Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From the House

Bluffton Today

I was distressed and saddened to hear of the untimely passing of my friend Don Ryan last week. As the President and CEO of CareCore National, Don and his team had a profound impact on the economic prospects of Bluffton and District 118, as well as Beaufort County. His vision for the future of this area was a strong part of the job growth success we have experienced locally and regionally. It is a rare individual who can see the big picture, not only from an economic point of view, but also from the standpoint of how good jobs can literally recreate a struggling community, one family at a time. Don Ryan was one of those individuals.

It is a fitting tribute to the legacy of this innovative entrepreneur and civic stalwart that the business incubator partnership between CareCore National and Clemson University will go forward as planned. My friend Jerry Stewart, the point of the economic development spear for Beaufort County Council gave me a good update on the relationship a couple of days ago. Even with our stunning loss, the challenge of quality job creation will have to be met. Sadly, one of our leaders, Don Ryan, has left us. He will be greatly missed.

Continuing in the economic sphere, I was fortunate to be able to attend the recent Home Builders Association event at 9 Promenade. These are some folks that have been hit pretty hard by the prolonged recession but still manage to remain upbeat about the turnaround, especially in the Bluffton area. One of the few positive aspects of enduring serious economic dislocation is that it forces us to be more creative and more efficient in our allocation of time and resources. This has been the case with us in the General Assembly, and certainly with the members of the HBA.

One of the most upbeat and positive people around is my good friend Steve Tilton, who just happens to be the current president of the association. Steve is not only an excellent businessman and creative homebuilder, he also is a fellow whose involvement in the community is second to none. It was a pleasure to spend some social time with Steve and his lovely wife Maureen, as well as so many of my friends and development colleagues from Beaufort and Jasper counties.

From a political perspective, I get a tremendous amount of actionable advise from the builders, as they are a huge segment of our economy, and as such, have a first-hand knowledge of what parts of the government are helping the cause, and which parts need to disappear. I encourage members of our delegation to attend these get-togethers for that very reason. This time around, Rep. Andy Patrick from Hilton Head was able to be with us. He and I agreed that we learned a lot and had a pretty good time as well. Executive Officer of the HBA, Ashley Feaster knows how to put on a great event.

Finally, the situation at the entrance to St Gregory the Great is not satisfactory, and has never been satisfactory. It is inconvenient and unsafe. I have had SCDOT down here a few times, in consultation with Sun City County Councilman Jerry Stewart and County Council Chairman Weston Newton. We are banging away at this problem and it will get better. Right now, I don’t have a timeline, but all the parties are equally upset, so we will see some movement on this sooner rather than later. Please be patient.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From the House

Bluffton Today

Last week, the number of constituent contacts we logged was an all-time high. This is unusual since we are not in session and there is not a single big issue, such as the budget or the immigration bill pending. What we do have is a huge number of smaller matters that each has a strongly motivated group of supporters. These include the dog fighting and dog baiting issue, along with redistricting concerns, especially the school board districts. We are also hearing a lot about municipal issues from Bluffton, Hilton Head Island and Hardeeville.

Fortunately, our staff is well trained and willing to redirect callers to the proper offices for the information they seek. What you will never hear from us is: “it’s not my job”. While we may not give advise in matters outside of our jurisdiction, we know that oftentimes residents are not familiar with the particulars of the various levels of government. It is our job to be helpful to any who call or email regardless of whether we are technically the correct office to handle their inquiry.

Although we will help correct any confusion on the part of callers, it is important to note that we have excellent relations with both Beaufort and Jasper counties, as well as the municipalities in our area, both inside and out of District 118. Part of the success we have enjoyed in the last decade has to do with keeping the lines of communication open, down to the local jurisdictions and up to the federal level in Washington. The price of miscommunication, especially at this time of strained budgets and general incivility, is just something we cannot afford.

Communication and civility were two of the high spots during last week’s reception for your representative at the home of my great friend Joanie Heyward in old town Bluffton. Among the hundred plus friends and supporters gathered on a balmy pre-fall afternoon were my Beaufort County delegation colleagues Senator Tom Davis and Representative Shannon Erickson, as well as Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton. We also were joined by members of the financial, legal and health care communities, along with a number of what are correctly called “the job creators”, that is, of course the business community.

These good folks were treated to a well-appointed table of great food and beverages, arranged around the pool in Joanie’s back yard. They also heard an interesting talk from Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, who held forth on a variety of topics from redistricting (including some inside notes on our chances with the DOJ review), state employment prospects, and the bright future of the Waddell Mariculture Center.

Speaker Harrell and I were both thankfully brief in our prepared remarks so that there was a goodly amount of social time with many topical issues being the grist for spirited and information-rich conversation.

Looking out over the crowd, I was gratified to see so many of the folks that gave me the benefit of the doubt ten years ago and helped launch my political career. It was also great to see so many younger people interested in the mechanics of good governance. I am grateful for the confidence, as well as the material support that flows from this multigenerational base. Most importantly, I am sincerely humbled by the unwavering affection and support of my beautiful wife and “speaker of our house”, Mary Herbkersman. Her patience and wise counsel makes all things possible for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

From The House

Bluffton Today

We had quite a number of calls on a story that we broke a couple of weeks ago concerning the dog baiting issue. I had a good chat with Chief McAllister on this matter at the time and will meet with him early next week to see where we go from here. It seems that evidence of dog baiting is one of those bellwether activities that really gets the attention of law enforcement, especially those involved in the proactive field of community policing.

We are fortunate to have Chief McAllister in Bluffton, as he is a nationally recognized “community policing” expert, having published scholarly papers on different aspects of this law enforcement specialty. I look forward to hearing his views on how we can rid our community of these despicable forms of animal abuse and all the related activities that go along with dog fighting and dog baiting.

An interesting sidebar to the story has to do with the poor animal whose discovery sparked the widespread outrage since we initially broke the story. The dog now has a name, “Malachi”, and his rehabilitation has become something of a personal matter in the community. So much so that there is an event planned for Saturday, Sept. 24th at 8 pm at Montana’s Restaurant, to raise funds to help Malachi and other fighting dogs that are likely to be discovered as Chief McAllister turns up the heat on this heinous “sport”. The event is sponsored by Three Black Dogs, whose number is 706-3456. Call them for more info and to contribute.

I want to also thank all the friends who called last week to let us know our web site, as well as my legislative email account, was down. It took some doing, but finally the good folks over at Hargray were able to track down the problem and set things right.

As if we needed more evidence that Bluffton punches well above its weight, the Tea Party Express is coming to our little town for an event on September 10th. As the developer of the Calhoun St. Promenade, it has been our policy to host any and all charity or political events on the community space in the center of the park. In keeping with that longstanding policy, we welcome the Tea Party Express and look forward to hearing from some of the heavy hitters vying for the GOP presidential nomination.

From past tea party events, we couldn’t help but notice that our gathering place in the Promenade is always just as trash free and immaculate after the rally as it was before. We appreciate this example of responsible event planning more than you know. I also appreciate the emphasis that these folks place on shrinking the size of government, an issue your representative has been aggressively championing for nearly a decade. When you combine our striving to repatriate more Beaufort County tax dollars back to local needs with an overall downsizing of the state government, it turns out we can do both at the same time. This results, paradoxically, in Beaufort County being somewhat less of a donor county, while at the same time increasing the state contribution to our schools and roads. I’m certainly glad to have the tea party energy working with me on this two-track mission.

Finally, more indicators of the ascending status of District 118 and Beaufort County. There is to be a reception for your representative at the beautiful home of my dear friend Joanie Heyward next Thursday, September 15th. The special guest speaker is my friend and colleague, Rep. Bobby Harrell, Speaker of the SC House of Representatives. For more information, contact Donna Martin at 864-561-3738