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Will Jimmy Gallant remain on Council?

Warwick Jones, Editor

City Council member Jimmy Gallant is now recovering from triple by pass surgery. We understand that he is doing well but not well enough to return to normal duties any time soon. In fact his doctor has ordered him to rest for a prolonged period and he is taking at least a 7 month "sabbatical" according to a letter circulated to City council members. The question now becomes will he return to City Council, or indeed, being so severely incapacitated, should he not resign? Should there be an election to replace him on Council? After all, 7 months or more is a long time for an area not to have representation.

The letter sent by Council member Bleeker to other council members asked that all questions to Mr Gallant be directed to her. She also said that Council member Gallant was a client of her law firm. If a council member cannot communicate with Council member Gallant, it seems clear to us that measures should be taken to elect a replacement.

We are unsure of what the law stipulates in a situation like this. Out of deference to his constituents, we think Council member Gallant should step down from council. And taking a "sabbatical" is not really an option for an elected official. As a strong and consistent supporter of the mayor, we can assume that the mayor will oppose a special election for a replacement . Not that the mayor's support is threatened in Council but as Marc Knapp observed last week, there seems to be tension amongst council members and some new hostility towards the mayor from at least two of his traditional supporters. The Neck area is represented by Councilmember Gallant and much is slated to happen over the next few months with steps leading to its redevelopment.

Council member Gallant is also reported to have resigned and severed all ties with Agape Ministries. This begs the question as to whether he also is resigning as a director of other companies in the non-profit conglomerate such as Pastors, Elpis and JDW Networks.

Elpis active in promotion
It may be no more than a coincidence, but Elpis has been active in promoting itself in the wake of our report "Affordable Housing- Hailed, hyped and hobbled". There was an article in the Post and Courier extolling the dental service that is being located in the newly renovated Josiah Smith Tennant House (JST House) that is the headquarters of the corporation. Elpis also conducted a mailing campaign. We don't know how extensive it was but some people on the Peninsula have received color flyers in the mail noting the virtues of Elpis. And then there was the article in the Charleston Regional Business News where the Reverend Dallas Wilson tells of his decision to renovate the JST House. Strange that, Elpis acquired the JST House from the City in 1993 with an understanding that the house was to be renovated. Besides, Elpis has a board which one hopes would not allow Mr. Wilson to make unilateral decisions of such magnitude.

We still standby our opinion on Elpis. If its desire was to help the needy, it could have eschewed the renovation of the JST House and established a center far faster and cheaper elsewhere on the East Side. More than 10 years have passed since Elpis bought the building. The provision of the services of which it now speaks could have been provided years ago. The funds that have been spent could have provided extensive services and probably allowed for a generous contribution to "affordable housing" as well.

Pastors continues to look financially stretched
And we would like to reaffirm our opinion about the Pastors group as well. We did a search in the County offices yesterday and in the light of our search, we wonder how the group is going to be a meaningful provider of "affordable housing". At the end of 2003, Pastors repaid a mortgage that existed over the business center it owned and developed on Columbus Street. This is fine by itself, but the loan seems to have been repaid from the proceeds of mortgages taken out on two new building acquired from the City some days before. If one were aware of these moves at the time, the question would have been raised as to where was the money coming from to finance the renovation of the new properties, to turn the houses into saleable units? And considering the cost of the properties and the size of the mortgages, how affordable would these houses be if renovated?

For the record, the two houses cost $22,726 and $43,385 respectively and were funded by the City. The funds received from each of the new mortgages amounted to $116,250. The mortgage that was paid off amounted to $138,774. Mortgages and notes payable at the end of 2003 amounted to $234,766, well up on the previous year's balance of $138,775.

Pastors looks to the City and HUD for finance. In the year to May 31 2004, it received $100,000 from HUD and is slated to receive $45,000 in fiscal 2005. Will this be enough to pay the salary and expenses of its executive director of about $50,000 a year, service the mortgage, and pay for the renovation and other costs. We doubt it. It will have to seek further funding in our opinion.

The report by the City's Department of Housing for the year to May 31 2004, referring to the two houses, stated that rehabilitation of the 49 Poinsette Street property was completed, and that of Strawberry Lane, was 69% complete. The search at the County office revealed that both properties are still owned by Pastors. Is it that the houses are " not affordable" for buyers? Meanwhile salaries, interest and other costs chip away at Pastor's assets.

Again for the record, the company has acquired more properties this year on Nunan Street but it is interesting that another property that was to be sold to Pastors by the City has now been sold to Elpis. Is Pastors stretched? The City's action report for fiscal 2005 is strangely silent about Pastors plans, yet the company is slated to receive $45,000 in HUD funds.