I had a great time today at the SCWomenLead event, where I served on a panel of elected women (that’s me in the red). I also had the honor of sharing lunch with our Lt. Governor Pamela Evette , who is about as down-to-earth and authentic as you can get. We talked about everything from our shared Polish immigrant history to the value of a community college education to reasons we’re proud of SC to the importance of women in positions of leadership. Then, she spoke to the group about serving as a woman in government. One of the things she said that truly stood out to me was this: “No matter where we sit in positions of leadership, small girls are always watching us, watching us to see what we can do, what we should do, what we can be.” Representation matters. There were no small girls there today, but there were several young women, including two from Simpsonville who raised their hands and waved when I said I was from Simpsonville City Council. And I hope the message they, and all the other women there, took from today was simple: yes, you can. As I said in my comments, you can be the person who complains, or you can be the person who steps up to be the change and make a difference.
“Pity the firemen as they go past, for every ride may be their last.” My grandfather, Fire Chief in our town, taught us that little rhyme as children to impress upon us the seriousness of the work our firefighters do. It stuck with me; and since my childhood, I have said it every time a fire truck passes me. It’s followed by the sign of the cross and a quick prayer to bring them all back safely. It’s not just the firefighters who run towards, rather than away from, danger. It’s all of our first responders. As a Councilmember, I’ve had the opportunity to hear many stories that never make it to the media. Firefighters who save a life by deploying naloxone. Police officers who stop a suicide or respond first on scene to a dead child. I’ve put on the firefighters’ gear to feel the physical weight they bear. I’ve had the opportunity to stand in the shoes of our officers by participating in simulated training. While not the same as doing it day in and day out for real, I got a small taste of what it’s like to have to make a decision that could save a life or end a life. It’s hard, and the work our first responders do takes a toll…not just physically (although it is physical work) but mentally and emotionally. Since I’ve been on Council, we’ve done a lot to support our first responders, including a phased compensation plan to better compensate them not just upon entry but for time and service. But there is still work to do, and we cannot do it alone or in isolation. This morning, we received an update from Rep. Chandra Dillard, Rep. Tommy Pope, and Senator Shane Massey on legislative efforts to support law enforcement. As we talk with our Greenville County delegation today and over the coming weeks, we are asking our legislators to help us help our first responders across SC in the following ways:
- Support money to be included in the state budget to fund the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder programs for first responders.
- Support reform measures to aspects of law enforcement training and duties.
- Support money to be included in the state budget to fund the Firefighter Healthcare Benefit Plan.
As Councilmembers, not all of our work always takes place at home. Our relationships with state officials are important because we can advocate for Simpsonville at the state level. That’s what we’re doing in Columbia today for Hometown Legislative Action Day.
Our 2022 Meeting Schedule. Mr. Rupe, Councilman Hutchings, and Councilwoman Roche will all be sworn in just prior to the first meeting.
SimplyHistoric #SimplyConnected #SimplyHome Simpsonville: it’s who we are. There are plenty of historical plaques like this throughout the city. We also work to honor our history through projects like the Arts Center at the historic Simpsonville Elementary school. We’re staying connected too. The best piece of the trail will connect down to Heritage Park. We have events like the recent Westwood Public Safety Meeting or National Night Out to connect with residents. Councilmembers have also held meetings with residents on development concerns, traffic concerns, small business concerns…or just to have coffee and chat. They’re not just words. It’s who we are. Who we strive to be every day. #PromisesMadePromisesKept
In case you missed the newspaper articles, the mailer, and the giant SCDOT signs… there’s a public meeting July 27th. Road widening, northbound turn lanes, southbound turn lanes… it’s all on the agenda. 4-7 PM at Brashier Middle College. That’s at 1830 West Georgia Rd. Building #203.
All project information, including meeting displays, handouts, and comment forms will be available via the project website: https://bit.ly/scdotWGaRoad.
Join us for a Blood Drive July 12th at City Park!
- At the Committee of the Whole meeting, I expressed concerns regarding traffic and safety in this area that might be exacerbated by this development. While a traffic and safety solution is further in the future than we would like, it is on the horizon, with SCDOT saying the worst case scenario is work would begin in mid-2024 to widen the road and improve 3 intersections. We had hoped that would happen sooner, especially since we worked with the Country Transportation Committee on a funding match for the federal grant being used to fund the project. But SCDOT has lumped this project in to other plans for West Georgia Rd, which has delayed it. However, the project IS fully funded to the tune of $3 million, and we have a participation agreement. Therefore, we can be fairly confident that the road improvements are forthcoming and will relive the traffic congestion and alleviate the safety concerns we have for that area.
- The other concern I had at the Committee of the Whole remains: if we deny this annexation and rezoning, the developer can turn around and ask the County for a rezoning and build the development anyway. We’ve watched it happen before. And recently. See: Baldwin Ridge, which we denied because we were concerned about traffic on Baldwin Rd. Well, the traffic is there, and it’s actually worse off because the County doesn’t have the same high standards we do. It doesn’t affect them as much as it does us. So they’ll approve higher densities that don’t conform to our design and space requirements. By annexing and rezoning the property ourselves, we maintain control over what goes there. We can choose to enter into a partnership with the developer to ensure that the development fits well into the fabric of the community. We can, and have, made requests regarding decreased density; contracting with a traffic engineer; including sidewalks and connectivity; aesthetics; design and community spaces; amenities that create and support community, something people will enjoy and take pride in. In short, we can and have made requests to help ensure that this development will be an asset rather than a detriment to the City of Simpsonville. I’m grateful that we have a developer willing to have those conversations and do that work, employing a local architect and local engineer and committing to a full-time staff to ensure that property is well cared for in the years to come.
- One concern I did not and still do not share was with renters. As I mentioned before, I have been a renter. And people move between homeownership and renting at various points in their lives for a variety of reasons. As a Council, we have a responsibility to ensure that we provide housing options for the wide variety of people who do or will call Simpsonville home at whatever stage of their life they’re in. Demand for housing is high as is demand for rental properties. In fact, I read one recent report that described a downward trend in rental vacancy rates, decreasing from approximately 40 percent in 2009 to just under 25 percent in 2019, reflecting the increasing demand for rental units. Another report I read projected the demand for rental housing will increase somewhere between 33% and 49% between now and 2025. It’s also a part of our job to look to the future and prepare for it.
Reminder that we meet tonight. We’ll be talking about the budget. City Administrator Dianna Gracely is presenting a balanced budget that has no proposed tax or fee increases and no transfers from the fund balance. The presentation will detail budget highlights, like bringing all employees to their compensation ratio for their years of service/experience; a 4% cost of living adjustment effective October 1; a number of important capital purchases. It also establishes a Capital Reserve Fund with any budget surplus. This is something I’m personally really excited about because I was genuinely surprised we had no such fund when I came into office. And since then, I’ve been talking about the importance of long-term planning for the future, so we don’t end up in another situation like the one we had with Public Works when I came into office. This is a fiscally responsible way to use any budget surplus dollars to prepare for the future.
I know a lot of people are also interested in that last item on the agenda: a lease agreement for the Milltown Players to use our renovated Arts Center. If you’re not familiar with Milltown Players, look them up. I think they’ll make a nice addition to Simpsonville. Join me in hearing more by meeting us in Council Chambers at tonight (Tuesday)!
Several years ago, my husband was in a workplace accident that resulted in 3rd degree burns. After a terrifying trip to the local ER, we were promptly sent to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, GA. We spent a lot of time there. His recovery was long, painful, and difficult. But I am so grateful that because of the excellent care there, he is completely healed, and you cannot even tell he was so severely burned. I know first-hand how critical specialized, professional burn care is.
Children who experience similar injuries are sent to MUSC Children’s Hospital Pediatric Burn Center. The Simpsonville Fire Department, along with FDs across our state, participates in the Burned Children’s Fund by collecting aluminum cans for recycling. All funds go directly to help to ease the recovery process for MUSC’s pediatric burn patients and their families. Between 2017-2018, our FD raised $10,000 for the fund. In 2020, they saw a dip in donations to only $6,800. Please join me in helping them raise even more over the next year by dropping your aluminum cans off at one of our stations. It’s a really easy way to make a BIG difference.
WHEREAS, The League of Women Voters was founded on February 14, 1920,
during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association – just six months before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitutiongiving women the right to vote; and
WHEREAS, The League began as a “mighty political experiment” designed to helps 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters and to encourage them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy; and
WHEREAS,The League has expanded nationwide to include all fifty states and more than 700 local communities, and has included men as well as women as members; and
WHEREAS, For 100 years, the League has been a respected nonpartisan, activist,
grassroots organization dedicated to empowering voters and defending democracy; and
WHEREAS, The League of Women Voters of Greenville County, founded in 1951,
continues the League’s commitment to “Making Democracy Work” for all, protecting and expanding voter and voting rights, providing nonpartisan information about political candidates
and public policy issues, and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; and
NOW THEREFORE, I, Paul Shewmaker, as Mayor of the City of Simpsonville do hereby proclaim the month of February 2020 as “League of Women Voters Centennial Month” and congratulate the League of Women Voters of Greenville County on the League of Women Voters’ 100th Anniversary.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have set my hand and caused the seal of the City of Simpsonville to be affixed this 11th day of February in the year of our Lord 2020.