October 29, 2006

"Incremental improvements will not get us where we need to be"

October 24, 2006: Larry Tarleton introduced Jim Rex as a lifelong leader in education reform who started out as a High School English teacher and football coach and also served as the Dean of Education for Coastal Carolina University and Winthrop University; the Vice-President of the University of South Carolina and the President of Columbia College. Mr. Rex responded to the introduction as a man who's never run for office before and "who's wife is sitting in the parking lot at this moment waiting for AAA to come change our flat left front tire." After a round of empathetic applause from 110 Rotarians and their guests he added, "if you see a short brunette with grease on her hands come in, please give a hearty welcome for allowing me the privilege to speak with you today while she took care of the dirty work." Mr. Rex continued to warm the audience with a story about his Winthrop University interview in 1981...for those not in attendance, please ask a Rotarian who listened to Mr. Rex's anecdote; ask where the phrase "don't worry, his battery is dead" came from...it's worth your time to listen to the story.

Mr. Rex moved on to more serious topics discussing his beliefs that motivated him to run for the Secretary of Education: "there needs to be an educator in the job" and "the stakes are the highest seen for the SC public education system in a life time." He continued to espouse "our schools are getting better but incremental improvements will not get the State where it wants to be." "Legislators tinker with piecemeal reform that yields unintended, negative consequences." This led to a campaign theme: "I propose a comprehensive plan that reforms, improves, and supports public education." He went on to elaborate that his twelve-month strategy is composed of five major themes...but Jim couldn't move forward on the serious topics without relaying a story that his stint as a High School coach and English teacher was a "juxtaposition" which means: he was, as one of his players relayed, "the only coach who yelled in complete sentences." This comment segued smoothly into his first theme:

Innovation: Things are happening "in spite of, not because, of the state of SC...it's time for us to do some wheel inventing."

Choice & Flexibility: "Americans demand choice. I'm against vouchers: Parents should have the right to choose a private school but they should pay for that. They shouldn't ask us to subsidize that choice."

Adjust & Revise: "We need revisions in accountability; tests are tools. We're de-emphasizing curriculum if it's not part of the test and this is not helping our students prepare for the future. Within every pill there is a piece of poison (when you ask the Rotarian about the 'battery story'...ask about this also).

Rejuvenate & Educate: "We're getting close to a demoralized and compromised teaching force. They are a critical employee group. There are ominous clouds on the horizon....over the last 6-7 years we've hired more foreign teachers than U.S. in the Math and Science areas. Over the next 4-5 years we're losing an extremely high percentage of teachers."

"Minimally Adequate" is Not Where We Want to Be: We need to put in place a way to more fairly and evenly fund all school districts. Our Legislators spend millions defending our policies in order to keep "minimally adequate" as our standard. That's like an invitation for all of us to get on the ground and stay there together. "We need to set a new standard that translates to a new Goal."

In summary, Mr. Rex said we need to put all five themes into a comprehensive plan we all can embrace. He ended with a very unique political thought: "Make this position [Secretary of Education] a non-partisan position...there are six states that have done this already and their education systems are in the top of the Nation's.

Reported by Bill Crowe, Keyway Committee

October 20, 2006

Governor Presents His Broad Vision for South Carolina

October 17, 2006: Governor Mark Sanford gave Rotary Club members a broad perspective of his vision for the state. He noted that we get most of our news in small sound bites which often leave out a balanced view of both sides of the issues. He asked us to look down on the state with him from "30,000 feet high". Quoting from journalist/author Tom Friedman, he said he was a real fan of Friedman's position in his recent book that The World is Flat. Like no time in the past we today must compete on a world-wide basis. Globalization of our world means that a single South Carolinian can interact directly with others in the emerging nations of China and India and directly export products and services to persons who live there.

To be successful in the global market one needs both education and equipment. In so doing we must maximize those things in South Carolina that have the best chance for success in the world market, and recognize that it is fruitless to compete in areas where we cannot win. We no longer can compete at the level of minimum skill labor; those jobs have gone elsewhere.

The founding fathers of our nation established three equal branches of government - legislative, judicial and executive. South Carolina is the only state in which these three agencies are not equal because we have a 4th group, the budget control board. The governor can only directly influence 16% of the annual budget. To achieve proper accountability in the state we need to open up the system to more voices, so that the people can truly be heard.

In response to questions, Governor Sanford stated that the long term medical care of older citizens is a major issue. 750,000 people in the state are on Medicaid. This problem is both a Federal and a state issue. We must find ways to enable older people to stay home. It would be more cost effective for the state to fund a wheelchair ramp at a private home than cause the elderly person to have to go to a full time care facility.

Asked what major changes in state governance he would like to see, the governor responded that the Lt. Governor should be elected with the governor from the same party. When the Lt. Governor is from a different party, as was the case during Governor Hodges time, there is an immediate conflict facing the governor as he begins his work.

He also felt that there must be major changes to the budget control board.

Reported by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

October 15, 2006

Lieutenant Governor Shares Past Successes and Hopes for Future

October 10, 2006: Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer shared with us his approach to the position, his past successes and hopes for the future at our meeting. He stated that he was extremely happy that during his tenure he has expanded the duties of Lt. Governor and had significant successes to report.

His office has taken on the challenge of our aging population. It is his passion to ensure the needs of South Carolina senior citizens are met. He felt there is a great need for addressing the aging issue in South Carolina. He pointed out that South Carolina has a shortage of doctors in the state that specialize in geriatric medicine. What makes shortage even more critical is that South Carolina has the fifth largest immigration of seniors. These senior family units are well educated responsible citizen with significant assets averaging approximately one million dollars per family. According to Bauer we must ensure that the state can meet the needs of this key group.

Lt. Governor Bauer reported that he was proud that during his term not only has his office expanded its database and services but it has also provided more value to the state while the cost of running his office has decreased. By reducing office space and staff they have been able to deliver more with less.

He was also very pleased to report that under his leadership in the Senate there were had no tax increases. He used his power as leader of the senate and his tie breaking vote to ensure no new taxes.

He felt government not only had to do more standardization and reducing their cost but also to find new revenue streams rather than continually asking residents to increase tax payments. He gave an example of California which sold advertising on the back of their library cards and received $50,000 in revenue which did not have come out of the taxpayer's pocket.

When asked whether the Governor and Lieutenant Governor should be elected separately he resoundingly said yes. He felt that if the lieutenant governor ran on the same slate as a governor this would not provide enough separation of powers when the lieutenant governor controls the upper chamber of the legislature and can essentially determine what issues reach the floor.

He spent a great deal of time talking about his accomplishments and acknowledged that the last year has been very difficult for him personally. He suggested that the focus be not on personal issues but on what someone is done while in office.

He closed by stating that a person's character is shown not so much about what happens to them but how he or she responds to what happens. He shared a great many insights and responded candidly to questions.

Submitted by Wayne Outlaw, Keyway Committee

October 8, 2006

"Life Revolves Around Main Street"

October 3, 2006: Larry Tarleton introduced Robert Barber, South Carolina's Democratic candidate for Lt Governor, as a Charleston native who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wofford College, his Doctor of Divinity from Duke University, and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas..."a Preacher and Lawyer, now that's hard to comprehend." Larry also touched on the fact that for over 15 years, Robert has run his world-famous family restaurant on Bowen's Island and received a special award in New York with "shrimp sauce on the front of his dinner jacket." On the serious side, Robert Barber was elected three times to the State House of Representative from a strongly Republican district and served three terms on the Charleston County School Board where he was elected Chairman for two years.

Mr. Barber related to our Rotarians that he remembers leaving Folly Beach as a 10 year old sitting in the "back seat of a '58 Chevy" not wanting to move away from his home in Charleston. He moved to the Columbia area where he met his wife LaNelle in the 5th grade, "although she's 18 months older," and they remain married today with two children and two grandchildren. He then emphasized his campaign themes: "one year and two weeks ago, to the day, I kicked off my campaign based on Main Street Values." "To me that means hard work, spirituality, fiscal grounding, and common sense." He smiled firmly and added: "there seems to be a shortage of that in Columbia and I will change that."

Education is an additional challenge on Mr. Barber's docket. Although not specifically in the Lt Governor's job description, he strongly feels it's a challenge we all must embrace: "we must make our public schools successful." How do we make good schools? Hire good teachers.
Mr. Barber's wife is a school teacher who "gets up at 10 minutes after 5 every day...I get up about an hour and a half later." He was passionate in stating his personal opinion that "our teachers should earn as much as doctors and lawyers." He observed there are children in China and India getting prepared for jobs in South Carolina that "we want our children and grandchildren to have."

Mr. Barber moved to a different challenge and received a hearty Charleston Rotary Club laugh when he stated "we have an aging population; I can see that in this room!" He wants to keep seniors independent in their homes. To do that we must commit the funding at the State level to:
- Provide home-delivered meals
- Allow home-based health care
- Ensure medical transportation

In summarizing additional areas he feels are important, Mr. Barber stated his desire to go to Columbia with a small business background. His theme in this venue is to represent the low country where he lightheartedly mentioned he "even put indoor restroom in his Bowen Island restaurant 10 years ago." On a more serious note he emphasized he's met the responsibility of signing the front side of a paycheck every week and he still rolls up his sleeves to work in the kitchen. Those experiences have provided him with an element of good judgment and maturity.

With a smile on his face, Mr. Barber concluded his remarks that in this campaign "word of mouth is everything" and he would appreciate if we "would talk to friends and let them know Robert Barber is a decent guy who will do a good job."

Submitted by Bill Crowe, Keyway Committee