Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

The Historic Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival was another home run. Congrats to Bluffton Rotary, Mary O’Neill, the festival committee, and all the hard working volunteers. My Mary and I had a truly great time. The very best part was having Mary’s dad, John Kinzer, with us. John has had some medical issues of late, and he certainly did enjoy seeing so many of his old friends. Sometimes an event like Arts and Seafood, a classic family friendly extravaganza, is just the thing to remind us what a great community we have.

As I walk around, it is hard to miss all the new, thriving businesses. For a newcomer, it might just seem like it happened by accident, or was always this way. In fact, this community put its heads and hearts together and made it happen. Seemingly endless meetings and workshops to plan, then plan some more, went into this success. One of those early planners is now our new town manager, my friend Marc Orlando. We expect more great things from Marc.

Our friends over in Jasper County, in Hardeeville and Ridgeland, are starting to get very serious about bringing the benefits of good jobs and increased opportunity to their residents. They are starting in exactly the right place with the reform of the public schools. That process begins with the creation of new, properly apportioned school districts. To that end, our first meeting to gather public input is scheduled for Wednesday, October 29th, in Ridgeland at the high school, beginning at 6 p.m. The following Wednesday, November 5th, will be the second meeting, at Hardeeville High School, again at 6 p.m. There will be another meeting the next Wednesday, November 12th, at the Jasper County Government Building, at 6 p.m.

We will talk about the different scenarios and different types of school board alignments and options. South Carolina apportionment guru, Bobby Bowers, from the Budget and Control Board, will be on hand to give technical advise and share his expert opinions on how other jurisdictions have had success with redistricting. I want to reiterate that we are not pushing any particular configuration or plan. We will share some models that have been created, and hope that Senator Pinckney will share his plan and map.

Our intention is, and has always been, to inform and empower the stakeholders in this immensely important process, and to place before them the opportunity to make their own way. This is in stark contrast to the process of allowing one person, in a room in Columbia, to create a plan that will likely be in place for a decade. This is a chance for the folks to have their say.

One thing that seems to make this basic form of democracy work most efficiently is this: if you take issue with a plan or a part of a plan, be prepared to offer an alternative that will make it better. It is your right to say “No” but much more helpful to explain what needs to change for you to say “Yes.”

On a housekeeping note, we will be a little short-staffed beginning November 1st. Meredith Irion will be handling most of the delegation duties for Beaufort County, and many of you know we have the ever diligent Helen Pittman in Jasper County.

Finally, the 7th Annual Taste of Waddell is Sunday, November 9th, from 3-7 p.m. on the high bluff overlooking the Colleton/Okatie River. My pal Dave Harter tells me that they are approaching a sell-out. So call Dave at 785-4106 or email for reservations. This is a fun event to support the excellent work of Al Stokes and his crew at the Waddell Mariculture Center, located at the end of Sawmill Creek Road in Greater Bluffton.