Legislators must stop naming infrastructure

The practice of S.C. lawmakers naming roads, bridges and other infrastructure after other lawmakers should end.

newsroom@islandpacket.comMay 21, 2014 

South Carolina is fortunate to be home to thousands of admirable volunteers, humanitarians and professionals who make this state a better place. But the vast majority of these South Carolinians will never have a stretch of road, a bridge or other piece of infrastructure named for them.

And we doubt many of them would even want such an odd honor. Most would likely prefer that those they have inspired join them in doing good work that improves our state.

Unfortunately, our House members and senators overlook many of these citizens, instead naming infrastructure after other lawmakers. The self-indulgent behavior reflects poorly on these public servants who should spend the time tackling the state's many complicated issues.

The practice is not without a cost. Between 2006 and 2011, South Carolina spent at least $60,000 on highway and other structure signs named after state lawmakers or other individuals, according to a 2011 report by The Nerve, a government watchdog website run by The S.C. Policy Council. No one has done a cost analysis in the last few years, but we expect the spending pace has not slowed down.

This session, a concurrent resolution introduced by Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Blufton, Weston Newton, R-Bluffton and Ken Hodges, R-Green Pond, would name the intersection of the Cross Island Parkway and Spanish Wells Road for Rep. Andy Patrick, R- Hilton Head. Patrick is not seeking reelection. He also dropped out of the superintendent of education race after The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette reported on his financial problems.

Looking past his mere four years as a House member and his money issues, we disagree on principle with naming yet another interchange for yet another member of the General Assembly.

Sen. Tom Davis is of a like mind. The Beaufort Republican has consistently opposed the naming of infrastructure in honor of legislators whether they be active or retired and irrespective of the length or merit of their service. Davis has said he will not request that the House resolution be reported out of the Senate's transportation committee -- a move that essentially kills the resolution's chances of passage.

Davis is not alone in his opposition to the self-congratulatory practice. There have been several efforts to end it including one by Rep. Kevin Ryan, R-Horry, in 2011. Ryan proposed limiting the naming of public infrastructure to only deceased individuals who have distinguished themselves "in the line of duty as a member of the armed services of the United States or as a state or local law enforcement official, firefighter, or emergency medical service technician."

It was a step in the right direction that ultimately failed.

More lawmakers should come around to a more humble way of thinking and introduce legislation to end this self-important practice.

Certainly, there are members of the General Assembly who deserve a thank you. Lawmakers should honor them with a standing ovation and a handshake. That's the kind of acknowledgement public servants should appreciate.

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