Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

We received an extraordinary number of calls and emails in response to last week’s column. We were heartened by all your kind expressions of support for Mary’s dad, John Kinzer, who continues his rehabilitation under the care of the good folks at NHC. Our portion of adversity has had the salutary effect of bringing the family closer, with a greater appreciation of all the blessings we enjoy. Gratitude truly seems to be the key that unlocks family happiness.


My modest proposal to change the designation of the day following Thanksgiving from “Black Friday” to “Bluffton Friday” also stirred a bit of commentary as well. The consensus was that more often than not, holiday shopping has become a chore, rather than the preparation for a family celebration. The idea of removing the stress, and emphasizing the fun parts of the holiday, certainly picked up a ringing endorsement from our callers.


For whatever reason, the weekend following Thanksgiving was pleasantly busy in Old Town Bluffton. There were a goodly number of folks who all seemed to be having a great time as well as making purchases and enjoying our fine restaurants. The perfect weather seemed to be appropriate to the occasion. The art walk put on by the art gallery sub-group of the Merchant’s Society was well attended with more than a little local art changing hands. The “Buy Local” campaign is a pretty easy sell in our community.


In truth, there are a host of things about Bluffton that are somewhere between extraordinary and amazing. Our churches appear to compete to see who can have the most effective outreach. Bluffton Self Help is on course for record donations and distributions. When there is a need, Bluffton folks step up.


When the Bluffton/Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine needed funding, my friend Joanie Heyward stepped up with a fabulous party that did the trick. Joanie also is a new board member of the Technical College of the Lowcountry. When the various local boards and commissions have vacancies, Bluffton folks step up. When redistricting created a new seat for our region in the statehouse, my friend Weston Newton stepped up. He put together a very effective campaign and managed to defeat a very smart, qualified opponent in the primary, and ran unopposed in the general election. He will join the Beaufort/Jasper delegation for the next session.


Now, my friend Tabor Vaux has stepped up and announced for Weston’s old seat on County Council. Most of us only know Tabor as the well-mannered, attractive son of Mary and Roberts Vaux. In truth, he is a successful lawyer, freeholder and responsible married man, who just happened to have served for years as an assistant solicitor under Solicitor Duffy Stone. It’s difficult for many of us to reconcile the image of the kind young fellow who grew up in Bluffton, and the current reality that Tabor Vaux is a hardnosed former prosecutor who is in the vanguard of a new generation of Bluffton leadership. He has stepped up for one of the hardest, most crucial jobs around, a seat on Beaufort County Council.


My hat’s off to Tabor, to Joanie, to Weston and all those community-minded folks who give of themselves so we can continue to enjoy the benefits of living in this lovely part of the Lowcountry.


Finally, if you want a demonstration of what kind of community we are, turn up around eleven this Saturday for the outrageously entertaining Bluffton Christmas Parade. It speaks volumes about who we are and how we can have a ton of fun and still take care of business.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

The security issue at Department of Revenue and other state business will be there for us next week. Today, I want to say a few words about tomorrow’s Thanksgiving celebration. I also have a modest proposal for dealing with the dreaded “Black Friday.”


I really hope all your families are intact and things and moving in the right direction for you. For us, this Thanksgiving will be the first without family members who have gone on before us. We are, nonetheless, filled with gratitude for the chance to be with family, and celebrate our many blessings.


None of those blessings are more elevating than having Mary’s father, John Kinzer, back with us after his health mishap in Scotland. John is undergoing rehabilitation at NHC out on Highway 170 here in Bluffton. Wade Taylor and his superb staff are seemingly going above and beyond to return John to vigorous health, although from conversations with the families of other NHC patients, “above and beyond” is pretty much what they do every day. Obviously, part of our celebration will involve watching sports in John’s room on the big flat screen TV.


The day after Thanksgiving is usually called “Black Friday” for reasons both accurate and distressing. In truth, the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season doesn’t seem to bring out the best in us. Tempers get short and car horns get a little too much use as we prepare for the next holiday while trying to get over that last extra slice of pecan pie with chocolate chips. Allow me to proffer this modest proposal:


Instead of Black Friday, let’s make it Bluffton Friday! Instead of lining up in front of a big box and waiting to be herded into a cavernous building with hundreds of other inpatient shoppers, try spending the day in old town Bluffton and doing your shopping with folks who are happy to see you and treat you like a treasured friend. Don’t get up before daylight and dash out of the house. Sleep in. When you are good and ready, head over to Bluffton and be prepared for a nice day. Park in the Promenade, or on May River Road, or Calhoun St. or in the parking lots of the many churches. Shared parking is an old Bluffton tradition.
There are lots of lunch possibilities. There’s Captain Woody’s or The Cottage or The Sippin’ Cow, and a host of tried and true winners. For something a little different, there is a new Jamaican restaurant, The Red Stripes, behind the famous Squat and Gobble on Pin Oak. Red Stripes is inexpensive, pleasant, and really good. Spicy Jerk Chicken with rice and peas is perfect for a cool afternoon in November.


This year, instead of another noisy video game, why not give your kids a colorful book? There are two wonderful bookstores in old town. How about a beautiful antique wooden treasure box from the McCracken’s at Stock Farm Antiques? Or a Steve White soda-fired mug from Pluff Mud Gallery? When you do business with your neighbors, those dollars stay in your community, as opposed to ending up in Arkansas so the Waltons can buy another Gulfstream 5.


Here’s the deal as I see it: Holidays are to remind us to be kind to each other, to appreciate our loved ones while we still have them. We also need a reminder to take care of ourselves so our loved ones can enjoy us as well. Do we really need more shiny, Chinese-made, digital gadgets? Put some mindful love into your gifts. Shop as though you value where you live and care about your truly local businesses. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Be thankful, then enjoy Bluffton Friday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

We are still having quite a few calls regarding the security debacle at Department of Revenue. I am concerned that as we get further into this mess we continue to find more lapses and more potential problems. Also, a number of folks have been having difficulty accessing the Experian site to sign up for the credit monitoring. A friend from Sun City, Dave Capp, was one of those folks. He finally was able to get to the site through Internet Explorer and not through a server such as AOL Desktop. He was eventually able to log on and sign up. He was kind enough to share his strategy. However you get there, please sign up. This thing has the potential to be a years-long inconvenience.


We have also heard your displeasure at the number of candidates removed from the ballots because of problems in the electoral process. This confusion has made a significant impact on the election, sometimes not for the better. I have had conversations with the new chairman of Judiciary Committee, Rep. Greg Delleney (R- York County). He is confident we will have this matter corrected in short order. Elections are hard enough to coordinate without the level of confusion we endured this time. I will keep you up to date on this important matter.


As I reported last week, the signage confusion at Buckingham Landing is about to be cleared up. There was also a fair amount of curiosity about the connection between the work of the late Bill Marscher and your representative’s most recent development, namely a million dollar’s worth of stormwater infrastructure at the Promenade. Here is a very brief summary:


Bill Marscher came up on my radar in the mid-1990s as he and a group of volunteers called the Clean Water Task Force began investigating why the water quality in the Colleton-Okatie River was deteriorating. Their efforts led to the creation of a Special Area Management Plan (SAMP). One of the plan’s strong recommendations was the creation of the now operational Stormwater Utility for Beaufort County. The SAMP also highlighted the work of a South Carolina researcher, Dr. Fred Holland, who demonstrated how certain development activities led to deterioration in water quality in the adjacent estuaries.


Veterans of the Clean Water Task Force went on to form Friends of the Rivers, founded by Nancy Schilling but included Dave Harter and Dr. Chris Marsh, among others. As I was considering my first run for the statehouse, members of Friends of the Rivers tutored me on the basics of coastal ecology and stormwater management, including how to do development in an area such as Beaufort County, which is over half water at high tide. The science and the related engineering was quite an eye-opener for me, especially since I had in the back of my mind the idea for a great development in Old Town Bluffton.


Around 2005, that idea began to materialize into the Calhoun St. Promenade. One of the things I committed to was making certain that my development was not going to add to the growing problems in the May River. Consequently, we utilized the key ideas that emerged from the Clean Water Task Force as a defining feature of the Promenade. The gold standard for stormwater management is to keep all your runoff on your property and infiltrate it back into the groundwater. With miles of pervious pipe under the development, that’s exactly what we did. We treat not only our runoff, but a huge portion of the surrounding properties’ runoff as well.


In a nutshell, Bill Marscher’s efforts helped us understand the relationship between development and water quality. That understanding is buried deep under the Promenade, helping keep the May River clean. The upfront cost was about $1 million; the benefit is beyond measure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

By the time you read this, the bulk of the election will have been concluded, we will know how our local candidates and issues fared, and with luck, our friends in the storm ravaged Northeast will have been able to exercise the sacred franchise.


First, a note of explanation to our neighbors out at Buckingham Landing. The name of your excellent neighborhood has not been changed. Unfortunately, my three-year effort to have the boat ramp renamed in honor of our friend, Bill Marscher, has culminated in signage that can charitably be described as misleading. I have spoken with my friends over at Department of Natural Resources (DNR). They are aware of the mistake and will make every effort to make it right. If it looks like it’s going to take another three years, I’ll find the old sign and put it up myself.


Bill Marscher was such a gifted and profoundly influential person; he amply deserves to be remembered in some water-related fashion. I will devote a column to his water-quality efforts very soon. I will also try to explain how this good man, through his efforts to educate the development community, of which I am a member, in the newest and best ways to manage stormwater runoff, cost your representative’s development a million dollars ­that I was happy to spend.


We had over 600 calls to the office this week, mostly concerning the security breach at Department of Revenue (DOR). The papers have been doing a creditable job of covering the event and explaining what you should be doing. This is what I know:


About three weeks ago, thieves hacked the South Carolina Department of Revenue and gained access to your tax returns back to 1998. If you have a business that files sales or use tax, they have your info as well. You should assume that by now your information has been sliced and diced and distributed among the criminal community that specializes in identity theft and all that implies. We are talking about Social Security numbers, bank routing numbers, and credit and debit card numbers—everything.


If you have not done so already, please go to www.protectmyid.com/scdor and enter the code SCDOR123. Under a deal struck with Experian, you will be eligible for credit fraud resolution for life. The Protect My ID program is designed to detect, protect and resolve potential identity theft and includes daily monitoring of all three credit bureaus.


If you are a businessperson, in addition to the above, you need to know the state is providing credit monitoring through Dunn and Bradstreet. Either call 1-800-279-9881, or visit www.dandb.com/sc to sign up. You also need to inquire of your financial institutions what protections are in place on their end.


In an effort to see that this will not happen again, the governor has signed an executive order directing all her cabinet and agencies to designate someone to coordinate with the State Inspector General, Patrick Maley, in a new effort to improve the state’s cyber security. She indicated the state government’s fragmented approach to IT security makes South Carolina vulnerable to serious cyber and information breaches.


In reality, these measures are prudent and worthwhile but ultimately you have to stay on top of your own situation. Credit monitoring simply tells you when you have been attacked and with luck and a quick response, you can limit your loss and inconvenience. The price of paying taxes and bills online is a certain risk of being a victim of cyber crime. Unfortunately, our desire for convenience and amenity has outrun our security capability. Wish this was as easy to fix as the Buckingham Landing sign.