October 2015

A Note From Our Mayors

Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

A Note from David Bennett

There’s certainly something you do…every day.

Every day, I wake up mindful of one primary objective as it relates to the Town of Hilton Head Island: to move our community toward a better future. Admittedly, some days are difficult, but I humbly remember that I was elected mayor to do just this. Our goals of preservation plus purposeful progress are worth the effort.

Every day, I also receive countless communications about matters meaningful to our citizenry, some of which are easily addressed, while others require more significant thought, resources and attention. All of these, I must prioritize to “fit” into my everyday objective.

And every day, every single day, I receive numerous e-mails and telephone calls of a nature, which I may only describe as bullying. These tactics are an affront to the American spirit of respectful debate and opinions, which catapulted our nation from one of tyranny to one of independence.

Every day, I, together with my fellow Town Council members and their families as well as our town staff, spend valuable time and resources to assess and address these repeated diatribes, often having to put aside advancing the work on the very issues, which may be buried in the barrage of the assault.
So, what am I trying to communicate to you?

1. Let’s raise the bar and discuss matters with civility. In that environment, we can work together to create and to correct, and to measure plans and actions appropriate to achieve island-wide successes.

2. Bullying depletes our resources, dampens our progress and damages individuals and our community as a whole. It must be called just what it is in whatever context it exists, and it must cease.

3. Although I am not a genius or perfect, I understand that our town government has been remiss in some matters and should acknowledge its share of responsibility in creating the environment that has allowed issues to fester. This has occurred in several areas, but in this specific instance, I am speaking to the issue of choosing and monetizing the Designated Marketing Organization (“DMO”), as the town has not previously established appropriate policies, procedures, criteria and expectations in connection with selecting, funding and measuring its performance.

So, to those detractors of the Hilton Head Island – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce (the “Chamber”) as the town’s DMO, I would like to clearly point out that we have been taking visible, viable and actionable steps toward transparency and accountability since the inception of the Finance and Administrative Committee of council earlier this year. Weighing in with your opinion on the issue with advice or specific ideas is proactive, helpful and appreciated. Accusing others of illegal activity, threatening to ruin their lives or in the instance of town government, minimizing the time and efforts expended, when in fact documentable hours, days and weeks have been spent, is destructive, harmful and unwelcome. In the case of the latter, time is of the essence and words are powerful, so I would ask you not to bog others down relaying, addressing and enduring your rants. Please choose and use your words wisely.

Take a cue from Patrick Henry, who, in his speech to the Virginia congressional delegates on March 23, 1775, said: “No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as the abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed this House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and therefore, I hope that it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen, if entertaining, as I do, opinions of a different character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.”

These are the words of a great American patriot, desiring primarily to deliver his ideas for consideration in deference to those of his colleagues with whom he disagreed. Criticism and even civil disobedience are appropriate when you are taking issue with an issue. Here, in the case of the Chamber/DMO, the purpose would be accountability and improvement (or change). However, name-calling, accusations and threats contained in a constant barrage of e-mails and telephone calls are not serving your cause and are nothing more than persecution of an individual or in modern day terms, bullying.

I believe the good citizens of Hilton Head Island embrace civility and reject bullying. I urge you to instead consider channeling your passion and resources toward other immense issues faced by our community including: environmental concerns such as completing an island-wide sanitary sewer system; safety of our citizens and emergency responders by paving roads; decent housing options by increasing the availability of quality, affordable homes to households, which provide our essential services (government, retail, educational and business); higher quality of life achieved by firmly establishing the arts in our community for future generations; creating viable jobs that will allow our younger citizens to also find gainful employment and envision their futures on Hilton Head Island and improving and adding to our recreational resources and transportation options.

And to those who are in authority at the Chamber/DMO, please do not be presumptuous. Because of Hilton Head Island’s veritable plethora of God-given resources and extraordinary worldwide reputation, the town has many options as to how and to whom it allocates its Accommodations Tax revenue.

You should make every effort to expediently take all steps necessary to achieve complete transparency for your role. First and foremost, everyone needs to be certain that public apportioned funds are being expended wisely, in full accordance with (and when possible exceeding) both the letter and intent of all applicable local, state and federal statutes supported by appropriate documentation. Next, it should be abundantly apparent that the DMO is the most excellent standard-bearer and is able to brand the island and advertise its many benefits. You should be eager to agree upon metrics used to substantiate your performance. Finally, Town Council and our citizens must be confident that your activities represent and promote the interests of all island businesses, chamber members or otherwise. You also should be particularly interested in highlighting and resolving the challenging issues and opportunities of our community, because doing so will surely benefit residents, businesses and visitors alike.

To the citizens of Hilton Head Island, I’m communicating this message openly so that you might better understand some of the issues your Town Council is grappling with and identify how best to participate in moving our community to a better place, on this issue and others vital to achieving sustainable excellence on our island. Do not permit the use of fear, threats, name-calling and blame shifting in your circle of influence.

As citizens and taxpayers, you should not allow this controversy to continue and should recognize that it is costing all of us. Please help your mayor and Town Council sift through the noise to find the valuable information and ideas, which are almost always hidden in there somewhere. Send an encouraging word to your local councilperson today, who is working diligently on our town’s behalf.

As for me, I’ve only just begun to bring forth the goals I have for our town during my term as mayor. I know for certain that what is ultimately accomplished will greatly depend upon you, and your contributions of your expertise, ideas, time and talents.

Every day, I am grateful for the enthusiasm and encouragement of you who display your love for our community by your actions. 

A Note from Lisa Sulka
Citizens Police Academy

The Bluffton Police Department is excited to announce their second Citizens Police Academy, starting October 12, 2015. It is a 10 week program in which the attendees will get firsthand knowledge on how the department operates, attend educational classes as well as observe demonstrations such as Taser deployment and police dog training. Classes covered during the 10 weeks of training include criminal investigations, patrol operations, the court process and our national and state accreditation.

Not only does the Citizens Police Academy give you insight to law enforcement, but it allows citizens to express their concerns, ask meaningful questions and gain a better understanding of some of the decisions made by public safety professionals. If you are interested in becoming a part of this year’s academy, please visit the police department at 101 Progressive Street and ask for an application. All applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and submit to a background check.

Young people participate in Explorer Club
The Bluffton Police Department continues to provide training for the Explorers of the Bluffton Boys and Girls Club. Students are taught various aspects on how to be law enforcement officers. Some of this training includes, South Carolina law, the juvenile justice system, traffic stop training and gang training to name a few. A highlight of the program last year was when the Beaufort County Detention center opened its doors for the explorers and gave them a tour of their facility.

The Bluffton Police Department is an ongoing participant in the explorer learning for life program. Participating with these students at the Boys and Girls Club is another way to show them that law enforcement can be their friend and perhaps inspire them to make law enforcement a career choice.

If you haven’t visited the Bluffton Police Department’s website, please do so at blufftonpolice.sc.gov; the site is full of information. Their 2014 yearly report is also included, and you will see how engaged they are with our town, among much more important information. The 2015 report will be out soon. 

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