Friday, November 21, 2008

Anderson County Council faces a defining time

As the old council has offered a deal to settle with the controversial Joey Preston, a new era is upon Anderson County. Will the new council move forward with a conservative agenda that is pro-growth, or will they spend more taxpayer money and time on personal vendettas?

When Republican primary voters ousted three incumbent Republicans last June, they did so over taxes. No Republican who votes for a any type of tax increase fairs well in a Republican primary. One can count on one hand the number of Republicans who have survived such a thing. The credit card and other issues related to Preston's administration were the icing on the cake. However, the cake itself was made up tax increases. To underscore that point, general election voters rejected the one cent sales tax increase.

Based upon old alignments and assumed new alignments, the Wilson-Waldrep faction with hold a 5-2 majority. It would do damage to the county and be a huge political mistake if that faction used their new found power to spend one dime on a witch hunt about the past. Instead, they should use their power to bring conservative, pro-growth government to Anderson County starting on day one.

The new council should first set clear controls on expense accounts and credit card usage. Forget about who got what documents last year. Instead, council should set broad, clear controls as a matter of county policy. The same should be done for vendor contracts with the county. We conservatives can not waste our time pointing fingers about the past. There is simply no time for that. We can demand our council set county policies clearly in such matters.

Second, the new council should look at dramatically reducing spending for some programs or eliminating them all together. The first item that comes to mind is the Anderson County Park Police. While I am sure the people who for the park police are all dedicated employees, it is redundant to have such a force in a county the size of Anderson. Let the Sheriff handle such matters. Further, a plan to make the Anderson County Museum privately funded should be initiated at once. That is just the start of the list. However, the point is more money will be saved if the new council acts to make real changes instead of worrying about Preston.

Third, the current plan and spending for economic development should be closely reviewed. When Laurens County gets the ICAR plant project, it is clear what Anderson County is doing is not working right now. Spending for economic development needs to be streamlined, targeted, and coordinated with the South Carolina Department of Commerce. Every council member should be able to know how every single penny of economic development money is spent, providing policy provisions are made that insure the council members keep that information confidential and face criminal charges if they use such for their own advantage.

Fourth, the new council should offer county officials a year by year contract only. Perhaps to provide some incentive for talent, a set of goals could be listed to be met for assured renewal. It needs to be county policy that no employee's contract should exceed two or three years. That is how we truly avoid another Preston situation.

Fifth, when it comes budget time next spring, the new council needs to put first things first. Essential services need to be funded, then things like pet projects in one's district and other programs. The recreation and paving accounts need to be eliminated. Those accounts are nothing more than political slush funds. If a project is truly needed in a district, it should rest with a council member to convince his or her fellow members that the project is needed, not rely upon a set aside slush fund that is rubber stamped by the council.

Sixth, council needs to make a clear policy that appointees by a member to boards and commissions should come from within that member's district. That is the only way to make sure people in the county get equal representation on such boards and commissions without question.

It is indeed a defining time in Anderson County. Will the new council act on the matters above, or will they stall reform and dwell on Mr. Preston. If the new council does the latter, we will know that all they are after is making sure their faction now gets theirs as Mr. Preston's did over the years. We will know the new council does not give a whit about us.

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