Monday, May 16, 2011

From the House

The Bluffton Village Festival was, as always, a pleasure to attend. The Bluffton Rotary, and particularly Karen Lavery, did a great job of putting on this signature event. I’m certain that Miss Babbie Guscio appreciates the care and attention to detail with which the Rotarians are carrying on the festival she created and nurtured for so many years. Good job all!

Two things stood out for me at the festival. One thing was the number of folks that came by the office during and after the festival. After I made the rounds, we opened the doors and a multitude of old-timers, as well as new Blufftonians, streamed in. It was good to be able to chat with so many people that all seemed to be in a celebratory mood. One fellow said the day reminded him of his time in Carmel, California, only this was better. Take that Mayor Clint Eastwood.

The second thing that was certainly impressive was how the Bluffton Police managed the huge crowds. The police presence was so subtle and so effective it was hardly noticeable. It was like having experienced referees at a basketball game. Everything was smooth and calm. In my chat with Chief McAllister, he explained that smooth and calm is largely what community policing is about. Organize crowd control so you don’t even notice it. We are fortunate to have these skilled professionals on our side.

Speaking of outstanding law enforcement, my friends Sheriff P.J. Tanner and Solicitor Duffie Stone were both recognized for meritorious service at the South Carolina Republican Party Convention in Columbia. Sheriff Tanner was honored for his “287 (g) task force” which is seven deputies trained to enforce federal immigration laws. Solicitor Stone was recognized for creating the Career Criminal Prosecution Team in 2008, which has been credited with helping end overcrowding in the county jail by bringing repeat offenders to trial faster. He also put up some pretty gaudy conviction numbers as well. They won convictions against 54 out of 57 defendants in 2009 and 43 out of 47 last year. Those are Hall of Fame numbers in any league. Once again, I’m happy we have the pros on our side.

My School Choice bill came up and was passed out of full committee after some heated discussion. Part of that discussion was a suggestion that the bill was in some way a negative reflection on the professionalism of our hard-working schoolteachers and principals. This is not remotely the case. The vast majority of our teachers are dedicated, caring professionals who do hard, important work under often less-that-ideal circumstances. At its core, the School Choice bill is about incentivizing parents to become more involved in the education of their children.

In all candor, our state does not have a distinguished history when it comes to public education. Our outcomes do not adequately reflect the dollar amounts dedicated to education. In my view, doing more of what has not worked gets a failing grade. I support anything that has a plausible shot at improving the preparation of our young people as we launch them into the modern world. The School Choice bill provides another potential avenue to educational success.