By Paul Gable
We are now down to the final week in the primary campaigns with the candidates attempting to separate themselves from their competition.
Recently, the Burgess Community hosted a candidate forum for Republican primary candidates for House District 106 and Horry County School Board District 5. The differences in the candidates were apparent.
The House District 106 race pits incumbent Rep. Nelson Hardwick against Surfside Beach city council member Rod Smith.
In his opening remarks, Smith said Hardwick was not “conservative enough” in his approach to government. Yet, it was Smith who voted for a government monopoly that has caused the loss of jobs in the private sector of the economy in Horry County.
As a member of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority Board of Directors, Smith voted for government monopoly, known as flow control, of garbage disposal in Horry County. Hardwick opposes the flow control government monopoly and has supported a freedom of choice bill in the General Assembly to end it.
I don’t know about you, but to me a good conservative is one who keeps government interference out of the economy, not one who imposes total government control over a sector of it. That was always a definition of socialism, even communism, as I recall.
Smith claims flow control is needed in order to keep “out of state waste” from coming into the county and to support recycling programs in the county. However, no out of state waste was being disposed of at the county landfill on Hwy 90 before flow control was instituted in 2009 and recycling programs have been part of the SWA program for the last 20 years.
The SWA, especially during the years Smith served on the board, was very good at obfuscating the truth about its actions.
Hardwick said it was all about the money. He mentioned the $25-$35 million the SWA controls in its reserve funds, much of it unrestricted reserves, while the SWA was building a “mountain of garbage” at its landfill.
Smith also ran into trouble with questions from the public about campaign literature he has sent out claiming government spending has increased by over 30 percent while Hardwick has represented the district over the past eight years.
Again, Smith got caught. Challenged from the audience to “show it (the accuracy of his claims) or quit saying it”, he was unable to support his statements. Smith also suffered the ignominy of being presented with documents from the audience refuting his claims.
As we understand it, the impetus for the Smith candidacy and a majority of the funding for it comes from conservationist groups who are angry at Hardwick for holding up passage of a “bottle bill” in committee at the House.
Again, it appears to be Hardwick who is working to keep government interference out of the economy while the self-professed “strong conservative” Smith is actually supporting expansion of government into it.
The school board race presents different issues for voters. Incumbent Paul Peterson is a professor of Political Science at Coastal Carolina University who has served the district for 12 years. Janice Morreale is a concerned parent who has served on various school advisory boards over the past 15 years.
Morreale has campaigned on the issue of allowing teachers to teach rather than bogging them down with extraneous paperwork and excess government standards oversight. She also advocates cutting down on administrators and putting more money into classroom instruction.
In his opening remarks, Peterson went on the attack immediately, always a sign of a candidate in trouble. He inferred Morreale didn’t understand the work of the school board. He said you needed ‘a knowledge of things on what the board deals with’ in order to serve on the board. His remarks were aimed at justifying re-electing incumbents.
During his egotistical diatribe, Peterson attacked Morreale for not being aware of what is known as the “middle school problem.” He also attacked Morreale for speaking well of former school board member Mary Ellen Greene. Peterson accused Greene of being a ‘shill’ for the administration and was very derogatory in his comments about her.
Funny, in covering many school board meetings over the years, I don’t recall Peterson challenging Greene on any issue during the years they served on the board together, or bothering to say much of anything during meetings.
Peterson said the board works under what is known as “policy governance” where the board sets the policy and the administration, under the direction of the superintendent, makes all the decisions about how it is carried out.
Policy governance was challenged several years ago by some of the most qualified teachers in the school system on the grounds that it gives all power to the administrative bureaucracy in the system, robbing both the teachers and school board from effective input.
From attending school board meetings, I know the board doesn’t actually make policy. What it does is vote on policy recommended to it by the administration. This results in having administration both set policy and carry it out.
Peterson claimed to be independent and quick thinking, but I have witnessed meetings of the school board where the budget (approximately one-half billion dollars per year) is passed in three readings (votes) without one question being raised by any board member about any of the recommended expenditures.
This is not oversight! It is acquiescence at its most extreme by board members and Peterson, for all his bombast, has been complicit in it.
Morreale advocates true independent thinking, advocacy for the concerns of her constituents and inclusion of board members in policy discussions, especially with respect to consideration of the largest budget of any governmental agency in Horry County.