In Sunday’s editorial, the editorial board outlines its goals and priorities for the coming year:
Each year, as we finish throwing out the Christmas wrapping paper, hang up new calendars and look forward to another year of scandals, surprises, excitement and disappointment, The Sun News editorial board pauses a moment to ponder the highs and lows of the past year and consider its priorities and goals for the coming 12 months.
We certainly don’t always have the influence needed to effect change, but what we do have is a platform that allows us to reach the ears of those who do. Most of those people are ordinary citizens, who read something that stirs a desire to help or who become angry at a report of public wrongdoing. We often hear from readers who felt compelled to act to right a wrong or improve the Grand Strand because of something they discovered in The Sun News. It’s those stories that keep us digging and writing and lifting a candle in the dark places of our community.
The past year has seen some positive signs of economic recovery – albeit a struggling one at times – as we continue to painstakingly pull ourselves out of the hole that we fell into in 2008-2009. The national, state and local economy continue to dominate discussions as the top concern of most residents, and our editorial board is no exception. The real estate market, historically one of our largest local industries, continues to flounder in a sea of foreclosures, short sales and falling prices. But other areas are showing some encouraging improvement.
Tourism numbers are up, with peak season admissions tax and accommodations tax revenues holding steady or growing over last year. Hotel occupancy rates, while not quite as high as last year, have managed to return to the levels seen before the downturn. And local unemployment rates have been surprising economic experts lately with their good news, even in what has traditionally been a tough offseason for the jobless.
As we move into 2012, we sincerely hope that good news continues, and we plan to do what we can through these editorial pages to ensure that it does. With that in mind, The Sun News editorial board will focus on five priorities in the coming year:
Rebuilding and reform | After the upheaval of recent years, we now have what may be a once in a generation opportunity to start putting things back together again. The advantage (if it can be called that) of cutting budgets to the bone is a better understanding of just what is needed and what is not. As budgets, agencies and government programs are slowly rebuilt, we have the opportunity to make new and better informed decisions on where to restore funding – and where not to – with the knowledge now of what worked and what didn’t.
The opportunities and the dangers are most obvious on the state level. Legislators have long promised an overdue look at holistic tax reform, education funding and government restructuring. The time is now. Local governments have not been quite as hard hit, although as the economy improves, they too will face decisions on what jobs to fill again and what programs to restore, revamp or reject. As accommodations taxes grow, plenty of would-be spenders will come calling once again, and the perennially needy Coast RTA, for example, deserves to be part of conversations on any new spending.
Now that the crisis has largely passed, however, the temptation will be to take the easy route and simply return to the broken and pieced together methods that have allowed us to muddle through in the past. We’ll be on the lookout for ideas that only go halfway and plans that don’t address underlying problems so that we can expose those halfhearted suggestions for what they are.
Good works | One of the great joys of recent years has been watching the amazing capacity for generosity and service evident in our community. Students, seniors, churches, nonprofits, neighbors and volunteers have all stepped up to help the Grand Strand weather the fierce economic storm that battered and bruised us.
Some of the best examples of this selfless dedication are the annual United Way drives in Horry and Georgetown counties. The agencies support dozens of community partners – 28 in Georgetown County, 45 in Horry County – that in turn work directly to change the lives of residents. The Horry County drive is on track to meet its $1.275 million goal, and after a couple of years of setting lower goals during the downturn, it may at last be time to look higher.
Most of those involved in such worthwhile pursuits seek no fame, but that is exactly what we hope to provide once more this year by telling their stories. If anyone should be held up as examples, worthy of recognition and emulation, it is these everyday heroes who go out of their way to help their fellow man.
Harmony | Can’t we all just get along? That sort of trite naivete is tempting after the year we’ve just finished, watching the U.S. Congress repeatedly butt heads, the relationship between our own governor and the state legislature worsen and local elections that sometimes featured more hostility than substance.
It’s an election year, which will probably make this goal a bit trickier than it might otherwise be, but even in the heat of presidential, national and state races, there’s a place for civility. We’re not talking about giving in just to be nice. Stiff debate and strong arguments will always have a place in our nation’s political discourse. But just as necessary is the art of compromise and negotiation, not to mention a basic respect for your political opponent. The shrill, divisive insults and knee-jerk indignation must give way if we are to move forward together as one community. Whatever their party or leaning, leaders who delight in throwing rhetorical grenades and who refuse to work with or even acknowledge their opposites will find little support on these pages.
Open government | We’ve seen this issue gain more and more prominence over the years as the public began to demand more and more information on the government that they pay for. It’s long been one of our favorite topics, whether it’s the governor’s emails or the spending reports of our local chamber of commerce. We’ll continue to highlight the issue when we can, always with a very simple mantra in mind: If the public paid for it, the public deserves to see it.
Accountability and honesty | Finally, the editorial board will continue to hold our elected officials and leaders accountable for their decisions and their statements. If somebody bends the truth or ignores it altogether, we’ll give it the attention it deserves. If our leaders put their own comfort and interests above the public that they serve, we’ll call them on it. And we’ll strive to give the proper due to those brave individuals who put frank honesty above political gain.
As an institution in this community, we want things to go well. We take seriously our responsibility of reporting and writing on the issues that affect the lives of all of our residents, and we encourage our readers to let us know when they think we’ve fallen short. Our contact information, as always, is located on the left of this page. We won’t always agree on controversial issues, but with your help we can all work toward a shared goal: improving and bettering this amazing stretch of land we call home.