Wednesday, May 8, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

Last week, I was given a needed reminder of why I find myself in the House of Representatives, and why some of my friends are serving as town and county council members, mayors, senators, and even elected POA board members. It was a needed reminder because public service is hard and seems to be getting harder. After all, elected service is extremely time consuming and not very remunerative. Most of us absorb a huge financial hit when we take care of the people’s business, often to the detriment of our own.

If you watch TV or listen to the radio, it seems as though our society is becoming more and more fractured, with those ideas and ideals we hold in common subject to increasing scrutiny and question. If you are a consumer of the 24-hour news cycle, it appears that our commonality is breaking down-- the center no longer holds.

Last week, I didn’t write much about the May River clean up, but I thought about it a lot. It was the reminder that I needed as to why I essentially donate a quarter of my work year to the General Assembly. Why Mayor Sulka and her town council put in countless hours on town business. It was why my pal Tabor Vaux just ran a hard, expensive campaign to win a seat on County Council so he can spend thirty hours a week doing the people’s business for a tiny fraction of his lawyerly billing.
Friends, it was also the reason 200 of our neighbors showed up last Saturday to clean up the May River. They wanted to be part of something whose purpose was to simply make things better. They wanted to be a part of cleaning up that which we all hold in common. They were cub scouts and members of the Sun City Kayak Club, families and church groups, every race and religion, all across the economic spectrum. They were supported by a dozen or more businesses donating supplies, food and good coffee. They were what make a town into a community.

After a great day on and around the river, Mary and I got cleaned up and went for a little dinner down on Calhoun St. Some of the first folks we ran into were our good friends Dr. Brian Smith and his lovely wife, Amy. We had a nice chat and all agreed that Bluffton had finally come into its own. The Old Town had become what we knew it should be, and would someday be. Well, it looks like someday is today.
We had a fine meal and strolled about for an hour or so, speaking with friends and with folks who were visiting from out of town. They were, without exception, deeply impressed and delighted with our little corner of the Lowcountry. I imagine we will have another influx of new residents pretty soon.

Without waxing too philosophical, I think we are experiencing something of a virtuous cycle, where a certain number of people just feel the need to “just make things better.” They may help clean up the river, or coach youth sports, or arrange the flowers at church, create good art, or even be a part of the political structure. They just want to make things better. There is a positive momentum that seems to build on itself. We see new neighbors, new businesses, and a welcome sense of optimism and possibility.

This Saturday is the 35th iteration of the Bluffton Village Festival. My Bluffton Rotary is now the careful custodian of Miss Babbie Guscio’s splendid vision. If you want to see what a great community looks like as it celebrates itself, join us this Saturday. If you have an ugly dog, bring it. He or she might become a celebrity.