to their needs and we owe it to our students not to be satisfied with current conditions. Together we can build on what is good and improve what needs to be improved. Together we can achieve so much!

Editor’s Note: The above article was prepared by Mr. White in response to a request by LIBPA for an article on the subject of his choice as a method of allowing the members of the community to become better informed regarding the District 7 candidates for School Board.

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Jim Bequette Questions County Finance Committee

September 16, 2010

The Chairman of the Beaufort County Finance Committee letter published in a local daily and his comments to County Council members contain misleading information.

In debunking the District’s reserve funds, Mr. Rodman wrote the following:  “The board also argues that a large reserve (fund balance) is required for hurricane recovery and to protect the district’s strong bond rating.  However, taxes are collected at the end of the year so the needed funds are already on hand.”

Does the Finance Committee Chairman understand property tax procedures?  Tax bills normally mail in early November while the peak hurricane season is September and October.  Few taxes are collected in July through November. Last year the taxes collected in the July, August and September were $2.9 million while  the expenditures were $31 million to operate the schools.   School reserves would be totally depleted without short term borrowing if a hurricane or other disaster occurred.

The Chairman states, “The District only needs a reserve of 10%.”  The County itself has one of over 20%.   When the County forces the District to spend its reserve from 15% down to 10%, why doesn’t the County likewise spend its reserve down to 10% and lower county taxes 4 or 5 mills.

The District has a bond rating of AA.  The rating agencies recommend a fund balance (reserve) near 15% The School District has a target of 15%.  Since receiving the AA rating, millions in interest has been saved.

By a 6-5 vote, County Council jeopardizes years of District hard work in building a needed reserve by refusing a 2% mill increase to the District.

Jim Bequette

Home: 521-0931

Cell: 263-8327

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Another Page in the Saga of the Northern Bypass

Courtesy of the LIBPA Newsletter

September 16, 2010

Representatives of the Thomas and Hutton Engineering Company, which is the company conducting the Northern Bypass Study, recently met with Lady’s Island County Councilman Paul Sommerville and Planning Commission Representative Jim Hicks to review the criteria that led to their decision to recommend Brickyard Point Road and Johnson Landing Road as part of the “preferred route” for a future Northern Bypass. From this meeting the following points regarding a Northern Bypass were provided:

- Using Middle Road would impact too many homes.

- Including Springfield Road would impact too many homes and probably require expanding Sams Point Road to 4 lanes from Springfield Road intersection to the Brickyard Point Road intersection.

- Using a route which includes Brickyard Point Road and Johnson Landing Road would. at the present time, require the displacement of 23 homes and impact (require a portion of property) another 165 homes.

- Would cost (for a two lane bridge and road) an estimated $116.95 million.

- Was determined to not be feasible based on a cost/benefit analysis.

- In view of the negative projections of the cost/benefit analysis a Northern Bypass would not be considered for funding by either the Federal Transportation Authority or the State Department of Transportation.  The total funding for such a project would have to come from Beaufort County.

In regard to the requirement to displace 23 homes to build a Northern Bypass Mr. Rob McFee, Director of Beaufort County Engineering and Infrastructure Division, shared the fact that in over 20 years with the South Carolina Department of Transportation, he was associated with fewer than 10 home relocations/displacements to allow road construction. He stated relocations have significant community effects as well as financial impacts and should not be considered lightly.

The final phase of the study is presently underway and consists of a close look at the projected environmental impact of a Northern Bypass.  Once the study is complete representatives of the Thomas and Hutton Engineering Company have agreed to meet with the Lady’s Island Community Preservation Committee and conduct a public meeting to share the results of the Northern Bypass Study.

Editor’s Note: A special thank you is extended to Mr. McFee, Director of Beaufort County Engineering and Infrastructure Division, Mr. Bob Klink, County Engineer and Mr. Donnie Martin of Thomas and Hutton for their support of  efforts by LIBPA to keep the community informed regarding the Northern Bypass Study.

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Give Educational Choice to Parents

By Sen. Larry Grooms

September 10, 2010

Larry Grooms

“While I breathe, I hope.” It’s one of South Carolina’s mottos, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Like parents everywhere, I join South Carolina’s parents in wanting the best for our children. We pin our hopes on God, on hard work, on belief in the goodness of America and South Carolina. And we hold out hope, hope against hope, for our political figures.

The most promising hope begins with a sound childhood education. That’s why so many parents are now saying the Republican candidate for governor has let them down. They’re disappointed that our candidate removed what is a key piece of the GOP’s official platform. Instead she now says parental choice of schools – the freedom to choose schools – is not her focus.

Certainly the other pieces are there, and they are the right pieces – streamlining the bureaucracy, emphasizing vocational training, reforming our needlessly complex and wasteful funding formulas. But for thousands of parents the freedom to choose a different school means the freedom to at last see their children’s best hopes embodied.

We can meet many of our most urgent social, political and economic challenges by first meeting our students’ needs. A wonderful education not only promises opportunity, but can bring true freedom. Quality education opens minds. It’s inherently liberating. It affords possibility, invites opportunity, equalizes playing fields and forever pays dividends.

There are far-reaching problems in our education system. Some blame a lack of money, but we spend $11,372 per child, per year on public education. Some say we need more management, but our state has 85 school districts with entrenched administrative bureaucracies. Still others point to inefficiencies, and here they have a point. Only 44 cents of each education dollar manage to reach the classroom for instruction.

There is even more disagreement about solutions, but our shortfalls are not for lack of trying. We’ve had the Education Finance Act (1977), the Education Improvement Act (1984), the Charter School Act (1996), the Education Accountability Act (1998), the Education Lottery Act (2001) and the Education and Economic Development Act (2005). All provided more money and more programming, as if growing the bureaucracy would solve things. And still, the gap between prosperous and poor, between urban and rural, between South Carolina’s children and those in competing states, continues and grows.

Let’s stop tinkering around the edges. Let’s stop throwing money at the problem. Let us instead finally bring real relief, real reform, lasting and meaningful change.

School choice helps families afford independent and home school expenses and is a catalyst for serious reform. It saves public school money, reduces public school class size and directly addresses inequality by giving low- and middle-income families the choice that others already have. It also can let children into a great classroom where the curriculum and style match the learning style best suited for them.

Choice for parents doesn’t depend on school districts to fix themselves. Parents’ rightful voice in their children’s education – in effect their children’s freedom – is restored. Families, not bureaucrats, choose the best school for their sons and daughters.

If we’re serious about quality in education, and equality in education, if we want schools that truly serve families and communities, then we must ensure that our leaders bring the only reform that is driven by families.

Rep. Nikki Haley

Rep. Nikki Haley has been an outspoken and eloquent advocate of meaningful education reform, and having worked with her, I know she’s sincere. We’re on the same team, and I want her to win. That’s why I ask her to reconsider her education plan and restore parental choice to her platform.

Let us free parents to choose and free children to learn. Let us free teachers from bureaucracies and free them to teach. In doing so, we liberate a new generation and give them the best freedom of all – the freedom to succeed.

The writer, a Republican, represents State Senate District 37, which includes portions of Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton and Dorchester counties. A small businessman, he and his wife have three sons who attend public schools.

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Best4Beaufort Supports Alternative 3 for Basing the F-35B at MCAS Beaufort

September 2, 2010

Best4Beaufort is pointing out that Alternative 3 is a much better option for Beaufort than Alternative 1 (the ‘preferred’ alternative) for basing the F-35B at MCAS Beaufort.

Alternative 1 favors North Carolina. With Alternative 1, there will be a 71% increase in airfield operations in Beaufort. This will make Beaufort MCAS the fourth busiest airport in the Southeast, after Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami. There will be at least 290 flight operations per day.

In addition, Alternative 1 projects an annual loss of  $12.7 million in military payroll income for Beaufort. Alternative 3, supported by Best4Beaufort, would provide a $24.6 million increase in local military payroll.

The Marines decline to say what the noise increase will be. The large amount of thrust utilized by the F-35B will generate significant increases in noise compared to the F-18. Despite calling their voluminous document an Environmental Impact Statement, the military did not provide noise levels.

Citizens in other states where the Air Force is planning to install the F-35A (Tucson, Boise, South Burlington) have complained and won judgments. Their local politicians supported them.

I think that if more citizens were to study the facts (or obfuscation by the military), they might also have concerns about the efficacy of this project.

Regards,

Joey Gazdak

379-1015

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Rethink Business Model to Jumpstart the Jasper Port

By Tom Davis

August 12, 2010

Two weeks ago marked the second anniversary of a landmark event in the development of a new maritime port on the Savannah River in Jasper County.  Two years ago – on July 29, 2008, to be exact – the Georgia Department of Transportation conveyed the 1,517-acre port site to a new bi-state joint venture owned equally by South Carolina and Georgia.

The plan was for the new port to start handling shipping containers when capacity at the existing public ports in Savannah and Charleston (about 12 million containers a year, combined) was exhausted, projected to occur in or around 2018.  And the bi-state joint venture has done a good job the past two years of laying the groundwork for a new container port.

As a result of the economic recession, however, it is now estimated that container capacity in Charleston and Savannah will not be reached until 2024, or perhaps longer, and politicians and port officials in both states have responded by putting plans for the Jasper port on the back burner.  I think that is a mistake and a waste of a tremendous South Carolina economic asset.

What is needed, instead, is a different way of thinking about the new port.  If demand has ebbed for a new mega-container terminal – and it clearly has – then attention should be paid to attracting the types of shipping business not targeted by Charleston and Savannah.  In this regard, I think there are three things that state legislators in South Carolina and Georgia should keep in mind next year as they consider the bi-state compact that will chart the course of the Jasper port.

First, direct it to go after short sea shipping, also known as “blue highway” business, which moves cargo along our coastal and inland waterways, and have it fitted for the roll-on/roll-off (RORO) and lift-on/lift off (LOLO) barges used by such operations.  For example, a private investor in the Augusta-Aiken area wants to reopen the Savannah River for cargo navigation; the Jasper port would be a great “ocean link” for a sister port up-river.  Transporting cargo in this manner is favored by the federal governments and grant money is available for the necessary infrastructure.

Second, limit its operations to the smaller shippers that carry break-bulk and/or containers on deck, including the small independent container carriers that now operate in the Caribbean and along the east coast South America and that use smaller-tier ports like Port Everglades and Fernandina.  These smaller shippers are not favored by the public ports in Savannah and Charleston since they typically do not maintain fixed schedules, have slower vessel discharge rates and require extra services.

Third, have it cater to and accommodate refrigerated- or frozen-good shipping operations, especially those that import and export poultry, beef and other perishables. This business is a huge missed opportunity.  Poultry products, for example, earn more than any other Georgia crop, with an estimated $13.5 billion economic impact annually, yet Pascagoula and Jacksonville handle the shipping because the necessary facilities are neither available nor wanted in Savannah.  The Jasper port could and should capture that business.

In short, start thinking about the Jasper port as a niche site for rapid turnarounds, not as a traditional container terminal; align it with existing economic need.  Jasper County and the nearby counties need jobs now, not in 2024 or sometime beyond, and going after this other shipping business makes economic sense.  Terminal operators and stevedores are eager for the opportunity, right now, to invest their capital and do business at a Jasper port.

It makes sense for other reasons, too.  It makes political sense in that those with vested interests in the Charleston and Savannah ports will not view the Jasper port as a threat to their container business.  It makes environmental sense in that the smaller ships would not need a deeper channel dredged.   And the smaller footprint of these initial operations (less than 100 acres of the 1,517-acre port site would be needed) would make cooperation by the Corps of Engineers, in terms of permitting and having it release its spoil disposal easement, more likely.

Success relatively quickly at this more modest level would beget success at higher levels in the future; the initial operations would not prevent the Jasper port from handling the larger container traffic when that finally became necessary. Most importantly, it would be a move beyond the concept of a new port on the Savannah River in Jasper County to a working commercial enterprise that actually creates jobs and wealth.

Tom Davis is the State Senator for Beaufort County.

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Editorial Opposing Randy Paige, President of SC for Responsible Government

August 5, 2010

A recent article in your paper that was written by Randy Paige, President of South Carolinians for Responsible Government, compares apples with oranges in order to be critical of public schools.

Last year, Paige was publishing average cost-per-pupil in public schools as $15,244.  In your article he stated that it is now $11,300 per-student compared to $5,100 per student for private or independent schools.   This looks more accurate.  Beaufort County School District (BCSD) actual 2009 cost-per-pupil is $10,505 as computed by the SC State Department of Education from audited financial statements.  It can be found on that department’s website under In$ite.

Paige’s comparison is unfair because it avoids the costly items that public schools are required to do by state and federal laws. Federal law requires that public schools educate every handicapped student regardless of cost.  BCSD budget requires spending of more than $14 million for educating these children.  There are cases where public schools must send severely handicapped children to private institutions at a cost in six figures..  How much of this expense is involved with private schools?

Second, public schools are required to bus students that live more than 1-1/2 miles from their school.  Many students have to ride the bus from points even closer than that for safety reasons because developers are not required to build sidewalks because of easy building standards in many jurisdictions.  Don’t see buses at private schools.

Next, Are students from poverty homes in private schools?  The answer is no. In poverty homes the children have little or no experience to get them ready for kindergarten.  Because of that the state law was added which permits four-year-old schooling.  Students to enter this program must be tested to show they are not prepared for entering school.  BCSD has more than 800 students in a four-year-old program.  The BCSD has also increased required school days from 180 to 200 for all students not meeting grade level work. Do private schools have these expenses?

Lastly, public school teachers are required by law to meet strict educational requirements.   These laws do not apply to private or charter schools.  They have more leeway in hiring teachers.

Yes, it takes more money per-student for public schools because of the requirement to educate all children—not just students of able mind and body from homes with better income and opportunity.  Above are a few examples.

It should be noted that South Carolinians for Responsible government’s primary interest is vouchers and possibly the elimination of public schools.  When and if private schools must accept responsibility for educating ALL children in compliance with state and federal laws that apply to public schools, their costs will see staggering increases.

Jim Bequette

521-0931

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Immigration: South Carolina Should Follow Arizona’s Lead

By Tom Davis

July 22, 2010

So, immigration is back on the front burner in the news.  For most South Carolinians it never left, but it’s nice to have the mainstream media back on board.

The reason, of course, is the lawsuit filed a couple of weeks ago by the U.S.  Justice Department challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s tough new law targeting illegal immigrants. The feds say that state law, which requires state and local police to question and possibly arrest illegal immigrants during the enforcement of other laws, usurps federal authority.

This lawsuit, of course, comes as no surprise. A few days earlier, President Obama had sternly warned Americans in a national address about the dangers of a “patchwork” of immigration laws arising as “states and localities go their own ways.”

The hypocrisy here is palpable. After all, the Obama administration is openly friendly to “sanctuary cities” that act in open defiance of federal immigration laws and forbid their enforcement by local officials.  That particular “patchwork” of immigration laws is just fine; cities and states, feel free to actively undermine federal law.

Moreover, the legal pretext for the suit is weak.  The feds rely upon “federal preemption,” a court-declared doctrine that says states are prohibited from passing their own laws in areas where federal law already “occupies the field.”  Immigration, the feds’ argument runs, is one of those areas.

But the federal preemption doctrine only precludes state laws that contradict federal ones, not those that are consistent.  Just two years ago, a U.S. district-court judge (upheld by the appeals court) rejected a challenge to Arizona’s workplace enforcement law because it closely followed and did not contradict the federal law.

This is well-settled law.  The United States Supreme Court held in 1976 that there is no indication in the federal immigration law “that Congress intended to preclude state regulation touching on aliens in general.”  And the Ninth Circuit, which covers Arizona, held in 1983 that “where state enforcement activities do not impair federal regulatory interests concurrent enforcement activity is authorized.”

Anyone who has bothered to read the new Arizona law will quickly understand that the permissive doctrine of “concurrent enforcement,” not the prohibitive one of “federal preemption,” applies. The law directly draws on federal statutes for its definition of immigration offenses and codifies the right of the state, repeatedly recognized by the federal courts, to make arrests for violations of federal immigration law.

So what’s the problem? Well, perhaps it’s because the feds calling the shots haven’t read Arizona’s new law.  Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano actually admitted to not having read the state law even as they were vehemently denouncing it.  Does anyone in Washington actually read legislation anymore?

But the more likely answer is this: the Obama administration’s problem with the Arizona law is not that it contradicts federal immigration law, but that it takes it too seriously.  As Eric Holder’s Justice Department has said, in a phrase that could have been lifted straight out of a George Orwell novel, it favors a “balanced administration of the immigration laws.”

What does all of this mean for us in South Carolina, and how should our state legislature respond?  Well, it should fully fund the illegal immigration law that it passed in 2008.  $2 million was included in this year’s budget for the state audits necessary to ensure private businesses’ compliance with the new employee background checks, and that’s a good first step.

However, that 2008 law also directed the S.C. Law Enforcement Division to enter into a contract with the feds to provide our local governments with the training and facilities to arrest and process illegal aliens, and that initiative has stalled for lack of funding.  This second part of South Carolina’s new law must be funded.

Finally, South Carolina’s legislature should enact Senate Bill 1446, an Arizona-type law to further empower local enforcement of federal immigration laws.  We should not be deterred in the least by the federal government’s saber rattling in Arizona.  The opinions of each and every federal court decision on this issue support the authority of Arizona to enact its law.

This is not an academic question; the monetary cost imposed by illegal aliens is staggering.   The Federal for American Immigration Reform has estimated the current annual fiscal cost to South Carolina taxpayers for emergency medical care, education, and incarceration for illegal aliens to be $333 million and projected that to increase to $615 million per year in 2020.  State legislators have a duty to act, and following Arizona’s lead is the right next step.

Tom Davis is the State Senator for Beaufort County.  He can be reached at tom@senatortomdavis.com.

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July 15, 2010

Letter to the Editor:

As they fly overhead, it is hard not to be impressed with the demonstration of skill that comes with the periodic noise that many of us call “The Sound of Freedom”.

When we built our home, we understood our new relationship to the Air Station flight path and the life style impact of training flights.   We also understood the relationship between the Air Station and the people of Beaufort County.

Much has changed over the last twenty years, but the location of the flight paths, and the Marine Aviation family involvement in our schools, business workforce and over-all community has not.

As Marine Corps Aviation makes it way into the next generation of aircraft, Beaufort should remember that the Department of Defense is actively cutting budgets. If Beaufort is not assigned both training and operating squadrons of the F-35B Fighter, the risk of loss of the Air Station’s annual $615 million impact could suddenly become an active economic concern for all Beaufort County residents.

If Beaufort is assigned the Pilot Training Center and three operating squadrons, Marine Corps Aviation will remain in our economy and Beaufort will have a great opportunity to develop high technology civilian jobs.

So, I will briefly stop my activities periodically, search the sky for a plane overhead and take that time to thank the Marine families who are so much a part of Beaufort for the sacrifices that they make for the benefit of our Country.

Pete Cotter

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Wilson’s Vote For Wall Street Robs South Carolina Taxpayers

July 8, 2010

Today, Congressman Joe Wilson voted against comprehensive Wall Street reform, signaling his continued support of Wall Street CEOs instead of South Carolina taxpayers.  Despite Wilson’s vote, the legislation passed 237-192 and will make financial markets more transparent, expand oversight of Wall Street, and provide vast consumer protections.  The legislation will also prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail” and requiring taxpayer-funded bailouts.

Marine Corps combat veteran Rob Miller, who is running for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District, made the following remarks on the financial reform vote:

“In voting against financial reform, Joe Wilson endorsed Wall Street’s reckless mismanagement and invited future economic disasters.  Between his vote for the taxpayer-funded bailout and this vote against financial reform, Joe Wilson is clearly putting the interests of Wall Street ahead of families in the 2nd Congressional District.”

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LEGISLATION

Consumer Protection: Grants the Federal Reserve authority to ensure American consumers get clear, accurate information.  Americans deserve to know the truth as they shop for mortgages, credit cards, and other financial products, and these new protections will shield them from hidden fees, abusive terms, and deceptive practices.

Ends Bailouts: Taxpayers will not be asked to support a firm threatening the economy ever again.  This bill creates a safe way to liquidate failed banks and imposes tough new requirements to stop banks from getting too big.

Transparency & Accountability: Eliminates loopholes for hedge funds, mortgage brokers, over-the-counter derivatives, asset-backed securities, and payday lenders.

Executive Compensation: Empowers shareholders to voice their concerns on executive pay and corporate affairs with a non-binding vote on executive compensation and golden parachutes.

Protects Investors: Provides tough new rules for transparency and accountability for credit rating agencies.

Enforces Existing Law: Empowers regulators to aggressively pursue financial fraud, conflicts of interest, and manipulation of the system.

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Washington Liberals Put Main Street on the Hook for Wall Street

July 8, 2010

Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) today expressed his disappointment after the House passed the Conference Report for the financial regulatory bill, H.R. 4173.

“By putting Main Street on the hook for Manhattan’s Wall Street, Washington liberals once again showed exactly how out-of-touch they are with the needs of hardworking Americans,” said Congressman Joe Wilson.

“This financial regulatory bill will tie the hands of community banks across the country and will make lending to small business owners close to impossible.  Simply put, this bill is a job-killer.  This is labeled a ‘reform’ bill, but it fails to address two major giants in the financial collapse, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Failing to tackle these two cancerous entities in an overhaul bill is like going in for surgery and still keeping the giant tumor in place.”

Small business owners and bankers across South Carolina are extremely concerned about the detrimental impact this bill will have on their businesses.

Justin Strickland, President of Southern First Bank in Cayce, said, “This bill adds 30 new regulations that will severely limit the ability of small banks to extend credit to South Carolinians.  Low income consumers will be particularly hurt by this bill as services like free checking for basic banking accounts will vanish.”

Hal Stevenson, CEO of Grace Outdoor in South Carolina said, “I appreciate Congressman Wilson’s vote against this big bank bailout as it will discourage lending to small businesses.  This will have a detrimental impact on job creation throughout South Carolina.”

There are better reform plans that do not put taxpayers on the hook and focus on personal responsibility.  One such idea which had overwhelming bipartisan support in the Financial Services Committee and has320 House cosponsors is H.R. 1207 to audit the Federal Reserve System.  This audit is necessary in order to offer transparency to protect taxpayers.

Another idea that doesn’t hinder growth is H.R. 3310, the Consumer Protection and Regulatory Enhancement Act. This bill would:

  • Provide for the orderly resolution of insolvent non-bank financial institutions through the bankruptcy system, regardless of their size. This would allow large, failing firms to be unwound without wreaking havoc on the broader economy.
  • End taxpayer subsidies of Fannie and Freddie, forcing them to compete with the private sector on a level playing field.
  • Create greater transparency and consistency by consolidating depository institution regulators like the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Comptroller of the Currency into one agency that also possesses the supervisory functions of the Federal Reserve and the FDIC.
  • Strengthen consumer protections by creating an Office of Consumer Protection within the consolidated regulatory agency.

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Beaufort Deserves Peace and Quiet

July 8, 2010

To the Editor of The Island News:

I read your article in the June 24 – June 30 issue on rallying for Joint Strike Fighter squadrons to be based at MCAS Beaufort.  There are always two sides to every story and this is the down side of such a move.

Sounds great for the community, especially the tax revenue that it would generate BUT at what cost?

The F35 is 15 decibels louder than the F18.

What does this mean to the Beaufort city and county resident within ear shot of MCAS Beaufort?

The F35 is perceived to the human ear to be 3 times louder than the F18 at the same distance.

Jet noise generate by F18 at 3 miles would be similar to the F35 at 9 miles.

Now the F18’s based at MCAS Beaufort generate intolerable noise levels at all hours of the day and NIGHT.

An increase of jet noise would ultimately lead to degraded quality of life and especially peace and quiet that Beaufort wants and deserves.

Peace and Quiet,

Don Bender

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A Special Thank You from The Little Red Dog Foundation

June 24, 2010

Since 2005, the Little Red Dog Foundation (LDRF) has been giving the gift of mobility to disabled children by furnishing three-wheeled cycles, called AmTrykes, specially built to accommodate the specific physical needs of each and assembled by the Kiwanis Club. As the Beaufort community continues to generously support this mission, more and more kids are experiencing the freedom and independence these trykes provide.

It is heartwarming when kids help kids, and we at the LDRF were happily overwhelmed by the efforts of three local school fundraisers. Our sincere thanks to Riverview Chart School’s Fifth Grade students, who held a Read-A-Thon fundraiser; the students of St. Peter’s Catholic School; and to the students at Beaufort Academy. All three schools raised enough money to provide special cycles for two happy children each.

We also send worlds of appreciation to everyone who made the First Annual Coosaw Point BBQ Cookoff,  the proceeds of which went to LRDF, on Saturday, June 5, such a success – the folks at Coosaw Point for use of their lovely facilities, the hard-working barbecue chefs sweating over those grills on a hot day, the dozens of volunteers who made the event run like clockwork, and of course, everyone who drove out and got to chow down on that scrumptious barbecue.

Thanks to all of you, the LRDF will continue to put smiles on the faces of all our tryke-riding kids.

Sincerely,

Anne Guthrie and Katherine Brown

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Rep. Shannon Erickson’s Legislative Update – Budget & Winding Down the 118th Session of the SC General Assembly

June 17, 2010

As your SC House Representative for District 124, one of the most important issues I must tackle is the state’s budget.  Recently, there has been a lot of talk about out-of-control spending and government waste.  Conservative-minded citizens have rallied together to send that message strongly to their elected officials and as a relative new-comer to the statehouse, I cannot express my thanks enough for your activism.

The SC House’s reaction to the economic downturn has been to radically slash the size of government, approve our 15th balanced state budget, and live within our means – as we all must do at home.

This week, we took a final vote on our 2010-2011 state general fund budget. Over the past two years, we have cut spending from nearly $7 billion to less than $5 billion – a nearly 30 percent reduction in the size of government. We have not voted for any general tax increases nor did we raise fees this year.  We did everything we could to fund what we believe are the “core functions” of government: education, law enforcement, and healthcare.

Is the budget perfect? No. There are still some items I strongly disagree with but there is also a system in place that allows for many checks and balances.  Relying on that system, I have personally spoken with the governor and his staff asking for action from his office so we can take up-or-down votes on vetoes he sends back to us.

So, the good news:

  • Zero-based budgets: We approved a proviso requiring state agencies to begin with zero-based budgets next year.  This should eliminate even more waste and force more reform and streamlining in state agencies.
  • Defeated more than $7 BILLION in tax increases: Liberal House members proposed more than $7 billion in tax increases during the year, including raising the sales tax, putting school property taxes back on homes, and putting a tax on the groceries you buy.  All of these tax proposals would kill job creation and strangle our economic recovery when we need jobs the most.
  • No fee increases: This year, the House held the line on no fee increases and I am happy to report that I earned the nickname of “Fee Police” as I watch-dogged this area throughout committee meetings and sessions on the House floor.
  • No teacher layoffs: The state budget does not mandate teacher layoffs, despite the doom-and-gloom predictions from the educrats. We gave school districts unprecedented flexibility in how they spend their state money and added a requirement that a larger percentage of money be spent in the classroom. If any teachers lose their jobs, that is the decision of local administrators and school boards who have decided to lay off teachers rather than streamline non-core services and administration.
  • Reduce entitlements: The House voted last month to slash entitlement programs in order to fund our police and courts.
  • Spending Limits: The House passed with a vote of 73 to 24 statutory language to provide state spending limits. The House version caps state spending at consumer price index (CPI) plus population growth. The legislation has now moved to the Senate for concurrence and if not, it will go to conference committee.

The not-so-good news is that I, and many of my conservative colleagues, remain disturbed about a few pork projects re-inserted into the budget by the Senate and a significant House change in education funding rules.  As I wrote earlier, I trust the governor to veto this pork and the rules change.  I and my colleagues will sustain these vetoes when we return on June 15, 2010.

The bottom line? This is a conservative budget that has sliced state government.  We tightened our belts just as you’ve been doing in your own homes.

In other action, S.1054 (the Sembler/shopping mall bill) was amended in the House and passed on a third reading vote -just 5 votes short of stopping it there.  It has gone back to the Senate and a probable conference committee.  S.1051, the Fripp Island set-back bill, passed the House & Senate but in different versions so has now moved to a conference committee.  The much-need “SC Surface Water Withdrawal & Permitting Act” has passed both bodies and is headed to the governor’s desk.  Additionally, the “Voter ID” bill has come back from its conference committee.  We will take up all of this and more when we return on the 15th.

Thank you for allowing me to work for you and be your Beaufort voice in Columbia.  Throughout the year, liberal House members have repeatedly voted to grow government and stifle our economic recovery during this process.  Instead, we pushed to reduce entitlements rather than lessen our dedication to public safety.  I, with fellow conservative members, defeated tax increase after tax increase that would have totaled more than $4,500 per household in our state.  I am proud that we are forcing state bureaucrats to take a new critical eye to their budgets next year.  Your tax dollars deserve nothing less.

As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you.  If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 843-263-1867 or by email:  erickson4@charter.net .

Here if you need me,

Shannon

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Governor Sanford Vetoes SC Arts Commission Budget

June 17, 2010

When support for the arts is cut at the state level, it’s going to trickle-down fast and messy to Beaufort County, from jobs to education.

I hope you will contact your senators and reps about supporting the arts, arts education, arts jobs, and quality of life in SC, by maintaining funding the SC Arts Commission. I called everyone on the list below today, and know from experience (I interned with Sen. Strom Thurmond, believe it or not) that legislators appreciate your calls and track public opinion. They need to hear from you.

SC benefits hugely from the creative economy, and tax payers show their support of the arts and arts education everyday:  http://www.southcarolinaarts.com/canvas2010/2009results.shtml

Please call your representatives and senators to tell them to override the vetoes (veto #32 Statewide Arts Services, $1,212,733; veto #105, ARRA funds, $250,000), and why the arts and arts education are important to you.

Sen. Tom Davis – (843) 252-8583 / (803) 212-6008, tom@senatortomdavis.com

Sen. Clementa Pinckney – (803) 212-6148 / (803) 315-2005

Rep. Bill Herbkersman – (843) 757-7900 / (803) 734-3063

Rep. Richard Chalk – (843) 816-7988 / (803) 734-3067

Rep. Kenneth Hodges – (843) 525-9006 / (803) 734-3062

Rep. Shannon Erickson – (843) 263-1867 / (803) 734-3261

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/index.html

Thank You,

Lisa Annelouise Rentz

The Arts Council of Beaufort County

http://www.beaufortcountyarts.com

843-379-2787

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A Letter From Sen. Tom Davis

May 27, 2010

Dear Editor:

A vote took place in Columbia on May 6 that will impact the lives of Beaufort County residents more than any other that has been or will be taken this year – and you may not even be aware of it.  On that day, Craig Forrest, a resident of Sun City Hilton Head, was elected to the state highway commission.

The highway commission is the policy-making body at the South Carolina Department of Transportation.  Simply put, it decides which roads and bridges get built and repaired and which don’t.  It spends over $1 billion annually and has enormous discretionary powers.

Prior to 1994, the members of the highway commission were elected by judicial circuit.  But a new law that took effect that year provided for the commissioners to be elected by congressional district.  And, for Beaufort County, therein lies the problem.

Our county is within the Second Congressional District, an elongated district bounded on the north by the City of Columbia.  A majority of the state legislators in our district reside in and around Columbia and they have always elected a highway commissioner from that area.

For the past 16 years, Beaufort County has not had one of its residents serve on our state’s highway commission. And during that time, our county has gotten short shrift when it comes to state funding of highway projects.  Our voice was not heard.

As a result, county residents have had to tax themselves in order to fund critical road projects.  And the bias against us continues, as evidenced by the SCDOT’s recent dismissal of a report that shows how the beams and girders supporting portions of the bridge to Hilton Head Island are deteriorating.

But on May 6, the 25 state legislators residing in the Second Congressional District voted unanimously for Craig Forrest.  A veteran of over 40 years in transportation planning for the State of Maryland before retiring to Sun City in 2005, Forrest wowed the state legislators with the breadth of his knowledge and expertise.

Forrest will doubtless be a fair commissioner who represents the interests of the entire congressional district, not just those of Beaufort County.  Still, after 16 years of essentially being ignored, it is a comfort to know that someone who understands our county’s needs will be at the table when the funding decisions are made.

Tom Davis is the State Senator from Beaufort County.

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Dishing the Dirt-Roads, That Is

By Rick Butler, LIBPA Transportation Representative

Apr. 22, 2010

With fresh memories of recent deluges creating soupy slippery mud holes fresh in some Lady’s Islander memories, the painfully slow process of gradually paving our legacy dirt roads might seem a forever-distant goal to affected residents, school bus drivers, mail persons and emergency vehicle drivers.

However, Ms. Maggie Hickman in the County Engineer’s office confirms that some progress ought to be visible this coming summer.  The Beaufort County Transportation Committee has approved paving of three interconnected dirt roads serving over 45 homes in the Red Bluff neighborhood in its first round of approved funding in the current four year allocation of state fuel tax (Title C) monies to the county.  Central, East and West River Drives are “in design” as this is written. Completed design should be ready for bid solicitation and award later this spring, with paving anticipated during this summer.

Next up should be Trotter’s Loop and Johnson Landing Road. These two longer but slightly less populated roads are expected to qualify for the second round of current funding allocations, which should happen next year.

If this schedule can be adhered to, it will mean that more than half of Lady’s Island’s remaining county-maintained dirt road mileage should be paved within the next three years, which would be better progress than in most past funding cycles.    Once these roads are paved, all remaining Lady’s Island dirt roads will be in a better position to qualify for paving as additional funds become available

Paving of county dirt roads is determined by a formula developed in cooperation with the County Engineer and a citizen’s advisory group, and is administered on a county-wide basis as funds become available from the state.  With each round of annual funding, remaining dirt roads are given a higher priority on the list.

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Make Earth Day Every Day!

Apr. 22, 2010

Please do not throw or leave your:

Beer bottles, liquor bottles, soda bottles, baby bottles, cigarette butts, cigarette packs, cigarette lighters, dirty diapers, cups, fast food bags with all the condiments, straws, plastic folks, spoons and napkins, your car parts, tires, plastic bags, paper bags, construction debris, yard cuttings, plastic jugs, household furniture, household trash, refrigerators, stoves, microwave ovens, computers, fax machines, copiers, clothes, card board boxes, buckets, coolers, bicycles, CD’s, trash from your dirty car or truck, sanitary napkins, condoms, magazines, newspapers, school papers, books, toys, mail, bait boxes, fishing line, shrimp/crab shells, boat parts, boats, child car seats, yard sale signs, party balloons, posters, lottery tickets, banana skin, peanut shells or hypodermic needles, on our roads, at our parks, at our boat landings or on our beaches.

Veronica C. Miller

Working to Keep Beaufort County Beautiful

Please Help!

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Is Form Based Zoning the Answer for Beaufort County?

By Jim Hicks, Lady’s Island Representative, Beaufort County Planning Commission

Apr. 15, 2010

In 1997 Beaufort County adopted a county wide comprehensive plan designed to guide and deal with growth.  To go from having very little zoning of any type (pre 1991) to minimal zoning (1991) to a very complicated form of zoning (post 1997 Comprehensive Plan) has not been without pain.  Regardless of whether you like or dislike the present Comprehensive Plan, it did guide us through one of the most intense periods of growth in the history of Beaufort County.  But not without some undesired and unanticipated side effects such as (1) a rush to acquire approval of Planned Unit Developments which resulted in the requirement to build infrastructure for approved but not built homes and (2) an annexation war which increased the size of municipalities without regional consideration of the impact on infrastructure (roads and schools).

The growth boom is over (at least for awhile).  There are new and improved comprehensive plans for Beaufort County and each of the municipalities in northern Beaufort County.  There is a Regional Plan for southern and northern Beaufort County.  The elected leaders of northern Beaufort County meet each month in search of ways for the local governments to do a better job of serving its citizens.  With the experience of the last decade and the existing atmosphere of cooperation is this the time to take a hard look at how we manage growth and possibly redesign how we do business in that regard? There are an increasing number of individuals who support such an effort and are promoting a concept called “form based” zoning as a possible solution.

Form based zoning by definition is “A method of land use regulation characterized by 1) emphasis on form regulations (building size, location, appearance) and 2) prescriptive rules (what a community does want to see built). Form based zoning focuses on established bulk regulations to solve the Euclidian “problem” of use separation.  Form Based Codes are designed to provide more flexibility than conventional codes to promote development in largely built out communities.  These codes work well in established communities because they effectively define and codify a neighborhood’s existing characteristics or they can implement new building types when a radical change is desired.”  This is a long way of saying the emphasis is more on what a structure looks like and less on what the building will be used for.

Over the next few months there will be a great deal of discussion regarding the development of a new “form based” code for zoning in Beaufort County.  There is little argument that the present zoning system is complicated, cumbersome and difficult to work with.  Certainly it could be improved.  However, form based zoning is a relatively new concept, does not have a long established track record and is not a “silver bullet” which will solve all the problems of the present system of zoning and permitting.

What exist today on Lady’s Island has great attraction for many as is evident by it being, for the last 10 years, the fastest growing area in northern Beaufort County.  If form based zoning can reinforce and protect what presently exist, simplify the permitting process and leave room for changes as we run into problems – we should support it.   However, let us all (property owners, developers, home owners, business community) take the time to closely examine and understand form based zoning before making major changes to the present zoning.

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State Tax Incentives for Okatie Crossings Die in Senate

By Sen. Tom Davis

Apr. 8, 2010

For the past few weeks, the South Carolina Senate has debated a bill that would have provided The Sembler Company, a developer headquartered in Atlanta, with massive state subsidies — an estimated $175 million over 15 years — for its new mall at Okatie Crossings.

I believed that the Sembler bill was bad policy. Aside from being unfair to existing area businesses, putting state money into a private mall — at time when budget shortfalls force Hobson choices such as whether to furlough teachers or release prisoners early — is just wrong.

Even so, the bill seemed like a sure thing, with 28 of the 46 senators having voted to put it on “special order” so that it leapfrogged all others bills on the calendar for immediate debate.  A special order bill is almost always guaranteed to pass.

But as debate proceeded in the Senate, something extraordinary happened: Slowly but surely, senators started to change their minds, and major business groups took official positions condemning the bill. Sembler’s rhetoric could not withstand a meticulous presentation of the facts.

Finally, this past Tuesday, the Senate completely gutted the bill and replaced Sembler’s special deal with a conventional measurel. Consider:

• The original bill provided for a 50 percent rebate of the 6-cent state sales tax to Sembler to pay for the cost of building the mall itself, whereas the revised bill allows the City of Hardeeville to impose a 1 -2 cent local-option sales tax to pay only for public infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer.

• The original bill set a capital investment threshold in order to qualify for the incentive but allowed bonds issued by Hardeeville and Jasper County to count toward that requirement, whereas the revised bill specifically requires $100 million of new capital be spent by Sembler.

But the fight is not over: Sembler still needs to receive environmental permits for its mall, and the site is at the headwaters of the Okatie River. I have very serious doubts that 1.5 million square feet of new retail mall space in that location can ever meet the standards our state has in place to protect our rivers.

Round one has been won: Sembler’s push for massive state subsidies out of the state general fund has been rejected. But we cannot rest on our laurels; the OCRM environmental permitting process will soon begin.  By making your voices heard, loud and clear, we can win this second round, too.

Tom Davis

State Senator for Beaufort County

Senate District 46

Gressette 602

P.O. Box 142

Columbia, SC 29202

Phone: 803-212-6008

Fax: 803-212-6011

District E-Mail: tom@senatortomdavis.com

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Enough is Enough

Mar. 18, 2010

With that mantra, public school officials have taken their case to Columbia, demanding a freeze on expensive mandates, a halt to state budget cuts, and the introduction of new taxes to fund education.

Members of the South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA) and the South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA) held a press conference on Wednesday, February 11th, making their demands clear to the 170 members of the General Assembly.

They spoke passionately of crippling cuts to schools, forced teacher furloughs, and the growing size of classrooms in the state.

It’s a safe bet that state lawmakers already knew the details. That’s because these interest groups have an ever-present group of political lobbyists patrolling the Statehouse. Their political courtesans are paid to influence public policy, using money that ought to be spent in the classroom. The state budget process requires hearings and the submission of proposed budgets, but educational special interest groups have chosen to subvert that procedure and pressure individual lawmakers directly.

The School Administrators, a group of non-teaching bureaucrats, paid one of their salaried employees $64,000 in 2009 just to lobby for the group’s agenda. The School Boards Association, a group of elected local politicians, paid a staffer $52,000 to lobby for them. Another SCSBA employee received a further $5,000 to do the same. In addition to the school boards’ and the school administrators’ money, another $62,000 was spent by the state’s Education Association (SCEA) and $34,000 by individual school districts.

This money, $217,000 in 2009 alone, is a deceptively low figure because state ethic laws only require disclosure for funding of person-to-person lobbying activities, not the related money spent on research, coordination, strategizing, and logistics of their lobbying and public relations campaigns.

Both SCASA and SCSBA are funded through the collection of employee and professional dues; money often budgeted directly from local school districts’ revenues. The groups also receive money through lucrative consulting and service contracts with local school districts and the state department of education.

The school districts in one Upstate County –just one of the state’s 46 counties- paid over $18,000 to SCASA and over $88,000 to SCSBA last year. That money could have paid the salaries of at least two full-time board certified classroom teachers.

For the 43 full time staff employees of SCSBA and SCASA, that public money provides a level of job security and compensation that South Carolina’s 273,455 unemployed workers can only envy.

These groups also make political contributions to candidates in what observers might describe as an attempt to “award” or “encourage” those who vote for their agenda. During the 2008 elections, SCEA made over $57,000 in campaign contributions and SCASA dolled out $28,000 in donations. The money could have paid the salaries of two more classroom teachers.

Meanwhile, in the five years from 2003 to 2008, total spending by public schools in South Carolina grew from $6.9 billion to $9.1 billion. Per-student spending rose from $10,642 to $12,871. That was not a sustainable rate of growth in any economy and it did not drive measurable gains in student achievement.

Every child in South Carolina deserves access to a range of excellent classrooms and instruction that serves their unique learning needs. No one can reasonably argue that fact.

The highly publicized cuts to state spending on education ought to bring a new sense of urgency to that important goal, not merely clamoring for more money by high dollar lobbyists who take upon themselves the name of “the children.”

Local and state officials should be looking closely at how public money is spent, and correcting the sad fact that only 44 cents per educational dollar is directed to classroom instruction. Curbing the hyper-political and high dollar spending by SCSBA, SCASA and SCEA would be a good start.

Neil Mellen

Communications Director

South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG)

(803) 212-1051

South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG) is a nonpartisan organization supporting instructional options and education reform.

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Downtown Isn’t Broken

Mar. 18, 2010

This is in reply to Mayor Keyserling’s column about downtown.  I own property and work on Bay Street.  I do not think downtown is broken.

Certainly downtown has changed.  As I told City Council recently, we use to have a different mix (two hardware stores, clothing stores, pharmacies, two barber shops and a “five and dime.”)  Now we have gift shops, restaurants and banks, for the most part.  In 1970, you could shoot a load of grapeshots down Bay at 9:00 p.m. and not hit anything or anyone.

In my opinion, Council is going too far, too fast.  Their new parking rules increases fines threefold! (From $3.00 to $10.00). And the extended hours to 9:00 p.m. is certainly over the top.

People are already going elsewhere.  Sure, we’ll get the tourists, but local folks are not going to come to Bay Street or the core area if they can shop or dine elsewhere without the hassle.  Ask some of the merchants.  They hear from disgruntled people with comments such as “I’ll not come back.”

Here’s one answer to the problem of parking:  employees and employers also need to park somewhere besides right out front. You can park within two or three blocks and get it as cheap, or cheaper than feeding a meter.  Folks don’t think it’s too much to walk 10 or more blocks in a city like Charleston.  Yet, they don’t want to walk three blocks at home.

The mayor says the parking money does not go in the general fund.  It will go to fund Main Street, USA and the Redevelopment Commission.  Main Street already gets TIF money and some, I believe from national and state.

Bay Street and downtown businesses have been good sports about all the closing for festivals, parades, bed races, etc.  But how long is a dog going to be faithful and just lay around when it keeps getting kicked?

Geroge H. O’Kelley, Jr.

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Disregard for Public Safety Irresponsible

Mar. 18, 2010

How can it be that we have a multi million-dollar road project under way at the McTeer Bridge and Lady’s Island Drive with NO consideration for the safety of residents of Gibbs, Cane and Cat Islands?

It is my understanding that NO provision is being made at this time for a signal at the intersection of Lady’s Island Drive/Islands Causeway/Meridian Rd.

It is a life threatening, hair-raising experience to attempt a left turn from Islands Causeway onto Lady’s Island Drive. Traffic is exiting the downhill part of the bridge at speeds in excess of 60 MPH. The same applies to a left turn attempt from Meridian Rd.

If the authorities assert that the traffic at this intersection does not justify a signal, how then, is a signal justified at Distant Island Rd and Sea Island Parkway? There are many other examples in Beaufort County of signals at intersections with lower traffic.

This disregard for public safety by SCDOT and Beaufort County is, to use the kindest characterization, irresponsible.

Tom Frost

98 Dolphin Point Dr

Beaufort SC 29907

Phone    (843) 522-3908

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Creating A Positive Business Environment Should Be Our Goal

by Allen Patterson, President of the HBA of the Lowcountry

Mar. 4, 2010

There has been much debate about Okatie Crossings and the tax incentives that Sembler Corporation is seeking for this commercial project in Jasper County.  While, I may still have some concerns and questions about that aspect of the deal it is not what I would like to address.  I would like to talk about jobs and creating an economic environment that is not only job friendly but also business friendly.

I am in a unique position because in addition to being a third-generation builder in the Lowcountry, I serve as President of the Home Builders Association.  I have the privilege of not only living and earning a living in the Lowcountry all my life but also drawing on the insight of my father and grandfather.

The Lowcountry is a beautiful place to live and raise a family. Many people believe, the Lowcountry offers something that no other place in the country offers.  This area has experienced tremendous and unprecedented growth.  With that growth has come many challenges and obstacles.  Everything from environmental issues to school construction to how are we going pay for this increased demand in services.

At one time the economy was booming, jobs were readily available, and there was a steady flow of money between local businesses and governments, such that people did not recognize the anti-business structure in place.  But when jobs dried up along with revenue suddenly the veil was lifted for all to see and now hopefully reexamine.

This brings me to my point — it is imperative for local governments and small business to work together to come up with real solutions to our serious problems. We need to create a favorable environment that gets businesses back to work and hiring people.  Increasing taxes, levying unreasonable impact fees, and imposing restrictive regulations do just the opposite.  Governments need to lower the tax burdens so business will be more willing to create jobs and take on the type of business risks that generate revenue for local governments.

Okatie Crossings may not be developed but one day something will be built on that land, which will create construction jobs.  Business owners will gravitate to areas that have favorable business practices.  And the Home Builders Association of the Lowcountry would like to see job growth on both sides of the county line.

The Home Builders Association of the Lowcountry is a trade association that represents all aspects of the home building industry in the Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton and Hampton counties.  For more information contact the HBA of the Lowcountry at 843.524.52

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Breaking our access impasse

by Rick Butler, LIBPA Transportation Representative

Feb. 18, 2010

Even as  Sea  Islanders can see daily progress on increasing our mainland access by more than a third with the widening  of  Lady’s Island Drive to four lanes and the steady progress on our fully funded second McTeer high bridge, an ominous task remains starkly locked in an impasse.

Simply put, the ominous impasse is over how to guarantee maintaining Sea Islander access to our County seat, an issue which we may have perhaps 10-15 years to somehow resolve.

In last month’s LIBPA newsletter, the Mayor of Beaufort stated that transportation “to and from Lady’s Island and the Sea Islands to the East remains an ominous task and will likely continue to be so for the foreseeable future.” Perhaps the most important reason this task is “ominous” is his clearly stated view that we need to “continue planning a third crossing to the North (italics mine) which, in my view, is the only way to get ahead of the curve. (italics mine).

In his piece, he also rejects  considering any ”larger” replacement of the aging and already overtaxed swing bridge as being out of character for a small historic town.  Along the way he dismisses Sea Islanders’ fears of being forced to drive “a little further” around the Northern Bypass he favors.   A little further?   Today the County Government Center is 3.5 miles from the Lady’s Island traffic light at Publix…The “little further” on a northern bypass is 17.5 miles  –14 miles more each way, 28 miles more round trip!

2025 is 15 years away.  The recently completed study said until 2025 no northern bypass except one near Bellamy Curve would have enough benefit to offset its cost.  In those 15 years, the swing bridge will reach 68 years in service,  assuming it does not fail, or get knocked off its pedestal in a hurricane  like one sister bridge near Charleston, or otherwise be declared unsafe to carry traffic, as happened to the old Battery Creek swing bridge.

Over the next 15 years it may continue creaking through10-11 minutes for each opening. At an average of 2000 openings a year, that means we will sit in bridge gridlock over 300 HOURS.   Even if we can make permanent the temporary construction related hourly schedule, we can expect 1000 openings a year, meaning over 166 HOURS of gridlock stretch ahead of us.

Those numbers would be at least halved if we had a modern, low profile “Beaufort Bascule” bridge in place.  Not a “larger’ bridge, but one of two normal-width lanes, and full width bicycle/pedestrian walkways.  Its low profile tender’s house would be lower than the present raised house, it would open vertically, quickly and quietly and close again in half the time of the present bridge.  It would carry no more traffic at a time through the City than the present aging bridge, but greatly improve traffic, both flow and total cars moved.

So what other objections can reasonably be raised to beginning work now to replace this old bridge before 15 more years go by, and some other access might finally be judged economically worthy of federal funding help? Well, the very age and infirmity of the present bridge offers one reason—it is no longer strong enough to carry 18-wheeler trucks, which are banned, and thus mostly diverted away from the historic area.  Would a new bridge be required to carry big trucks?  Not necessarily. A consensus of local governments, such as recently got the swing bridge opening schedule changed to hourly openings, could insure that big truck traffic to and from the Sea Islands  continue to be routed over the twin high bridges.

Well, can’t we just petition the Coast Guard to be nice and further restrict boat traffic?  Say to twice a day, maybe?  Not much chance.  On the entire ICW from Norfolk to South Florida, there is NO bridge with a schedule more restricted than once an hour.  We have pushed that rope as far as it will go.  We started 15 years ago with openings every 20 minutes, which became intolerable due to population growth.  We next pulled political levers to gain a 30 minute schedule, which seemed fine for a while, especially with added closures for rush hour.  Now,  we have only about a year or so to breath  a little easier with a temporary 60 minute schedule, which might easily revert to every 30 minutes when the second McTeer Bridge is finished.  Will next year’s traffic loadings (that is, each of us in our cars) accept a return to those 2000 openings a year?

Beyond the esthetic issues of just liking the quaint old bridge, (most often voiced by those on the other side not often needing to cross it) why do we not find more cooperation within the city across the river for addressing early planning to do what must be done?  Former City Councilman George O’Kelley so far is the lone published voice there calling for action.  Our counterpart businesses and professionals in the city’s core surely cannot exist long without their 20,000 Sea Island customers?  Do they share the seeming vision of a Fortress Beaufort, accessible only through Port Royal or a bridge way out beyond the Air Station?  Do they all plan to move to a huge mall in Seabrook?   Or are they just gambling on the status quo?  Can Beaufort be the only small city in the land which seems to actively oppose guaranteeing access by nearly half its clients, shoppers and diners to its threatened core?   Why are nearly all the voices speaking up to resolve this impasse coming from business owners?

Author’s note:  It is not my desire to directly challenge the city’s past and present mayors on this issue.  It is rather to point out that IF the Mayor’s recent article represents the Beaufort power structure, despite its potential economic consequences, the ball to force some end to this long running impasse is squarely in the Sea Islanders’ court. Our only alternative is to patiently await Mayor Keyserling’s vision of the swing bridge’s ultimate and distant replacement, taking us all to downtown Gray’s Hill.  Ominous, indeed.

Why I oppose the Sembler Development

by D. Paul Sommerville

Vice-Chairman Beaufort County Council

Chairman Natural Resources Committee

Feb. 18, 2010

My ongoing objections to the proposed Sembler project fall into 3 broad categories:

Tax subsidies

Environmental and quality of life

Sembler track record

The most highly publicized of these has been the proposed $130+ million dollar sales tax abatement. There have been several authoritative economic impact studies that showed that tax subsidies to retail establishments do not generate significant new jobs. They simply re-shuffle the deck by moving existing retail jobs (and existing retail businesses) to the newly subsidized location with taxpayers footing the relocation bill. There is no doubt that a heavily taxpayer subsidized Sembler project would “create” mostly low paying retail jobs, but these jobs will not be additional jobs to the low-country. These jobs will be existing retail jobs lured from existing (mostly) Beaufort County retail locations. It is not difficult to imagine that with $130+ million dollars of taxpayer money to subsidize rents and upgrade its properties, Sembler will be able to entice existing Beaufort County retailers to its new mall.

Sembler supporters have alleged that the sales tax subsidy will come from new tax dollars generated by their mall. The reality is that most of the tax subsidy dollars Sembler is asking for would otherwise have been generated by existing retail businesses and used for the public good. Under the Sembler proposal those tax dollars will be taken away from critical government services and projects such as education and law enforcement and given to Sembler.

One thing that Sembler supporters fail to mention is that Jasper County has entered into a multi-county industrial park agreement with Hampton County that will allow them to offer substantial property tax abatement to Sembler. We have not heard from Sembler or Hardeevile or Jasper County just how much this property tax abatement will be but no doubt it will be substantial and in addition to the $130+ million dollars in sales tax rebates. I have no problem whatsoever with the property tax subsidy because it will be Jasper County’s and Hardeeville’s money they are giving away, not money from the rest of South Carolina’s taxpayers.

It is noteworthy that pending sales tax subsidy legislation, as written, only requires Mr. Sembler to “invest” $200 million dollars (it was originally $100 million before citizens started complaining) before becoming eligible for $130+ million dollars in taxpayer subsidies plus large property tax reductions called fee in lieu. I’ll take that deal any day. Another red flag in this proposed legislation is just what constitutes “investment”. It apparently includes everything from architectural services and environmental impact studies to upgrades made by tenants and most astonishingly, capital expenditures by both Jasper County and Hardeeville which would amount to using tax dollars to get credit for getting more tax dollars.

It is also noteworthy that the proposed legislation expires after 5 years. If subsidizing retail generally is such a good idea, why write the legislation so that it likely only benefits Melvin Sembler?

The bottom line on subsidizing Mr. Sembler with taxpayer dollars is this. If Mr. Sembler wants to compete in retail in the S.C. low-country, he should do it like everyone else has had to – with his own money, not ours. Taxpayer subsidized piracy by any other name is still taxpayer subsidized piracy.

Mel Sembler’s track record is also a concern to me. If you Google him the picture you get is alarming. He is a big time political operative and fundraiser who has enjoyed high level political appointments including ambassadorships to Italy and Australia. He is extremely well connected in the political world in both Washington and Columbia and has been extremely generous with contributions to politicians who are in a position to support his developments. He has legions of lawyers, consultants and lobbyists at his beck and call. His political muscle is currently on display in Columbia.

No doubt Mr. Sembler can point to some successes in his long list of projects but not all of his developments have ended happily. A Google search indicated that in 2007 Sembler was sued regarding their treatment of the headwater streams feeding Canton creek in the Upper Etowah River Basin in north Georgia. Sembler agreed to pay $500,000.00 to protect property and fish species and eliminate an in-stream water detention pond and reduce impacts causing erosion and sediment.

“The Nerve”, an on-line government reporting site associated with the South Carolina Policy Council reported that in Florida in 2008 Sembler defaulted on a $9 million dollar federal loan used to build the Centro Ybor Retail Complex in Tampa, Florida. Tampa took over the payments which cost Tampa taxpayers $750,000/year.

Sembler was also said to be part of a development in St. Petersburg, Florida that went into default on loans totaling more than $14 million dollars. The list goes on.

The Priority Investment Act was passed by the South Carolina legislature in 2007 to require jurisdictions planning major developments to consult and negotiate with any and all other jurisdictions that could be adversely affected by the new development. It goes without saying that a nearly 2 million square feet impervious surface development in and adjacent to Beaufort County that drains into the headwaters of the Okatie River would qualify under the Priority Investment Act. This means that if this Sembler development had proceeded in accordance with this law, Beaufort County would have had a seat at the table along with Sembler, Hardeeville and Jasper County officials when critical matters such as environmental practices, connectivity, impact on property values, long term mall maintenance assurances, buffer requirements, landscaping, lighting and signage, number of truck deliveries, noise limitations, litter control practices, trip generations and traffic flow patterns, waste disposal plans, storm water management, traffic expansion requirements and funding sources, law enforcement and security, total square footage, parking areas, rooftops, wildlife restrictions (eagles nests), federal state and local permits, among others were being discussed and negotiated. This did not happen. Questions regarding most of these critical matters remain unanswered and unresolved from Beaufort County’s perspective.

Mel Sembler has every right to develop his property as he wishes so long as he complies with all laws, ordinances and BMP’s (best management practices) in a fair and even handed manner on a level playing field without asking Beaufort County and other South Carolina taxpayers to subsidize him.

Closing offshore areas to fishing will imperil jobs and the coastal economy

By Capt. Mark Brown

Feb. 18, 2010

Imagine a vast area off the South Carolina coast that’s closed to fishing, stretching north from the Georgia border for nearly 150 miles to near McClellanville.

Now imagine the impacts that the closed area would have on recreational, commercial, and charter boat fishermen, and businesses such as hotels, restaurants, marinas, boat dealers and suppliers, and bait and tackle stores, that all depend on offshore fishermen–both from in and out of state—for nearly all of their income.

What you just imagined may very well come true if the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) approves closing a nearly 10,000 square mile area in the South Atlantic to fishing in an effort to protect red snapper, of which 3,500 square miles are off the South Carolina coast.

This despite the fact that the National Marine Fisheries Service has already imposed a total closure of the red snapper fishery and red snapper landings in South Carolina account for just 11 percent of the total landings in the South Atlantic region.

Clearly closing fishing areas off this state is not justified by the facts and would cause severe economic hardship to the state and its coastal counties, including the significant loss of jobs for South Carolinians at a time when job creation is badly needed.

Recreational and commercial saltwater fishing is vital to the coastal economy and employs thousands of state residents directly and indirectly.

According to a 2008 University of South Carolina study, coastal tourism had a total economic impact of over $7 billion, employed nearly 81,000 South Carolinians, and generated over $2 billion in salary and wages.

The same study found that commercial fishing had a total economic impact of nearly $34 million, employed nearly 700 South Carolinians, and generated nearly $13 million in salary and wages.

A 2006 American Sportfishing Association study found that saltwater fishing in South Carolina had a total economic impact of over $1 billion, employed nearly 12,000 South Carolinians, and generated over $333 million in salary and wages.

Beyond the enormous job and economic losses closing fishing areas would bring to the state’s coastal economy, it would also cause excessive fishing pressure in the remaining areas still open for fishing, causing localized depletion of fish, further seriously impacting fishermen, employment, and the local economy.

The SAFMC can work to ensure the red snapper fishery is sustainable. I think all fishermen share in that goal. But if closed areas are to be utilized as a management tool, they should be located where red snapper occur in significant numbers, not in an area where red snapper are a minor bycatch, such as off South Carolina.

Along with many other coastal businesses, fishermen, and groups such as the Recreational Fishing Alliance and the SC Marine Association, I support legislation–Senate Bill 1095 and House Bill 4497–introduced by state Senators Ray Cleary and Ronnie Cromer, and Rep. Thad Viers, that puts the General Assembly on record with the SAFMC as opposing any closed fishing areas off this state and requires that the state-controlled vote on the SAFMC be cast against any plan involving any such area closures.

I believe the legislature would be remiss if it does not assert its authority on a public policy issue of this magnitude. In fact I think our legislators are obligated when the economic stakes are this high to do what’s necessary to protect jobs and small businesses.

I urge our legislators to stand up for our jobs and our coastal economy by quickly passing this legislation before it’s too late.

Brown operates a charter boat business out of the Charleston area


Sembler deal shows crony capitalism alive and well in SC

by Senator Tom Davis

Feb. 11, 2010

The Sembler Co. recently ran a full-page ad in local newspapers attempting to rally public support for its 280-acre, 1.5-million-square-foot mall in Okatie. Beneath a huge banner headline that read, “New Jobs — Expanded Tax Base — Environmental Protection,” the ad asks, “What’s wrong with that?” and then gave its own answer: “Nothing’s wrong with it.”

And I agree: There is nothing wrong with Sembler building a new mall that would straddle Beaufort and Jasper counties, especially if best management practices are employed (as promised) in the construction to protect the Okatie River’s headwaters.

Capital investment is good. Creating new jobs is good. Increasing choices for consumers is good.

But what’s not good — and what’s not mentioned in the ad — is a law now being considered by lawmakers that would give Sembler more than $100 million in taxpayer assistance to build its new mall. This would be bad because it will not create any additional economic activity; and it perpetuates our state’s failed (and corrupt) “pay-to-play” system of economic development.

A recent study of tax incentives for “extraordinary retail operations” by the economist Michael J. Hicks concluded that the entrance of large-scale specialty retail stores has a negligible impact on the economy of the surrounding counties. The overall economic pie does not grow; there is simply a shift in retail consumption patterns. In short, it’s a bad investment of taxpayer money.

But beyond its ineffectiveness as a means of promoting economic activity, the proposed deal is symptomatic of a larger problem — “crony” capitalism. The key to getting ahead in America used to be having a good idea and then working hard to implement it. Now the key is milking government connections in order to get special favors that provide a leg up on the competition.

Government at both the national and state levels has become a “favor factory” for those who can afford this “pay-to-play” game. The rules are simple: Contribute money to elected officials, hire lobbyists with personal connections to committee chairmen, retain the private attorneys who actually draft the complicated tax bills, and then watch as the (taxpayer) money comes rolling in.

Politicians love doing these deals; it’s a win-win for them. They get money for their campaign coffers and credit for “doing something” to create jobs. They simply ignore the boring economic studies showing how these special deals are a waste of the taxpayers’ money. That sort of grim data simply doesn’t play well on television, but ribbon-cutting ceremonies for incentivized deals sure do.

This statist approach to “economic development” is rotten. According to “Unleashing Capitalism,” a comprehensive report by economists for S.C. Policy Council, special tax breaks in South Carolina doled out by the General Assembly have skyrocketed in the past decade from $32 million to $254 million a year.

And the sky’s the limit: There are currently 377 lobbyists representing 534 companies and organizations at the Statehouse, and far too many are simply scratching and clawing to get favors and unfair competitive advantages for their clients.

This is “crony capitalism,” pure and simple, a corrupt merger of big business and big government. And it is the antithesis of the free market — a system where companies are forced to improve productivity, reduce prices and innovate, and where consumers are rewarded with lower prices, higher quality and wider choice. In a system of “crony capitalism,” companies don’t achieve success in the marketplace by innovating or competing; they buy it at the Statehouse.

I don’t blame Sembler for hiring lobbyists, lawyers and public relations consultants to seek $100 million-plus in public assistance for its new mall; that’s simply good business. A study by economic professors at the University of Kansas found that for every dollar spent in lobbying, $220 worth of special favors are obtained. Sembler would be committing corporate malpractice if it didn’t play the game.

But I do blame lawmakers for providing special treatment for a select few when they should be looking out for the public good. There is a growing sense that South Carolina has a political system that is about dispensing favors, with people buying access and Columbia picking winners and losers. And I think people are sick of it.

Political favors and back-room deal-making have hurt our state enough already. We need to end the corrupt politics of favoritism and cut taxes for everyone, across the board, so that all citizens and businesses pay lower taxes, not just the politically connected. Lower taxes for everyone promotes free market entrepreneurship and discovery — the true sources of prosperity.

“New Jobs — Expanded Tax Base — Environmental Protection” — what’s wrong with that?

Absolutely nothing. Just take your hand out of my pocket.

State Sen. Tom Davis represents Beaufort County.

The state of the arts in Beaufort County, a statement from J.W. Rone, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Beaufort County

Feb. 4, 2010

As the art organization with the mission of promoting and nurturing the arts, the Arts Council of Beaufort County is very concerned about the closing of Beaufort Performing Arts (BPA). Other arts organizations in this vibrant county are suffering as well, as evidenced in letters to editor in support of the SC Repertory Company theater in Hilton Head.

When arts organizations close, and when donor bases drop off so severely, that means that we as a county are experiencing threats to the quality of cultural life in Beaufort County- a quality of life that was earned by countless hard-working artists, art supporters, staff members, and volunteers over the years, benefiting all residents and visitors now more than ever.

The Arts Council of Beaufort County is ready and willing to help the City of Beaufort and USCB fill this lost programming. That’s the arts council’s mission, just as we work with the Town of Port Royal to produce the popular (and free to the audience) Street Music on Paris Avenue series. Artists and performers should know that art spaces, including a black box theater, are available to them at ARTworks, the community arts center created from scratch by the arts council in 2008.

As the recession re-shuffles budgets and priorities, it’s important that the residents of Beaufort County be able to clearly identify the Arts Council of Beaufort County as arts leadership, and to understand the difference between us and the other organizations with “art” in their names. This need for clarification arose this week based on the many calls to the arts council office about BPA.

The Arts Council of Beaufort County is run by fiscally responsible arts professionals who are paid low salaries compared to most of the arts organizations in this county, in order to maintain quality arts programming. This management team works closely with the board of directors to ensure that the arts council is fiscally responsible and transparent with all funding.

The arts council is a county wide organization that is based in the county seat in order to work county-wide. There’s a difference between the two sides of the county in terms of understanding the level of support needed to sustain the arts in both tourism and in the cultural quality of life for residents. For example, the Town of Hilton Head invests significant A-tax money into the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina annually. Additionally, the state art commission is experiencing significant cuts, and the state budget is shrinking across the board.

We are all now in a critical moment that will determine the life span of an overworked by-demand, yet underfunded arts organization that supports the emerging creative class, children and families, and quality of life in the Lowcountry. The Arts Council of Beaufort County is here to fill the void, but our donor base is significantly off. The closing of BPA was the first straw. The arts council is working hard against more closings and job losses– and we need everyone’s help now to make sure that the closings don’t continue.

A special ‘Thanks!’

Jan. 28, 2010

Keep Beaufort County Beautiful would like to thank all those involved in successfully grinding 2,854 Christmas trees this season.

Many, many thanks to Michael Murphy of Preservation Tree Care for providing equipment and manpower to four of the grinding sites. Michael has volunteered his staff, equipment and time for more than ten years for this event. Also volunteering site space for more than ten years has been Paul Trask Jr., Merritt and Steve Patterson, The Town of Port Royal, The Town of Hilton Head Island, The Family Tree Christmas Tree Farm, The City of Beaufort and Beaufort County. Volunteers who worked in the frigid weather were from The Rotary Club of the Lowcountry, Laura Lee Rose and Charlie Williams. Thanks to Larry Farmer at the Lady’s Island Huddle House for the hot drinks and a warm atmosphere for our volunteers to thaw out. County Public Works employees worked to grind trees and restore sites, clearing them of artificial trees, decorations, wreaths and plastic bags.

The media did a great job getting the word out to the public, The Island Packet, The Beaufort Gazette, The Island News, Bluffton Today, WYKZ-The River and WTOC- TV. Once again this collective effort helped to save county tax dollars by saving landfill space, disposal cost and save the environment. The mulch can be used for erosion control, composting or fish and bird habitat.

Here’s to a happy, clean, safe and beautiful Beaufort County!

Veronica C. Miller

Keep Beaufort County Beautiful

Coordinator

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Unfair treatment?

Is Lady’s Island the unwanted stepchild in Beaufort County when allocating money? With a population nearing 14,000, it is the largest unincorporated county area. Recent examples illustrate the problem.

Councilman Paul Sommerville found land which was purchased for a park off Springfield Road. There was $2.1 million in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for developing this park. Those monies disappeared without a vote of the Council. Yet, the County is pouring more money into the huge Burton Wells Park far from Lady’s Island.

Our solid waste facility is scheduled to be closed this month; again without the vote of the County Council until Paul Sommerville forced a losing vote. The residents must now drive several miles further causing environmental pollution.

The County recently adopted a Comprehensive Plan for Libraries. Between now and 2014, a new library for Pritchardville (where is that?) and a $16.9 million facility at Burton Wells. Finally in 2016 (Hurrah!) one is considered for Lady’s Island.

Unneeded for safety and evacuation, Bluffton Parkway extensions are estimated at more than $90 million with huge overruns from original estimates. Also $140,000 of County tourism money has been approved for mowing the existing parkway.

Lady’s Island is having SC 802 and the bridge to Port Royal widened so we are getting a little something. But what about parks and a library?

The taxpayers of Lady’s Island should organize to have speakers at County Council meetings ensure our 14,000 voices are heard.

Paul Fuetterer

Cat Island

Longliners coming to Port Royal?

As Chairman Emeritus of the Beaufort Sportfishing and Diving Clubm a city councilman from Port Royal recently told informed me of the following: the City of Port Royal that manages Port Royal Docks is favorably considering signing a contract with Foreign Longliners.  These longliners were to particularly target swordfish and other money producing species.  I questioned him on the long-range effect of this contract and he could only respond that they were considering the dockage and fuel sales.

The City of Port Royal is in Beaufort County and is a small municipality.  These docks were mainly used for shrimping.  However, the industry has just about disappeared and therefore the need for new tenants.

I need your assistance to inform them of the devastation that these longliners can impose on our fisheries for our future generations.  I requested that Port Royal have a public hearing before they sign a contract with Foreign Longliners to fully understand the total consequences and public relations.

Thank you,

Frank E. Gibson, III

Chairman Emeritus

BSFDC


One Response

  1. I am writing in response to Don Bender’s letter to the Editor “Beaufort Deserves Peace and Quiet”
    To you Mr Bender, I have to ask; are you kidding? There is a small phrase that most residents of Beaufort know and it is
    “The NOISE You Hear Is The Sound of Freedom” I do not see how hearing the sounds of the jets that protect our country and serve our wonderful military could in ANY way “lead to a degraded quality of life” I for one see that the only reason we have the quality of life that we do is because of the jets and the rest of the military. Many residents of Beaufort County including myself are proud of our bases and those who serve on them. Add in the fact that it will bring civilian jobs and help to protect one of our bases from the threat of closure, I don’t see how anyone could complain about a little bit of noise.

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