HICKS COLUMN: You can't always just say no
Nobody would ever mistake Berkeley or Dorchester counties as bastions of tax-and-spend liberalism.
So it's no surprise that Mitt Romney carried Berkeley with 56 percent of the vote and Dorchester with 57 percent.
Yet at the same time, voters in both counties approved school bond referendums of nearly $200 million each by a 60 percent margin.
That's huge. And it's another sign that this whole tea party fad has about run its course. In Berkeley County particularly, tea partiers and others ran an organized campaign against the school district's $198 million referendum.
While conceding that there certainly were facilities needs there, they just didn't want to take on the debt.
But then, that's what they say about everything: No.
And that's just not practical, as Lowcountry voters realized.
There's no question that you have to invest in private companies for them to be successful. Sometimes, it's the same with government. But some people don't want to hear that.
Understood the need
The Yes 4 Schools groups in Berkeley and Dorchester ran good grass-roots campaigns.
They involved PTAs and employed social media to great effect. They made their case rationally. And they showed exactly where the money would go. That's key.
“I really believe a majority of the people in Berkeley County truly understood the need and believe it was important for the children's future,” says Jane Pulling, co-chairwoman of the Berkeley referendum campaign. “They were willing to make the sacrifice for their children and grandchildren.”
And it's not that huge a sacrifice. For someone with a $150,000 home, the price tag on the Berkeley referendum will be about $6 a month for three years, and double that for another seven years.
In Dorchester, the cost to someone with a $150,000 home is going to be about $102 a year. And still it passed, even though it was twice the size of a referendum that failed in 2003.
“I'm a pretty conservative guy, and I don't like my tax bill going up,” says Robby Robbins, co-chairman of the Dorchester referendum campaign. “But I do know there's a time when you have to invest in things. If it has to hurt a little bit, it has to hurt.”
That's exactly the right attitude to have about this.
Divorced from reality
Bottom line, no one wants their taxes to go up — not even Pink Commie liberals. But occasionally the need is greater than the revenue governments take in. Some folks don't believe that because people on talk radio claim we can pay for everything by cutting waste or fraud.
Good luck with that.
Just as the tea party cost Republicans control of the U.S. Senate by nominating people who don't believe in divorce but are divorced from reality, they have further eroded their credibility by going all Nancy Reagan about everything.
Sometimes you can't just say no. Most things are more complicated than that.
So bravo to Berkeley and Dorchester county voters. They recognized there is a need to invest in their schools. It's not the end of the world, it's a couple of Starbucks Frappuccinos a month.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_ PandC.