Thursday, February 16, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

It was a busy week both here in Bluffton and at the statehouse in Columbia. The House is taking up a measure that will finally address some of the issues of governmental clarity and transparency, not only in state government, but local governments as well. We have heard quite a lot about this topic from the governor, whose record has, unfortunately, been such that we on the legislative side are dealing with a certain level of skepticism as we put together our reforms, in the form of H.3225. If we can get this right, our Freedom of Information Act will become less about gamesmanship and more about the people’s right to know what government is up to.

I want to see real teeth in this measure. If the crowds of rapt spectators following these hearing are any indication, the public thinks that what often passes for governance could use some cleansing sunshine. You shouldn’t need to get an opinion from the Attorney General to go into executive session at town council. By the same token, using the executive session to conceal mistakes or budgetary shenanigans is far too common. A good, clear law will help.

One of the areas in Columbia that might benefit from a little sunshine is the state Senate, where the golf cart bill has been bottled up, despite the fact that there is little or no opposition to the bill. Senator Davis and I are trying to get to the bottom of this. I hope to have an update for you soon.

In my last column, I promised to run down some of the new features to the Calhoun Street Promenade. As you may have read, there are two new restaurants under construction. They will be interesting buildings with something of an art gallery theme, which is appropriate to Old Town Bluffton. As with all the existing Promenade structures, the local public has had a great deal of input into the design and placement of these new buildings, located just to the east of Capt. Woody’s. My hat is off to the Town of Bluffton planning staff and the Historic Preservation Commission for the wealth of good work done to help evolve these projects. I also appreciate all the folks who came by the office to look at the plans and offer suggestions. Such community involvement makes for the absolute best neighborhood dynamic. Thank you.

Finally, I’ll relate my first experience as a college professor in USCB’s OLLI Program. The acronym stands for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and it’s a great way for us older folks to stay sharp while we learn interesting information about the Lowcountry, as well as something of the great ideas that we have wrestled with for centuries.

My professorial debut was actually a ninety-minute discussion of redistricting, and why it’s important. In truth, constant readers of this column have already been pretty well briefed on this matter, but I was game nonetheless. There was a good crowd, including many of my old friends. Eileen Brenner, who most folks know as the spark plug of the Sun City AARP, was there with her great smile. Another smiling face belonged to pathways guru Karen Heitman, who may or may not have ridden over on her bike.

Well, I launched into the material, covered it sufficiently in about twenty minutes, and then was the beneficiary of a great deal of conversational generosity from my audience. They came up with interesting, related topics and all contributed to a fun class. What I lack as a professor was more than made up for by having smart and superbly generous friends.