Memorial Drive Extension Bridge Update

As many of you know, the bridge on Memorial Drive Extension collapsed back in August during a heavy rainstorm. Two people were injured. Since then, the road has been closed to traffic.

Many people are asking why the bridge has not been repaired after three months.

That part of Memorial Drive Extension falls under DOT control. They have told me that the bridge should be open around the first of the year.

When I asked DOT why it was taking so long to repair, they said that the culvert under the bridge was not up to current safety codes and they were designing a new base for a new bridge. They said that the design work along with the state’s procurement process pushes the completion date to the beginning of the year.

While I respect the work that DOT performs, we all know that the bridge should have been open to traffic by now.

I will continue to pressure them to speed up the process.

 

 

is a state road, the SCDOT will

 

Election Results, Pendulum Swings and Stalking Reagan

Before I ramble on about the national implications of Tuesday’s election, I would like to sincerely thank the citizens of District 18 for allowing me to represent them again for the next two years. It truly is an honor which I take seriously.

As I was standing in line at Skyland Elementary to vote, I took the opportunity to talk with the people around me. One gentleman, after finally realizing that I was on the ballot, looked me in the eye and said, “No offense, but I don’t like or trust politicians.” Without missing a beat, I replied, “Neither do I.”

He looked surprised as I followed up by observing that the last time the Republicans controlled Washington, we did nothing to advance a proactive conservative agenda that offered viable solutions. If we carried the day with this election, could we be trusted to act differently? He reluctantly agreed that we needed to be hopefully cautious.

Tuesday’s results should start the pendulum swinging toward a Republican president in two years. This assumes that we can find somebody who can personify and communicate a new conservative message to a rapidly changing voter base. I’m not confident that our plate of leftovers from the last election has the ability to do that.

By the time we elect a new president, Barak Obama will be 55 years old. Americans rarely elect a new president who is significantly older (more than a couple of years) than the outgoing president. In fact, it has happen four times. Harrison was 9 years older than Van Buren, Taylor was 9 years older than Polk, Buchanan was 13 years older than Pierce, and Reagan was 13 years older than Carter. Note that Harrison and Taylor died while in office. Of course, Johnson was older than Kennedy but assassinations don’t count.

Statistically speaking, this doesn’t bode well for Mitt Romney or Rick Perry. Given that the Millennial generation (80 million strong) is so large, I don’t see the country ever electing another Baby Boomer.

The pendulum has started to swing but in a different direction than before. The terms “conservative” and “liberal” are not fixed like points on a compass.  Their practical application changes along with each generation and we are witnessing that change happening now. Unfortunately, both parties continue to define their platforms with the political language of the 1960’s while an increasing number of active voters don’t even understand the terminology, much less trust it . . . or the politicians saying it.

The real failure of Barak Obama was that he recognized the need to speak a slightly different political language – at least different enough for independent voters to notice – then delivered the same old 1960’s liberal “solutions” that had grown stale with Jimmy Carter. If his solutions had matched his rhetoric, he would have shifted us to a center-left country for many years  to come.

Republicans need to consider the full ramifications of his failure – that voters don’t want just the words of change, they want a government that works, regardless of whether it is limited or big. They want competent ethical people in office who can prove that their ideology translates into viable solutions.

Conservatism isn’t just a set philosophy of limited government and individual liberty, it is a common-sense state of mind that can be applied to solving a wide variety of issues.  Republicans have been given another and maybe final chance to define conservatism for a new generation.

A final observation for the person who wants to be the next Republican nominee – quit looking over your shoulder at Reagan and look to the future. I came of age in the 1980’s and studied the conservatism of Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan. Their Cold War policies were different from that of Sen. Robert Taft who led the conservative fight against Roosevelt’s New Deal. Back in the 1950’s, Taft was voted by the Senate as one of the five greatest Senators in American history but I don’t recall Reagan ever invoking his name.

As some of us note the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall, we understand that Reagan’s legacy for us was his ability to communicate a brighter future and then deliver it. But we can’t just continue to mimic Reagan. Our times are different and we need a conservative candidate who can rise to the challenge.

A Reminder of My Core Political Beliefs on this Election Day

I am very thankful to the citizens of Blue Ridge, Greer and Taylors for allowing me to represent all of us in the South Carolina House these past 6 years. I remain mindful that the seat I hold belongs to all of you and not to me.

Since I went to Columbia in 2009, my voting record reveals the core beliefs that I originally campaigned with and have refined over the years.

Having taken office at the beginning of the Great Recession, I have voted to reduce government interference in people’s ability to make a living and run their own businesses.  I don’t believe that government can create jobs, but I do believe that government meddling and incompetence can cost jobs. It can destroy opportunity by not fulfilling its core function. The condition of our roads and bridges are a perfect example. It can also destroy opportunity through an unfair tax code. I have introduced several bills to address these issues.

Speaking of governmental incompetence, I believe that government cannot run most of its own agencies in an efficient or competent manner. For every state agency like the DMV, which seems to fulfill its mission in a slow but consistent manner, there is a DSS, where children’s lives are lost. There is a valuable lesson in that comparison: agencies do a better job processing car titles than they do processing children – or any human being, for that matter. A truth that will become more apparent as government tries to manage our healthcare. I have voted for government restructuring and have introduced bills designed to actually reduce the  overall size of state government.

As a life-long resident of Blue Ridge, I grew up with guns in the house. I’ve never hunted much, but we shoot a lot of sporting clays up near my house. We also shoot with target pistols for fun and I’m teaching my son how to be consistent with gun safety. He’s also turning into a pretty good archer. It almost goes without saying that we keep the type of firearms necessary for home protection – as did my dad when I was growing up. With this reality, I have consistently voted to protect our 2nd Amendment rights.

I have consistently voted to protect the unborn.  I was just 7 years old when Roe v. Wade made abortions widely legal, so I don’t pay much attention to the old 1960’s political radicalism that was prevalent in 1973. As a person who lives in the 21st century and who has witnessed the rapid progression of medical technology, I understand that we now know much more about the development and viability of unborn babies.  I believe it to be my ethical duty to protect them.

Finally, I have learned in no uncertain terms that for government to run properly, elected officials must demand transparency and ethical behavior from our leaders and from our colleagues. I intend to become much more vocal in demanding from my colleagues what you all, as my constituents, deserve to know.

I appreciate your continued support.

 

A Few Final Thoughts on the Referendum

As we draw closer to election day and the looming sales tax referendum vote, many people have asked me if Greenville County should commit themselves to a $673 million sales tax increase over the next 8 years to fund road and bridge repair.

First, I would never tell a person how to vote on a tax referendum, but I will share some random thoughts:

1. We would not be facing this referendum if the General Assembly had addressed the infrastructure repair problem years ago when SCDOT warned them.

2. We are voting for a $673 million dollar sales tax increase on ourselves that we will pay over an 8 year period. That comes out to about $1,200 per person after reducing the amount by the estimated tax paid by outsiders.

3. We have a good idea of where the money will be spent – something not always clear with projects defined in Columbia.

4. If the General Assembly happens to significantly increase funding for roads, then we may lose out on some of that new funding if we have already completed projects that were on SCDOT’s priority list – but only if the projects are non-federal aid. That’s a lot of confusing “ifs.”

5. Greenville County confused the issue by not understanding how the sales tax on food was written in the state code of laws. Legislators are promising that the General Assembly will fix that if the referendum passes. It should be fixable, but it is a roll of the dice.

6. The success of Greenville County is not a mistake. It has taken years of planning and hard work by multiple generations of citizens. Regardless of where you think the money should come from, the fact remains that our roads are in bad repair. Can we afford to wait on the State to clean up its act? If we wait, will the delay cause unforeseen damage to our economy in the next decade?

Ultimately, we have two bad choices. You decide which choice further perpetuates problems or provides solutions.

 

 

The Big Answer to the Big Question About the County Sales Tax Referendum

As a reminder, I asked the following in an earlier post:

The Big Question – Does the passage of the referendum in any way reduce the amount of money spent by DOT in Greenville in the future?

For example, if the three projects (itemized on the referendum) are on the DOT priority list but are funded by local referendum, will Greenville lose our ranking while other projects in other counties take our place on the DOT list? Will Greenville end up paying for projects, that had we waited, DOT would have completed?

The Big Answer was provided today by an official at SCDOT:

Generally speaking, a sales tax initiative would have no effect on the level of transportation funding currently provided by SCDOT to Greenville County.  Federal aid and state resurfacing dollars are distributed among the 46 counties by formula and Greenville would continue to get their allocation.  Likewise the GPATS MPO and Appalachian GOG funding allocations will remain unchanged.

Several of our programs like interstate, safety, and bridge are prioritized and funded on a statewide basis.  In other words, funds are distributed based purely on need and not split by formula across the 46 counties.  If Greenville county were to pursue a bridge project that we are currently planning to fund, we would simply go to the next project on the Act 114 list which may or may not be in Greenville county.

So, there you go.

Tommy Stringer