Wednesday, January 11, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

I am immensely grateful for all the kind phone calls and emails concerning last week’s column. Not only were folks amazingly understanding of our family situation and how we chose to handle it, many were good enough to share similar stories and how they ultimately became “teaching moments” in their families. Mary and I are deeply touched and humbled by your kindness and empathy.

As some of my friends in Columbia are starting to realize, transparency is often difficult and sometimes even a little embarrassing. The “public” in “public official” often means that one’s expectation of personal privacy is different from that of a private citizen. You have chosen me as your representative in our state government and my consistency and integrity are part of what you hired me for. If there are times when I fall short of the mark or make a mistake, you will hear it from me. If I need to explain or apologize, it will happen immediately with no spin, no rationalizations, and no excuses.

Another popular topic in our constituent contacts last week had to do with the roads around Sun City, both the horrendous stretch along Highway 170 from the back gate to the Bluffton Parkway and Highway 278 from Sun City to I-95. One of the calls was from my good friend Eileen Brenner. Eileen wanted an explanation as to why the quality of the pavement in the relatively new portion of 278 from the front gate of Sun City to I-95 seemed to be deteriorating. I immediately called SCDOT to see if this was something on their radar. It was not then, but is now. When there is good information to pass along, you will be the second to know. Eileen will be the first.

In the ten years I have been your representative, the Bluffton area of Beaufort County has grown in population dramatically. Our transportation needs have grown along with our population. I am proud to say that our share of road construction has pretty much kept pace, with a few glaring exceptions, with our growing population as well as our increased popularity with visitors. In truth, much of the heavy lifting in this area is due to the diligence of my friend Weston Newton, Chairman of Beaufort County Council. While I have had good success in repatriating many of the state gas tax dollars leaving our county back to our county, Chairman Newton has made countless trips to Washington over the years to make our case before our federal delegation, usually successfully.

Unfortunately, Chairman Newton and I have been working against a road building and maintenance regime that has historically allocated scarce resources according to population rather than usage. Consequently, more densely populated upstate areas seemed to receive more attention than our overburdened roads, even though much of our traffic involved visitors supporting the tourist economy. It has taken longer than I would have liked, but we are now approaching parity with our upstate neighbors.

Today is the second day of the new session. While those of us in leadership have been hard at it during most of the summer and fall, the rank and file members have arrived and are settled in. The caucuses have met and organized, ready to take up the people’s business. For your Beaufort County Delegation, this is going to be a stellar session.

Join me in this space every Wednesday to hear not only what is happening in your House of Representatives, but also what it means for you, your family and your state.