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Politics: Council candidates in final push to GOP primary
By Jason Lesley
The Republican primary will decide the race for Georgetown County Council District 6 Tuesday.
With no Democrat filing for the seat, Tuesday’s winner of the race between incumbent Bob Anderson and challenger Steve Goggans will be sworn in next January for a four-year term.
Anderson didn’t appear to have a challenger until a plan to erect a raised median to restrict left turns on Highway 17 stirred opponents into action, demanding changes. Anderson sided with the original median designers, and the protest group, led by Goggans, claimed he wouldn’t listen to them. Other issues have come up as the candidates have debated. Conservative Republicans have questioned Goggans’ GOP bona fides, asking about his views on the school test standards program Common Core at one meeting and grumbling about his speaking to the group Drinking Liberally, a group of local Democrats that meets monthly.
Goggans has pushed his background as a planner and 30-year career as a local architect and builder while campaigning.
Anderson has made a name for himself with his conservative views in op-ed pieces for the newspaper. He said his top priorities for the county are storm evacuation and safety and shifting its economy away from its one-dimensional tourism economy to more industry.
Anderson said he will have called nearly 2,000 voters in his district by this weekend. “It’s not a robo-call,” he said. “It’s me. I’ve been trying to personally contact as many folks as I can and answer their questions. That’s been my strategy. My campaign manager and my wife and a lot of other people are working very hard finding funding to take care of this. I’m amazed by the folks that have come out to help me. It’s made the past four years worthwhile.”
Anderson said the fact that he runs in off-year elections makes getting out the vote crucial. “There’s not a big incentive for folks to vote in off-year elections,” he said, “but I’m surprised by how passionate people are about this for whatever the reason, the median, development or redevelopment.”
Goggans said the community’s issues resonate across party lines and people are starting to pay more attention with the election just days away. “I think the voters are beginning to focus a little,” he said.
He plans to make as many contacts as possible among the district’s 7,500 voters. “We’re going to campaign until the very end,” he said. He said he would work the phones and do some walking in addition to attending a couple neighborhood events.
The thing that has struck him most about campaigning is how few residents he really knows. “You think you know most of the folks in the community,” he said, “but it’s really grown.”
Questions for Bob Anderson
Q. It seems safe to say that without the dispute over the Highway 17 median project the election in Council District 6 would be uncontested. What should you have done to avoid the controversy?
A. Councilman Jerry Oakley and I invited all the parties involved to a meeting at state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch’s office, and I asked Steve Goggans to bring his plan. I wanted to see where this was going. Well, all they complained about was the lack of crash data and the economic impact study. I told Mr. Goggans to take a piece of paper and draw what he wanted. He didn’t do that. After that meeting I told him I was pretty upset. We had dragged all those people in there thinking we were going to get something done. At that point they were still trying to stop the job all together. For Jerry and I, that’s the last thing we were going to do. We needed to do something. This might not be the solution, but it will help. The solution is another bridge.
I did all I could do. I publicly stated my position on this. That’s when they changed strategy and came up with a drawing that removed 60 percent of the median from the roadway. They promoted it as being cheaper. Obviously, it’s going to be cheaper if you cut 60 percent of the median out. That’s where we are. I told Steve that I knew there was going to be some economic impact. I don’t know what it’s going to be. My issue is traffic. We’ve got all this traffic coming through here. The decision was made in 2001 that we could either six-lane this or we could do a median.
Jerry and I did the best we could, trying to get something on the table. We never could get there. When I walked out of that meeting, I was totally frustrated with trying to make modifications to a median that was going to happen.
Q. Once the raised median is installed, what will you do as a council member to help mitigate any adverse impact on business? What would you differently?
A. Anything you do is a work in progress. If somebody called me with something that made sense, darn right, I’m going to look at it. Can I get it done? I don’t know, but I could certainly try. The problem we have is getting it back to the top of the GSATS priority list when you have 14 entities all bidding for whatever money there is. It’s political. If I get on GSATS I am going to be pressing you all to stir up a hornets’ nest and get something to happen down here.
Q. Aside from public safety, what do you think are the three essential services provided by county government, in order of priority, and why.
A. The major thing for our county is doing something about our one-dimensional economy. We cannot survive going in the direction we are going. Look at our Fire District 1 budget. There’s not enough money to do what needs to be done. It squeaks all the time. When I hear people say you can move money from over here and do this, that’s just not having the knowledge of what’s really going on in the budget.
We’ve been blessed with a natural port, and we are not utilizing it. If we get some shipping it will open some avenues we haven’t thought about. Our new economic development director has taken action to get small business here. A small business might become a medium-sized business. I’ve talked to gun manufacturers, and that’s high-tech metal fabrication and heat treating. There’s a cadre of high paying jobs there. If you are selling guns, folks are making money, maybe $35,000 a year, instead of flipping burgers.
Another essential core function of government includes public works. Parks and recreation is the fifth wheel of what we do. They are all important. As a conservative, I’m not going to throw the dollars at Parks and Rec that the other four get. They’re core services, to me, icing on the cake. I remember when the Lions Club or the Kiwanis built the ball fields. People in the community got together and built a swimming pool. The government didn’t build a swimming pool. Over the years we’ve transformed in this society that figures government is going to do everything.
Total revenues coming into the state between the federal and state government are a little over $23 billion. If I look at a big pie chart, 42 percent of all those dollars are going to health and human services with a majority of that going to Medicaid. A little over 18 percent goes to K-12 with another 18 percent going to higher education. When you looked at the big pie chart, 80 percent of the money is going to either health and human services or some kind of education. So that doesn’t leave but 20 percent for everything else. About 7 percent of the dollars are for transportation, about $1.5 billion. Gov. Haley said we are looking for another billion, but we are not going to raise the gas tax. I liked that. My solution would be to go into those three areas the 42 percent, the 18 percent and the 18 percent and find the money to fix the roads, not come up with another tax. They are talking about raising the threshold on new cars. And I’m thinking, here we go again. The few people who have a buck in their pocket, they want more of that rather than saying to somebody else you ought to be leading your life differently. Maybe you ought to take some personal responsibility. Stop smoking cigarettes and drinking beer and you would have the money for your insurance or maybe not buy a new flat screen TV whenever you feel like it. Make some personal decisions like some of us do. I forego a lot of things to pay for my medical insurance, my house insurance, my car insurance. I don’t like it but I do that because that’s the way we were raised. We’ve got folks out there who say I ain’t going to worry about that because if I get sick I’ll just go to the emergency room. We’ve gotten ourselves in a position in this country in my lifetime where folks don’t have to be responsible for themselves.
Q. County Council has initiated its fourth attempt to pass a local sales tax. What would this tax plan have to contain to get your vote in November?
A. The five things mentioned, I’m good with all them. We found that out by doing that survey. They are all core services. The big thing for me was the dredging. The only one I’m not that sure of is the new fire station in Andrews because I don’t live out there. All those other things, like dredging Murrells Inlet, boaters want to get in and out of there. The restaurants bring in a lot of A-tax money and a lot of sales tax money. They are a big part of our one-dimensional economy, so we’ve got to take care of that. If there’s something better maybe it will displace one of these things because it’s critical to keep the list to a bare minimum. If something makes sense I’m going to look at it.
Q. You opposed the rezoning request that would have allowed a Walmart at Pawleys Island, but you have supported other rezonings that were opposed by the Planning Commission, such as the mini-warehouse project at Parkersville. What principle do you follow when making land use decisions?
A. That whole area from Martin Luther King Drive to Coachman is designated for commercial. My guiding principle for rezoning is that I look at the future land use map and what’s going on around it. I try to look at it like if I own this piece of property and I’ve got a buyer but I can’t sell it because of the county. I try to find an equitable solution for the buyer and seller and try to make sense out of it. If somebody is living right next door, I’m going to have a real hard time saying you can sell this to a guy who is going to build a gas station.
Q. What makes you more qualified than your opponent?
A. I’ve had experience with big budgets and large numbers of employees and that’s even more true now with the county’s $64 million budget and over 600 employees. When I get requisitions from personnel director Greg Troutman, I want to know if this is a new hire or if we are replacing somebody. If it’s a new hire, I will make a phone call and ask some more questions. I think I’ve been a big asset to Sel and our CFO and all our other department heads. I tell them that if you’ve got somebody hassling you, you call me and I will talk to them. We’ve got some real interesting people in the community, I can tell you. I’ll go the extra mile with them but I have told some don’t ever call anybody with the county again and if you call me you better have a valid reason. It’s unbelievable what people think they can get away with.
Questions for Steve Goggans
Q. You and other members of the Citizens Coalition that oppose the Highway 17 median project have admitted that you came late to the issue — after DOT held its public meetings. What assurance can you offer voters that as a council member you will stay on top of issues like this?
A. A lot of people in the coalition were informed. Jan Devereux attended every single meeting for example, and she is one of the staunchest supporters of the coalition. What was presented in those hearings, in our opinion, was very, very misleading. In the hearings they showed nice colorful landscaping, tall crape myrtles and landscaped medians and in the literature they spoke very abstractly about the u-turns. The word u-turn is mentioned just one time in their literature. In addition to that, the design naturally enough, didn’t come until later. You could see the design on the ground and how it was going to influence things. Shortly after the meetings, members of the coalition begin to raise questions and get concerned about the design, and we later saw the crescent-shaped u-turns.
It can be argued that we should have been more informed. I don’t dispute that. In strictly legal terms, it’s possible DOT met the minimum standards for public notice, but I don’t think enough information was available at those hearings and there was no effort to adjust, change and adapt as concerns began to be raised.
How will I stay informed? You attend these hearings. Do everything you can. I’m not sure in this case merely being informed was sufficient. As a county councilman you’ve got to hear other points of view and I think you’ve got to be willing to accept other perspectives. The discussion on this thing goes back two years, plenty of time to take additional input into account or make other adjustments without it costing any more, without it becoming a problem. There was just an unwillingness to listen and respond, in my opinion.
Q. Once the raised median is installed, what will you do as a council member to help mitigate any adverse impact on businesses?
A. After it’s done, I don’t know that you could do much. There is a Phase 2 that will supposedly start in 2016. Whoever sits in this council seat will have a lot of authority over it. Ron Charlton has his share of concerns about Phase 2. I think there is every opportunity to shape the way Phase 2 evolves. That leads to the question that if Phase 2 were different from Phase 1 what would that say?
Highway 17 as it currently exists, if not already obsolete, will be obsolete soon. You’ve got to do some things to it. Traffic is going to increase in the next few years. You’ve certainly got to address issues. Just as there are a lot of ways to design a building, there are a lot of ways to design a road. The proposed design we have now is one designed by SC DOT with, frankly, not very much input from the community or council. They just delegated it. The SC DOT agenda is not necessarily the best agenda for Pawleys Island-Litchfield. Moving traffic is their priority. That’s not necessarily the community’s priority.
A. Aside from public safety, what do you think are three essential services provided by county government — in order of priority. Why?
A. County government is the only entity that can maintain our roads and streets. Apart from that, going hand in hand, would be economic development and comprehensive planning at every level of our government. We need a strategic plan, not just a reactive plan that has a budget attached to it, a strategic plan that has some guiding goals and objectives that would filter into our budgeting and land use.
I think we need to step back and provide a vision for what our community is and create a plan for that with public input. We need to be looking, rather than piecemealing an old plan. We need to be looking at how our community lays out. There should be a portion of our community that could function as a town center. That’s one thing that would get us away from a strip. One possible location would be Tiller Drive. That’s the one portion of our community where commercial zoning extends all the way back for some depth, to Petigru. There are 60 businesses off the Tiller Drive area already. Creating a commercial/public use cluster of some kind in that area as one example could potentially be a very good thing. I think creating opportunities for mixed use would be good. We tiptoe around that in our zoning ordinance. We don’t have true mixed use anywhere. Mixed use cuts down on the need for infrastructure, cuts down on the need for the automobile. You begin to edge toward a walkable community. A lot of people like living where they can shop and be able to commute a short distance.
I think we have matured to the point where we need sidewalks and bikepaths. For all practical purposes there are no sidewalks. We are belatedly getting a bikepath or two. It’s not just an amenity, it’s a safety feature. On Martin Luther King Road you have two places to walk, the ditch or the pavement. A number of people have been killed on that road over the years.
Q. County Council has initiated its fourth attempt to pass a local sales tax. What would this tax plan have to contain to get your vote in November?
A. The first thing I need to be convinced of is that we are running our general fund as efficiently as we can. Our administrator, Sel Hemingway, has exhibited good managerial practice, so I’m certainly not alleging waste, abuse or fraud. Assuming we are providing services at the level we ought to be providing them, the thing that would encourage me to get behind the sales tax would be the projects that are good investments. The list that’s been promulgated thus far is a pretty good list. An economic study has shown that if we open the port it will create X number of jobs, so that’s good. The fire stations out in the western part of the county we need from not just a safety standpoint but from ISO ratings which affect insurance rates. That seems like a good investment to me.
Q. You and your firm have been involved in some rezoning requests for clients that provoked public opposition and failed to win county approval. As a council member what principles will you follow in rezoning issues?
A. The first place you begin making those determinations is with a plan. I think the plan needs to be derived from community input, patterns of growth, environmental context. Put all that information through the sieve, and it begins to tell you where certain things make sense. Our waters are stressed already. I’m not in favor of anything extremely dense at the water’s edge from a public policy perspective. We’ve got to protect the watershed. That’s a quality of life thing. I would like to see pockets of limited mixed use, the live-work scenario. There are people, young and old who want to downsize, want smaller places and want them to be near shopping. Those are things I would advocate. The Waccamaw Neck Commercial Overlay Zone needs a sign ordinance. We are 13 or 14 years past where we ought to be. We absolutely have to get a grip on signage. Businesses need signs. Citizens need signs from a wayfinding perspective, so signs are needed, but things are very much out of control. I would like to see personally — I don’t know whether this would be politically feasible or not — some sort of amoritization plan or a purchase plan from the county. If Myrtle Beach can do away with its billboards, then for goodness sake Pawleys Island-Litchfield should.
Q. What makes you more qualified than your opponent to represent District 6 on County Council?
A. I think the fact that I’ve lived here for 30 years and understand the community very, very well. I’ve watched it grow as I’ve grown my business and raised my family here. With my background in architecture and a master’s in community planning, I bring some special expertise into play. Having run a couple businesses for 30 years, I bring business expertise to the table. The public sector can never be exactly like a business but it can use business-like principles.