Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

I want to reiterate my gratitude for the many calls, emails and visits we continue to receive since my initial comments on the systemic failure of the Jasper School System. Each week, we seem to increase our number of constituent contacts relating to this important matter. However, I have to ask a favor that will help us continue to answer your calls and emails in a timely manner. If you can relay your information by email, please do so. As much as I like to have folks come by the office, sometimes we are just swamped. Much of this is, of course, my fault, as I enjoy your visits and especially hearing your take on the happenings of the day. The trouble is, we are committed to return calls and emails within 24 hours if at all possible, and my pleasure in your visits, and my occasional long-windedness makes it difficult for staff to honor our commitment to timely turnaround. Please indulge me in this.

I also want to remind everybody that as far as the legislative delegation, both for Beaufort and Jasper counties, we don’t have purview over the education department. We can hold hearings, we can reform the electoral process, but we cannot mandate that this or that local official be hired or fired. Those are matters of local control and that is the way it should be. That said, we are there to listen, we can also express our opinions, but the local officials are tasked with hiring and firing.

With all that on the table, I must say we in the delegation are profoundly impressed with the way the parents and the other residents of Jasper County have met the challenge of responding to the latest ratings of the local school district. There comes a time when excuses and rationalizations just don’t cut it. I will say this: If you think Jasper County schools are doing a good job, then you shouldn’t complain. If you think that graduates of Jasper County schools are finding and keeping good, family-supporting jobs, there is no need to ask any hard questions. If you think the pool of potential workers is helping to attract new jobs to Jasper County, then you should be happy with the status quo. However, if you see the chronic unemployment, the year-after-year economic malaise with no change in sight, and still think the schools are doing a good job, then perhaps you are part of the problem.

As the local Bluffton Council race heats up, especially with quality of life issues in the Historic District looking to be the primary issue, I’d like to offer this observation: the Promenade was designed with lively entertainment in mind. We have zero complaints because all the stakeholders have signed on to our bars and restaurants having reasonable levels of music and spirited conversation, that perhaps the Historic District residents might find a little much. I know there is a way we can accommodate a wide spectrum of entertainment options if we listen to the folks. The town has established a mixed-use district that worked for years because it pre-supposed that all residents and businesses would strive to be good neighbors. When that social agreement breaks down, the magic quickly drains out, to be replaced by acrimony and ill will.

At the risk of seeming self-serving, we designed the Promenade not to mimic the Historic District, but to complement it. We can provide that which might not be entirely suitable for our neighbors to the South. I offer this observation in the spirit of maintaining the interesting, diverse, and economically prosperous little village we all love so well.