From our Mayor- Billy K

January 25, 2011

Take Time to Reflect About Our Home Town’s Past and Future

I believe many share my view that economic and cultural issues as well as outdated zoning and government regulation pose a threat to Beaufort becoming Anywhere, USA and losing the essence that makes us special.

 

 

I also believe that many of the answers to challenges to our future can be uncovered from our past. This is why I’ve spent the past three years learning about our history which I call the “Beaufort Way.” I invite you to do the same throughout 2011.

 

With that in mind, I want to share the eloquent words of Bishop Alden Hathaway who clearly took a thorough look at our past and shared through prayer his sense of the essence of Beaufort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beaufort Birthday Prayer

January 17, 2011

Bishop Alden Hathaway

 

Father God, Creator of heaven and earth,

Maker of sea and sky and river deep,

Of Islands fair and gold marsh creeks.

We gather here because we love this land.

 

Sovereign Lord over all peoples and nations,

Author of Freedom and Prince of Peace

Gathered we have come from far and near;

From Spain and France and England,

Africans in Chains, Original Yemassee;

From north and south, east and west;

Those who came early and those of us who came late.

We are together here today because

We are Beaufort.

 

Oh God our help in ages past,

The unfolding years now Three Hundred Since

John (Tuscarora Jack ) Barnwell

The Charter of Beaufort Town

Of wars and conquest, Of Gray and Blue

Robert Smalls and Reconstruction.

 

Of building and burning, Of wealth and want,

Rich harvests of indigo and cotton and rice;

Storms and blight, Wind and flood.

For Dr. King his dream shaped at Penn,

Brantley Harvey and Harriet Keyserling

All those through whom our currant public and political life has been formed.

 

Our skies streaked by Freedom’s Sound,

Drill Instructor’s sharp commands,

Pat Conroy to tell the stories that describe our manners and our ways.

For Church towers and steeple bells

And Synagogue Shabbat,

The Faith of our fathers living still

 

Oh Lord of light and Palm and Moon,

Bay Street shops and restaurant chatter,

Gullah Grub and Foolish Frog,

Boating, Fishing and Water Joys,

Bicycle races around the streets,

Ghost Tours under Mossy Oaks.

 

Parades to mark the great events of our common American life.

Band concerts by river’s Edge,

And parking meters that cause us grief,

And lighted Christmas tree

To honor thee, O Lord of life.

It’s our town dear God – we love it so.

 

Gracious Lord, the Good Shepherd, of abiding good care,

Bless Our Mayor

And Council And Fire and Police,

Those who keep our accounts and haul our trash,

Who make their business to satisfy our wants and service our needs.

And sort out our issues and worldly disputes

By justice and by right;

 

Who teach our kids – And inspire our youth,

Of physicians and Surgeons and Nurses – Who care for the sick,

Who comfort the lonely, the troubled, the weak;

The dying

And who bury our dead

 

And Those who would tell of the city not made with hands,

The City of God

Which by Hope and by faith, would make of us a people and a town

Of truly gracious welcome and love and respect

For both neighbor and stranger ever and always good keepers we shall be.

 

 

And so dear Lord, abide with us we do pray

As together in joy we celebrate

Our 300th Birthday.

That as you have been guiding, and chiding, and inspiring our past.

So in thanksgiving and hope we may look to the future.

Content and at peace that You

Bless, Preserve and Keep Beaufort Town.

 

Oh God of our Fathers by whose almighty hand

Continue to lead forth in beauty

All this Blessed Land.

 

Amen

 

 

 

In closing, I ask you to take pause from your everyday activities to think about what is important in our community and then to share your thoughts with us. You can do this by sending City Council a birthday note with your thoughts about what you want to see Beaufort like in say fifty or one hundred years. And please do not be bashful.

 

You can send it to my attention at City Hall, 1911 Boundary Street, Beaufort, S.C. 29902.  Or, you can simply send me an email that I will take to City Hall where the notes are being collected.

 

Wishing you a thoughtful Tricentennial Year!  (The word is actually “tercentennial” but most of us have tricentennial in our minds.)

 

Billy Keyserling

Mayor

billyk@islc.net

____________________________________________________________

 

 

Happy 300th & Many More, Beaufort

 

 

 

December 30, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

Let me start by offering my best wishes to all for a Safe and Happy Holiday Season and a Healthy, Productive and Prosperous 2011.

January 17, 2011 is a very important day for the City as it marks the 300thyear

since Beaufort was chartered as a City.  The kickoff of the year- long celebration, Founders’ Night, will take place at the Henry Chambers Waterfront Park from 4:30-6 p.m. on December 31, New Year’s Eve.  The formal celebration will take place on January 17, also at the Waterfront Park.  Both events are free and the public is invited. I urge those who are able to join us for these once-in-a-lifetime events.

The Founders’ Night will be a musical tour through 300 years of Beaufort’s history, produced by and featuring Marlena Smalls, joined by local church choirs, the Hallelujah Singers, local actors and others to create a memorable and entertaining afternoon. A huge fireworks display will cap the gathering at 6 p.m. – leaving plenty of time for families to grab a bite at a local restaurant or get home for dinner and still make it to New Year’s Eve parties.

Throughout 2011, you’ll see traditional festivals and other events highlighting our City’s Tricentennial. Our goal is to create a series of fun and informative activities that will be remembered throughout our next century.

Many thanks to the Beaufort Three-Century Project, led by Deborah Johnson who coordinated a  three-year long initiative including hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people who participated in programs looking back in our history to help us better understand how we move forward into the future with respect for our past.

For more information about the Tricentennial, visit www.cityofbeaufort.orgor find us on Facebook under Beaufort Tricentennial.

On the eve of the 300th anniversary of the City of Beaufort’s charter, in addition to reviewing notes from the Beaufort Three-Century Project, I have also been looking through family papers thinking about what Beaufort has meant to our family who were welcomed with open arms when they came to this country as immigrants seeking refuge from persecution of Jews in Tsarist Russia.

I ran across some my late Uncle Leon Keyserling’s papers and  a summary of an essay he wrote for Miss Waterhouse’s Annual Essay Contest in 1922. Leon was 14 years old at the time.

As background, Uncle Leon was my father’s only brother. He graduated from Beaufort Schools, earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University, his law degree from Harvard and returned to work on his doctorate in economics at Columbia.  Through a relationship with his academic advisor and mentor, Leon’s studies were interrupted when he was afforded opportunities to work in Washington during the New Deal. Leon retired from government at a young age, having left his most notable mark through an essay he wrote that formed the intellectual basis of the Employment Act of 1946 which created the Council of Economics which he chaired.

The essay was titled

“A Bigger Better More Beautiful Beaufort”

A Bigger Beaufort

“Beaufort is our City. We should hope and pray for it to grow. It is need of hard work, true work that we must stress on. If only we the citizens of this town could get together, and work with the same ideas in mind we could accomplish a great deal. And our little City could grow.

By improving the avenues of ingress and egress so that it would be easier for people to come and go.

By attracting service from a second railroad, creating competition so that both farmers and potential tourists could get better service.

By creating an industrial development program aimed at diversifying the economy so the citizens would not be solely dependent upon farm yields.

By launching a major promotional campaign by the Chamber of Commerce which would attract tourists, new industry and eventually new residents

By constructing a hotel, where tourists could stay rather than moving on.”

A Better Beaufort

“Better cooperation between the denominations and the sects.

Better understanding between the races.

Better public schools, since education is the door to the future for young people.

A  Fire department and sanitation system to protect the citizens.

Athletic and cultural programs, to strengthen the moral fabric of Beaufort’s children.

A Public Library that would be open at night so that working people could access to knowledge.”

A More Beautiful Beaufort

“A more attractive train depot so that people’s first impression would be positive.

Better maintained and cleaner streets.

A one day a month community clean-up so that everyone could take responsibility and pride in their beautiful town.

New houses to be set back from the streets, leaving room for beautiful gardens and flowers.

Cleaner and more public park areas.

A program to encourage merchants to sweep the sidewalks in front of their stores and to clean their store windows with more regularity.”

While this was a 14 year olds vision for improving our City in 1922, I am amazed at how most of the issues remain on our agenda.  I am most moved, and perhaps most influenced as your Mayor, by his call for cooperation and collaboration among all to take pride in their hometown and working together to make it even better.

As we enter this important year Tricentennial year and beyond, (the correct word really is Tercentennial) I want to encourage all to share your views, have respect for the views of others, roll up your sleeves to work side by side with your neighbors, your City Council and your Mayor to make this great little city Bigger, Better and (even) More Beautiful, while maintaining due respect for its historical past and physical framework.  We are truly blessed with the City we all call home. So, let’s recommit to working together to make Beaufort’s future even brighter.

Happy New Year!

Billy Keyserling

Mayor

billyk@islc.net

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

What’s The Talk about

A New Identity for USCB?

 

 

Last week a number of “friends” on Facebook asked what I knew about the possibility that USCB was going to “lose its hallowed name.” 

As a former USCB student, a former state legislator and, as a mayor who is working closely with Chancellor Upshaw to develop a new vision for the historic Beaufort campus, I think I may, at the moment, know more than many and want to share what I know and my view about the Beaufort identity question. And, of course, I want to know your thoughts.

There are really two branding issues on the table: what is the future of the Beaufort campus and how does it fit into the overall future of what we today call USCB?

The Beaufort Campus: A strategic plan for the Beaufort campus that, as the university’s mission suggests, “builds on regional strengths and meets regional needs” is in process. Toward that end, USCB is developing an expanded portfolio of academic programs in Beaufort. These programs are based on our hometown’s unique attributes – specifically, studio art, programs related to our unique physical and cultural environment and more programs tailored to our military personnel and their families. Getting the right mix of programs that meet our needs and builds on the kind of community we are and want to be in the future makes good sense to me.

The City Council and the City Redevelopment Commission haveincorporated this vision into our planning. But achieving this lofty goal will require citizen support since neither the University nor the City can do it without your help. With the community behind this effort, I believe we can brand the historic campus the “Beaufort College for the Arts and Environment” or the “Beaufort College for the Arts, History, Culture and Environment.”

The Overall Picture: The second branding consideration is giving a university that enjoys the benefits of two very strong brands–Beaufort and Hilton Head Island — an even broader umbrella that conveys its regional status and unique attributes.

Since land was donated for the Hilton Head Gateway campus in the early 1990’s, we have faced the challenge of how to develop an identity for a university that serves students on two campuses with very different yet complementary “personalities.”

Now that USCB has become a full-fledged baccalaureate university, expanded its degree programs significantly and developed an active campus life, there is even more need to develop a broader regional descriptor that follows the banner of the “University of South Carolina.”

The issue is emotional for many because the institution has meant so much to our community over the years. However, I believe it is time for USCB to get a new identity that describes more accurately what it is and what it can be, rather than what it has been. Under a new umbrella name we will have greater opportunities to strengthen the Beaufort College campus, with a very special mission making it a unique part of the state’s public, flagship university system, USC.

Some background and my reasoning:

USCB played an important role in my education.  Though I achieved my four year degree from Brandeis University, after leaving the College of Charleston at the end of my freshman year, I spent a year regrouping as a student at USCB while setting my sights toward the four year degree.  USCB welcomed me with open arms; provided the personal attention I needed; I excelled in my studies; and I enjoyed new and lasting friendships with classmates and staff. The USCB environment helped me reach the college of my choice for my last two years which was followed by graduate school.

When I was in the SC Legislature, I fought hard to protect USCB when the SC Commission on Higher Education wanted to shut it downWe prevailed. However, we did not succeed, at the time, in our efforts to earn baccalaureate status for USCB.Thanks to my successors in the legislature, Edie Rogers, Catherine Ceips, and Shannon Erickson and as well as strong and supportive local government and private support, we finally brought a prospering four year university to the Lowcountry!

Why did USCB need to expand between Hilton Head and Beaufort, rather than in Beaufort?  The eight acre campus in our historic landmark district did not offer the physical space to expand the campus to accommodate the required enrollment to sustain and grow the institution.  Furthermore, there was no way the citizens of our community could raise the money required (about $36 million) since the state provided only about 10% ($4 million) of what was needed.

With the gift of 80 acres between Okatie and Bluffton and the availability of additional land at a reasonable price, individuals and businesses from the lower part of the county made financial contributions to build buildings; thanks to a progressive County Council, which created a Tax Incremental Financing District (TIF), local public funding was provided at no additional cost to the tax payers.  And, finally, it was appropriate to grow USCB in the center of the region, near interstate access, so that students from Jasper, Hampton, Allendale and even Colleton Counties could more easily commute to a central campus.

Fortunately the vision worked. If you have not visited the new campus, take the time to do so.  Walk through the public library and the other buildings around the central quad and maybe even grab a bite for lunch at the Campus Center.  The new campus and state of the arts facilities have enabled enrollment to grow 10% each year since USCB became baccalaureate. Even more importantly its academic programs have expanded dramatically–including the much needed BSN in Nursing.

The day after I was elected Mayor, Chancellor Upshaw called to request a meeting, which we had before I was even sworn in.  At the time she shared her vision for reviving the Beaufort campus and committed to investing resources to “get it going again.”

Even though higher education in South Carolina has suffered unprecedented budget cuts, Chancellor Upshaw is making good on her commitment. The Beaufort College is now branded as “The” Arts College though other courses will still be offered. Classrooms have been converted to art studios, a ceramics lab with potter’s wheels and kilns and a state of the art graphic design lab, with Mac computers and design software, are fully installed on the Beaufort campus. The new restaurant and catering center, “Outtakes,” opened this past week.  And USCB is exploring ways to create housing for out of town students on an incremental basis. We are ready to grow!

But what does this have to do with a regional identity? Since USCB has grown to serve not only Beaufort, but also the four counties in our corner of the state, its name should be changed to reflect something much bigger . . . the Lowcountry, The Sea Islands or something of that sort which draws students from outside of the area. These out of region students create a livelier classroom environment and their fees supplement dwindling state funding while helping to underwrite the costs of serving our students and our community.

Just as USC Spartanburg has benefited from its new identity as “USC Upstate,” we need to help our university grow and develop–so we will all benefit.

As usual, I am interested in your thoughts and can be reached at billyk@islc.net.

 

 

 

 

While many who have lived in Beaufort for awhile understand the historic and increasingly important relationship between the Marine Corps and our community, many of us sometimes take it for granted.  For those who have recently moved here you might be interested to know.

 

Please take a minute to think about it.____________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Is the Parking System Failing Us

or

Are We Failing the Parking System?

By: Billy K
Over the past year and a half, the City has initiated many changes, some of which faced public resistance while others did not.  The two that have drawn the most criticism are, interestingly, those that required residents adjust to new ways.

 

Garbage Collection
When the City announced we were going to outsource the collection of trash, yard debris and recycling there was at first a loud outcry from concerned citizens.  Some felt inconvenienced by having to adjust to different pick up schedules; others were not happy about losing their personal garbage collector who they had grown to know and trust.  We made it through the transition and the system seems to be working very well.  Today, at no additional cost, we all benefit from new and free Saturday pickups coordinated by neighborhood associations. Our town is cleaner.  Because the system is working so smoothly, we are now preparing to outsource commercial pick up. Hopefully, the next step will be commercial recycling which the city has heretofore never been able to handle.

 

Downtown Parking
Reports indicate about 14,000 successful transactions were processed through the parking kiosks during the month of July.  There is anecdotal evidence that downtown business is booming.  With the old meters removed from the sidewalks, there is room to window shop without blocking passage on the sidewalks.  Something seems to be working.

At the same time, based on emails, telephone calls, conversations in the post office and about town and letters to the editor from residents and visitors, the adjustment to a new way of managing parking continues to face some resistance.

 

From the outset, I must acknowledge that we, the City Redevelopment Commission and Mainstreet, USA Beaufort, (who are responsible for overseeing and managing parking with Lanier Parking systems aka Park Beaufort) had our own learning curve and possibly made some mistakes.

 

Introducing something new during the heat of the summer,when we all have less patience rushing to get from our air conditioned cars to our air conditioned destinations, may not have been the best timing.  Regrettably there is nothing that can now be done about that now.

 

Tip toeing around our collective sensitivity to the unique quality of the Historic Landmark District, signage necessary for the transition to work successfully was perhaps inadequate.  This was corrected.  By posting directional and informational signage, including the numbering of parking spaces on the curb, has helped.

 

While Park Beaufort hosted sessions to train downtown merchants and their employees so they could assist their customers, few took advantage of the opportunity. Accordingly, some shop keepers and their employees have been less than helpful to those who needed assistance. Given the principal purpose of parking system changes was to help merchants ensure turnover so spaces would be available for their customers and to allocate all parking revenue to marketing and improving downtown, I was disappointed when two employees told me they did not understand the system and could not explain to customer questions. I was concerned even more when those downtown workers to whom customers turn for help acknowledged that they had not even tried the system and simply complained about the change. Accordingly, we must go back to training so those who work downtown can help those they see having a problem.  Park Beaufort has distributed thousands of fliers to downtown businesses, but they must not be reaching the public. Mainstreet is working on employee education.

 

While I accept the criticism and understand the concerns, I do not believe the system has failed. Rather some of us — as a community — have failed the system by not working hard enough to make it work.  I believe it will take at least six months to iron out the kinks after which we should of course review how the system is working and consider changes if necessary.

 

I can well remember the first time I forced   myself to eat broccoli. Id did not taste good.  But one I became accustomed to it and realized it was good for my health I began to love it.

Let’s all do our best to make the changes downtown a success so we can reap the rewards of better parking for those who live here and those who come to visit.
_________________________________________________________________________________________
Your Opportunity to be Heard
Invest a Few Minutes to Speak up About the JSF 35-B
(Drop-In)  Listening Session
Tuesday June 22            5 PM – 7 PM
Holiday Inn, Boundary Street, Beaufort
I can remember well the day —  sitting in Mrs. Johnson’s fourth grade mobile classroom behind Beaufort High School (now the site of Beaufort Elementary) — when the first new Marine Crusaders made their first flight over Beaufort signaling to the community that the abandoned Naval Air Station was reactivated as Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort.
We knew this meant new people would soon be moving to Beaufort and there could be better jobs for those who lived here. We were excited about new classmates (and teachers) coming as many families would soon be transferred to Beaufort.
It took a little while to get used to the jets roaring over our small town.Beaufort was, at the time, perhaps a little “too quiet” for many of the younger people growing up here. But not long thereafter, MCAS, its aircraft and families became – and have since been – an integral part of the fabric of our community.
Over the years, many of us have developed strong business and personal relationships with military personnel and their families. Many “military brats” (we called them then) like Joan Webster Fordham, Sue Ann Carver Reedy, Pat Conroy,  Connie Hipp, Kathy Conroy Harvey, Pat Owings Alley, Stephanie Edwards — to name only a very few among many – adopted Beaufort as their hometown and have since contributed to the betterment of the community.
Today, the annual economic impact of MCAS Beaufort is more than $600 million, which is to say nothing of the human resources and rich cultural diversity the military brings to Beaufort. Perhaps even more importantly, many of us feel that by hosting the military in Beaufort, our community is contributing to a strong and vital national defense.
If the new JSF 25-B scenario unfolds there will be another “new day” for MCAS when The Department of The Navy announces that two training and three operational squadrons of the state of the art (space age to those of us over 60) Joint Strike Fighter 35-B will be based in Beaufort.
Having read the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the JSF 35-B, I am certain Beaufort will again see some changes. How many people will be coming?  What companies will move here to create jobs to support the initiative? What will be the difference in “sound”; the number and frequency of flights, new and better opportunities for our young people to strive for?
I urge you to looking at the following website: http://www.usmcjsfeast.com so you too can learn more about the opportunity.
Furthermore, I would suggest you review http://www.f35beaufort.com which is the site created by the Greater Beaufort Chamber of Commerce and the Military Enhancement Committee.Committee.
And finally, I encourage you to drop in at the Department of the Navy’s “listening session” on Tuesday at the Holiday Inn from 4-7 PM.
By taking as little as fifteen minutes,  you will have an opportunity to ask questions and present comments that will be incorporated into the final Environmental Impact Statement which will be used by the Pentagon when making the final decision in December.
If you are not able to attend, please read the report on line (or at the library) and comment through one of the websites.
The JSF 35-B is the aircraft of the future for Marine Corps aviation and what we know today will be phased out.  If this aircraft is not incorporated into MCAS Beaufort’s future, we could lose the base and its annual economic impact of $615 million. This would be a huge blow to our economy.
I will be there at 4 on Tuesday to ask a few remaining questions and to share my thoughts with the Department of the Navy.
I support the training and operations missions presented in Alternative #1.
I encourage the use of an Auxilliary Landing Field for training missions.
I plan to invite companies, coming to the area to service the new aircraft, to partner with local businesses and to be active participants in the smart growth and long needed diverse economic development of this special place we all call home.

Your Opportunity to be HeardInvest a Few Minutes to Speak up About the JSF 35-B(Drop-In)  Listening SessionTuesday June 22            5 PM – 7 PMHoliday Inn, Boundary Street, Beaufort  I can remember well the day —  sitting in Mrs. Johnson’s fourth grade mobile classroom behind Beaufort High School (now the site of Beaufort Elementary) — when the first new Marine Crusaders made their first flight over Beaufort signaling to the community that the abandoned Naval Air Station was reactivated as Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort.
We knew this meant new people would soon be moving to Beaufort and there could be better jobs for those who lived here. We were excited about new classmates (and teachers) coming as many families would soon be transferred to Beaufort.
It took a little while to get used to the jets roaring over our small town.Beaufort was, at the time, perhaps a little “too quiet” for many of the younger people growing up here. But not long thereafter, MCAS, its aircraft and families became – and have since been – an integral part of the fabric of our community. Over the years, many of us have developed strong business and personal relationships with military personnel and their families. Many “military brats” (we called them then) like Joan Webster Fordham, Sue Ann Carver Reedy, Pat Conroy,  Connie Hipp, Kathy Conroy Harvey, Pat Owings Alley, Stephanie Edwards — to name only a very few among many – adopted Beaufort as their hometown and have since contributed to the betterment of the community.
Today, the annual economic impact of MCAS Beaufort is more than $600 million, which is to say nothing of the human resources and rich cultural diversity the military brings to Beaufort. Perhaps even more importantly, many of us feel that by hosting the military in Beaufort, our community is contributing to a strong and vital national defense.
If the new JSF 25-B scenario unfolds there will be another “new day” for MCAS when The Department of The Navy announces that two training and three operational squadrons of the state of the art (space age to those of us over 60) Joint Strike Fighter 35-B will be based in Beaufort. Having read the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the JSF 35-B, I am certain Beaufort will again see some changes. How many people will be coming?  What companies will move here to create jobs to support the initiative? What will be the difference in “sound”; the number and frequency of flights, new and better opportunities for our young people to strive for?

I urge you to looking at the following website: http://www.usmcjsfeast.com so you too can learn more about the opportunity.
Furthermore, I would suggest you review http://www.f35beaufort.com which is the site created by the Greater Beaufort Chamber of Commerce and the Military Enhancement Committee.Committee.
And finally, I encourage you to drop in at the Department of the Navy’s “listening session” on Tuesday at the Holiday Inn from 4-7 PM.    By taking as little as fifteen minutes,  you will have an opportunity to ask questions and present comments that will be incorporated into the final Environmental Impact Statement which will be used by the Pentagon when making the final decision in December.
If you are not able to attend, please read the report on line (or at the library) and comment through one of the websites. The JSF 35-B is the aircraft of the future for Marine Corps aviation and what we know today will be phased out.  If this aircraft is not incorporated into MCAS Beaufort’s future, we could lose the base and its annual economic impact of $615 million. This would be a huge blow to our economy.
I will be there at 4 on Tuesday to ask a few remaining questions and to share my thoughts with the Department of the Navy.
I support the training and operations missions presented in Alternative #1.  I encourage the use of an Auxilliary Landing Field for training missions.
I plan to invite companies, coming to the area to service the new aircraft, to partner with local businesses and to be active participants in the smart growth and long needed diverse economic development of this special place we all call home.
_________________________________________________________________________________________

Is Downtown Broken?

And, if so, How Do We Fix It?

Mar. 11, 2010

The lively discussion over proposals to make parking more available to downtown shoppers and diners leads me to larger questions that are far more reaching and even more complicated than parking.  Let me explain.

I sent out an email, and posted on Facebook, proposed changes to parking as recommended to City Council by The Redevelopment Commission and Mainstreet Beaufort, USA.

I sought community input, and I got an earful! I received a broad array of opinions, many that reflected on how writers would be personally affected by changes and others that spoke to the greater community good.  I heard from shoppers, people who work in retail shops and others who work in restaurants.  Some respondents were City residents while many others live outside the City limits but consider Beaufort their hometown. (This is a good thing!)  I heard from people who have lived in Beaufort since childhood and many who relocated to the area recently.

It’s been a healthy discussion and I believe it will lead to the best possible decision.  However, some of the undercurrents speak to an issue much larger than parking.

Comments like . . .  “I don’t shop and dine downtown because I can’t find a parking space”. . . along with . . . “if I have to pay more to park downtown, I will go to Hilton Head and Bluffton where I do not have to pay” . . . concern me.

When retail shop owners say . . . . “customers cannot find parking spaces because employees park on Bay Street” . . . and employees say. “it is unsafe to walk a block to our cars after work,”  I am troubled.

Threats like . . . “Changes will chase shoppers to businesses like Wal-Mart and K-Mart where parking is free,” . . . are confusing.

And the following . . . ” While I was investigating Beaufort (to locate from elsewhere) I did take into account the inexpensive parking rates in downtown, the available parking not at meters, and the parking meter expiration at 6 PM.  I can not support both an increase in the parking rates and the extension of the fees to 9 PM.  I feel so strongly about this that I can say that I will take my business to other areas of Beaufort without these restrictions” . . . . take me to the edge of anger.

If these comments, and similar ones too lengthy to include, reflect the broader community view, one should ask:  Can we not see beyond our own noses to think about others?  Are we so angry at government that we refuse to hear City Council when we say this is about making parking work, and it is not driven by money grubbing?  (Parking revenues go to a special fund to promote marketing and improvements downtown, and are not commingled into the general fund.)

Is it fair to conclude that downtown Beaufort no longer works as a “hometown downtown?”  Is the Beaufort experience really interchangeable with any other place, USA where parking is free?

Some will remember a time, not that many years ago, when Bay Street stores were vacant with windows boarded up when a thriving downtown   — that once featured three supermarkets, three pharmacies, a half dozen clothing stores, two five and dime stores, two barber shops, two beauty parlors, two hardware stores, four service stations, three automobile dealerships, and Beaufort County’s only public library — was abandoned in favor of big box offerings driven by residential and commercial sprawl changes in lifestyle consumer behavior.

Others will remember the late Bill Cochrane, the developer of  Dataw Island who created Mainstreet, Beaufort under the downtown revitalization model set forth by The National Trust for Historic Preservation.  For those who do not know, Bill threw his weight, and the strength of those he brought to Beaufort, behind the vision of former Mayor Henry Chambers who knew that the Waterfront Park, which is rightly named after him, would revive a dying downtown. Clearly they got it right as we now have one of the most beautiful downtowns in this world.

Because the City Council believes our historic downtown,  accented by the Waterfront Park,  is the golden egg that brings economic value and a richer quality of life to the approximately 60,000 people who call Beaufort home, our budget will allocate nearly $1 million toward maintaining the core business district and Waterfront Park. (This includes debt service on renovations that a small city –comprised of only about 12,000 moderate to low income residents, half of whom rent — could not afford to restore the park without borrowing.)  That’s right. . . . about $1 out of every $12 the city collects will be invested to make downtown every better.  And this does not include additional funds invested in Mainstreet, the Chambers of Commerce and our cultural organizations who “market” Beaufort to those who live here, those who visit and those who might one day move here.

One might assume from writers’ comments that perhaps we are not using the taxpayer’s money as wisely as we should be?  Though I know the answer, I have to ask . . . Is shopping at the big boxes comparable to shopping downtown?  Is dining out on the highway, or in Hilton Head or Bluffton where parking is “free” comparable to dining downtown where you can walk off your lunch or dinner with a stroll through a glorious waterfront park?  Is taking one’s children for a walk around a big box “free parking lot” comparable to taking them to the playground at the Waterfront Park on a beautiful afternoon or weekend morning?     I think and hope NOT.

So what is this all about?

To remain healthy, Downtown Beaufort must grow. We need more people living in and around downtown. We must encourage, and provide help if necessary, those who live near downtown to fix up their homes. We must encourage others to build houses on vacant lots. We must open our minds to more buildings, while respecting those that serve as the physical signature to our beloved National Historic Landmark.   (A group created a model that shows how 21 residences can fit compatibly on the Post Office block, where about ten houses used to fit, without sacrificing our retail post office and without changing the zoning ordinance.)

Furthermore, we must bring back businesses that fled downtown to create very inefficient, and expensive for the county to maintain, urban business cores in suburban and rural areas.

More people living and working in downtown is necessary for a healthy downtown.  It will drive up consumer demand for a more diversified retail mix.  It will create an alternative to the “neo-traditional walking communities” springing up in the county that require cars to get to and from. It will provide additional safety through numbers. More people will be walking and riding bicycles and the car will not be as necessary. And it will meet what most real estate prognosticators suggest will be the demand for tomorrow’s buyers . . . small, efficient homes close to goods and services and recreation.

If one reviews the City’s 2010 Comprehensive plan, and the mission directives established for the Joint Planning and Redevelopment Commissions, one will see we are headed toward focusing on infill development of vacant lots, redevelopment of under utilized land and structures, encouraging businesses to locate in the business district and fostering the growth of USCB and the many cultural organizations that make our community special.

Beaufort is a little broken and, with your help, your understanding and your support, we intend to fix it.  Lets think about the greater community and the hometown we all love and want to see thrive into the next century.

We will “fix” parking and will grow to be an even better community.

Billy Keyserling

_________________________________________________________________________

On Tuesday, City Council will consider recommended changes for managing downtown parking. 2-23-2010

I believe some background and explanation is in order since this decision effects the sustainability of downtown and The Historic District which are an important part of the City of Beaufort and the greater Beaufort area.

Please take the time to review and let me and my colleagues on City Council know your thoughts as we will hold first reading Tuesday (2-23-2010 at 6 pm) and second will follow in two to four weeks.

Feel free to contact me at billyk@islc.net or join us at the City Council meeting to personally share your thoughts. Our temporary meeting place is in the court room of the new City Police and Court Complex at the corner of Boundary and Palmetto Streets with the entry on the west side across from the city hall which is under construction.

The proposal:

Principle changes affecting the 476 downtown parking spaces:

1. Change parking fine for expired meters from $3 to $10

2. Increase hourly rates from $.50 to $1.00

3. Eliminate time limits on all meters except at the Visitors’ Center, (The Arsenal on  Craven Street) where parking will be restricted to 30 minutes to ensure turnover by those who check in at the Center

4. Install new parking pay stations that accept credit and debit cards

5. Set aside two parking spaces on Carteret and Craven Streets for tour bus loading and

unloading

6. Make spaces available to employees at the rate of $35 per month

7. Maintain 132 coin operated meters in selected places

8. Enforce Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm

9. Provide relief to Point and Old Commons Neighborhoods in the event daily parking encroaches on their neighborhoods

10.Work with owners of private lots, used primarily by employees, to

maximize the opportunity for parkers and property owners.

A New Solution to an Old Story

When I came home from Washington, DC to live in Beaufort, just over 20 years ago, my first volunteer activity was to serve on the Board of Mainstreet, where I was on the Parking Committee and, not long thereafter, became the Committee Chair. During my tenure, and the tenure of those before and after me, we faced “the problem” of inadequate parking downtown.  During that period, and many times since, the City and Mainstreet commissioned multiple studies, some by merchants and others by consultants.  Each demonstrated that the principle downtown parking challenge was employee parking, irregular enforcement and the inefficient use of public and private open space.

Though I know some are concerned about proposed changes, I am proud that City Council had the courage to explore a new way, since after many, many years, the City failed to fix the problem.

Yes, we surrendered and turned to someone who has the ability to correct what is wrong.  Accordingly, we assigned parking management to the City Redevelopment Commission, in concert with Mainstreet, Beaufort, USC,  since we believe downtown merchants have the highest stake in a parking system that works and they have paid the price for its failure over the years. Furthermore, income from downtown parking will no longer go to the City’s General Fund; it will go through the Redevelopment Commission to Mainstreet and be used to fund improvements to the downtown area and for expanded marketing.

Because they are there day-to-day, merchants and restaurant owners understand the needs of their customers and employees.  To help them with this assignment, they retained professional help through Lanier Parking Systems, a company with years of experience managing parking throughout the region and elsewhere.

The Challenge

The principal purpose of regulated parking is to ensure turnover so that shoppers can come and go with a reasonable expectation that they can find a convenient place to park.  (As an aside, when I was on the Parking Committee, we tried free and meter less parking, but it did not work: the trust was abused and there was little turnover, leaving few spaces for shoppers. Accordingly, we removed the bags from meters except during the month of Christmas, and resumed metered parking.)

The principal challenges to making parking work are: creating an alternative for employees who otherwise feed Bay Street meters all day long and into the evenings, thereby not leaving space for shoppers; installing meters that do not require “correct” change; consistent enforcement; and better utilizing public and private parking lots.

For those who do not know, the transition from City Management to the partnership between Redevelopment Commission (in partnership with Mainstreet) became a done deal last year.  There was pubic debate, I wrote about it in this newsletter and the news media reported our actions. I am sorry if anyone is caught by surprise.

The issue currently on the table is fees, penalties and alternative long term parking options for those who work downtown.

Proximity is The Underlying Factor

Retail customer to retail seller

Restaurant patron to restaurant

Client to service provider

Employee to place of employment

My thoughts:

1. Change the fine from $3 to $10

The current $3 fine does not discourage illegal parking. One is only charged a fine when one violates limits. Through pay stations, the challenge of correct change and time limits are eliminated.

2. Increase hourly rates from $.50 to $1.00

This is not unreasonable as it compares very favorably with other similar cities.

3. Eliminate time limits on all meters except at visitors center

When one pays, one gets to park as long as one wants, but it is likely with the proposed $1 per hour, only those who are seeking short term parking will use those spaces while those who want long term parking will chose a less expensive alternative. Some have asked why we would replace perfectly good meters.  The answer is that the technology currently in place is out dated and needs replacement in most places anyway.

4. Install new parking pay stations that accept credit and debit cards as well as coins

This eliminates the challenge of not having correct change. Furthermore, if parkers wish, the technology exists to call their mobile telephones through which they can extend their parking time without leaving the shop or restaurant at which they are doing business. (I am actually not certain if this option will be installed initially, but the equipment has the capacity to do so.)  Furthermore, the kiosk approach creates a simpler opportunity for merchant validation of parking for their customers.

5. Set aside two parking spaces on Carteret and Craven Streets for short term parking and tour bus loading and unloading

This is required to get tour busses closer the visitor’s center and will encourage tourists walking to Bay Street to see businesses on the side streets. It also makes in more convenient for visitors to make quick stops at the Visitors’ Center.

6. Make spaces available to downtown employees at the rate of $35 per month

This is to ensure employees have affordable parking. While it is counter productive for employees to park at meters on and close to Bay Street, it is important to shop and restaurant owners that their employees have reliably available, affordable and safe parking when they work.

7. Maintain 132 coin operated meters in selected places

Meters appear to be working in certain areas so there is no need to replace

8.Enforce Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm

Enforcing meters into the evenings will further discourage restaurant employees from using spaces that customers could otherwise use when they choose to dine downtown.

9. Provide relief to Point and Old Commons Neighborhoods in the event daily parking encroaches on their neighborhoods

In the event employees migrate into these neighborhoods for free long term parking, thereby making it difficult to residents and their guests to park near their homes, the neighborhood associations are encourage to ask the city to manage parking in their neighborhoods through a sticker system or other means acceptable to residents.

.

10.Work with owners of private lots, used primarily by employees, to

maximize the opportunity for parkers and property owners.

Through Lanier Parking Systems, the Redevelopment Commission and Mainstreet have worked with private property owners to better manage their lots to ensure even more opportunities for those who work downtown.

Furthermore, while not an issue for discussion at tomorrow’s Council Meeting,  since the Redevelopment Commission has already contracting parking management to Lanier, police officers will be more available to patrol the downtown, when downtown needs to be patrolled, and the City Police Department has been relieved from writing tickets, emptying the meters and accounting for the money.  Lanier will be on the streets continuously during all parking hours and they have opened a small office on Scotts Street across from Blackstone’s in what was once the terminal grill.

Please take the time to think about the recommendations and let me and my colleagues on council know your thoughts.  As I said, we will be considering the changes on first reading on Tuesday and second reading will follow in two to four weeks.

Thanks for the benefit of your counsel as your city tries to do the best we can to maintain a sustainable downtown and celebrated Historic Landmark District.

Billy Keyserling


__________________________________________________________

Update: Mayor Billy Keyserling – Jan 9, 2010

For Arts to Survive in our Small City,
It Cannot be Business As Usual!

Albert
“The Significant problems we face cannot be solved
at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Albert Einstein.

From the lessons of failure often come successes.  In his book, Seven Lessons for Leading in Crisis, Bill George recommends a process extracted from the actions of corporate leaders who brought their companies through crisis to recovery.

I believe this “roadmap” could be applicable to government and non-profit organizations, who like many families and businesses, must face a new reality and make changes necessary for survival. The seven steps:

1.      Face Reality
2.      Don’t be Atlas
3.      Dig Deep for the Root Cause
4.      Get Ready for the Long Haul
5.      Never Waste a Good Crisis
6.      You’re in the Spotlight
7.      Focus on Winning Now

Over the past year, our City has made many adjustments, some quite painful in order to maintain basic public safely service levels and to better manage our resources.

It would be disingenuous to say we followed Bill George’s formula, because I did not know about it until we were well into the process. But I can say that, even though we did not know we were doing so, we came pretty darned close.

So how does this apply to my headline about the arts?

Over the past two weeks, many have been saddened by the demise of Beaufort Performing Arts.  The partnership between BPA and USCB, with financial support from the City, was an important asset to a City that recognizes arts and culture as key ingredients for a healthy community.  Unfortunately, other arts organizations, in Beaufort and across the land, are barely hanging on through the recession; others may have to close their doors.  Public dollars that used to be available to support a broad array of “arts” remain very limited.  Private contributions are dwindling, as income from advertisers, patrons and contributors is not as available as it was in the past.

Though they acknowledge they have their own serious financial challenges, the Arts Council of Beaufort County, whose board I served on in past years, has  offered to take over the reins of BPA.  They do a wonderful service to our community, but do they have the resources to sustain what others can not? This constructive suggestion is certainly something for discussion between former BPA board members and USCB.

In the meantime, perhaps we might ask ourselves if this crisis presents an opportunity to explore new ways of organizing and supporting the arts in our small City?

I do not claim to understand all of the issues, nor do I have immediate answers to the current crisis.  However, by returning to Bill George’s lessons, I believe community leaders should begin a dynamic dialog necessary to weather the storm.

Face Reality:
BPA is not, and was never intended to be, an agency of the City of Beaufort.  To its credit, the City provided start up money for capital improvements to USCB’s Community Performing Arts Center, and has appropriated limited funding on an annual basis.  But our small city of only 12,000 moderate to low income citizens, half of whom are renters, cannot be expected to do the heavy lifting because we must continue to focus on maintaining and improving core services. Furthermore, our limited resources must be rationed between many organizations competing for the same limited funding.

Don’t be Atlas:
The economy is challenging many non-profits to reach out to each other and work together rather than stand alone.

Dig Deep for the Root Cause:
Are there  issues beyond the economy?  Were there management mistakes? Is the business model of making money from expensive outside talent to support the efforts of local talent a model that works?  Should the focus be showcasing home grown talent? Is there a mix? What model is right for Beaufort?

Get Ready for the Long Haul:
Neither the recession nor the challenges are likely to end in the foreseeable future. We must invest the time to determine what does and does not work and make changes to fit the changing times.

Never Waste a Good Crisis:
A crisis provides opportunities to abandon old ways, and to make adjustments.

You’re in the Spotlight:
BPA, perhaps the first of several troubled organizations on the brink of crisis, is in the spotlight. People are concerned. It is not time to lay blame or fight change. Rather it is time to adjust to the times.

Focus on Winning Now:
We must keep our heads high and our hearts strong as we try new ways and join together to preserve our wonderful arts community.  The arts and culture, as a centerpiece of Beaufort’s unique quality of life, must and will survive. The light at the end of the tunnel is a better Beaufort.

So where do we go from here?

Shortly after I was elected Mayor, I hosted a meeting that included the leaders of the principal arts and cultural organizations in Beaufort. My mission was to lead a discussion about how the arts community could better collaborate to help the City most effectively invest our limited dollars to support the arts in Beaufort.  We had a healthy discussion and even thought about a collaboration to celebrate our Tricentennial in 2011.  But when it came time for the follow-up meeting, only two organizations returned.  Perhaps, I was not the right messenger? Perhaps people did not want to hear that funding was limited?  Perhaps the organizations were not yet feeling the pain?

Regardless of the reasons, I believe it is time to try again.

Accordingly, I am in the process of finding an outside facilitator, with no ties to any one agency, who will bring all of the affected organizations to the table. We need a community-wide plan for providing artistic and cultural opportunities and experiences to those who live here and to those who visit us.

This is a large part of what Beaufort is about and, as we prepare to enter our fourth century, we must not let our community down.

Billy Keyserling

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Update: Mayor Billy Keyserling – Dec 24, 2009

Managing your assets

Please note that this piece, nor any of my newsletters, is intended to be critical of any other elected official(s) or to disparage what other governments are doing or not doing.  Rather, my intent is simply to share what is on my mind about issues before me as Mayor.

During the period when growth was taking place, and the result was a little more revenue each year, it was a common practice for many governments, businesses and even households, to simply add a little each year to “The Budget.”

The City of Beaufort has turned the challenge of the recent national economic crisis into an opportunity to explore new ways of doing business rather than simply waiting for things to get better.

Doing more with less, increasing transparency and creating an even higher level of accountability have been three of the main missions during my first year as we address your City’s challenges. The integration of all of these missions is the key to our recent achievements.

In previous articles, I have spoken to the issues of “doing more with less” and initiatives to achieve public input and operational transparency.  Today I want to address changes the City has implemented to improve accountability and protect your financial assets.

Ethical approaches to governance should be a given! Citizens should be able to assume their elected and appointed public servants are honest, do their jobs well and do not make mistakes or purposely abuse the public trust.  Unfortunately this is not always the case.

I am saddened every day when I read news stories — from across the nation –about abuse of public trust, squandering and/or inappropriately spending public dollars.  I believe such failures of leadership lead to today’s increasing mistrust of business and government and the growing negativity toward those in leadership positions.   Accordingly, I believe it is important to share with you some of the important safeguards we have implemented to better organize City finances, protect your assets, and minimize risk.

I start with the assumption that every dollar the City collects belongs to the citizens and is put in our trust to be invested in providing needed and valuable services to our citizens. It is our responsibility to manage it and spend it wisely, to keep track of it in an accurate and timely fashion, and to protect it from human error or bad judgment.

Improved and better organized financial reporting

All governments provide some sort of annual financial reporting to its citizens.  Typically, annual financial data and accounting processes used by the entity are reviewed by an outside third party (auditor), generating a document (“The Audit”) that includes financial data in the form of reports, graphs, balance sheets, and budget comparisons.

To assure better accountability, the City of Beaufort has adopted an audit process that exceeds these minimum “requirements.”  We moved to a higher accounting standard by adopting The Certified Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which is reviewed not only by outside auditors, but also by a panel of peers in government finance (Government Finance Officers Association) across the country who “grade” or certify the report.  CAFR is the nationally accepted “gold standard” of government accounting.

By organizing our financial data to a CAFR-required higher level of accounting standards, which includes management explanations, statistics about expenses and income over time and analysis and projections into the future, our staff can better manage and oversee accounts and know our financial position on a daily basis.  How much cash is in the bank, are we doing the best we can with available resources, how investments are performing and what funds will be necessary to make ends meet when bills and payroll come due?

This is the kind of knowledge that has kept the City of Beaufort ahead of the curve during the recent national financial crisis and led us to decisions throughout last fiscal year ensuring we stayed on target, did not spend more than we would collect and reorganized services to maintain them at an even higher level for less cost. Put more simply, the additional data derived from CAFR allowed us to see where we were headed and pointed out ways to make cuts in time to avoid short falls.

I am proud to say that the City has been through the CAFR process two years and received top honors each year; our third CAFR is currently under final review by the Government Finance Officers Association.

The Financial Dashboard: Open to the public

Another immediate benefit of achieving CAFR, is that the City’s financial data are organized so simply and forthrightly that staff are now able to post an easy to understand monthly “Financial Dashboard” on the City’s website. This allows any citizen to see, from month to month, the status of our financials, where we are at that point in time compared to budget projections and where your money is being spent.  One can find the Financial Dashboard under the Finance Department link at http://www.cityofbeaufort.org

Management Assurance Program: A measure toward prevention

Recently, we decided to implement an innovative program to overlay our CAFR-based financial management practices with even stronger analysis and greater transparency so that we maintain self-scrutiny and further assure the public that we are managing your assets effectively and efficiently.

Through our Management Assurance Program a third party looks very deeply into the city’s financial records on an ongoing basis somewhat akin to a continuous internal audit.  Analysts search for irregularities, uncover possible posting errors, detect potential misuse of public dollars and address issues before they become unmanageable.  While we have not found any irregularities in accounting or money management, this is a proactive measure to ensure we do not fall victim to the challenges some other governments and businesses have faced in recent years.

I am very proud to see our financial staff reaching into the future for new and better management tools and proven methods to stay on top of your assets in a preventive stature.

Finally, I must acknowledge that there is no doubt that these advanced financial controls, and tighter management of assets, adopted by this administration are largely responsible for the City not being caught unprepared for the financial crisis that has led other governments into bankruptcy and public scandal.

Please feel free to contact me with questions about this or any other City matter by emailing me at  HYPERLINK “mailto:billyk@islc.net” billyk@islc.net.

Wishing you the best of a safe and happy holiday season!

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One Response

  1. Why the fuss over parking? I recently moved back to Beaufort (where I was raised) from Denver. When I got my drivers license, expired meter fees were 3 dollars in town– the cheapest I have seen anywhere. I am shocked they have not been raised since then. I have never had to walk more than a block from a parking space to a downtown establishment and if I did, it would probably be good for me to get some exercise. Maybe the town could use the additional funds from delinquent parkers for bike racks which I have noticed the lack of. I live in a one car household with two people and two dogs. It was never a problem in a city to ride a bike or ride public transportation to get where we needed to go. It is much more difficult here. The lack of sidewalks, bike lanes, and easily accessible grocery stores is discouraging. Are we going to have to get another car? I certainly hope not. Please fix this town.

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