It's great when the people speak and the government actually listens.
The Isle of Palms City Council recently dropped its plans to buy an oceanfront lot on Palm Boulevard and turn it into a "passive park." The idea had been a controversial one, and not only because the council had a mere $474,000 in county greenbelt funds to put toward the $1.3 million property.
A bigger concern among islanders was sticking a park in a residential neighborhood, which would only compound the already nightmarish parking and traffic problems on IOP.
For months, council ignored the criticism of residents and pushed forward with these plans, repeating the false claim that county greenbelt money could be used only to buy real estate. Then, all of a sudden, council ditched the idea faster than Republican primary voters switch favorite candidates.
So what happened?
The November election happened.
There were seven people running for the four open seats on City Council, and the results were decidedly lopsided.
Councilman Ryan Buckhannon, who is often on the losing end of 8-1 council votes (including the oceanfront lot purchase), was the election's top vote-getter. If that wasn't a big enough hint, two incumbents lost their seats to the next two top choices, Jimmy Carroll and Jimmy Ward.
Both of whom had campaigned against buying the lot.
"I was pretty adamant," Carroll said. "I said it was a ludicrous idea."
Carroll, who has lived on IOP since 1959, felt like he had a pretty good idea of how locals felt. He said they are more concerned about beach access and a workable solution to parking woes. And he was right.
Ward was on council in the 1980s and early '90s. Buying that lot wasn't the only thing that pushed him back into politics, but it was high on the list.
He said it was pretty clear that islanders were getting sick of the council championing ideas a lot of residents opposed, and that the IOP "neighborhood association was getting too big for its britches."
So a course correction was in order.
Buckhannon admits that he was a little surprised to see the current council -- the new guys won't be sworn in until next month -- come around to his way of thinking on the "passive park."
"It's great that they were able to recognize a mistake and make it right," Buckhannon said.
And all it took was a mandate vote that cost two of them their jobs.
This should serve as a cautionary tale for public officials everywhere: Keep on ignoring the people, and there are consequences. Until the election, the City Council has been tone deaf, a common malady among elected officials.
What the Isle of Palms wanted was a little common sense, which folks like Ward have in abundance.
"We already have a big passive park on the island," he says. "It's called the beach."
Follow Brian Hicks on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.