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Letters to the Editor

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Kudos to councilman for opposing bag ban

It’s nice to see an elected official standing up for what’s right. 

As Beaufort County continues to push for a ban on single-use plastic bags, one councilman has shown courage to object on grounds that it does not address the real issue.

Coastal areas of the country are being swept up in the environmental populism of bag bans, but Councilman Jerry Stewart thinks the proposal is “inappropriate legislation.” It is the behavior of some uncaring individuals that is inappropriate, not the inanimate object.

We agree and applaud Mr. Stewart’s stance on this issue.

Paul Runko
Vice President
Greater Bluffton Republican Club

Marines appreciate being remembered

Editor’s note: See page A6 for a story on local schoolchildren who made special boxes of gifts for the Marines of VMFA-312. 

Thank you to all those who have dedicated time and effort to making the holidays for the Marines of VMFA-312 feel like home.  

Being away from family and friends can be a difficult and trying time for almost anyone, but when a young Marine – or even an old one – is thousands of miles away from a single family member, the holidays can feel like any other day.  

We work day in and day out, sometimes without even knowing what day it is. Our days can feel like the same over and over without anything new or exciting happening to lift our spirits.  

Your thoughts, Christmas cards and gifts go a very long way for all of us aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. For some of our Marines, these may be the only gifts they receive for the Christmas holiday, and because you took the time to think of us, we are thankful.  

Our holiday season has changed for the better with your gifts and cards decorating our work spaces. The books you have sent keep us busy during our down time. 

The toothbrushes, toothpaste and tissue paper replenish our needed goods, and your candy and snacks keep our bellies full.  

Your kind words and best wishes have put us in the holiday spirit, and we have you all to thank. These Christmas presents have by far been the best gifts we have received in the mail, and it was right on time. 

The presents wrapped and decorated with drawings are better than any store-bought packaging. We even love the glitter all over the boxes.  

We, the Marines of 312, are grateful for people like you who think of us when we are far away from the ones we love.  

This holiday season truly has been blessed by you in every way. From all of us here we would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Semper Fidelis,
SSgt. Brian C. Gustafson
Powerline SNCOIC

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Many concerns about Whitehall development

I relocated permanently to Beaufort almost two years ago, in part due to its stunning natural beauty and historic legacy.  

Suddenly, I am cognizant of the fact that those of us who live on the islands (Lady’s, St. Helena, Dataw, Harbor and Fripp) east of Woods Bridge are about to be impacted directly and irrevocably by decisions that will be made by Beaufort Planning and the Beaufort Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC). 

I presented my concerns to the MPC on Nov. 13 regarding concerns I have relative to the long-awaited development of the Whitehall property.  

Consisting of (19) heavily-wooded acres located at the foot of Woods Bridge, Whitehall drains directly into Factory Creek and the Beaufort River. Soil disruption on that site will certainly affect the marshes via storm water runoff with its certain pollutants and from deadly siltation via eroded soil.  

Many are concerned about the number of mature trees that will be destroyed, but my drop-in meeting with Beaufort Planning and review of the aborist’s plan alleviated my concerns about clearing of trees, to some degree.

But for those of us who have studied the current plan, the two most disturbing facts are the immediate and permanent traffic impacts we will suffer on Sea Island Parkway and Meridian Road. I am proposing right turn lanes for ingress/egress for the Sea Island Parkway entrance. Otherwise, or we will be sitting in murderous traffic jams there soon.  

The second burning issue is the developer seeks to build way too many buildings on the property. With that degree of impervious (won’t absorb water) material in asphalt, concrete, buildings, etc., the stormwater runoff and potential for flooding will be significant. If allowed to continue, as in Charleston and other low areas, the “drainage deficit” can result in the kind of flooding we have seen in those localities.

More than anything, I hoped to convince the MPC that when it comes to properties that border the tideline (reached by tidal waters), there must be a stricter set of environmental standards in place for land development that go beyond the mandatory 30-foot development setback mandated by SC DHEC OCRM.  

As just one example, saving mature trees on tideline properties not only shields the resulting buildings from view, the trees hold the soil, prevent erosion and reduce the potential of storm water runoff and pollution of nearby wetlands and waterways.

I hope the MPC will listen to the citizens and conservation groups, because the decisions made for Whitehall will set precedents for Beaufort tideline communities that will affect us all for years to come.

Fereol de Gastyne

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Thanks to those who walked for water

On behalf of The Beaufort Walk for Water 2017 steering committee, we’d like to thank the 261 walkers who joined us on Oct. 14 at the Live Oaks Park in Port Royal to raise more than $26,000 and bring awareness to the need for safe, clean drinking water in other parts of the world.

The walk was a great success and it would not have been possible without our wonderful sponsors who “stepped up to the plate” to make sure this important event took place.  

First Presbyterian Beaufort, St. Mark’s Episcopal, St. John’s Lutheran, Sea Island Presbyterian, Water’s Edge UMC, the Unitarian Universalists Fellowship of Beaufort, Cleland Construction and the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, each helped with not just the finances to cover costs but provided volunteers to help coordinate the event.

Thanks to community support like Beaufort’s walk, Water Mission, headquartered in Charleston, is able to reach even more of the 1.8 billion people who don’t have access to clean water. The international nonprofit is working in Puerto Rico and other islands of the Caribbean to help those devastated by this fall’s hurricanes. 

Thank you, again, to those who helped make this year’s walk a success. Watch for more information about next year’s schedule!

Beaufort Walk for Water 
Steering Committee

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School board setting poor example for kids

I am writing as someone who was bullied growing up, as a parent of a second-grade student in Beaufort County schools who has been bullied (though thankfully not in school), and as a concerned constituent of Beaufort County. 

I have spoken about this issue before at a school board meeting and it brings me great sadness that this matter continues to come up. As many of you know, October was anti-bullying awareness month. 

I don’t know if all of this is coincidental or completely random that the topic of bullying continues to be brought up with regarding the school board members, but regardless, as adults I feel we need a refresher course on what constitutes bullying. 

The following is copied verbatim from the district website on what bullying is and what the anti-bullying policy is for Beaufort County schools:

“What is bullying?

“Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior that invokes a real or perceived threat or action. It is a behavior that is repeated or can be repeated by one individual or many individuals. Long lasting effects of bullying may cause life-long problems for both the victim and the bully.

“What are the types of bullying and some examples?

• Verbal bullying includes name calling, verbal threats, spreading rumors or excluding a student from activities or conversations.

• Physical bullying involves one or more students aggressively hitting or attacking another student.  

• Social/cyberbullying is electronic aggression using the Internet, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), e-mails, instant messaging and text messaging.

“When and where is bullying likely to happen?

“Bullying is likely to occur at school, on the way to or from school, on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the classroom and sometimes on the Internet.

“What is Beaufort County School District’s policy on bullying?

“Any and all incidences of bullying should be reported immediately.

“How are bullying incidents handled in Beaufort County School District?

“• School administration will contact all parties associated with the bullying incident to make sure that all parties are aware of the policy against bullying and the consequences for continuing to bully.

“• Incidents will be documented and parents in all cases will be contacted. 

“• Consequences can be as simple as a warning and as serious as a recommendation for expulsion.

“Visit SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING to report an incident of bullying, harassment, or intimidation. You may choose to include your name or remain completely anonymous.”

It is a cause of great concern for me that this is a matter we, as the adults, strive to teach our children and we expect them to abide by this. But how unbelievably hypocritical can we be when we don’t practice what we preach? 

Children learn through example. Our actions speak louder than words. To put it more simply, how can I expect my son to say “please” and “thank you” if I don’t say “please” or “thank you?” I can’t. He learns by observing me, just like every single student in this district. 

It is incredibly naive and shortsighted to think that our children, the children the board members were elected to represent, do not see this abhorrent behavior. Like I said, my son is 7 and he knows that something is amiss with the grownups. 

Whether you perceive the exercise of the First Amendment by calling for someone’s resignation a threat, or saying you wish someone would just fall off a cliff, or that those who are the perceived “dissenters” will all go to hell, these words are being made public in newsprint and social media. 

I would like to point out that two of the above-mentioned incidents are clear examples of verbal and cyber bullying. The third is a constitutionally protected right. Members of Congress call for the impeachment of our president every day and they aren’t subjected to the same ridicule by their cohorts that one board member has been.

Exercising the First Amendment to freedom of speech and freedom of the press is an essential cornerstone of our government and it is what makes this country great. Responding with wishes of harm, on the other hand, could be construed as a violation of the First Amendment. 

So I have to ask: How do the schools handle verbal and cyber bullying? How can we seriously expect our children to not participate when this is the example? 

Enough finger pointing. Enough name calling. Enough with the threats. We have earned our ages so why don’t we all start acting like we are the adults and stop?

This is counterproductive and only takes away from the important issues. It’s about how to run a school district. It’s about providing all students stellar academic opportunities and athletics and extracurricular activities so that they can grow and become productive and contributing members of society. 

Jennifer Wallace

Thanks to all who helped with Pat Conroy festival

The Pat Conroy Literary Center held our second annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival in partnership with the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts. 

The festival was a vibrant celebration of the transformative power of education, abounding with literary inspiration, educational workshops, film screenings, poetry readings, panel discussions by a pantheon of writers and teachers, and beautifully staged performances of the musical “Conrack,” an engaging discussion of the life of Beaufort’s iconic Robert Smalls, and guided walking tours through the current Beaufort Middle School — the former Beaufort High School where Pat graduated in 1963 and returned to teach four years later. 

The Conroy Festival was an immersive, heartfelt weekend of unforgettable experiences for our presenters and participants alike because of the dedication and generosity of our many sponsors, partners and volunteers who make the festival not only possible and successful but also an absolute joy to present. 

Being a volunteer is a gift of time that comes from the heart, and we thank each one of the dozens of volunteers from the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the USCB Center for the Arts and the Beaufort County School District who gave their time and talents in support of the Pat Conroy Literary Festival.

We also wish to extend a special thank you to the many Beaufort students who volunteered this year. 

The Conroy Center strives to educate and inspire a community of readers and writers, and at this year’s Conroy Festival it was our community of student volunteers who truly inspired us, emblematic of Pat Conroy’s lifelong commitment to learning and teaching and reflective of his great love for the South Carolina Lowcountry and its diverse voices. We are grateful to the Interact students of Beaufort High School who assisted with the book signing at the Conroy Center: Ellie Stone, Amanda Davenport, Alma Orozco-Rico, Hailey Brancho and Michael Cence. And we also offer a big thank you to the Beaufort Middle School Gryphon ambassadors, who not only helped with the guided walking tours of their school, but who also designed and created posters for the tour: Mason Aimar, Davis Martin, Jack Van Gundy, James Fabian and JaNaya Jackson.

In an essay appearing in “A Lowcountry Heart,” Pat wrote, “I consider the two years in Beaufort when I taught high school as perhaps the happiest time of my life.” Indeed, our time spent working with and getting to know our Beaufort High School and Middle School volunteers was among the happiest memories of this year’s Pat Conroy Literary Festival. Many thanks to those wonderful students.

With great love and great thanks,
Jonathan Haupt and Maura Connelly
Pat Conroy Literary Center

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Conroy’s name is being exploited

I am writing to you — or in fact to your readers — because I don’t know who else might address the potential concerns of the entirety of Beaufort County. 

Let’s admit, our “community” is certainly balkanized, if not necessarily divided in its views. I write because I am truly ashamed of our community. 

In what respect? 

For shamelessly exploiting the name of Pat Conroy. 

I completely understand that every writer would like to have his day —and certainly the recognition he is due. But I suspect that even Mr. Conroy would wonder at the way his name is exploited in our community since his death. Isn’t this a bit like attacking someone who cannot defend himself?

I will admit, I have never read a single one of Mr. Conroy’s books, though I have seen terrible renditions of them from Hollywood in a few cases. 

You know who I am talking about here. Perhaps it was the “lady” who complained about the MCAS flyovers back in the day, when she was filming in Beaufort. Or is that just an apocryphal story?

The question for us as residents of this community is whether we want people to exploit Pat Conroy’s name. 

Remember him, of course. Respect him, certainly. But do we have to have every community group in Beaufort County reaching out in his name, month after month? And this includes the media. You know who you are.

Please, let’s try to be respectful. I know it is hard in this insane age we live in. But many of us escape to Beaufort precisely because we hope there is still some measure of human decency out there somewhere.

Lloyd Richardson

Black soldiers monument unwise

Editor’s note: State Reps. Bill Chumley and Mike Burns have proposed building a monument to black Confederate soldiers.

The members of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission would like to register our opposition to the ill-informed proposal to erect a monument in honor of South Carolina’s Civil War-era African American Confederate pensioners.

First, we all can agree that the idea of a monument to recognize the significant role African Americans played in the Civil War is a worthwhile pursuit. 

However, a monument to commemorate the men forced into glory is essentially an attempt to rewrite the history of African-American contributions to America’s freedom struggle. In its current iteration, the proposal is ahistorical, insulting and uninformed. 

The suggestion that African-American slaves had the ability to choose to volunteer for service in the Confederate cause is preposterous. Since there were no volunteers then, these men were forced into service. They were, in fact, men who were coerced to labor against their wills. 

African Americans have always cherished freedom and dedicated themselves to the cause of liberty. The Confederacy originated out of the very idea of denying African Americans freedom.     

The Confederate government was built on the institution of slavery and undergirded with the regressive ideas of white supremacy. The fact that the majority of African Americans who participated in the war effort did so on the side of the Union speaks volumes. 

The Confederacy rejected black participation in its cause, until that very cause was little more than a concept, and wanted nothing to do with African-American soldiers. They only saw blacks as servants and pawns in a very dangerous game. 

As Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, said in 1861, the U.S. Constitution was fundamentally wrong because it guaranteed black equality. 

The idea that African Americans would volunteer to fight for a government built on those principles defies logic. 

The issues that divided the nation in the mid-19th century continue to plague us today. The fact that some legislators are willing to recognize the service of African Americans during the war is commendable. However, the fact that they would commend those who were coerced into service against their will is misguided.

The Civil War is part of the difficult American past. If the state really wants to honor the service of African Americans during the war, we suggest supporting those who want to build a monument to Robert Smalls, a man who gave his service trying to build a better South Carolina with the admirable goal of racial equality and not racial oppression.

Dr. Abel A. Bartley
South Carolina African American Heritage Commission 

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The trail is not to blame for flooding

A recent article in the Beaufort Gazette on a community meeting to address the flooding concerns in the Mossy Oaks area indicated that some individuals believe that the construction of the Spanish Moss Trail on the Port Royal Railroad right-of-way to the west of the community was responsible for the flooding. 

This is not correct.

The railroad was constructed on this alignment in the 1870s and a crossing of the marsh section was installed at that time. While it may have been a trestle in the beginning, I know from personal experience that it has been a culvert for more than 30 years.  

I lived on West Royal Oaks Drive from 1986 to 1992 and thereafter on Brotherhood Way. I walked the railroad right-of-way regularly with my children. Conversations with lifetime residents of Beaufort confirm those observations.

When the Spanish Moss Trail was constructed in this section in 2013, the contractor simply graded the existing surface of the berm and installed a 12-foot wide strip of concrete. No changes were made to the culvert or to the marsh on either side. 

This is not to say that the berm itself may not be a factor in the flooding since the existing culvert may be too small or installed at the wrong elevation. The city of Beaufort and its partners are conducting a full analysis of the entire situation and presumably will evaluate this along with many other factors.  Whatever their findings, I can assure everyone that the construction of the trail was not responsible for the flooding in the Mossy Oaks area.

Dean Moss
Volunteer Executive Director
Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail

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An open letter to John North

Dear Mr. North,

There’s something you should know about Hemingways: It is one of the coolest bars in the world. And I say that with authority because I have been to many bars around the world.

Besides the friendly staff, the cast of local characters, the cheap drinks, the indoor and outdoor seating, and the funky décor with dollar bills covering the walls and the ceiling, this tiny bar on Bay Street has a strong spirit that refuses to bend to bullies.

In this case, you are the bully. You have attacked Hemingways with lawsuits with claims about noise violations and drunk patrons. You have wasted the time of the courts and forced the owners to pay legal bills to defend the right to operate their iconic business. I don’t know the motivation behind your persistence to destroy the heart of Beaufort’s vibrant little downtown, but from the outside it appears resentful and narrow-minded.

Hemingways is a place that contributes to the local economy by providing jobs. It is a place that returning visitors love to come back to and a place that new visitors will always remember. It is a place unlike any other, and your efforts to shut it down fly in the face of what makes Beaufort great — a city where small businesses that promote unique, positive experiences can thrive.

Someone on Facebook recently posted a picture of this sign taped to the door outside of Hemingways:

“CLOSED SUNDAY: We are operating on an extended temporary license while the court and the Department of Revenue review the protest filed by John North. Due to delays in legal red tape we did not receive our SUNDAY license in time. We will be back on Monday at 10AM.”

The comments on social media were not very sympathetic to your position. And the community has every right to be outraged. That Sunday, Oct. 1, was a beautiful day, and it would have been the perfect day to sit outside and enjoy a drink overlooking waterfront park. Instead, a business lost revenue and would-be customers were denied a good time.

During Tropical Storm Irma, photos from Hemingways were widely circulated on Facebook, showing the bar still open with a hearty clientele in rain gear despite the nearly knee-high water. My favorite photo was the owner of Higher Ground using his standup paddleboard to enter the bar. A storm couldn’t keep loyal locals out. A storm couldn’t stop the staff from serving drinks and helping people and providing a place to gather and spend time together. A storm couldn’t close Hemingways, and neither will your mean-spirited attempts.

I hope at some point you are able to understand what this one-of-a-kind spot means to so many people, and the good it represents. Perhaps then you can redirect your energy toward endeavors that bring this special community together, instead of tearing it apart.

Pamela Brownstein

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Kudos to longtime teacher on retirement

Allow me to crow a little bit with pride and admiration. 

My wife, Kristy Wood, known to hundreds of Beaufortonians (both children and adults) as “Miss Kristy,” will be retiring from the Honeytree Preschool on June 1 after her presence there for a little over 40 years. 

I’m proud of the love she has shared, as well as the ethics she has instilled, with the many children she has taught over the years. I admire her for both her patience and stamina over those years, not only with her charges, but with what she has also taught and shared with me over our 44 years together. 

I’m not sure how many people appreciate the amount of effort a good pre-kindergarten teacher must exert to help build the strong foundations of ethical citizenship and self esteem within the (proven) critical age of 4- and 5-year-old children. 

I think Miss Kristy has gone above and beyond those efforts and requirements. I see the results often, when we are out in public and youngsters, as both past and present students, run up to her requiring a hug and some conversation.

Kristy was part of the early core Honeytree staff, housed way back when in the Pigeon Point neighborhood, which included Miss Sue Ann, the two Miss Bettys, Miss Kathy, Miss Audrey and Miss Connie. Kris was also an early graduate of the (then) young Leadership Beaufort program. She helped Sue Ann establish the first Hobbit Hill over in Shell Point, not to mention the countless hours of continuing education and CPR classes, DHEC regulation compliances and the work required for hundreds of arts and crafts projects.

I’m so proud of her proven good works and citizenship both inside and outside the classroom and I’ve been privileged to ride on her coattails in a social regard. 

Although I will miss the many “Kids Say the Darn-est Things” stories, I look forward to our retired life together which may prove Kristy’s biggest challenge yet: patience with me, Mr. Kristy. 

Tim Wood 

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More than meets eye happening at Crystal Park

Over 16 years in the making, Crystal Lake Park has recently passed another milestone with the renovation of the existing building and landscaping of the entrance to the park. 

The building, which was the former headquarters of Butler Marine, will serve as the new home for the Open Land Trust and the Soil and Water Conservation District. It will also provide public restrooms for park visitors. 

The newly renovated building will serve as an example of what is possible in energy efficiency when considering new construction or renovation. 

For example, the building includes a solar array for generation of electricity, an advanced remote energy management system, a very high efficiency HVA unit, LED light fixtures and closed cell insulation in the walls and roof (in lieu of fiberglass). 

In addition to renovation of the building, a new viewing dock, to replace the one which was destroyed by fire, is scheduled for completion as part of the present phase of construction. 

Installation of a state of the art security system will accompany the dock construction. The finishing touches on a new parking lot and general landscaping are presently underway.  

The next and final phase is construction of a wooden walkway around the 6-acre lake and is in the design phase. 

Conceived in 2000, donated by a private citizen to the county for a park, and funded as part of the Rural and Critical Land program, Crystal Lake Park should be complete in January 2018.  

Peggy Allard
President, Friends of Crystal Lake

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Lack of representation is unfair to residents

I have attended several of the last few Sea Island Coalition meetings concerning the future of Lady’s Island. While I applaud their efforts, I wonder if it is an exercise in futility. 

Lady’s Island is about twice the size of Manhattan. Let’s think about that a minute. So, putting maps in front of individuals, giving them crayons and markers, and telling them to give locations and selections for multiple categories such as parks, police stations, mixed use, roadways, etc., is a bit daunting at best. It is like trying to eat an elephant all in one bite. Even though there are multiple meetings, the format is the same. 

I hear rumors that the city of Beaufort had a plan for a center city at the intersection of Sams Point and Sea Island Parkway, but it has never been presented. 

Beaufort city officials show up for the meetings, get face time, then step aside as the groups discuss each area and issue. If there really is a plan, why are they not facilitating each group and informing them? Are we just being appeased to think that we have input? 

Let’s face it, we have no voting rights to determine the city of Beaufort elected officials who are making these decisions. So far, it appears that we are an easy “stepchild”tax base. 

I agree with Bill Rauch (former mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008) when he says, “It is past time for the city to step up for Lady’s Island … it is time for the city to begin providing some leadership.”

Rauch had it correct when he said that property taxes, business license taxes and prepared food taxes should be figured out and then subtracted from that sum the city’s reimbursement to Lady’s Island/St. Helena Fire District. What is left is roughly what the city is putting into its pocket from Lady’s Island.

Now, add to the above what the Lady’s Island Business and Professional Association said,  “Lady’s Island can anticipate continuing to be a blended community with most of the commercial portion in the city of Beaufort and most of the residential portion remaining in the unincorporated portion of Beaufort County.”

I expect that the unincorporated portion (residential) will continue to be lost in the shadow of Hilton Head and Bluffton. That said, it appears that the city of Beaufort will continue to “cherry pick” the better tax portions of Lady’s Island and leave the rest. 

Talking with one member of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, he expressed how frustrating it is to deal with calls and who has jurisdiction in this “checkerboard” annexation approach. I expect it is the same for all first responders. Do delays occur because of this mess? Who knows?

So, the city of Beaufort will take most of the commercial businesses, determine business license taxes, property taxes and prepared food taxes, all of which will be passed on to the consumers on Lady’s Island in one way or another. 

Businesses on Lady’s Island have no voting rights for the city officials who are making the decisions for them ( unless the owners live in the city of Beaufort), and, of course, neither do the unincorporated residents. 

The bottom line is pretty clear.  

We have “Annexation and Taxation without Representation” on Lady’s Island. I believe there was a tea party in Boston for the same reason.

Yes, Bill Rauch, “it is time for the city to step up for Lady’s Island,” or do we need a Lady’s Island Tea Party?

John Stevenson

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