Explain This “Fiscal Conservative” Thing to Me Again

As we move into campaign mode over the next few months in anticipation of the city election in November, we are going to hear the accomplishments of the “Fiscal Conservatives” who are running for re-election.

So, I spent the weekend pouring over the old city budgets.  They are all available online at www.iop.net under the City Services tab.

A bit of background before getting to the numbers.  The fiscal year for the city runs July 1 to June 30.  So, city council started working on Fiscal Year 2015-16 in January of this year. In the interest of clarity, I am going to call the current budget we are operating under Fiscal Year 2016, but realize that it started several weeks ago on July 1, 2015.

What follows is total city expenditures budgeted by city council for each fiscal year.  That is, this is what city council planned to spend.   Spending could, in fact, be more or less because of all kinds of circumstances, but what these numbers represent is the fiscal intent of city council.

Here are the numbers in dollar amounts:

2009                                    8,066,663

2010                                    8,067,982

2011                                    8,347,497

2012                                    8,511,235

2013                                    8,472,581

2014                                    8,914,839

2015                                    9,529,908

2016                                   10,331,061

From 2009 to 2012 the budget grew by $444,572, or 5.51%.

This is pretty much right in line with inflation, maybe even a bit less, depending on whether you are using the CPI (Consumer Price Index) or the Federal Reserve’s preferred PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditure) which is usually lower than the CPI.

From 2013 to 2016 the budget grew by $1,858,480 or 21.9%

Whoa!  What happened to the budget in 2013?  The citizens elected two new members to city council, Jimmy Carroll and Jimmy Ward when they defeated the incumbents Brian Duffy and Ralph Piening in the November 2011 election.  Jimmy Ward, in particular, campaigned incessantly as a “fiscal conservative.”  Carroll and Ward joined Ryan Buckhannon and Mike Loftus who also call themselves “fiscal conservatives.”  Upon joining city council in January 2012 they began work on the 2013 budget.

Then, for budget year 2015, the city added two more new city councilmembers in Patrick Harrington and Sandy Ferencz who replaced Sandy Stone and Doug Thomas when the latter two decided not to seek re-election in November 2013.  Lo and behold the budget for 2015, for which work began in January 2014 got even worse.  This budget cycle now had 5 “fiscal conservatives” on city council, a majority! They could have worked together and controlled the spending, but instead the spending ramped even higher!

Here’s the point: the city is not growing and there have been no disasters but the budget is exploding. Maybe the “fiscal conservatives” could tell us just what fiscally conservative measures they have taken and what “fiscal conservative” means to them.

I am not sure the city can afford much more “fiscal conservatism”.

Parking Plan C – Moving in the Right Direction, but Still Not There

By now you have probably read about “Parking Plan C” in the newspaper.  After 6 six years of intense planning and soul searching, city council has started to move in the right direction, albeit to begin a year from now.

To recap, Plan C permits free daytripper parking from 3rd to 9th Avenues on the sidestreets between Ocean and Carolina Boulevards.  It also permits free parking on all of Palm Blvd.

Several observations immediately come to mind:

This is good news for the folks at the lower end of the IOP where congestion has been a nightmare.

Ocean Blvd will continue to keep its Sacred Status.

So, where are all those cars that previously parked on the lower end of the island going to go?  We already know they don’t want to pay to park, that is why they are not parking in our “beautiful” city lot.  Yep, you guessed right.  They will go up the island to Palm Blvd.

Every bit of space on Palm Blvd will soon by filled.  It will be massive gridlock.  What did Wild Dunes and the middle section of the island do to deserve this treatment from city council?

Since parking on side streets is just fine for the lower third of the island, why isn’t it fine for Palm Blvd?  This would dramatically decrease the congestion and still keep the city in compliance with the Beachfront Management Plan.

But daytrippers and their children would still have to cross Palm Blvd where the speed limit is 35 mph.  So why not do the logical thing and permit parallel parking only on the ocean side of Palm Blvd up to 41st Avenue and then on the other side of the street to the end of Palm Blvd?

One of the busiest areas of the island is Wild Dunes with all of its condos.  You know, folks who come to vacation here and actually pay their way and contribute money to the city’s coffers.  Why must we so inconvenience these people who, as JimDaddy always says, “pay to support our lifestyle”?

I just don’t get it. If there is something I am missing, please feel free to respond.

Otherwise, it seems it is time to put some people on city council who have some common sense.  And for the record, Councilman Mike Loftus has pushed for this plan for several years and could never get any support from fellow council members.

Old Litter on a Stick




Here are some pics of old signs that have been up for years and years.  Not only are they ugly to look at, they are no longer relevant.

The IOPNA died a slow, peaceful death over 4 years ago and thus has not picked up a scrap of trash since then.  I have never seen the IOP Marina out picking up trash, but perhaps they do.  If so, my hat is tipped to them.  For that matter, the only people I have ever seen picking up trash was the old IOPNA.  They seemed to do it about 3 times a year with no appreciation from the community or any the short term rental owners on Palm Blvd whose easements were full of trash.

More importantly, just what is the purpose of these signs?  They absolutely do not keep people, especially daytrippers, from leaving trash as evidenced by the all the discarded debris that is on Palm Blvd.  I, for one, would be happy to see all of them taken down as they are out of place in a residential community.

Maybe city council could ask the state to take these signs down.  We can only hope.

New Litter on a Stick – aka Free Advertising for Your Business

Palm Blvd-Windjammer

21st Ave - Dunes Properties

Waterway Ave - IOP Marina

Palm Blvd 2 - Windjammer

As if we don’t have enough signs polluting our lovely island, these recently appeared.  As always, they are of the beautiful stamped metal design probably produced at a state prison.

I have not seen any group clean a street since the long dead IOPNA regularly cleaned up Palm Blvd over 4 years ago.  My hat is tipped to the Windjammer for taking on Palm Blvd. as it is a veritable dump of daytripper trash.  (As a somewhat funny aside, one time we were cleaning it up one Saturday morning and Doug “I love Duke” Thomas found a pair of thong underwear!  I seem to remember him handling it with a stick…)  If the Windjammer regularly cleans this street they certainly deserve this sign.  If they don’t, or if any of the others don’t, these signs need to come down.

The Plastic Bag Ban – Political Activism 101

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.  Margaret Mead

This quote came to mind as I was thinking about the recent IOP legislation to ban plastic bags.  This post is NOT about whether this law is a good or bad idea.  I am agnostic on the issue as I can see both sides.  These bags are certainly detrimental to wildlife.  On the other hand, this is using the strong arm of the government to regulate businesses because of the irresponsible actions of a few people.

That being said, my sense is that most of the citizens of the IOP do not have a burning passion about this issue.  I don’t think there was ever an overwhelming tidal wave of people supporting this initiative, at least not in my neighborhood.

And that brings me to this discussion: how to advance your cause and get a law passed dealing with something you are passionate about.  My hat is off to this group of folks who pushed this ban through in record time and got council to approve the ban with unanimous votes.

Here is how you do it:

First, find a small group of people passionate about an issue. Have them regularly write letters to the editor of the local papers so that the letters appear every week.

Then, MOST importantly, come before city council and speak.  And don’t have just one person show up because that does not carry much weight.  Try to get 8-10 people to be there at the beginning of the meeting and speak for several minutes each.  Do this for several months in a row.  Repetition is important because it reinforces your concerns in the mind of city council.

And then the coup de grace: get some children to speak.  Children are innocent and just want what is best.

Let me be clear, this is not a sarcastic or cynical post.  As a political observer I truly admire how they pulled this off.  They were brilliant.

As the great philosopher Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) wrote in his autobiography, “Passion is bullshit. What matters is personal energy.”  He is exactly right.  A lot of folks are passionate about stuff but too lazy to get up and do something.

These folks were able to Git-R-Done, and for that, I salute them.

Letter to the Editor – Island Eye News, July 17, 2015

Parking Solutions

The summer season is here and the daytrippers are performing a reverse Normandy invasion of the IOP.  For whatever reason city council cannot or will not take any measures to try to control the parking problem even a wee bit.

So, my fellow citizens, with tongue firmly in cheek, it is time for the residents of the IOP to take action.  Here is all you have to do: Just put stuff in the easement so daytrippers cannot park there.  Yeah, it may be against the law, but is a law really a law if it is never enforced?  This calls for a philospher…

The rich guy parking plan would be to put some very nice vegetation in the easement – just look around and you will see this has been done many times.  But if you don’t have the funds or the time, just put whatever is available in the easement – a boat trailer, extra cars, garbage cans, yard debris, etc.  A number of people have put thin fiberglass poles in their yard about every 6-8 feet and this seems to work.

If all else fails, do what the guy on the 28th block of Palm does: run your sprinkler in the easement all day!  Yeah it is a total waste of water but it seems to work.

And just to be clear, this is not going to deny any visitor a day at the beach.  Except for a very few, select busy days, the parking lots in the front beach area are not full. I do not know of any other beach community in Florida or California (the two states I am most familiar with) that permits unlimited, free parking on all the roads near the beach.

I firmly believe everyone should have access to the beach.  After all, it is the visitor’s beach just as much as it is ours.  But council has let this get totally out of control by doing nothing for the past 6 years except putting up a few wood signs. When traffic on Palm Blvd moves 8 blocks in 30 minutes as it did several weekends ago, we have a serious safety problem.

If council won’t fix this it is up to us to do it.  Saddle up, fellow citizens!

Ralph B. Piening

246 Forest Trail

iopobserver Gets Results!

Greenspace without cones

An earlier post on the iopobserver noted that someone had placed orange traffic cones to prevent anyone from parking in the lot at the city’s fabulous greenspace.  Those cones are now gone and 2 signs (Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…- sing along with me!) have been put up.  They say:  Do Not Block Driveway.  I am not quite sure why the signs were put up.  Regardless, the lot is now open!  So grab the kids and a picnic basket and enjoy the peacefulness of Palm Blvd while watching beer trucks unload at the Harris Teeter.

Marina street without crime tape

This photo is taken on 41st Avenue across the street from the Marina.  After the iopobserver commented on the crime scene tape strung between the poles, someone took it down.  The tape that was left up says Caution.

The iopobserver gets results!  Eat your heart out Harve Jacobs.

Every Summer Morning

Car on sidewalk

If you get up early in the morning you will see this everyday during the summer season.  I could post 15 other photos just like the one above.  Always on Ocean or Palm Blvd and invariably at a house that is being rented.

Who doesn’t know that you don’t park your car on the sidewalk?  Yeah, no one.  But the visitors go and do it anyway.

Here is the best part.  Many times I have seen a police car drive right by.  Now I am not saying the owner should be hauled off to the Charleston County Detention Center on Leeds Ave, or even given a ticket.  But couldn’t the officer at least stop, knock on the door, and tell the owner to get off the sidewalk?  And if he has to do this again there is gonna be a ticket.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think the police are that busy at 5 or 6 am.

By doing nothing, it appears the city does not care.  If it doesn’t care about this relatively minor law, at what level do they draw the line and start caring?  Seems like a good question for our city council.