Bringing Our Community Together

Category archive

Voices

The Great Pizza Debate is anything but cheesy

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

You never know when people are going to get ugly during a conversation. 

Sometimes it is politics or maybe religion. But recently I heard a group get passionate about where to buy the best pizza. Who knew there could be so many differences of opinion?

Although, my spouse and I have eaten at many of our local pizza parlors, I must confess we are not experts on the topic, especially since neither of us grew up in towns known for great pizza. 

It was totally different for those individuals actively participating in the recent Great Pizza Debate. According to each of them, the best pizza is made in their hometown. 

Listening to them tell their stories about pizza, it seemed like most tales included mom, dad and other family members.  

There were the pizzas eaten at the local drive-in theatre while waiting for the scary movie to start. There were also the stories of beachfront pizza joints.  How can pizza not taste fantastic as you sit on the boardwalk with your slight sunburn, salt and sand in the air, and looking out over the ocean?  

Then it dawned on me that I did have some great pizza in Rhode Island where the toppings included both Italian and Portuguese seasonings. But, I was with my grandparents on vacation. So, was it really the pizza or the setting?   

Now, I do have to be fair to my friends from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, even though they insist I am a baby taking her first steps when it comes to pizza.  

They began to describe the essentials of a good pizza. They compared red sauce versus white sauce. Then there was a debate regarding the “all meat” pizza with Italian sausage, pepperoni and ham versus the all vegetarian pizza.

I must admit the sound of a pizza with pineapple did not thrill me, but give me a pizza with a good marinara sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese and sliced onions and I am a happy camper.

“No,” the specialists insisted. “It is not just the toppings. It is also the crust.” Some were passionate about the thick crust and some argued for the thin crust.  

This was followed by discussion regarding the shape of the pizza: round or square. Evidently, you need the correct vehicle to carry all the sauces, spices and other toppings.

 I learned a lot from the debate. It seems like we all have our own unique tastes when it comes to most food and pizza is no different.  

But I can tell you after listening to all their comments, I think there is another adventure in my future. Time to head out to seek The World’s Greatest Pizza.

Total eclipse provided a welcome distraction

in Voices by

By Richard Eckstrom

For a period of a few weeks, the news seemed like it couldn’t get any worse. 

North Korean military exercises triggered new fears of nuclear war. Racism and violence in Virginia shook the country. Protests by so-called “anti-fascists” resulted in assaults on law enforcement officers. Statues and monuments were being destroyed. 

To top it off, the almost constant partisan bickering in Washington has been enough to make one wonder whether politicians are up to solving even routine issues – let alone our most daunting crises.

But for a moment on Aug. 21, a rare heavenly occurrence provided welcome relief from the headlines.

It was a solar eclipse of a magnitude not seen in over a century. The sun, moon and earth lined up perfectly and, in about an hour and a half, the moon’s shadow sped across the landscape of the United States. 

A narrow sliver of the country from Oregon to South Carolina experienced almost night-time darkness as the moon blotted out the mid-afternoon sun for a couple minutes. (And, importantly, there was a welcome drop in temperature!)

In a fleeting instant, Americans of all walks of life paused from their daily routines, looked skyward, and marveled at the cosmic performance. 

People gathered in parking lots, back yards and rooftops, and motorists pulled over to stop and view the phenomenon as it unfolded. Teens looked up from their smart-gadgets. Even some who were initially lukewarm about the historical event admitted they found it awe-inspiring. 

Those of us who are older may have recalled how the early days of space exploration captivated America. 

I thought back to the excitement from the Apollo 8 mission that orbited the moon in 1968, circling it on Christmas Eve while the crew members sent radio transmissions back to earth describing the incredible earthrise appearing before them above the moon’s horizon, while they reverentially read from the first chapter of Genesis the account of God creating the heavens and the earth. 

That mission was followed within months by our country’s first moon landing during which Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar landscape. 

Events like these unleashed our imagination and stirred our quest to discover bigger things, while at the same time underscoring the enormity of the frontier we faced.  

Like the early moon missions, the eclipse offered perspective. It was, as those missions were, a reminder of how tiny we are relative to the universe. 

Aug. 21 was a particularly special time for South Carolina. The “path of totality” – a 70-mile wide path in which the moon completely blocked the sun from our view – moved from the mountains to the sea across our state. 

Hundreds of thousands of visitors, some that I met from as far away as Bulgaria, came to get incredible seats to the solar system’s impressive show.

The once-in-a-lifetime chance to marvel at this sight attracted people of varied ages, races, and stations in life. 

For me, I’ll never forget how amazed I felt realizing that I was observing immense heavenly bodies moving at courses and speeds that were set for them “in the beginning.”

I’ll also fondly remember Aug. 21 as a welcome distraction from the current state of affairs. However briefly, we all gazed up at the same spot in the sky, shoulder-to-shoulder, filled with awe.  

It was an occasion that’s easy to appreciate in a time when we’re so often defined more by our differences than by our shared bonds.

Richard Eckstrom is the S.C. comptroller.

The Digital Corridor: swimming against the tide

in Bill Rauch/Contributors/Voices by
This photo was taken last week at the Commerce Park. The city proudly says it has set aside the money to mow the Commerce Park four times in FY’18. A mowing schedule like that would get a POA member brought up on charges. Photo by Bill Rauch.
This photo was taken last week at the Commerce Park. The city proudly says it has set aside the money to mow the Commerce Park four times in FY’18. A mowing schedule like that would get a POA member brought up on charges. Photo by Bill Rauch.

By Bill Rauch

One of the Charleston-based consultants that the city of Beaufort has retained to market its Digital Corridor contacted me last week asking to have breakfast and talk about the city’s economic development efforts. 

Kindly, he said he was doing so because I am a former mayor and “a guy who loves Beaufort.” All true.

We haven’t had our breakfast together yet, but here’s what I’ll say to him.

The Beaufort City Council made his job. But they didn’t make it easy.

They have got the trend lines in five key areas — safety, costs, the smell of success, community excitement and hope — all moving in the wrong direction.

Last week’s ARMED ROBBERIES at Smoker’s Express and of a man who was pistol-whipped as he got his mail from his Mossy Oaks mailbox speak clearly to safety. 

In recent years City Council has routinely so underfunded the city’s police department that, local law enforcement professionals say, Beaufort is now once again the drug-dealing capitol of Northern Beaufort County.

From 1994-2008 the city’s then award-winning community policing efforts — initiated by Mayor David Taub in 1993 and implemented by Police Chiefs Bill Neill and Jeff Dowling— ran the drug dealers out  of town. No, there were not BACK-TO-BACK ARMED ROBBERIES in Beaufort in those years.

But Mayor Keyserling’s Councils have deemphasized support for the police department, and the drug dealers, who are the ultimate opportunists, saw their chance, returned, and brought with them the violent property crimes that always follow them.

Not convinced? Take a look at the numbers. In the last eight years in-city police calls for service have tripled, but the number of officers assigned to handle them has remained unchanged.  That means Beaufort’s police officers no longer have the time to get out of their cruisers and talk to people. They are racing from call to call. Policing in Beaufort is thus now reactive. Yet law enforcement professionals say in unison that it is proactive policing — often called “community policing” — that prevents crime. We don’t have that anymore.

That is clearly not good for — among other things — the city’s economic development efforts. Everyone, except a bail bondsman who is considering starting a new business, looks for a safe area in which to do so.

Council members wonder why the city’s population is decreasing. They think it’s because there are no good jobs and that they’ll work to get jobs for the city’s young people. Here’s a tip. Don’t try to make the jobs, try to make the climate one that is conductive to job-creation. Smart gardeners don’t spend a lot of money buying exotic plants and then bring them home and plant them in the wrong soil. The part that needs the work is the soil.

Work on cutting taxes. Shed the programs that haven’t worked. Start-ups look for jurisdictions where costs are stable. That’s not Beaufort. In the Keyserling years the City Council has raised one tax or another in just about every budget season. To my knowledge none has ever been reduced. Ironically these City Councils have raised costs mostly in the name of economic development, although few, if any, jobs that are attributable to the city’s costly efforts have been created.

Take for example the city’s economic development flagship, the Commerce Park. Purchased by the city for $1.85 million in 2012, jobs at the desolate 168-acre park have been lost since the city has owned it. And no wonder. The city’s maintenance and promotion of the park fall way short of what a privately-owned park would do. They get an F.

Success breeds success, and wary entrepreneurs avoid associating their new enterprises with anything that suggests mediocrity, much less failure.

Next, where’s the excitement? What happened to Main Street Beaufort, the primarily city-funded downtown development program that was charged with creating excitement in the Bay Street area? Excitement brings people in, and once they are there they may spend a few dollars. But even if they don’t, it gives 30-something mom and dad something fun to do — a place to go — with the children. It provides a pulse. Start-ups are drawn to that.

But the city recently discontinued the funding of its Main Street program.

There’s a street concert or mini-festival in next door Port Royal just about every weekend. The Farmer’s Market that the Beaufort City Council let slip away from the Waterfront Park is a big hit in Port Royal on Saturdays. Moreover, it is hoped the long-awaited opening of the port to development will give the town a big boost.

But in Beaufort the lights are off more often than they are on. And what’s ahead? The mayor’s live/eat/sleep blog celebrates what other people are doing to try to make things go. But where’s the city’s leadership leading us? What are we hoping for? A return to yesterday? 

These underlying fundamentals make very challenging the job of making the Digital Corridor go. And judging from the results delivered there so far, the consultants are feeling it.

But I’ll know more about that after our breakfast.

Bill Rauch was the mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008. Email Bill at TheRauchReport@gmail.com.

All signs point to being old (but that’s OK)

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

I am old and there are many reasons why I know that I am old. 

First and foremost, I am old because I qualify for all those senior discounts and the sales clerks do not even ask me if I qualify. 

Of course, age is relative, so some older people might consider me young. However, I am over three score and I even know what “score” means.  

It appears that there are other obvious signs of my age. I own a telephone book. Not only do I own one, I use it. I mark the pages of my doctor and dentist and the dog’s groomer. I also own a non-electronic rolodex. When service people come to the house, like a plumber or an electrician, I file their business cards so I can have them for future use. 

Oh, there are so many other things I do that reveal my age.  

I have the habit of closing my iPad when company comes to my house so we can visit together. I do not have a cell phone sitting at my dinner table; humans only. I do not feel obligated to answer my phone when it rings.  I enjoy conversation. I want to know what people are reading, what movies they have seen, and where they have traveled. 

Another sign of my age is that I do not discuss politics with friends and family. At this point in my life, why bother? I am not going to change my mind. 

I used to read the Dick Tracy comics, but I do not own a device like he wore on his wrist; the watch, computer and phone all in one. I do not track how many steps I walk, but instead, I just walk every day. I have an address book. This helps especially at Christmas when I send out Christmas cards. The book contains a spot for me to track who I sent a card to and who sent one to me. I also write thank you cards in cursive and mail them.

Now, I have been informed by younger people, there is another age identifier: my email account. It ends in aol.com. I have had it since the mid-1990s. There are many jokes on the Internet about “old” people with their AOL accounts.  They are about me.  

There are many advantages of being old. I have no problem walking into a library and finding a book using the Dewey Decimal System. I can drive a stick shift car and navigate using a map. I know how to spell words without auto-correct and I use a dictionary.  

Yes, I am old, but best of all, I am here and I can entertain myself.

Hate is the reflection of hell

in Cherimie Crane/Contributors/Voices by
candlelight

Photo above: Jane Caffrey, left, holds her candle during a candlelight vigil on Aug. 14 at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park to show her support against racism and violence. The event was coordinated by Indivisible Beaufort, a self described non-partisan group supporting truth, justice and inclusion. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Cherimie Crane Weatherford

In times of turmoil I find myself drifting back to sweltering heat, gravel dust and the roots of my meager beginning. 

Experience is as individual as thought and equally impactful. Current circumstance offers comfort until memory is sparked by an awakening like a silence shattering thunder in the dead of night. 

We all relate according to the genetics of our past measuring our personal injury by public parameters. Fundamentally our sight of current events is viewed through a kaleidoscope of personal encounter, not necessarily a clear lens. 

Often unfairly portrayed, Mississippi finds itself disproportionately gathered in a category of unforgiving bias. Cinema has offered no reprieve for misconception of my home state. Poorly represented amongst the masses as a place of forward bigotry and backward behavior, is all too often a source of great frustration as a daughter of the deep South. 

Growing up on the muddy side of the river, the working side of the plantation and the right side of faith, discrimination was an unavailable luxury. 

Differences were measured more by ability than affluence. Money gave no advantage to navigating the woods and color meant nothing other than the ripeness of the garden and readiness of corn. Not particularly affected by the undercurrent of unrest, it was nothing more than another expected threat like a briar in the blueberry patch or moccasin in the river. 

It wasn’t until an unfortunate display that my experience was molded towards future beliefs. A visit to the feed and seed brought about a turning point for a little girl whose view of color revolved around Popsicles. 

A sudden scuttle, sounds of discontent and my Daddy scooping me up with unusual urgency spurred me to look in humanity’s darkened closet. Over his shoulder I saw the absence of love and the cowardice of hate that would forever remain a stationary reel in the film of my childhood. 

As if it’s a recording of his voice I can hear my Daddy say, “Don’t look baby girl, this ain’t no place for hate.” 

Curiosity caused a dent in my childhood. I looked. A handful of people confused Halloween with a hot summer’s day as they marched through a small Mississippi town. Daddy’s grip firm, his tone staunchly defiant, his demeanor unfamiliar and his words cemented. This ain’t no place for hate. 

It is an unfortunate wrinkle, an uncomfortable etch in an otherwise pleasant day. A memory that is as colorful, as clear and as impactful as I have ever had. 

The shake in my daddy’s voice told me danger was near, the sturdy in his stance introduced me to caution and his grip around my body explained the hurried whispers of those around me. The reaction of those familiar to me communicated loudly without any sound. 

Strangers nodding to each other in agreement as men of all color attempted to block the sights and sounds of evil. 

Recollection of the purpose of this march fails me. I assume it was over some perceived injustice or reaction of the unjust. Reminiscent of the ‘50s but sadly mid 1980s. Abomination has no historical prejudice, aversion has no era. 

From that moment on, I was able to recognize hostility. Feel its unsettling twist and witness its contagion. I learned hate is something to be feared. 

I also saw its cure. 

Its frailty against the protective shield of a parent was as evident as it’s unwelcome. Those cloaked in cowardice paled in comparison to those who gave no courtesy. The clear signal of non-acceptance by onlookers gave unity to strangers and power to peace. Hate has no pigment, no dialect, it is the absence of soul and the reflection of hell. It needs oxygen to survive and consideration to grow. 

Groups fueled by hate based on false injustice purchase chaos by using ignorance as currency and silence as investment. The good must stand. Enough of us must believe that there is no place for hate. 

Cherimie Crane Weatherford, owner of SugarBelle boutique, real estate broker and observer of all things momentous and mundane, lives on Lady’s Island with her golfing husband, dancing toddler and lounging dogs.

Beaufort has experienced both love and hate recently. Here, Love House Ministries on Parris Island Gateway was the victim of racist graffiti last week. Photo provided by Randy Roberts.
Beaufort has experienced both love and hate recently. Here, Love House Ministries on Parris Island Gateway was the victim of racist graffiti last week. Photo provided by Randy Roberts.

Let’s help keep our roadsides clean

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

Have you ever noticed those orange bags by the side of the road when you were driving? The first time I saw them, I thought someone had lost garbage from the back of their truck. 

Then one day, I spotted a man with an orange vest, then another man, and then another man. They were picking up trash and putting it into large orange bags.  

After I did a bit of research I discovered that these people were mostly volunteers and part of a state-wide program called Adopt a Highway. It was developed in 1988 “to eradicate litter and promote beatification in SC.”

Palmetto Pride, which is a legislative initiative, hosts the pickup program, partnering with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.   

No wonder our roads look so good. These volunteers are local citizens who care about Beaufort. 

Yet this all really got started back in 1953 when a consortium of businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and concerned citizens got together and started the “clean up” movement.  They formed “Keep America Beautiful.” This came about soon after President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system. 

Business leaders realized there was a growing problem with litter on the side of the road. There was also a concern because it was their product packaging that stood out in all the mess. The program began with an educational focus. 

It is strange to think people had to be told NOT to throw things out the window of their cars. 

Now we see lots of groups involved with Adopt a Highway clean-up efforts.  The Boy and Girl Scouts, private communities and others local community groups take on sections of a highway and clean them up.  

This program inspired another program called “Sponsor a Highway” which was started as the brainchild of a marketing executive who saw value in allowing companies to “market” through community cleanup activities. They get billed by municipalities for the clean-up work.  In return, they have the privilege of having their company names on roadside signs along busy roads.

Truthfully, I thought Lady Bird Johnson was behind all the clean-up programs, but her focus was on making it beautiful through flowers and getting rid of junkyards. 

However, the two campaigns seemed to have complemented each other over the years. The “Keep America Beautiful” campaign has been going on for over 60 years now and our “Keep South Carolina Beautiful” is the state affiliate of the national campaign. Currently, there are over 1,000 organizations participating in the various programs throughout the USA.  

Out of these campaigns have come volunteerism, education, and many other programs to keep our communities clean. So, please, make sure you do your part. Please do not litter!

Take care when watching solar eclipse

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

In the summer of 1963, I was living in Ohio and experienced my first solar eclipse (although it was only a partial).

I remember it clearly because my father, the nuclear physicist, was in the backyard hours before the designated time. He was making a homemade Box Pinhole Projector.  

This contraption consisted of a cardboard box, a sheet of white paper, a pin to hold up the paper and a few other items that truthfully, I do not recall. 

My thought at the time was: Why should I look at a cardboard box when looking up in the sky would be so much fun? My father assured us that we would damage our eyes if we looked up during the eclipse and anyone not willing to follow his instructions would be sent, immediately, into the house. 

Now, over 50 years later, and I am awaiting another solar eclipse.  

According to the Weather.gov site, the place in our area to see this event is the Charleston area on Monday, Aug. 21. The total solar eclipse will take place around 2:48 pm.  

And social media is buzzing with people planning to visit those cities where they can witness the event. Some are even planning parties.  

For us in Beaufort, we will only experience 98.7 percent of the solar eclipse, which is close enough for me. I also think sitting in my backyard might be more fun too than driving somewhere. 

And, like my father, I am getting ready for this rare phenomenon.  

When I first started to see these special solar eclipse glasses advertised, I wondered why I could not just wear my own sunglasses. My Maui Jim’s have polarized lens. They were developed in Hawaii.  They cost me a bunch of money. 

But no, I heard my father’s voice ringing in my head.  I broke down and bought the approved solar eclipse glasses. They are on sale now all over and some libraries are even giving them out for free.  

Check the ISO rating. According to the NASA site, there are certain requirements. Mine are the approved ISO 12312-2. They look very cheap and weigh about a 10th of an ounce.

Beaufort County schools are going to be closed on Aug. 21. I am not sure if it was planned, but it is a good idea not to have over 21,000 students getting off school buses that afternoon. The temptation to look at the sun during the solar eclipse is natural.  

So, get ready, pick up some of those sunglasses or make a Box Pinhole Projector and pray for good weather.    

There’s a nuclear meltdown in Columbia

in Bill Rauch/Contributors/Voices by

By Bill Rauch

There is high political theater complete with pyrotechnics in our state capitol these days … since South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) announced it won’t be moving forward with the construction of its two new V.C. Sumner nuclear power plant reactors.

Over the past nine years South Carolina’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved nine rate increases worth now $1.4 billion so that the utility’s ratepayers could participate directly in the cost of the construction of the two reactors. The average SCE&G customer is now paying an additional $324 a year, or 18 percent, on their utility bill to help raise the money for the construction of these reactors.

They are less than half complete; work has stopped; and their joint owners, SCE&G and Santee Cooper, say they will not continue building them.

Gov. McMaster is looking for someone to buy them, but the early indications are he won’t have much luck. With the surge of wind and solar — and the low cost of oil and natural gas — nuclear is out of fashion. Good for him for trying, but he’s selling bellbottom trousers in a world that wants sundresses.

What SCE&G’s decision says, simply put, is we don’t need the plants. And that would be okay, if the ratepayers who were supposed to be being protected by the state government weren’t so deep in the hole.

Our state senator, Tom Davis, is calling for state-owned Santee Cooper — the owner of the minority stake in the project — to be privatized as a way of preventing future similar fiascos. That’s a good “reduce the size of government” idea, but as a practical political matter it probably won’t happen. And even if it did, it wouldn’t prevent future fiascos. SCE&G, the owner of the majority stake, isn’t a public company — it is a subsidiary unit of SCANA which is listed in the New York Stock Exchange. And that’s who led us into the mess.

Here’s what’s amazing: on the news of SCE&G’s decision to pull the plug on the project SCANA’s share price jumped nearly 10 percent.

Why?

Because investors hadn’t liked the smell of the project for some time, and with it gone they knew it would be the ratepayers and not the shareholders who would be the stooges left holding the bag. In all fairness I must add here that last week everybody who’s anybody in the mess declared they would sue everybody else who’s anybody in the mess. So, as this column goes to press, reacting negatively to the uncertainty that results from leaving matters such as this to the courts, SCANA’s stock price has drifted back to its pre-meltdown news level.

Nonetheless, at this writing it appears there’s a pretty good chance it will be the ratepayers who will end up holding a lot of the bag, by current estimates $2.2 billion more over the next 60 years. For nothing. And that’s just plain wrong.

So what can be done to prevent that tragic outcome, and future similar fiascos?

All signs point to the State Legislature. With power — and they have the power — unfortunately also comes responsibility. For example, the State Legislature appoints the members of the Public Service Commission. I urge readers to go their website (psc,sc.gov) and check out the group who’s protecting our pursestrings. I don’t know any of them.  I’m sure they’re all nice and honest and upstanding people. But in this they are in way over their heads. It makes you wonder about those who appointed them, and the process whereby the appointments became inevitable.

Take the chairman. According to his official biography he was a UGA football walk-on who served four years on the Winnsboro town council.  And he owned a trucking company there for 22 years. Or consider the commissioner who represents us here along the coast. According to his official bio he’s also associated with the trucking business and he’s active in the Boy Scouts. The vice chairman is a former Mayor of Clinton who was the public address announcer for Presbyterian College football for 30 years.

Where are the killer venture capitalists who shamelessly ask the gut-ripping questions?

We could have used a couple of them here.

Some want to blame the PSC’s staff, The Office of Regulatory Staff, but that’s a cop-out. If the staff can’t do their job, it’s up to the bosses to find some people who can.

Then there’s the 2007 Base Load Review Act (BLRA). Before condemning the PSC commissioners, consider this. The BLRA is a law that the Legislature passed overwhelmingly. Its purported purpose was to “protect ratepayers” but in the light of recent events it had the opposite effect. Basically what it said was when it comes to paying for the construction of the two new reactors SCE&G won’t have to pass the customary “prudence test” before the Public Service Commission.  Building the reactors was prudent, the Legislature proclaimed by South Carolina Law in 2007. The Public Service Commission was thus prevented from applying that critical test as the nine rate increases to help pay for the project were proposed. By the Legislature at least one of their hands was tied behind their back.

Too bad.

Wags like to say, “When government tells you they’re coming to help, beware!” The BLRA is a billion dollar example of that.

No one really knows what will happen next.

Surely a way will be found to stop the PSC from having to find that NOT building the reactors is prudent, and thus shifting the $2.2 billion future costs — which are mostly to make bond payments — from the ratepayers to SCANA’s balance sheet.

But SCANA has given $1.5 million in campaign contributions to legislators since 2009 and their best in class lobbyists are working overtime today, so the Legislature must be watched closely on this.

Watch the hands, not the lips. 

Bill Rauch was the mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008. Email Bill at TheRauchReport@gmail.com.

Ask questions when politicians set sights on your wallet

in Voices by

By Richard Eckstrom

It’s one of the central debates of American politics: the age-old dispute between those who raise taxes to fund more services they consider important, and those who are weary of being viewed as a piggy bank for politicians.

It’s a debate which recently took center stage in S.C. with the adoption of a new gas tax and vehicle registration law. 

Similar debates play out yearly in towns, counties and school systems across the country.

When those who govern us seek to collect more – whether in the form of property taxes to make up a budget shortfall, income taxes to cover mismanaged government pension costs, or special taxes and new fees for construction projects – it can generate strong feelings. 

Depending on your viewpoint, a particular proposal can be either a sensible solution to fund essential services, or an easy fix for politicians unwilling to take necessary steps to make government operations more cost-effective.

It’s perfectly reasonable – and it’s even commendable – for citizens to ask tough questions of those who covet their hard-earned money. The burden should be on public officials to prove that an increase is necessary, not on citizens to prove otherwise. 

Here are some questions worth asking the next time your government goes for your wallet:

Have all other options been exhausted? Most people would agree that tax increases should be a last resort, as they can place a very real burden on families. Those pursuing higher taxes should be willing to honestly demonstrate that existing resources are being used carefully and efficiently. Call on them to make an effort to eliminate spending on wasteful or less-essential items before raising taxes.

Is the current revenue structure fair? Many governments give special tax breaks, exemptions or “abatements” to businesses or other entities – usually in the name of promoting economic growth. Those incentives not only reduce revenue but also shrink the tax base, so that the cost of government is borne by a smaller number of taxpayers. Many laws giving special tax breaks to a privileged few have been on the books for years.

Before raising taxes on regular folks, it may be prudent to reevaluate the current revenue system to determine whether there are ways to broaden the tax base.

Will citizens see how the money is spent? If the governmental body in question doesn’t make detailed spending information accessible on the web in a way that makes it easy to find and clearly understandable, doing so should be a pre-requisite for any tax increase.

Will there be adequate accountability safeguards? Insist on a concrete, clearly spelled out oversight and accountability plan to ensure the money is used as intended. Particularly when it comes to building programs — such as highway projects or school construction — a citizens’ oversight committee with the authority to review financial and procurement documents can be effective in preventing abuse and misspending.

Are all the facts on the table? If a tax increase requires voter approval, stipulate that your consideration depends on having all the facts. Local governments holding referendums sometimes withhold certain details from voters; for example, a school district might not disclose the location of a planned new building for fear of riling nearby residents. That’s a shame, because it undermines informed decision-making — and can lead to buyer’s remorse if the measure passes. If your government doesn’t trust you to know its plans, I’d be hesitant to trust them with your money.

And a word of advice to those officials eyeing your wallet: The power to tax citizens isn’t something to be taken lightly. Every dollar pulled from someone’s pocket is one less dollar for paying bills, buying groceries, sending a kid to college or saving for retirement. Anyone who takes public service seriously will carefully weigh any perceived benefits of higher taxes against the financial downside on families.

As for citizens who criticize or ask tough questions? They play a valuable role, one which ultimately helps keep our political system healthy and holds officials accountable. They should be respected, and their involvement should be genuinely appreciated. Perhaps even a “thank you” to the taxpayers is in order. After all, they foot the bill to make it all possible.

Richard Eckstrom is the S.C. comptroller.

Agri Supply store holds many treasures

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

According to Trip Advisor, there are numerous places in South Carolina and North Carolina to visit.  

Charleston, Hilton Head, Beaufort and Ashville all come to mind as great destination spots. 

However, on a recent road trip with my spouse I found myself in front of an Agri Supply Store. Turns out Trip Advisor did not even have it listed. The closest Agri Tour found on Trip Advisor was the one at Mont Plaisir, Mahe Island, in the Seychelles. It has a five-star rating. 

As we pulled up I said, “Some husbands take their wives to five-star locations.”

“You will love it.” he said. 

He was right. 

The reason he wanted to go to the Agri Supply store was he needed two new heavy-duty blades for his tractor. The smaller blades he had bought at our local hardware store worked, but he wanted serious cutting blades. 

The first thing I noticed at the Agri Supply Store was the enormous field next door. It was filled with all kinds of farming equipment. 

As we walked into the store (which, I might add, was extremely busy at 9 a.m.) I was overwhelmed. It was like stepping into a different world. I could have spent the whole day in there wandering around, and there was not even an entrance fee. Every farming and gardening equipment you can imagine! There were attachments for trucks too.

My husband went back to the salesclerk and described what he needed for his tractor. She asked questions like what kind of soil, what kinds of roots and what kind of tractor. Questions he had not even considered. Turns out they had access to over 250,000 mower blades and parts to fit over 70 various brands.

I wandered to the “girl section.” You know, housewares, where I spotted a cute umbrella. It was for a tractor or the back of a pickup truck. They also had canning equipment, like Ball jars and granite canners with jar racks. Not your average items.

When my spouse and I hooked up again, he asked what I thought of the place.  I told him it was like stepping back in time when I was growing up in Illinois surrounded by cornfields and farming equipment. It reminded me how lucky we are to have the farmers in our own area.   

There are numerous places like the Agri Supply Store not listed by Trip Advisor. Places that take us out of our own little world. As it turns out, it was also a lot cheaper and faster than flying to the Seychelles Island. We would not have liked that 37-hour flight, despite its five-star rating. 

1 2 3 44
Go to Top