Monday, June 8, 2009

Short-term fiscal pain should give way to long-term gain

Bluffton Today

Last Friday I had the pleasure of speaking before the governmental affairs committee of the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. They are a great bunch of folks who give so much to this community. Much of what we talked about was developments on the economic front and what out prospects are for the short and medium term. We also discussed the stimulus situation, especially how it seems to be gaining a little clarity through the action of the court.

It was nice to see John Van, who happens to be my neighbor, as well as an insurance executive. Also, I had a chat with Tony Guasto from Moss Creek who is in the mortgage business. My message to the Chamber was that from the state perspective, we are in for some near-term challenges, particularly in unemployment and revenue. The longer-term picture is much more positive. I believe we are seeing the low point of this cycle either right now, or very soon, to be followed by a painfully gradual upturn. Unfortunately, both employment and revenue are trailing indicators, which will begin to look up probably two quarters or so after retail and tourism.

One of the friends I was able to chat with at the Chamber event was Tom Upshaw, of Palmetto Electric Cooperative. Tom gently took me to task for a column of a few weeks ago when I was talking about net metering and its importance in the emergence of the green economy. Tom assured me that the Co-op does offer residential net metering and is working on different approaches to commercial net metering. What this means is if you live in the areas serviced by Palmetto Electric, you might start attending those POA meetings and making sure your neighborhood allows solar panels on your roof. If enough of us were making our own electricity and pushing against our electric meters, we might reduce the necessity for more coal fired power plants in our state. It’s just a thought.

I was unable to attend the showing, last Wed., of Greg Smith’s excellent documentary, Keeping the May River Wild, at the Bluffton Library. From all reports, the latest edition is even better than the one I saw a month ago. If you see Greg, encourage him to consider a few more screenings around the area. A modest cash contribution would also help to defray expenses and make more showings a greater possibility.

Friends, this documentary is an excellent recitation of the causes of our current problems with our waters. My greatest concern in this is that we, as a community, will assume that the recent reclassification of the shellfish waters of the May River is irreversible, a done deal. It is not. There are smart people working on this every day, but they need to know, as do their elected superiors, that you, the voters of southern Beaufort County, are expecting a solution to this problem. I believe the willingness is there, it just needs to be constantly reinforced. Greg Smith’s documentary is a vivid reminder to all of us what is at stake.

We are currently out of session, so don’t send mail to my Columbia office. I can most efficiently be reached at Better yet, come by to see me at my office in the Calhoun Street Promenade. The coffee is pretty good and I need to hear what’s on your mind.