By Kristin Hackler
After a brief formal meeting of the Johns Island Council, in which the Council agreed to oppose a zoning request change from AG-8 to AG-R for 27.98 acres located at 2835 Bohicket Road as discussed during a recent Charleston County zoning meeting, Chairman Chris Cannon welcomed candidates for County Council District 8 and SC House of Representatives Districts 116 and 119 to the front of the room.
County Council District 8 Debate
The debate started with County Council District 8 candidates Thomas Legare (R) and Anna Johnson (D). Following a brief introduction, Cannon opened the floor to questions from Council members and the audience.
Questions ranged from their ideas on how to help support the local libraries to landfill solutions, county funding, district support and the issue of the Mark Clark Expressway addition.
Both candidates stated that they wholeheartedly oppose the Mark Clark, and as for landfill solutions beyond the Beesferry Landfill, Legare stated that something needs to be done now before the projected fill date in 10 to 12 years, and Johnson noted that recycling should be pushed more in the meantime.
When asked what the three primary issues are that they’d like to focus on in the Johns Island area, Legare stated that crime, traffic and sustainability are the biggest issues, while Johnson stated that 526, preserving the character of Johns Island and preventing growth on the island would be at the top of her list.
In answer to a question about whether or not funding for the county is adequate, Johnson expressed confidence that the county is funded for this fiscal year and with a triple A rating, she isn’t concerned that the county would either be way over budget or fiscally irresponsible. Legare argued the opposite, however, stating that the county doesn’t have enough money, but that there isn’t an immediate solution to the problem. “I don’t want my taxes raised, but we need to do what we can to get the economy rolling again,” said Legare.
Both agreed that they would always look at the whole county when discussing issues on Council; not just their district. “It’s give and take and everyone should look at all of Charleston County as one district,” said Johnson.
After Legare and Johnson, Chairman Cannon invited candidates Leon Stavrinakis (D) and Lee Edwards (R) for SC House of Representatives District 119, and Robert Brown (D) and Sean Pike (R) for SC House of Representatives District 116 to the front of the room.
House Districts 119 and 116 Debate
After each candidate introduced themselves to the audience, an attendee opened the question and answer period with a question directed at the Republican candidates, pointing out that Republicans have been in control of South Carolina since 1982 and yet they’re stating that they want to fix the state, so why did they not choose to run as independents? Both Pike and Edwards replied that they had to pick on the of the two parties, and Republican was most in line with their own beliefs. The question, however, spurred a brief debate between Edwards and Stravrinakis over the state’s internal auditing system. “I don’t know why no one has gone through and audited each state agency,” said Edwards, to which Stavrinakis replied that the state agencies are audited and as the incumbent, he receives a copy of each of audit as it is completed. “This entire budgeting system is flawed because agencies are only asked to justify new spending, not spending that’s been in place. I’ve sponsored a bill to fix this. We’ve got to get our money back where it belongs.”
Edwards replied that his point was that the state does not have independent outside audits. They have an annual comprehensive review, but not an independent review. “The agencies are allowed to throw out whatever numbers they want to. How else do you explain missing funds?”
“I signed off on a legislative audit request,” said Stavrinakis. “We get audits and if they show a problem, we deal with it. I am a big supporter of restructuring, budget caps, etc., and I do think our current structure is wasteful and need to change.”
All candidates agreed that both parties need to work together more, though Stavrinakis noted that the system literally punishes members for working with the other side, stating that it has happened to him before. Representative Brown also felt that both sides need to work together, but not when one takes advantage of the other. “I can and will work with the Republican Party, but we want some of our concern heard and voted in, as well. If they work with us, we’ll work with them,” said Brown.
“We need to get up there and shake things up,” said Pike. “I’m a Jeffersonian and I believe that everything should be solved at the lowest level possible. “How many people are we wasting, talent-wise, because they don’t have a teaching certificate? People all around us can’t read or write, but 750 people can sit up there and tell you what’s best for your child,” he pointed out, noting that there should be more emphasis on creating trade schools, as well. “Jobs, taxes are a big thing for me,” said Pike. “Taxes are killing our economy. The Roaring 20s are over and government is crushing our businesses. We have an overburdened bureaucracy on us and we need to fix it.”
When asked if they supported the Fair Tax and the idea of “the money follows the child” in public school funding, Pike wholeheartedly replied in favor of the Fair Tax, though he did point out that it needed to be created carefully and correctly. He also feels that the money should follow the child in the school system to encourage schools which don’t receive as many students to work harder to draw them back. Edwards agreed with Pike, noting that he is a Fair Tax proponent and is also for more choice in the public school system. Brown stated that he didn’t plan to support the Fair Tax and is for more choice in public schools and education, though he didn’t feel that the money should follow the child. Lastly, Stavrinakis explained that the Fair Tax would only eliminate one tax to be replaced by a thousand more. “Do you want to pay 7% on top of every bill?” he asked. “Even with prebates, it doesn’t make sense.” In terms of choice in schools, Stavrinakis stated that the problem is that we have to fund our public schools first. “This year, we funded our schools at 1995 levels,” he said. “With funding at those levels, I don’t know how, in good conscious, we can divert that money away to other schools.”
When another audience member brought up the issue of Obama’s Health Care plan, all candidates except Brown were against the plan, at least in terms of funding. “The health care puts a $900 million hole in our budget, but we won’t solve the problem by demonizing the President of the United States,” said Stavrinakis. “I’m very concerned about how we’ll pay for what’s passed, but I’m not going to raise taxes unless and until we account for every dollar spend in the budget.” Edwards noted that the state will have to elect a strong Attorney General and push back a little bit on the health care plan. “We don’t have the money, period, and I don’t know where it will come from.” As for Pike, he pointed out that, as a former Federal Health Care Administrator, he knows that we can’t afford the plan and it won’t work. “Do you think the Federal Government will provide you with great health care?” he asked. “They couldn’t even make Cash for Clunkers work.”
Brown, however, stated that while they should go through the plan and take out the bad parts, that members of his district desperately need health care and he supports it.
Lastly, in response to a question as to whether the federal government is too big and what they would do about it, Edwards and Pike agreed that it has gotten too big, while Brown stated that it could be tailored down some, though it is more of a federal problem then a state issue. Stavrinakis stated that, while the federal government may have become unruly and spends too much, the growth, he said “is your problem.” “Until people get control of their elected officials back, this won’t change,” he said. “I’m saying change, force change in the way elections are funded, make us come to these things, demand we debate in public.” He also stated that, with the total distain shown for third parties, it makes it so that candidates have a fifty-fifty shot, “these are the things that have stolen the republic from you,” he asserted.
To learn more about any of the candidates listed above, visit:
Anna Johnson, (D), Charleston County District 8: www.AnnaBJohnson.com
Thomas Legare, (R), Charleston County District 8: www.ThomasLegare.com
Robert Brown, (D), SC House of Representatives District 116: Facebook page “Re-Elect Robert L. Brown for SC District 116”
Sean Pike, (R), SC House of Representatives District 116: www.ILikePike.com
Leon Stavrinakis, (D), SC House of Representatives District 119: www.LeonForHouse.com
Lee Edwards, (R), SC House of Representatives District 119: www.VoteLeeEdwards.com