On Tuesday, the voters in Mount Pleasant will go to the polls to elect a Mayor and four new Town Council members. Honestly, I am glad that the campaigning is over. I am very comfortable with how I have handled myself during these past 60 days. Before this started, I promised myself to meet with any person or group that asked me to meet. I did that. I promised myself that I would refrain from any negative comments about anyone in this race. I did that. In fact, one thing I did not see coming is that I really like the other people who are running for a Town Council seat. In many ways, I have made eight new friends that I hope I can stay in contact with, however this ends up. Everyone running has positive traits.
To sum this all up, I want your vote. I want your trust. I have said from the very beginning that we will not agree on everything. But that causes great discussion, and great discussion, done professionally, can result in great things.
I wanted to give a summary of what I would like to accomplish in my four years on Council:
- I would like to address the over half-a-million dollars of deferred capital needs with a multi-year plan.
- I would like to be part of a Mayor and Town Council that enthusiastically agree upon the Comprehensive Master Plan, and work together professionally.
- I would like to lead the charge to create pricing structures and enterprise ventures that will enable the revenue side of our budget to increase by $2 to 5 million. $2 to 5 million, bonded over multiple years, would allow the Town to pay for about $30 to 50 million of new capital projects.
- I would like to create a fund to provide additional park land and greenspace.
- I would like to create opportunities to give citizens around age 30-45 opportunities to get involved in their government. We all know that not many people vote in Mount Pleasant. We need to give them a reason to vote by involving them.
- I want, after four years, for any citizen that lives in the northern part of town to feel as if they have as much representation by their government as anyone who lives in the southern part of town.
- I would like to discuss ordinances that would require any newly paved road to be lined with bicycle and pedestrian striping to proving a safe transportation option for people who do not want to drive in their car.
- I would like to lead a charge that trusts our exceptional Town staff. The Mayor and Council should set direction and find the funding; the staff should carry things out.
- I want Mount Pleasant to continue to be a safe place to live, play and work. Although I do not put these in order, this may be my highest priority.
Vote Tom O’Rourke, next Tuesday, Nov. 7
The following are questions that have been posed to Tom from the citizens of Mount Pleasant. In order for the voters to know Tom’s positions on the important issues facing Mount Pleasant, his answers to these questions will be posted below throughout the campaign. If you have a question for Tom, you can submit your question on the Contact page.
Income growth in the Mount Pleasant budget has exceeded inflation by a good deal in the last five years, but outlays have at least kept pace. How would you propose to shrink expenses to provide surpluses in the future?
What do you see as the most important priorities and which can be harvested? (e.g. second senior center, etc.)
If by income growth you mean revenues to the town of course they have exceeded inflation, but so has the expenses based on the growth of the town. I don’t think inflation has anything to do with the revenue. About “surpluses,” If you mean increasing our Unrestricted Fund Balance, I think it is at about $16 million. ( I am not sure of this,) People call that the “Rainy Day Fund,” I hate that term. And I think it is raining.
How would I propose to shrink expenses? Who said we need to shrink expenses? The Town Council in the last five years has discussed a tax increase to get more money for expenses. I am not sure where we would cut. I may think just the opposite. Here are some things I think we are going to need to have money for;
- If you don’t want development you have to buy the land. We need money to buy land and create a program using our Capital Bonding authority to fund this.
- We have to look at the current strategy for the Obligations of Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB). I have not met with the town staff on this, and I am sure they are doing all they can, but this is LAW. We have to make sure that we are using every tool in the toolbox for these monies.
- I would like to look at our fee structures and sponsorship opportunities. Not only in the recreation department but in other areas as well. The recreation department that I worked for brought in about $34 million dollars last year in fees, not taxes. We utilize market price, but have alternatives for those that do not have the ability to pay. I want us to look at the multitude of places where fees can be cultivated.
There are two ways to make a budget work, you can cut expenses or you can raise more revenue. It is not always about cutting expenses.
What will you propose to attract more industries/jobs to M.P.? What industries?
The town has an Economic Development position. I am sure the town has a plan. I would like to see this plan and have it explained. I have said many times that we need to take care of the infrastructure that is lagging behind. Would it be good to bring in new industry with a thousand people that work there and fill the roads from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.? I don’t think so. I want to hear the WHY? If the reason is to get more tax money, I’ll bet that if you asked the public, would you pay $5 a year more in your taxes to prevent 2,000 more cars on your roads during the busy time? I think they may say yes. So, to answer the question, I am not sure I would propose at this time to attract more businesses.
Better bus transit is badly needed for commuting service workers and civil servants who cannot afford to own in Mount Pleasant. What solution do you see if any?
We have to change our mentality on who rides the bus. If we want to make a difference in ridership of public transportation, we have to stop thinking that the bus service is for “community service workers and civil servants that can’t afford to live in Mount Pleasant.” Public transportation should be for everyone, especially those that work at MUSC, The Citadel, The College of Charleston, Boeing, etc. We should be trying to figure out how we get regular people that live in Mount Pleasant that work in these places to consider public transportation. It’s done all over the country in communities the size of our metropolitan area.
The Town of Mount Pleasant gets to have a person on the CARTA board of directors. That is a good start. I think this issue will improve organically over time.
What priority will you give to road widening as needed. (e.g. Rifle Range Rd)
We need to be careful with this answer. I am a recreation director and a teacher, some of the people that are running have experience as a fire fighter, a police officer and a financial planner. Great people, but we can’t just give you an answer to this, because we don’t know that answer to this. The town has a traffic engineer, actually a pretty good one. We need to listen to him and the Town Administrator. This is what they do. I don’t have the expertise to give an answer on this, but I certainly have the expertise to make a decision after the details of traffic counts, costs, and prioritization are put in front of me.
Traffic is a growing problem. Do you see the Town making investments in state owned roads? (e.g Highway 41)
My first gut answer is no. I hate when the Town of Mount Pleasant decides that another governmental agency is not doing their job and they get in their business. I am not really in favor of spending our tax money for issues involving another taxing entity. It is essentially double taxation. So that is my answer, I am not in favor of it. I will say this. If I thought that the majority of our community thought that the level of service being provided by the other governmental agency is not up to our standards, then I could be persuaded to vote to subsidize this. But I would like to meet with that other agency first and ask them to step up to their responsibility.
Would you support another Senior Center?
Our Senior Center has had tremendous success. I for one know that these are the things that make your community, but so are soccer fields, lacrosse fields, baseball fields, tracks, (which could be a senior center!!) bike lanes etc. Agreed, but it is not just a senior center. About 40% of youth soccer players play outside Mount Pleasant. Sure, we need roads, but we also need recreation facilities. I WOULD LIKE TO LOOK AT our fee structures in the Recreation Department and come up with a fair Cost Recovery plan. (I build these.) I think we are leaving millions on the table. If you collect $2 million more in fees you could bond about $20 million of recreation projects bonded out, without one penny of a tax increase. We need to get in the “real” fee game.