Tuesday, September 10, 2013
What local issues do people east of the Cooper seem most interested in as we move out of the summer season and into fall? Based on conversations around town and on media activity, these seem to be the current hot topics:
1. Sharks – Seriously. Almost as soon as people stopped talking about the picture of the dead shark that washed up on Sullivan’s Island a few weeks back, video footage went viral of a fisherman landing a large shark in the surf near Station 26. Local media outlets featured it on their web sites. Fortunately, in this incident, the conservation-minded fisherman handled the shark well and released it. If you watch the video, you see that the large shark is not a ravenous, man-eating beast that needs to be destroyed.
I have seen figures that worldwide, more than 100 million sharks per year are killed by humans. It’s not as if shark sightings around here are new. Since my childhood days spent on Sullivan’s Island in the 1960s, I have seen sharks of all sizes and species caught and landed. Those who are more avid anglers than I am probably have amazing stories to tell.
This current fascination with sharks is fed by ubiquitous smart phones and social media. Although sharks can pose a possible threat to humans, we are not part of their natural diet, and there has not been a recorded shark related fatality in these waters since the 1800s. We need a healthy shark population to have healthy oceans. Let’s hope this fascination doesn’t become hysteria.
2. Traffic – Although no local traffic videos have gone viral recently, the topic seems to always come up. (Note: Please don’t use your hand-held device while driving to video traffic problems. Besides, that might be illegal soon.) The start of the school year always exposes problems with traffic near schools, but one other issue seems to keep coming up among East Cooper residents: the lack of synchronization of traffic lights on Mount Pleasant’s main traffic arteries.
Addressing a constituent’s recent complaint about this on his social media page, one town council member said this would be done within the next month. Let’s hope so, especially on the fraudulently-named “By Pass,” which doesn’t by pass anything. It is, in fact, the central business artery through East Cooper. When driving on it, once you get a green light and get your car up to speed, you get caught by the next light. There’s no constant flow. It’s start, stop and repeat. Let’s see if this changes this fall or it might affect the outcome of the next category.
3. Mount Pleasant Municipal Elections – Get used to hearing the term “crowded field” in regard to the upcoming elections for mayor and council. There are five candidates for mayor and eight candidates vying for four council seats. Incumbent mayor Billy Swails has chosen not to run for reelection, and for the first time, the rules say a winner must receive more than 50 percent or there will be a runoff. In this case, that is likely. The council seats are at-large, not by districts, so the top four vote getters win seats.
It’s a shame that one of the major issues that affects the community’s future is almost completely out of the mayor and council’s hands. That issue is education. It was good to see the town hosting a town hall meeting on this topic last Wednesday, especially since the north end of town needs more elementary school capacity and Wando High School is now the largest in the state with no sign of getting any smaller.
How great it would be if the people who run the town’s government and are “responsible” (in a programs and facilities sense) for its future could actually be in charge of the town’s schools and not be at the mercy of a county-wide administration. Government is always best run at the level closest to the people to whom it is responsible and answers. Will this ever change locally? If so, what or who would be the catalyst for that change?
Will Haynie has published more than 400 oped columns as a feature columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville Times-News. Find him on Twitter at @willhaynie or Haynie.firstname.lastname@example.org.