S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Aug. 6, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.0806.bigideas.htm

Campaigns void of big ideas
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

AUG 6 , 2006 -- Perhaps the most startling thing about today's statewide campaigns in the Palmetto State is the utter lack of big ideas - ideas that would fundamentally start transforming the state into a competitive player in the global economy.

Instead we hear about small-brain abstractions - "Vote for me because I'm a better leader," or "Vote for me because I'll improve (insert issue.)"

Voters expect more than consultant-driven soundbites and slick campaign snippets. Yes, they'd like leaders. But they'd like leaders with compelling visions for the state.

Where would we be in America if John F. Kennedy hadn't had a vision of putting a man on the moon within a decade? There's no telling how much civil rights strife still would exist if the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. hadn't dreamed a big dream. And without Ronald Reagan's vision, isn't it possible the Berlin Wall would still be intact?


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Today's leaders seem hog-tied when it comes to big ideas - that if they step out on the limb to support something new, big and challenging, they'd be skewered by attack TV and political rampages.

It's as if the people vying for top leadership jobs in the state just want to be caretakers. Our people deserve better. So here are some big ideas. They're not necessarily original and you might not agree with them at all. But maybe they'll stretch your brains just a little bit so you'll realize how limited today's relatively mediocre politicians are challenging the status quo:

  • $100 laptop. In the past, we've highlighted the idea of the state providing a laptop computer to each of the 58,000 7th graders in the state. While MIT says a $100 laptop is just around the corner, the state of Maine currently has a program that provides laptops to 7th graders at a cost of $289 each. Former Gov. Angus King said in a recent interview that the program has increased student interest in school and reduced discipline problems. If South Carolina were to implement a similar program for 7th graders using the Maine system, lawmakers would have to appropriate about $20 million to reach all 7th graders. That doesn't' seem to be too much for an investment that could open thousands of minds in new ways.

  • Universal health care. Hard to believe, but the state of Massachusetts recently passed legislation that essentially gives universal health care to its residents. Considering the fact that about half of South Carolinians already have such coverage through Medicare, Medicaid and other programs, providing universal health care seems like an idea worth exploring in a place where we're last on a lot of the health lists that it's not good to be last on.

  • Home-grown energy. Seems like the state could figure out a way to grow energy since the nation seems intent on weaning itself from oil. Not only do we have a lot of sunshine, which could spark fields of solar panels to harness energy as is done in Germany, but South Carolina has a competitive advantage with fuel cell and hydrogen energy research. State leaders need to take a serious look at helping to jumpstart these energy fields, instead of the relatively paltry investments made to date.

  • Quality of life. South Carolina's natural resources and quality of life are being threatened by big growth and development. Perhaps state leaders can work on big ideas to allow development and protection of the state's valued quality of life to occur in tandem in mutually-beneficial ways.

So South Carolina reader, if you were king or queen for a day, what big idea would you implement?

Send your ideas to Andy Brack, publisher of S.C. Statehouse Report, at: brack@statehousereport.com. Brack's book of commentary, Bugging the Palmettos, is available for $15.00. Click here for more.

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Ahead on House 119

A look at how you often learn first about things in SC Statehouse Report:

From Statehouse Report, 7/21/06:

Veteran politician and retiring incumbent state Rep. John Graham Altman, R-Charleston, sees his home District 119 as so strangely drawn as to make it almost impossible for candidates to find their way around.
Not so, perhaps, with Democrat Leon Stavrinakis and Republican Suzanne Piper, both natives of Charleston County, both of whom are ready to start campaigning in earnest for Altman's seat.


From The Post and Courier, 8/3/06

In local politics July and August are normally the doldrums, a lull between the June primaries and the buildup to the November general election. That's not the case in state House District 119. The race between Leon Stavrinakis and Suzanne Piper is shaping up as one the Lowcountry's most watched and most competitive contests, a chance for Charleston County Democrats to wrest back a state House seat held by the GOP, something it hasn't done in many years.

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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NUMBER OF THE WEEK: One-third
  • HOT RACE: House 48 unfilled for now
  • RADAR SCREEN: Bottoms up .. or down?
  • FEEDBACK: Recent letters
  • SCORECARD: Ups and downs in SC politics
  • MEGAPHONE: Waxing on taxing

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