Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
You all knew the day was coming. You knew GE&P would not be able to remain silent forever. We exercised all measure of control but there is a limit to how much can be tolerated without response.
Over the past months, we have read with interest, and some gritting of teeth, the accounts posted on Face Book about how unrealistic and unfair it is to our little Darlings of today to have the foreboding presence of uniformed policemen on our public school campuses. "The presence of these law enforcement officers only bring out aggression in the adolescent." GE&P has a one word reply, "BULL".
It would appear that the experts are constantly struggling to find a solution to the lack of discipline in our public school systems. Well, fear not. GE&P has come to the rescue. Here you go.
Let's rewind to the early 1950's. You are entering the main hallway of St. Patrick's elementary school which contains grades 1 through 8. On your right as you pass the front door is the office. In this doorway stands Sister Mary Thelma. She is an imposing woman dressed from head to toe in black. Her only adornment is an oversized rosary with wooden beads which drapes from her waistband almost to the floor. As you look down the hall, you see doors on either side which lead to classrooms. Each of these doorways contains another woman dressed exactly like Sister Thelma. There is only one BIG difference between these 8 other women and the one standing at the office door. Securely gripped in her right hand, Sister Thelma holds an 18 inch steel ruler. The other 8 have no need for this accessory. They have Sister Thelma.
Sister Thelma never smiles, as this action may lull some unfortunate soul into thinking, mistakenly, that she just might be human. She isn't. She is a discipline machine and she performs this function very well. Whistle in the hall?.....WHACK. Get caught chewing gum?....WHACK. Don't have your homework?.....WHACK. Find yourself accidentally standing in the wrong place at the wrong time?.....sorry 'bout that...WHACK.
In Sister Thelma's world, and St. Patrick School IS her world, it is extremely rare that a parent is called in to resolve a problem with a student. A situation is NEVER serious enough to require police presence. 99.9% of discipline problems are handled by Sister Thelma's tool of correction. God forbid you should create a problem large enough to warrant a visit from the priest at the church just across the corner. This action could earn you constant surveillance for months by Sister Thelma. You'll be watched in the lunchroom; you'll be watched on the playground; you'll have your bathroom visits timed; and you'll be escorted on and off the school grounds. Not good, but effective. And never once did it cross your mind to consult a lawyer.
Granted, accounts like this cause Liberal everywhere to cringe. But, if you will, look at the outcome. None of us suffered abuse. None of us ended up in the hospital. None of us carry any permanent scars. None of us ended up on drugs or in jail. The one thing that we DO have is a sincere respect for law and order. We possess an indelible awareness of what kind of behavior is acceptable in civilized society. When we compare what is being done now and the outcome, with what was done then and the outcome, was Sister Thelma's methods all that bad? We think not.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Unless you have been living in a cave for the last two weeks, you've probably heard of Supervisor, Dan Davis' latest brainstorm. He wants to implement major changes to County Council Rules. Allow us to explain how his wonderful new plan will work.
Mr. Davis wants to throw out Robert's Rules of Order Revised in favor of the Model Rules of Parliamentary Procedure for South Carolina (Model Rules). These Rules are much abbreviated and do not contain the complete guidance provided by Robert's Rules. Consequently, when a situation arises that is not addressed in the Model Rules, Robert's must be consulted. The Model Rules were developed by a committee appointed by the SC Association of Counties. When the product was completed, even the chairman of the committee and several of the committee members described the product (Model Rules) as confusing and unneeded. At the latest survey, only 7 of the 46 SC counties have adopted these Model Rules. Of these 7, only 2 actually use them. The other 39 counties have rejected the Model Rules out of hand. With his decision to adopt the Model Rules, Mr. Davis is , once again, swimming up stream against conventional logic. But, could there be a method to this madness?
Next, Mr. Davis wants to eliminate all committees and committee chairmen. He wants to replace this existing committee system with "workshops". Mr. Davis contends this move will encourage open discussion and provide a better forum for all members of Council to participate in all areas of government. He insists that this new process will not diminish any member of Council's individual powers of oversight. Mr. Davis says any member of Council can place any item on the agenda. Under the new plan, there would be one full Council meeting per month.
In the humble opinion of GE&P, these contention are no less than absurd. In the first place, no action can be taken in a workshop. The only thing a Councilman can do in that setting is voice an opinion. At the end of the meeting, nothing is official and, therefore, nothing has changed. Nothing has been adopted or rejected. To quote Councilman Fish, "A workshop is just a dog and pony show. It's schoolyard show and tell."
With the existing system, each Councilman heads a committee that is responsible for a different department of government. Citizens can contact the appropriate Councilman when there is a problem in that area. If this committee system is abolished, there would be no point of contact for citizens and no direct individual oversight of the various departments of government by any Councilman. This new system would relegate the job of each member of the County Council to an advisory capacity.
As to the contention that, under this new system, any member of Council will be allowed to add an item to the agenda, that might very well be true. BUT, it is equally true that Mr. Davis, as Supervisor, chairs the full Council meetings and, as chairman, he has the power to strike any item of his choosing from the agenda for any or no reason.
Shall we cease and desist with the polite amenities and describe this new plan for what it is?
As it stands right now, Council is comprised of 4 Conservative Republicans and 4 Liberal Democrats. At regular Council meetings, Mr. Davis provides the tie breaker when there is a 4/4 vote. (Remember this) Mr. Davis and the 4 Democrats ALWAYS VOTE TOGETHER. As it exists now, all spending issues not previously included in the budget must come through the Committees. For example: One of the 4 Democrats heads the Finance Committee. At committee meetings, the existing Rules disallow the Chairman of a committee a vote. Therefore, with the present system, when unreasonable spending issues arise, the Conservative Republicans on the Finance Committee enjoy a 4/3 majority vote. Consequently, the Conservatives on Council block many of Mr. Davis' big spending projects at the committee level. (Has the lightbulb come on yet?)
Also, under the existing Rules, all information on contracts, purchases, and transfers of funds must be disseminated to all members of Council through the W&S, Public Works and Purchasing, and Finance Committees. This is the method through which Council members stay informed as to what is going on with our tax dollars. If the new Rules abolish the Committees and do not include this oversight ability to the members of Council, how will any of us know what is being done by our County government and how our tax dollars are being spent? So far, Mr. Davis has not provided anyone, including members of Council, with a draft of his new and improved Rules.
As we recounted in yesterday's post, Mr. Davis has grabbed money from the property owners, W&S, the School System, the fund balance and any other source on which he could place his greedy little hands. Coupled with this, he has a massive new multi-million dollar building agenda waiting in the wings. Mr. Davis has already proven what he will do if no one is looking. He proceeded with the rebranding of W&S, took away the FILOT funds from the schools, took $10 million from W&S, installed political payoff water lines, depleted the fund balance, and virtually destroyed Cypress Gardens, all without a vote of Council.
The only people who he thinks are standing in the way of him having a completely free hand with BC government are the 4 Conservative Republican Committee Chairmen. His simple solution, get rid of the Committees and, in so doing, the Committeemen. Then, he would be left with only the full Council meetings on which he has a solid 4/4 vote. He breaks the tie and, presto, he gets his way on every issue. This would remove any obstacles from his goal of ONE MAN RULE.
But, Mr. Davis has made one serious mistake. He forgot about "WE THE PEOPLE"
Friday, December 17, 2010
Supervisor, Dan Davis held his December "Community Meeting" on Thursday night. This installment of his current propaganda effort was held in Cainhoy for the 8th Council District. GE&P received several reports from those in attendance.
The meeting began with the usual 20+ minute monolog by Mr. Davis. Once again, Mr. Davis made the false statement that his administration presided over the first balanced budget in BC in 16 years. Note to Mr. Davis and his crack finance team: When the last number on your spread sheet is in the minus, you are running a deficit.
Mr. Davis stressed that the State had cut funding to BC. He explained how many County positions had been eliminated through attrition and that there had not been any layoffs. Then, he mentioned, in passing, that many Counties had adopted a process of rolling blackouts for the EMS in order to stay within budget. GE&P advises that you pay close attention to obscure little remarks like this one. It could be a precursor to the old "OMG, if we don't raise taxes, we'll have to close the Washington Monument" tactic. Stay alert.
Even though the number of folks in attendance was small, the questioning was active and to the point. This is by no means to imply that these questions were answered. The overall impression voiced to GE&P by attendees was that they ended up with more questions than answers.
One taxpayer indicated he was happy that the Carolina Nursery property deal had fallen through. He questioned Mr. Davis as to the value of even considering incurring more debt when the County was facing such an uncertain economic future. Mr. Davis stated the purchase would not have cost the taxpayers anything as he intended to pay the $14-$16 million cost with the FILOT (fee in lieu of taxes) from county businesses. We all need to remember, this FILOT is the same funding that was supposed to be paid to the School System. (Mr. Davis simply took these funds from the schools earlier in the year.)
As a followup, one person asked for a ballpark figure as to how much the State had cut funding in the last year. This person couldn't get an answer even though the Supervisor, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, and the Director of the Finance Department were all present. GE&P would think that such an important figure that was affecting the County's finances so negatively would be right on the tip of their collecting tongue. Not so, in this case.
As would be expected, GE&P has a few questions of our own.
Since Mr. Davis took office, he has appropriated 29% of our property tax relief from the LOST.
Mr. Davis has raised our water and sewer rates by 30%.
Mr. Davis has burdened us with another 1 cent LOST. (Local Option Sales Tax)
Mr. Davis has "borrowed" $10 Million from W&S's fund balance
Mr. Davis has "redirected" much of the FILOT (Fee In Lieu of Taxes) funds away from the School System and into the general fund.
Mr. Davis failed to make the customary adjustment to the millage rate after reassessment, which resulted in even higher property taxes.
Mr. Davis attempted to get BC into the real estate speculation business with his plan to purchase the Carolina Nursery property.
Now, we find that Mr. Davis has signed a purchase agreement for BC to buy 16 acres of land (old fairgrounds) to build his "Dan Davis Health and Human Services Campus" at a cost to the taxpayers of $20+ Million. This purposed facility won't even house County agencies. It will house DSS, Head Start, and DEHEC.
Also, part of his grand plan is to refurbish the old hospital building to house a new "Dan Davis Judicial Center".
When we add the cost for these "necessary" projects to the money needed for a new library for Hanahan, the purchase and renovation of the Food Lion Property, the Berkeley Senior's facility in Moncks Corner, a new and improved Emergency Operations building (to the tune of $9 Million), and a new Courthouse in St Stephens (to guarantee Steve Davis' future support on Council) to the numerous other projected "investments" envisioned by Mr. Davis, the price tag comes to over $54 Million. Even when we combine our LOST revenue through 2014 with yet another $10 Million bond that has already been floated in our names, completion of these projects still requires an additional $15 1/2 Million.
Where do you think Mr. Davis will "find" this shortfall?
When we add the additional revenues listed above to the existing sources of revenue the County already enjoys, Fines, Forfeitures, and Fees, Licenses and Permits, Interest income, State and Federal funding, Existing property taxes, Interfund Transfers, and the ever so popular Miscellaneous Income, where the hell is all the money going?
If the County is in such financial straights, why would we be involved in all this new unnecessary spending?
Could the fact that the 4 Conservative Republican members of Council are assured to oppose this reckless spending be the catalyst for Mr. Davis' desire to change Council Rules? (More on this topic tomorrow)
GE&P and countless other taxpayers of BC are totally confused by many of Mr. Davis' positions. Out of one side of his mouth he says how financially strapped the County is becoming. Then, at the same time, he proposes borrowing and spending clear to the horizon. In our humble opinion, the spending needs to stop so we can get our financial house in order in preparation for the leaner times yet to come.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
GE&P would like to make one thing perfectly clear. The greatest majority of our posts are directly connected to political issues. We do not personally attack people, and this includes politicians. When we discover situations or "relationships" among the county leaders and controllers of our tax dollars which directly affect the taxpayers, we have no qualms about blowing the whistle. We only post statements and information for which we have irrefutable proof.
GE&P has long contended that our Berkeley County Council is equally divided by a vote of 4 Republicans and 4 Democrats, with a tie-breaker vote cast by yet another Democrat. Because of this, many tax and spend policies have been adopted. This brings us to several exchanges via email and Face Book to which GE&P has become privy. In these exchanges, GE&P is viciously criticized for circulating false rumors. One of the so called "false" rumors is that County Councilman, Bob Call is, in fact, a Democrat. Mr. Call has been quoted as saying, "I was a Republican before Timmy (Tim Callanan) was even born."
In support of our contention, GE&P would encourage our readers to go to SCVOTES.ORG.
Search for Berkeley County Votes Cast In General Election Held in South Carolina November 6, 1984. Scroll to the County Council, District 3 race results. There you will find the candidates who ran and the vote count. You will see that Mr. Cox, Republican ran against Mr. Robert Call, Democrat and the Democrat, Mr. Call, lost the race 2 to 1.
Mr. Call suffered this resounding defeat when he ran as a member of the party whose platform he truly supported because the voters of his district, even today, wouldn't elect a Democrat as dogcatcher. Consequently, the next election cycle, Mr. Call ran again for the same seat but, this time, simply substituted the "D" behind his name with an "R" and was successful. See how easy it is?
GE&P does not recognize a true Republican by the letter behind the name. We recognize them by their actions and that would not include following the Democrats with their tax and spend policies. Case closed.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
We are certain all of you remember the famous Local Option Sales Tax issue from years back. BC government tried for several years to get "We the Taxpayers" to agree to this new tax. Twice we rejected it out of hand. It wasn't until County Council gave its word, in writing, that 100% of this tax would be credited to property tax relief that the taxpayers agreed to the increase. This was done by way of a referendum.
Fast forward to Dan Davis' first term of office. In the 2008/2009 budget year, the taking of the 29% was skillfully hidden within the budget, supposedly for only that budget year, and most taxpayers were blissfully unaware of the theft. However, when time rolled around for the 2009/2010 budget process, the cat was out of the proverbial bag when Mr. Davis, again, included the taking of the tax relief money. Mr. Davis realized he would face major opposition to this move so his faithful surrogates jumped to his defense. For months we heard how cash strapped the county was and if we didn't relinquish 29% of our LOST tax relief, the county would literally go belly up. We heard this story repeated by all four of Mr. Davis' Democrat supporters on County Council. This budget was passed and 29% of our tax relief was taken, again.
In the 2010/2011 budget process, the taking of the 29% was, once more, included. We hadn't heard such poor-mouthing from elected officials in all our lives as we heard from Mr. Davis and his other 4 Democrats on Council. "If the money from our 29% wasn't included in the budget, employees would have to be laid off." "The county wouldn't be able to meet its obligations." "The county wouldn't be able to keep the lights turned on." "All the poor little children would starve and they would be forced to sleep outside in four feet of snow." The taxpayers and the 4 Conservative Republicans on Council (Fish, Callanan, Farley, and Mrs. Davis) weren't buying this story. Finally, when Mr. Davis realized he had overwhelming opposition, he and his four other Democrats resorted to breaking Council Rules to adopt the budget. In defense of their actions, Mr. Davis and his four Democrat supporters on Council (Pinckney, Schurlknight, S.Davis, and Call) painted a very grim picture as to what would have befallen the county had they not taken our 29%.
Well, guess what? GE&P knows in advance that this revelation is going to shock one and all but.......THEY LIED. The truth has a funny way of rearing its ugly head when you least expect it. They are not spending the 29% of our tax relief money on employee salaries. They are not spending it on the light bill. They are not using it to meet county obligations. And, they are not feeding and housing those poor little starving, freezing children with it either. Would you like to know where our tax relief money is really being spent?
SIDEBAR: Since GE&P doesn't want to tip our hand prematurely and allow Mr. Davis to realize exactly how much we do know, we will only give you a partial list of his planned uses for our tax relief money. Here goes.
THE DAN DAVIS HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES CAMPUS
$20+ Million. This complex is planned to sit on the 16 acres next to Ace Hardware in Moncks Corner. This is the land for which Mr. Davis has negotiated a purchase contract for $1.6 Million (that's $100,000 an acre based on the sellers assessment) without the knowledge of (the four Conservative Republican Councilmen) or approval of Council. This "campus" will not house county offices or agencies. It will house Head Start, DSS, and DEHEC. Last time we checked, these were all either State or Federal agencies. Isn't that sweet? There is much, much more to this story still to come.
THE STEVE DAVIS ST. STEPHEN COURTHOUSE/SENIOR CENTER/LIBRARY
This little project is cheap by comparison. It is projected to cost a mere $3 Million. But, this price doesn't include the cost of the land. Another $318,000 is budgeted for land purchase. Question: Even if you were to pay $10,000 an acre, wouldn't that be a purchase of almost 32 acres? Now, that's a parking lot. On a completely different subject, can anyone help us out and tell us how to correctly spell the word "kickback"?
At this time, we won't go into the projected purchase/renovations of the Food Lion ----$4.75 Million or the construction of a new Emergency Operations building------$9 Million.
All of these and many more of Mr. Davis' pie-in-the-sky ideas (not mentioned yet) would be wonderful, if we could afford them. But, in fact, we can't. When Mr. Davis first took our tax relief money, it was supposed to be for only one year. After three years, he still contended the county would go broke if he didn't keep taking it. Now, we learn exactly how he plans to spend our hard earned tax relief dollars.
Even when we combine the 29% of our tax relief derived from the Local Option Sales Tax with the $10 Million bond that has been issued, (that means more debt) the financing of all of Mr. Davis' new projects still falls short by multi Millions of dollars. Where do you think this additional shortfall will come from?
GE&P has a suggestion. If you think these plans reflect an acceptable expenditure of our tax relief money, sit at home and watch a sit-com next Monday night. If you disagree with Mr. Davis' plans, come to the County Council meeting and voice your disapproval. The Council meetings are held in the Council Chamber at the Administration building in Moncks Corner at 6:00PM on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.
NOTE: Tomorrow we will discuss the fact that Mr. Davis wants to strip County Council of its power of oversight by changing Council Rules. This maneuver you truly won't believe.