By Bill Rauch
Reasonable people are of two minds about Nov. 8, this year’s election day. They are relieved the public name-calling might finally at least temporarily come to and end. But they find regrettable the choices before them.
Nonetheless, current surveys and the history books indicate, approximately the same lackluster percentage of registered voters will vote this season as have voted in the past. Tending to confirm the surveys’ findings, and the history, is my own experience at lunchtime on Friday, Oct. 23. That was when I voted. I was number 143 in the day’s cue. And all the chairs the Board of Elections people had set up for early voters waiting their turn that day were full.
Here’s how I voted in the tight races, and why.
For the Beaufort City Council — on which I served in various capacities for 16 years — I voted for Nan Sutton and David Taub. George O’Kelley is departing and with him will go the group’s best brain. Of those running, Taub offers the best replacement brain. For example, he has come up with a proposal to replace the ridiculous 2-percent franchise fee surcharge that City Council voted unanimously to levy city-wide to pay for burying the power lines on Boundary Street.
Some city council members serve for years and never come up with a proposal that can honestly be called their own. They just do what they’re told by the city manager except on those rare occasions when the public cries loudly enough to convince them their political self-protection requires them to oppose him.
In exchange for their fidelity to him the city manager tries to protect “his” council members from looking foolish in public. Taub won’t play that game. I can prove it. For the eight years he was mayor the city didn’t raise taxes — and city managers always want to raise taxes. I was there, and I know then-Beaufort City Manager Gary Cannon did.
In the South Carolina House District 124 race I voted for Shannon Erickson. Shannon’s a hard worker who is dedicated to constituent service. And as a policymaker Shannon can be counted on to look out for South Carolina’s young people. That’s both good for our future … and unusual.
In the race next door: Broderick vs. Rivers for South Carolina House seat 121, I say Michael Rivers is needed where he is on the Beaufort County School Board where he keeps a close eye on Superintendent Jeff Moss. Mr. Moss is a highly-skilled politician in the sense that he is facile at keeping a majority of his board with him. Town managers, county administrators and school board superintendents all do this, if they wish to keep their jobs. But some are more brazen — which is to say they more obviously play favorites — than others. Superintendent Moss is one of the brazen ones.
Caught in September 2015 quietly changing the school district’s nepotism policy and putting his wife on the district’s payroll, Moss remarkably slipped the noose. (I’m sure it has cost us plenty.) Now he has concocted a scheme to separate the county’s residents and its visitors from about a quarter billion dollars to make capital improvements to the county’s schools.
The list of projects to be funded was developed with an eye to making the superintendent’s favorite school board members look good rather than the to-be-preferred steely resolve to serve the cause of educating the county’s children. Moreover, the flexibility that’s baked into the school board referenda (there are two) gives the superintendent and his board a majority that pretty nearly amounts to a blank check to chuck the list and use the quarter billion as they please. The clear message from the redoubtable superintendent to board members is: If you don’t stick with me, I’ll build a new coalition without you. And then you can watch your favorite projects slide into the ditch.
If you couldn’t tell, I voted No on both the school board measures.
But I said Yes to Beaufort County’s penny sales tax measure. Former Beaufort City Councilman Mike Sutton, Nan’s husband, who chaired the committee that wrote the list of projects, figured out how to rope me in. The results on Nov. 8 will tell us how many others were similarly lassoed. Sutton managed to keep on the list a couple of million dollars for Beaufort’s beleaguered Southside Park. First Mayor Keyserling tried to sell the park. Then he proposed tilling it up and planting it in corn. Now, maybe, if the county’s long shot measure passes, the city can at last begin to try to make Mossy Oaks’ 18-plus acre neighborhood park into the premier city park it should be.
I have my fingers crossed.