Editorial: Apathy in Georgetown County

  • Thursday, June 13, 2013

Apathy. The dictionary says that word means a lack of interest in or concern for things. In Georgetown County and in the City of Georgetown on Tuesday, apathy was in fine form. And that’s unfortunate.

In Georgetown, the Democratic Party held its primary election for mayor and for three expiring City Council seats.
There are 5,859 registered voters in the city, but only 1,128 took the time to vote in the mayor’s race which had the incumbent and two challengers.

For City Council, four candidates ran for three spots.

In all, just 1,153 people voted in the primary. That’s less than 20 percent of registered voters.

Those who voted were deciding who they believe should represent the Democratic Party in the November election for mayor and for three City Council seats. In that election, the Democratic and Republican candidates will face off where voters will decide who holds four of seven seats on City Council.

The mayor and council make general policy decisions and decide how to spend about $30 million of taxpayer dollars.

About a mile away from the county’s elections office, Georgetown County Council held its regular Tuesday meeting.

Energy shows up

Apathy was replaced on a couple of issues by interest and excitement as more than 100 people filled all the seats in County Council chambers.

What brought them out?

Well, it wasn’t to speak up about the county’s $64-million plus budget. A public hearing was scheduled for citizen input on the budget. By the time that issue came up on the agenda, most of the 100-plus taxpayers had left.

The $64 million budget is significant by itself. And then there’s the question of whether all property owners should pay more in taxes to give county employees a pay raise.

But nobody spoke on the budget or the proposed increase.

What got them to shed their apathy and come out on a Tuesday night?

Well, about 40 people were excited that a family wanted to erect a small barn to keep three horses for the children to ride. That ended up being tabled.

The other 70 or so people who came out — and seven of them addressed council members — were excited about whether a median project should go forward in the Pawleys Island area.

They had their say, then chatted as they slowly left council chambers.

While they were excited, the spirit of apathy reasserted itself when the budget came up.

No speakers

One of the pieces of the county’s budget is a proposed millage increase to give employees a pay raise. That would mean the majority of homeowners in the county would pay an extra $11.60 per year on a home valued at $100,000. Folks in the Midway Fire District would pay an extra $7.20 a year on a home valued at $100,000.

By the time the budget hearing was open for discussion, almost no one was left in council chambers but council members, county staff and a few members of the media.

What does this mean?

We’re not exactly sure.

There’s been a lot of hot air and much ink and many e-mail exchanges and Internet postings about the elections.

Many folks have talked about the budget and whether taxes should go up to provide pay increases.

But less than 20 percent of the voters took the time to cast a ballot in a city election.

And no one at all spoke about the budget.

Third and final reading of the county’s $64-million plus budget will be on Tuesday, June 25. Will any members of the public show up then?

A lot of people came out in opposition to a small barn, and a lot more came out to talk about a median project that doesn’t come under the control of Georgetown County Council. Rather, it’s a project being handled by the South Carolina Department of Transportation in an unincorporated part of the county.

It’s good that people were able to get excited and involved about the zoning issue and the median project, but by the time they spoke there was already a motion to table the horse barn issue and the median project is not something County Council has control over.

Council decides on a $64 million budget, a tax increase, and no one spoke on the budget.

What does it mean?

Go figure. Our crystal ball has clouded over.

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