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District 112 Candidates, South Carolina House Of Representatives

The Island Eye News asked the candidates what they would do if elected. Here are their answers.

Daniel Brownstein – Democrat

  1. Name the three most important issues facing the residents of District 112 and explain what you plan to do in Columbia to address these issues.

Education

We must pay our teachers a living wage, reduce classroom sizes and implement universal pre-K. We need to change how schools are funded by broadening the tax base and changing the allocation formula, which currently only sends 30 cents on the dollar of our educational tax dollars back to our district.

 Environment

 I will oppose offshore drilling and will work to ban drilling and seismic testing along our coast. I also will defend our plastic bag bans. But more than that, I will help ramp up land preservation and work regionally to address rising sea levels and flooding associated with climate change.

COVID-19 Recovery

If we don’t act, many small businesses will not survive this public health emergency. The state needs to marshal all of its resources to ensure businesses have the tools to weather this storm, including tax deferment, small business grant and loan programs and the elimination of regulations that stifle innovation. We also cannot leave our displaced workers behind. We must expand Medicaid so they have health insurance and ensure they have unemployment benefits until they have found a new job.

  1. Did city officials in Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant make the right decisions concerning the coronavirus? If not, where did they fall short?

Yes, elected officials in all three municipalities acted appropriately in implementing the governor’s state of emergency to protect the health and safety of all residents. All three took decisive action. I believe that local governments should have the latitude to make decisions uniquely tailored to their communities during a public health emergency, and I believe that is what we saw happen here. However, in the future, I would like to see more coordination between the three governments to reduce confusion and hard feelings.

  1. What do you feel are the most important challenges for East Cooper in regard to its unbridled growth and the divide this situation seems to be creating among the area’s towns and cities: Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Awendaw?

 The most important challenge for East of the Cooper is to protect what little undeveloped land remains and to rally everyone around protecting Awendaw and the Francis Marion Forest, which has the potential of developing and becoming an albatross in terms of traffic, flooding and the loss of our remaining untouched Lowcountry. We already have more than 10,000 homes coming in the Cainhoy area and have done little to prepare our infrastructure for their arrival. Additional homes to our north would only add fuel to the fire.

  1. What’s most important to the residents of East Cooper – maintaining our quality of life or keeping our taxes as low as possible? Why?

Maintaining our quality of life is most important. For many years, we have used growth to pay our bills, but with that growth comes negative consequences to our way of life such as traffic, flooding and the loss of our natural environment. The people who live in our part of the Lowcountry do so because of the breathtaking beauty, unique culture and small-town charm that still exists here. Unfortunately, an era of unfettered growth threatens all three. We need to take pride in our community and be welcoming of visitors and newcomers, but we risk losing what is so important to us if we continue to always sell to the highest bidder.

  1. Should the United States drill for oil off the coast of South Carolina? Why or why not?

No, it is a foolish idea that is fraught with the potential for disaster. Tourism is a $24.7 billion industry in South Carolina, with approximately $10 billion of that coming from the Charleston area. Additionally, our fisheries are some of the best in the country. We have a glut of oil in the market and the potential for developing greener forms of energy. Drilling for oil off our coast is unnecessary and inherently risky to our way of life. I pledge to fight offshore drilling at every turn.

  1. Do you favor laws that prohibit the use of plastics?

Yes, I believe local governments should have the authority to implement bans on single-serve plastics. In our area, plastic in our waterways is a huge problem. It is well-documented that it harms marine life and has the potential of harming humans when it enters the food chain. I believe our local businesses have adapted well to the change and see no reason why Columbia should listen to the plastic and packaging lobbyists who say otherwise.

  1. What is more important to the people East Cooper: stopping the spread of the coronavirus or strengthening the economy?

The two are so intertwined. We can’t strengthen our economy until we get a handle on the coronavirus. Our businesses are now mostly open and some customers have returned, but until people feel safe, our economic activity will continue to be muted. How many businesses do you know of that can survive with only half of their customers? The answer is not many. We must ensure South Carolina has a robust testing program that includes contact tracing and disease surveillance. I want our small businesses and workers to survive this. We need to be cautious and put measures in place to make sure no one is left behind by forces that are beyond their control.

  1. Explain why the voters of Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant should elect you and not one of the other candidates.

 It is time for new leadership. For the past 11 years, our district has not had a seat at the table when it comes to issues that matter to residents of the Lowcountry. When we were fighting to uphold our local plastic bag bans or to clean up the plastic pellets, our state leadership was silent. I vow to change that by introducing effective legislation and by keeping voters informed and updated about the work happening on their behalf at the state level. At 38, I am the youngest candidate in the race, and I am also the only one with school-aged children. I live off Rifle Range Road in Mount Pleasant with my wife of 10 years, Pamela, and our children — Wolfe, 8, and Selah, 6. The issues that will affect the next generation – education, climate change, threats of future pandemics – have a very real impact on my family and that motivates me to make life better for my children. I want to show them that by being involved and helping others we can make a difference in our community. The pride I take in living here and the desire to preserve its beauty, diversity and allure only strengthens my resolve to be a representative for all of the wonderful people who make our district so unique. I will work hard, listen to all residents, consider new ideas and serve with the honesty and integrity we so richly deserve.

DAVID QUICK – Democrat

David Quick for SC State House

  1. Name the three most important issues facing the residents of District 112 and explain what you plan to do in Columbia to address these issues.

Environment

Offshore oil drilling makes no sense these days. While as a state we can’t do much about federal permitting of offshore oil drilling – other than object vociferously – we can stop the oil infrastructure. I will support a proposed ban on cities, counties and the state on issuing permits for pipelines, refineries and oil tank farms, essentially making it very onerous to drill. But, at the same time, we need to protect, support and build on the heralded Energy Freedom Act of 2019, encouraging the expansion of solar energy in sunny South Carolina. We also need to explore wind energy in appropriate locations, where hopefully no harm will be done to human tranquility and wildlife. We need to protect our local bans on plastic and explore the possibility of a “bottle bill,” placing the burden of recovering and recycling plastic bottles on the manufacturers who profit off of the products. I can keep going, but one more thing, no to Google tapping our drinking water supply to cool their computers. We must protect our drinking water supply.

 Education

If we value our children and the future of civilization, we must value and reward education, starting with those most responsible – our teachers. I support the 5% pay raise for teachers and raising starting salaries. We are losing too many young teachers because they are overworked, underpaid and often have to find other jobs to pay their bills. They are exhausted and see no future in this noble profession. In addition, we need to pass the Teachers Freedom of Speech Act, reduce class size, transform “Read to Succeed” to focus on K-2, reducing class size and testing.

Infrastructure

 We’re not going to pave our way out of our traffic woes, so we must pivot to finding innovative ways of taking cars and trucks off roadways. I support a “park and ride” beach shuttle on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which also will alleviate parking woes on the islands, as well as other demand-driven special shuttles. I want to help fund the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester COG’s Lowcountry Rapid Transit system to ease the burden on our main artery between downtown Charleston to downtown Summerville and continue adding WiFi-equipped electric buses (made in South Carolina!) to the CARTA fleet. As a runner and frequent bike commuter, we must start adding safe bike and pedestrian infrastructure to our roadways. For years, I have spoken for the need for ample bike-pedestrian paths on both sides of Rifle Range Road. I will support Rep. Marvin Pendarvis’ bill, Complete Streets, which requires the “transportation” department to consider pedestrian, bike and other infrastructure besides cars to road projects. And I oppose the expansion of I-526 through Johns Island, which will only encourage more development, then more cars and traffic and air pollution.

  1. Did city officials in Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant make the right decisions concerning the coronavirus? If not, where did they fall short?

Somewhat. Considering the unknowns with this pandemic, it was better to be safe than sorry. That said, I think a more nuanced approach could have been taken. I think some of the hostility between the islands, Mount Pleasant and other communities without beaches could’ve be tempered by allowing people to access both the public roadways and beaches via foot or bicycle for the purposes of exercise. Let’s face it, people needed exercise, access to nature and sunlight (Vitamin D) more than ever during the “stay at home” period of March, April and early May. The islands could have allowed this access for exercise-only by individuals, couples and individual families and used police officers to write tickets – and generate much needed revenue for a year that faces massive shortfalls – for those who violated temporary orders to keep moving. Also, I think this pandemic yet again underscored the need for the populated islands of Charleston County – from Edisto to Dewees – to work more closely and openly together on policies regarding emergencies.

  1. What do you feel are the most important challenges for East Cooper in regard to its unbridled growth and the divide this situation seems to be creating among the area’s towns and cities: Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Awendaw?

Obviously, it’s car and truck traffic (and the air and ground pollution that comes with it). And we can’t widen our way out of it. We’ve got to find ways of taking cars off roadways (see Infrastructure in question 1) by making mass transit more appealing, encouraging businesses to allow telecommuting or small office hubs closer to homes, demand-driven beach and special event shuttles. It will have to come eventually.

  1. What’s most important to the residents of East Cooper – maintaining our quality of life or keeping our taxes as low as possible? Why?

Conventional wisdom would say “keeping our taxes low,” but considering that East Cooper residents tend to vote in favor of most bond referenda, when presented to them, I think we are OK with raising revenue to protect quality of life – as long as the money goes to the greater good is not wasted. I think it’s the waste, or perceived waste, that bothers most of us. I often wonder if Mount Pleasant’s Green Space referenda in 1997 and 1999 got past the 1% difference, how much land we could have saved from overdevelopment and protected for passive recreation or nature. One must invest to reap rewards.

  1. Should the United States drill for oil off the coast of South Carolina? Why or why not?

As Rep. Joe Cunningham often says in regard to the question of oil drilling off our coast, “It’s not ‘no’ – it’s ‘hell no!!!’” Never ever should we risk our most valuable asset – our creeks, rivers, marshes, beaches, ocean, seafood and wildlife and water quality – for oil. Period.

  1. Do you favor laws that prohibit the use of plastics?

Yes. And I plan to file a “bottle bill” that will require a dime deposit be paid to people returning beverage containers to vending processing machines in stores. Those who profit off of plastic beverage bottles would take responsibility for that product. Too many of them are not getting recycled or being left on our land and in our water as long-term, hazardous pollution.

  1. What is more important to the people East Cooper: stopping the spread of the coronavirus or strengthening the economy?

Like the rest of the country it’s split. There’s no clear answer, as evidenced by those who wear facial masks or coverings in stores and those who don’t. I do think that we are dropping our guard too quickly and expect a second wave of infections later this year, hopefully not paired with a major hurricane. We should be prepared for it.

  1. Explain why the voters of Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant should elect you and not one of the other candidates.

I have lived in this district more consecutive years than any other candidate – 32+ years – and have connected with it on a level that few have, as a local journalist. During a phone call with my sister a few weeks ago, she half-joked that I’ve probably met or even interviewed half of the people in the East Cooper area. Unlike my Democratic opponent, Mr. Brownstein, an Ohio native who moved to Mount Pleasant five years ago, I know who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. I have developed relationships that are probably unparalleled by anyone and am simply offering my time and energy for service. I have no ego or political ambition as part of this. I just want to serve, you know, as our founding fathers intended. If the voters decide not to pick me, I’ll be just fine.

 RYAN BUCKHANNON – Republican

  1. Name the three most important issues facing the residents of District 112 and explain what you plan to do in Columbia to address these issues.
  • To improve area infrastructures like roads and drainage.
  • Increasing pay for educators and promoting apprenticeships and tech schools to stimulate job growth.
  • To ensure responsible growth to protect our wildlife, wetlands and waterways.

The Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant are burdened with drainage and stormwater runoff problems and traffic congestion. Making it challenging to preserve and improve our quality of life and, in certain situations, decrease our unique quality of life, we are so fortunate to have here. The three municipalities combined collect millions of dollars of tourism revenue for their respective areas but are limited to how those tourism dollars can be spent. State law does not allow municipalities to use tourism dollars to maintain or improve their infrastructure to accommodate the increased tourism these coastal communities provide. Tourism dollars can only be used to promote or encourage more tourism to those areas. What good is consistently promoting tourism, if one cannot get there? A great example of how home rule should be used – allowing those cities and towns to expand the use of tax revenue they collect in a way that they think is best for their community. I do not feel that Columbia’s legislators have a better knowledge of the needs of a municipality than the municipality itself. Serving on the Isle of Palms City Council has given me a unique perspective on our environmental surroundings and the need for environmental resiliency. Beach preservation and coastal community resilience in the state of South Carolina are important issues. More intense storm flooding and frequent king tide flooding have motivated communities to develop sea level rise adaptation plans. As a beach community, we consistently monitor beach erosion and sea-level rise. An example: we directed staff to work with the South Carolina Beach Advocates and the Beachfront Community Water Level Monitoring Network. They are providing real-time water level measurements and improved local tide forecasts. This program will allow coastal managers real-time water level data to manage their communities’ flooding and drainage challenges and improve tidal water level predictions. We need to be forward thinkers and not legislate reactively continually.

  1. Did city officials in Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant make the right decisions concerning the coronavirus? If not, where did they fall short?

 I believe in home rule. Therefore, I think that those officials are the ones in the best positions to make the decisions that ultimately impact their community. Whether each one was right or not, that is still to be determined. COVID was something no city has had to deal with before. Almost every decision was something new and was guided by executive orders handed down from the governor. These communities were tasked with enforcing new laws that they have never would have envisioned having to do. We are not out of this pandemic yet, and it will have lingering effects for years. I know all the communities are doing after-action reports and will be in a better position for the future. We need to look to the future of rebuilding our economy to protect the health and wellbeing of the residents and the businesses and their customers.

  1. What do you feel are the most important challenges for East Cooper in regard to its unbridled growth and the divide this situation seems to be creating among the area’s towns and cities: Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Awendaw?

This question involves the question of property rights and towns’ ability to manage growth through their zoning laws and regulations. It should not be controlled through the State Legislature. I believe that property rights are among the most fundamental rights of our free society. Our founders believed that private property is the foundation of prosperity and freedom. James Madison stated, “As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” But with the growth of government and the rise of a progressive regulatory state, property rights have been severely compromised. This rise in regulations gives arbitrary power to the government. The most egregious is the government’s taking of property and transfer from owners to private redevelopers, hoping to increase their tax base and create jobs at the expense of the property owner. This government overreach has stimulated a property rights movement here in South Carolina and across the nation. But I wholeheartedly believe in our Constitution, and it will continue to protect property rights. The Fifth and 14th Amendments’ Due Process Clauses forbid any state to deny any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” But more directly, through the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, where it is stated, “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” This movement for property rights needs to continue. We need to continually remind the government that owners have rights in their property and property in their rights. Finally, it must recognize that the ultimate protection for private property will be found in reducing government to its legitimate functions.

  1. What’s most important to the residents of East Cooper – maintaining our quality of life or keeping our taxes as low as possible? Why?

 I don’t believe it’s an either-or question. One is just as important as the other. State and local governments must control their spending habits to keep taxes low. A substantial number of Americans are moving from higher-tax to lower-tax states like South Carolina. Are they leaving a better quality of life for lower taxes? I doubt it; a decrease in the tax burden on residents will ultimately improve their quality of life. The surpluses that are bound to appear again when this economy picks up will tempt those who like big government and grow the size of government programs. Governments will need to push for strong spending restraints and more economic freedom. These practices improve the quality of life issues, not expanding government programs, and increasing the tax burden on citizens. Greater economic freedom has been shown to increase individual and community well-being in terms of health outcomes, educational achievement and clean natural environments. Implementing a conservative approach to creating simple, neutral, lowrate taxing policies and offering government services more efficiently at lower cost will lead to a better quality of life

  1. Should the United States drill for oil off the coast of South Carolina? Why or why not?

No. The state, as well as local governments, need to continue to stand up against offshore oil/gas exploration and drilling. As a member of the City of Isle of Palms Council, I supported a resolution of disapproval of the government’s proposal to lease waters offshore of South Carolina for oil and gas development. The resolution opposed the concept of offshore drilling and the use of seismic air guns to explore for oil and natural gas in direct response to the draft proposal from the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management.

  1. Do you favor laws that prohibit the use of plastics?

 I support home rule and each community’s ability to govern themselves in their best interest. I oppose S.0394, the “Anti Home-Rule Act,” also known as the “ban on bans” bill, which seeks to ban localities from their ability to ban plastic bags, including current local bans already in place. This bill flies in the face of South Carolina home rule. South Carolia local governments – be they municipalities or counties – have a long history of being able to make decisions on the ground that are in their best interests. This bill would strip local governments of their ability to ban plastic bags if they choose to do so. The Legislature needs to get out of the way of local control and abide by home rule. Again, governments must recognize that they need to legislate to reduce government to its legitimate functions.

  1. What is more important to the people East Cooper: stopping the spread of the coronavirus or strengthening the economy?

We’re living through things none of us have experienced. A viral pandemic. A shutdown of substantial portions of our economy. Virtually all of us have suffered significant economic setbacks – some devastating. I believe the virus is a severe challenge that may be with us for quite a while before life indeed returns to normal. Governments moved to impose blanket shutdowns to avoid gatherings of crowds in tight spaces. Still, many of the closures were heavy-handed and an affront to liberty. Communities need to continue to approach this pandemic head-on, with calm and humility. Calm, because a virus is not the only contagion we face. Panic is its own contagion, one that impairs judgment. Humility, because even when policymakers do not act out of fear, their best-laid plans often go awry. Governments need to ensure containment efforts are proportionate and do minimal damage to our community and our economy. Policymakers must base their decisions on reliable information and commit to lifting them upon reaching prespecified targets.

  1. Explain why the voters of Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant should elect you and not one of the other candidates.

 My wife and I have owned and operated Buckhannon Tile & Design for the past 23 years in Mount Pleasant. Our business installed tile and flooring throughout the Charleston area. I have had the opportunity to see and experienced the growth in the area, primarily East of the Cooper. We opened our first storefront in 2008, the beginning of the recession. We learned to do more with less and making the best of what we had. That reasoning has carried over in our kitchen table home budgeting, working with the city developing municipal budgets. I have served on the Isle of Palms City Council for 19 years. During that time, I have chaired Public Safety, Public Works, Recreation and Real Property. In those roles, I have worked with leaders throughout the area to resolve issues affecting the region. On City Council, I worked for positive reforms in our community. I am hopeful that I can bring the same common-sense decision-making, conservative values and transparency to Columbia. I’ll watch your tax dollars like a hawk and fight hard for communities to receive their fair share of state funding.

JOE BUSTOS – Republican

  1. Name the three most important issues facing the residents of District 112 and explain what you plan to do in Columbia to address these issues.
  • Traffic 
  • Recovery from the pandemic
  • Conservation

 As a legislator in Columbia, I would like to work with others to find solutions to traffic flow and road repairs. Recovery from the pandemic will be a group effort to make certain schools and state agencies are ready. I would like to work on tax reform as well. With regard to conservation, which is so important to this district, I believe I can work with local governments, conservation groups and fellow legislators to protect our natural areas.

  1. Did city officials in Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant make the right decisions concerning the coronavirus? If not, where did they fall short?

 I do not believe I should try to second guess the local officials’ decisions. I was not privy to much of the information or staff recommendations they had. If I had been on one of the local councils at the time of the outbreak, I would have suggested that the mayors meet and try to have a coordinated response. Mount Pleasant, the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are so connected and rely on each other so much, coordination is a necessity.

  1. What to you feel are the most important challenges for East Cooper in regard to its unbridled growth and the divide this situation seems to be creating among the area’s towns and cities: Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Awendaw?

Traffic, overcrowding and school space are key challenges East of the Cooper. Each of these challenges are connected to growth and tourism. Each municipality depends on the other for support and feels the impact of local decision making. There are several examples of working together. When the town of Mount Pleasant was having traffic disruptions on Highway 17 and the Isle of Palms Connector, Mount Pleasant built with its own money Hungryneck Boulevard to connect I-526 and the Connector. This connection aided residents and visitors coming to and departing The Isle of Palms. During the discussions to replace the Ben Sawyer Bridge, the Sullivan’s Island Council requested Mount Pleasant not to oppose their request to have another swing bridge. Mount Pleasant agreed to support the request even though it would create slower traffic in Mount Pleasant. Most recently, a proposed apartment complex along Ben Sawyer Boulevard was heavily discussed because it would impact traffic. Unfortunately, this was approved and will undoubtedly impact traffic. School lines are constantly under revision due to residential growth, which creates concerns for parents who want their children to attend schools close to their homes. East of the Cooper has first-rate schools, but they could be overwhelmed by residential growth. Again, closer coordination by municipalities could yield better solutions for local challenges.

  1. What’s most important to the residents of East Cooper – maintaining our quality of life or keeping our taxes as low as possible? Why?

Keeping taxes as low as possible is a quality of life issue. While on the Mount Pleasant Town Council, I never voted to increase property taxes. It is, in my mind, unconscionable, that anyone should risk losing their home due to property tax increases.

  1. Should the United States drill for oil off the coast of South Carolina? Why or why not?

There should not be drilling for oil off the coast of South Carolina. The East Cooper communities are dependent on the ocean, beaches and waterways to support the fishing fleet, tourism and overall quality of life. This extends to miles offshore. Any damage to these areas and a potentially lengthy recovery time would be catastrophic.

  1. Do you favor laws that prohibit the use of plastics?

I do not believe single use plastic products should be allowed.

  1. What is more important to the people East Cooper: stopping the spread of the coronavirus or strengthening the economy?

By the response of people to the lifting of quarantine requirements, at present the economy seems to be more important. However, getting proper and less conflicting information on the spread of coronavirus is still a priority.

  1. Explain why the voters of Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant should elect you and not one of the other candidates.

Voters should elect me based on my experience and proven track record. I am from East of the Cooper, as is my wife of nearly 49 years. I am a retired U.S. Army officer, a small business owner and for 13 years a member of the Mount Pleasant Town Council. While on Town Council, I was, for six years, an ex-officio commissioner for the Mount Pleasant Waterworks, chairman of the Planning, Personnel, Fire and Bids and Purchases committees. I worked as hard as possible to protect Shem Creek. These efforts resulted in the establishment of the Shem Creek Overlay District and the purchase of the marsh area which became the Shem Creek Park. Growth management was another priority to maintain quality of life. I have a master’s degree from Central Michigan University, and I am a resident graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. I am an independent thinker and make a point of listening to residents and visitors to the area. I have always made myself accessible to all. Further, I think that the residents of District 112 want an experienced, knowledgeable listener in Columbia.

 

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