Wednesday, July 9, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

It was good to see the crowds at the various 4th of July celebrations we were fortunate enough to attend. Our part of the Lowcountry must be among the most patriotic areas of the country. With our large population of military retirees, as well as the fact that our population trends a little older and a little more conservative, it is not really that surprising. For whatever reason, it truly makes me proud to be an American, and able to express my patriotism with my equally patriotic neighbors and constituents.

Speaking of our neighbors in the Lowcountry, we have had quite a few meetings recently with our Jasper County friends. As many of you know, I am the chairman of the Jasper County delegation, at least until the end of the year. The other members are Rep. Weston Newton, Rep. Bill Bowers, Sen. Tom Davis, and Sen. Clem Pinckney. For a variety of good and not-so-good reasons, our Jasper delegation meetings are always packed beyond capacity with folks wishing to speak on a variety of issues, some under the control of the delegation, and some outside our strict jurisdiction but heard nonetheless. A part of good governance is simply to provide a venue for folks to say what they need to say.

The recent past has seen a lot of change in Jasper, some for the good, and some simply a different version of the same old thing. There have always been a group of citizens in this area who want to do the right thing, regardless of the institutional pushback. Our delegation meetings have become the place where people feel they can have their say. The school system is often the source of the most passionate disappointment. There is no lack of understanding that education is the key to lifting those from generations of poverty up to join the new prosperity in our part of South Carolina. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of institutional inertia that needs to be overcome for things to move forward.

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit, hoping to realign the school districts to more equitably represent the will of the folks, as they choose new school board members. While I have often looked askance at the ACLU on some of their projects, this is something that needed to happen years ago as the population shifts in the county began to occur. I will keep you posted on the progress.

There is, however, a solid piece of good news on this matter, having to do with the presumptive replacement for Rep. Patrick in District 123. Jeff Bradley is a financial advisor and all around good guy who has stepped forward to assume this important seat as Rep. Andy Patrick has indicated he will resign after his current term. One of the several ways that Jeff has distinguished himself in recent years is as a coordinator of a series of GED camps.
What this means is that young people who, for whatever reason, have left high school without a diploma, can attend a camp with volunteer mentor/councilors who will encourage and tutor the individual to take and pass the General Education Development (GED) test, to be awarded high school equivalency status. The final step in the program is an interview with either the folks at University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) or Technical College of the Lowcountry (TCL). They are encouraged to think seriously about what kind of career or job they wish to pursue, and how these excellent facilities may fit into those plans. This program is being introduced in Jasper after a number of successful camps in Beaufort County. I believe this program is a game-changer.

While we work on the future, Jeff has come up with a way to heal parts of the past.