Monday, May 18, 2009

Before things can get better, they have to stop getting worse

Bluffton Today

First and foremost, a correction or perhaps an amplification of a point I made in last week’s column. While my good friends at Palmetto Electric Co-op do not currently allow net metering, they are very much concerned for your ability to control your costs, as well as do the right thing for the planet.

Recently, I had a conversation with my pal, Pat Simoneaux,about some of the great programs pioneered by the Co-op. Pat is the owner of Simoneaux Electric in Bluffton and has many years of experience helping his customers make the most of Palmetto Electric Co-op’s innovative and forward-looking conservation incentives. So, while net metering is an important feature of the new electrical landscape, it is far from the only feature. I would never imply that the Co-op was not doing its part.

Continuing in the environmental area, I want to talk about a bill that was put in and worked its way through the House in three days—very short order. It was done “without reference” that is, without having to go through the committee system, but rather it was brought up as a common-sense bill. Essentially, what the bill does is give Beaufort County legal standing with adjoining counties in areas that affect our citizenry on two fronts: traffic and stormwater.

In order for us to get this bill ready for presentation and to make sure it did not have unintended consequences, I had very extensive and detailed conversations with Sheriff P.J. Tanner, Beaufort County Administrator Gary Kubic, County Council Chairman Weston Newton, as well as other members of the delegation.

We are all firm believers in the wisdom of regional planning. However, if regional planning fails to meaningfully materialize, or if there are disputes that involve our county’s core interests, traffic or stormwater matters, and if the courts are drawn into the dispute, as a county, we have legal standing.

It is my hope that this bill, shepherded by Senator Tom Davis of Beaufort, will make it through the Senate next week.

In simplest terms, this bill is a recognition of the seriousness of some of the challenges we face in our ability to maintain our highly valued quality of life in Beaufort County, not only in keeping our roads safe, but especially in our efforts to maintain the integrity and productivity of our watersheds. Each day, there seems to be another revelation regarding the deterioration of the quality of our waterways. Unfortunately, before things can get better, they have to stop getting worse. That is the intent of this bill.

In all likelihood, this measure will not enjoy universal popularity, particularly among our neighboring counties and municipalities. In my view, if the short-term benefits to one jurisdiction result in long-term negative consequences to a neighboring jurisdiction, simple fairness requires there be some remedy.

On a more pleasant note, the former president of my Bluffton Rotary, Chris Corkern, was up for visit last week. It was my pleasure to introduce him to many of my legislative colleagues. I always enjoy showing off our spirited young entrepreneurs from the Lowcountry.

Next week, we’ll begin our end-of-session analysis and commentary.