I have to admit, one of the ways I like to relax at the end of a long day is to climb in bed and watch some Fox News programs that I recorded earlier in the day. Needless to say, I don't feel very relaxed when I'm done. What we're seeing now with the yelling, screaming and turmoil in the streets is not very calming -- not to mention what's going on in the Middle East. All joking aside, it’s disheartening to see our country so divided when so many people are hurting and wanting any kind of work. As a people, we have lost sight of what our government was placed here to do, and the push is on to try to get that focus back. Having said that, in contrast I’m starting to see a great focus from our County Council on some real issues - some of which we were able to deal with in our February General Session. The focus: Smaller, less intrusive government.
February General Session...
County-Wide Smoking Ban
Once again, we received information concerning the long term effects of second hand smoke and some updates on current policies in some surrounding areas. I’m torn on this issue for many reasons. First, I understand there are many dangers concerning first and second hand smoke. I realize that most of us really don't know just how dangerous second hand smoke can be. Second, I understand that although adults can make health related choices for themselves, most children cannot. Third, I understand that a vast majority of people (according to the surveys we were given) approve of a county-wide smoking ban. I have a core belief that government should stay out of people's lives whenever possible. Telling business owners what legal activities they can and can't allow in their own businesses goes against that core belief. When, and if, the Council is asked to issue a smoking ban in Spartanburg County, I will have to weigh the benefits to our society of a smoke free atmosphere with the detriments of the government once again mandating how we run our businesses. Council took no action, as none was requested.
Spartanburg County Tourism Action Plan and Feasibility Study
As we discussed last month, we were presented with a Tourism Plan for Spartanburg County. This plan was very thorough and very aggressive. Countless volunteers served on many committees and dedicated their time to bring this plan to Council. Although I, like most of us, want Spartanburg to be promoted and marketed so that the influx of outside money will freely flow inside the county, it is my belief that this plan went a bit far in its organizational structure. This plan recommended that the county set up an entire new corporation with its own board of directors and (7) committees. The plan also identified some yet untouched 'revenue streams' (taxes) that could be tapped to fund potential projects. The plan recommended doubling the current CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) staff and had some midrange goals, including the acquisition of a new facility. My pledge to you was to reduce the size of government, not grow it. My committee recommended to Council that we take this plan and give it to the current CVB Board and have them take the reigns of the tourism prospects identified in this study and use their current resources to promote Spartanburg tourism to its fullest potential. I understand that the CVB, headed by Chris Jennings, has already begun to implement many of the facets of this plan. Please go check their website (www.visitspartanburg.com) and see what's going on! Chris and his family are our new neighbors here on the West Side. Take some time to talk with Chris sometime. You'll be glad you did. He will be a great asset to our effort to bring people to Spartanburg County. Council voted 5-1 to accept my committee's recommendation.
Flea Market Ordinance
I wrote last month that I was wrestling with this one. I decided to go to the Planning Commission meeting the next week and review this ordinance word by word and get it down to something that struck the balance between sound / fair business guidelines and private property rights. After about two hours, the Planning Commission voted to recommend an ordinance that I felt truly met that balance. County Council voted to adopt the revised ordinance.
County Council is only actually responsible for the employment of three entities: County Administrator, County Clerk and the County Attorney. Each year following a general election, Council is responsible for appointing/reappointing the County Attorney. It is my understanding that we have had the same group of attorneys represent us for over 30 years. Although others on council may have had their own reasons for taking a closer look at the attorney situation this time around, I too had one goal in mind: To get the best service in the most efficient way possible for the taxpayers. The analysis that we received showed that by moving our attorney services "in-house" (having them work as a direct employee for the county, and not under contract) that we could save as much as one million dollars over the next 5 years without any loss of service. I wanted to make sure as we made our first decision of the calendar year concerning Council's budget, that we set the tone for every department to look at each decision they have to make and evaluate it for better more efficient ways to do it - even, and maybe especially, if you've done it that way for 30 years. I know it's a small step, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. Hopefully there will be more spending cuts to follow! Majority of Council voted in favor of the move.
"We, The People."
February 28, 2011
Roger A. Nutt, District 6 Representative