I read Sullivan’s Island Council Member Clark’s commentary in the April 1 Post & Courier, and agree with many points. I, too, believe that Sullivan’s Island has an amazing community spirit and is a place of exquisite beauty. It’s why I feel so blessed to live here.
I also believe that government is about the common good. But, unlike Mr. Clark, I believe the way to achieve the common good is to provide the community with meaningful opportunities to engage, and for the government to respond by making decisions that prioritize the best long-term interests of the many, not the few.
Mr. Clark lists a number of challenges facing the island, such as global warming, stormwater management, infrastructure, tidal surge and resiliency. Yet he seems to ignore the #1 threat facing the island: hurricane storm surge penetrating inland.
He says we can no longer ignore these challenges and wish them away, but his two recent votes to remove the most important protection we have to address these critical and urgent challenges: the maritime forest, belies his words. Science tells us that the height, density, coverage and type of vegetation provides low cost and self-renewing green infrastructure. Science also tells us that trees are amazing storm water pumps, and that a mature tree can soak up to 40,000 gallons of water a year.
Yet, Mr. Clark, ignoring science, was one of four Council Members, Clark, Hammond, Reese and Kaye Smith, to vote to remove this critical protective infrastructure, in order to give ocean views and breezes to a few, as part of the Bluestein lawsuit settlement. These four Council Members would have you believe their votes to settle this lawsuit were courageous, because they saved everything in the maritime forest from being cut to 3 feet. A read of a legal analysis by prominent environmental lawyer, Billy Want, in The Island Eye News will strongly refute this assertion.
After it became clear the Town would be unlikely to secure permits from DHEC and Army Corp, the Town crafted a new settlement that they believed more likely to secure permits. Although different, this new settlement is just as detrimental to the maritime forest as the original one. Mr. Clark and the other 3 Council Members voted to approve this new settlement, too. It’s important to note that the reason DHEC and Army Corp were expected to withhold the permits is that it would not be in the best interest of public safety and health – in other words, not about the common good.
Mr. Clark says he is creating a plan to garner funding from the state and others, to address our infrastructure problems. But why should any agency provide funding to an island that has shown they are willing to destroy the most important quiver they have in their resiliency arsenal: the maritime forest. Instead of making preservation of this incredible natural resource the centerpiece of their resiliency plan, four members of Council handed over control of a public land trust to two plaintiff families and their heirs to manage, into perpetuity, for ocean views and breezes.
Lastly, Mr. Clark says that what the island needs is new Mayoral leadership. I disagree. What the island needs is a new Town Council who works in concert with Mayor Pat O’Neil in a transparent way to address the most critical issues facing the island; a Council who makes decisions in the best interest of the many, not the few. Your vote for Mayor O’Neil, Scott Millimet, Justin Novak and Gary Visser on May 4, will ensure that we secure our common future and that we have a Town Council who will vote, without conflict, for the common good.