Concerned citizens and community activists attended Trident United Way’s 2019 legislative outlook Monday night, Dec. 5, 2018 to hear from their local legislators. The outlook serves as an intermediary between constituents and legislators, streamlining the dialogue and informing citizens on what to expect from the statehouse during the first regular session of the new year.
Hosted by TUW’s Public Policy Council and Women United, the hour-long panel discussion highlighted housing affordability and the education system in Berkey, Charleston and Dorchester counties.
Legislators in attendance Rep. Lin Bennett, of district 114, or Charleston and Dorchester counties, and Rep. William Cogswell, elected to district 110, answered questions regarding their plans and goals for the upcoming session in 2019.
An audience member launched the conversation on housing affordability, wondering why her cost of living is so high.
Representative William Cogswell, a real estate developer, attributes those high living rates to inequity in the state house.
“Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties are funding over a third of all the state’s functions, “ Cogswell said. “The average resident in Charleston is paying about eight times more than the average South Carolina resident on a per capita basis.”
Knowing the growing pains of development in the Tri-County region firsthand, Cogswell asserted that, “It's not sustainable, and the Lowcountry cannot continue to keep up the burden of funding the entire state, meanwhile, not being able to take care of the people that live and work here.”
Though the Tri-County region is one of the wealthiest in the state, its school district struggles to compete. From constituent school boards to graduation readiness, Bennett, Cogswell and attendees discussed the most profound obstacles affecting schools in the Tri-County area.
“It’s not just funding,” representative Bennett informed the attendees. “How are we going to help these kids and their families? They need some kind of support system, which we don’t offer.”
Citing the inequity facing students, Bennett told the audience that the way the Lowcountry districts its schools is problematic.
“Students in better zip codes get better education,” she added. “It’s minority students that are suffering the most. There’s no reason for that. I’m going to fight for every kid’s ability to have a future.”
Whether that be attending a four-year college or a trade school, Bennett hopes to make every students’ path from the classroom to the workforce as seamless as possible.
The two ended the panel discussion urging attendees to continue staying engaged in local politics.
“Legislators are not the experts. We’re always looking to our constituents for guidance,” said Bennett.
Cogswell agreed, affirming that “our constituents are our checks and balances. We’re always listening and learning.”
Come January, Rep. Bennett and Rep. Cogswell will join the other 122 members of the South Carolina General Assembly to tackle issues affecting South Carolinians in and beyond the Tri-County.
TRIDENT UNITED WAY WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING LEGISLATORS FOR ATTENDING ITS FIRST LEGISLATIVE OUTLOOK: