Wednesday, October 15, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

With the last couple of columns focusing on the Jasper County education situation, the phones and the email really lit up this week. Calls were especially heavy after our presentation to the Sun City Republican Club regarding the transparency and redistricting matters. Sun City folks, by and large, are well- educated people, and they understand that their current circumstances are closely related to their investments in a good education. The overwhelming consensus comment was that no child in America should have a substandard public education due to cronyism or politics.

We are working diligently to get three or four dates in Jasper County to roll out what we think might be some good, serviceable alternatives to the flawed plan for the redistricting of the Jasper School Board now on the table. Most of the meetings will involve Bobby Bowers, the state reapportionment guru, acting as a technical consultant. Some of our model plans will have fewer seats, some more. Some boundary lines will be moved to reflect population shifts.

A few things which any plan must consider will be not diluting any minority voting districts, per the Voting Rights Act. We will also keep intact any neighborhoods of common interest. Most importantly, the principle of “one person, one vote” will be closely observed. This means that one district should not have appreciably more voters than another. This is measured as deviation from the perfect distribution of voters. The current deviation is something like 62%, which is unacceptable.

There is no perfect plan, but what we hope to achieve is a Jasper County stakeholder’s plan. Within the previously stated criteria, I believe that given the opportunity to have their say, the local folks can come up with a better plan than can be formulated by one person in a room in Columbia. This is a time when having the people who will have to live with the outcome of any map or plan, be the people who express their preferences, with ample opportunity for comment and discussion. We will create a record of your likes and dislikes, how you think things should be organized, and with technical help from Mr. Bowers, arrive at a plan.

As you may remember, Judge Gergel has given the legislature until the first of March to pass an acceptable plan. Failing that, the court will decide. Politics being what it is, even if we don’t manage to pass a good plan by the deadline, we want to have a record of the desires of the stakeholders, which will be placed before the court. This process should be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

As you read this, the weeklong Historic Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival is under way. It is jam packed with entertainment and family oriented activities, culminating in the Street Fest on Saturday and Sunday. This is an art fair with continuous live music at several stages around the Old Town.

Tonight, at the Rotary Community Center at Oscar Frazier Park, there is a performance by incredible Gullah storyteller and singer Louise Cohen. Also on the bill is noted author Patti Callahan Henry, who will speak on her latest New York Times best-selling novels set in Bluffton and Savannah. The performance and book signing will kick off at 6 p.m., cost $10 per person and is by reservation only. Call Mary at 843-815-2472 or 843-815-2474 for reservations. All proceeds go to the Waddell Mariculture Center.

And speaking of Waddell, don’t miss out on the 7th Annual Taste of Waddell coming up on November 9th at the Waddell Center. Call Capt. Dave Harter at 843-785-4106 or email