I think that it is time for a reality check in Pawleys Island.
Unlike the majority of people in Pawleys Island, I attended the public meetings held by the S.C. Department of Transportation to allow public input on the median project, and I live in Murrells Inlet. Among the few that I saw there were our County Council representatives. and Mickey Stikas, who fought it alone for quite a while. Where were you? The odds are that if you are reading this and you live in Pawleys Island, you were not there.
Many of the things that you are being told by some of those who have latched on to this controversy at this late date simply are not true.
This was never offered as a “beautification project” by SDOT or by County Council. There was landscaping involved but that was never the focus. There was no “bait and switch.” If there were changes made, it was done without the benefit of your input. If you are a property owner along U.S. 17 you were notified about the project and the meetings. Any comment otherwise is not true. Whether you read the notice or not is the question. The local papers gave ample notification as well.
SCDOT is not in the beautification business. They are in the transportation business. Their goal is, and should be, to get people from North Carolina to Georgia as quickly and safely as possible. Any beautification and business access should be left up to the local communities through which the road passes, but should not impede the flow of U.S. 17, a federally funded highway.
So where did the process go wrong? You would have to go back years to find that, but there can be no doubt that it involved a lack of foresight on the part of, not only some lon- forgotten County Council members, but also members of your community who decided to build their businesses on the edge of a U.S. highway with no regard for the increase in traffic that was to come and what that might do to the access to their business. That horse has left the barn. Somewhere there is a town hall meeting in which Pawleys Island is being used as the example of “How Not To Plan Your Community”.
If I had been sitting in a County Council meeting 50 years ago I might have been able to hear a member of “Don’t Dust The Neck” rail on about how terrible it was that S.C. Highway Department wanted to “take” private land to the west of U.S. 17 to build a bypass of Pawleys Island and how that would kill the few businesses on the present highway, and I would have stood up waving my wooden sign through the cigarette smoke advocating “Private Property Rights,” and then some beleaguered council member would vote with his vocal locals and stop the project, and…..bam, here you are.
I am not chastising you folks in P.I. for being interested in your community planning, that is a good thing. But your methods and your timing stink.
It is not Bob Anderson’s nor Jerry Oakley’s fault that you were not involved in the process from the beginning. Sufficient and multiple notifications were given to every one of you, and you, as most of us, were too busy with life to give it due consideration.
It is only when a topic that affects conditions at our front door that we pay attention, while the world around us crumbles.
The County Council meetings are a great example. Over a hundred people showed up to support the median fracas and every one of them left the meeting before the $60 million budget was voted on.
What you are doing to your council representatives is uncalled for and unwarranted and you need to consider the long-lasting effects, not just your front door and not just for today.
There are two points that I would like for us all to consider.
I heard a speaker refer to “…your career on County Council..”. Folks, that ain’t no career, that’s a contribution to society. Yes they get paid a small amount, I say small because it is not commensurate with their abilities, their responsibilities and certainly not the time involved and absolutely not enough to suffer the public, and private, abuse that has occurred lately. If you continue to publicly and privately beat up these people, who is going to be willing to volunteer to take on this job? Possibly no one who may possess the talents and qualifications that you would want in this position. If you want a good representative then you should be a good citizen.
My other point involves the power of your representative on council. Each member of council represents approximately the same number of voters. Each member has one vote on council matters. Yes, the Waccamaw Neck produces the lion’s share of the tax revenue to support the entire county, but that is not how the vote is weighted. When council members in the poorer districts see the lack of support that you give your representative, it only makes the rest of them stronger. When it takes the majority of council to approve support for an issue on the Neck, your representative needs your public support, but he needs your support from the beginning, not when it’s packaged and ready to be shipped.
You folks were late to the party on this median issue and you need to own that and ask for help instead of deflecting the blame at the expense of others. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get it changed, maybe you will, but what it means is that your lack of involvement has caused you to burn a lot of political capital and respect from County Council on future issues.
Those five other Council members can vote a lot more tax dollars away from the Waccamaw Neck than they do now and there is nothing that we can do about it but wave signs and continue to produce the tax dollars.
Be involved, be respectful, be respected, be heard.
The writer lives in Murrells Inlet.