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County Council Meeting May 17

What a difference a few days make
CARTA to receive an extra $1 million. Conservation Bank to go back to Finance Committee for consideration
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

As is usual, much of the agenda on last night's meeting received rubber stamp approval. After all, most of it had been considered and approved by the Finance Committee. What was surprising was the decision to raise the allocation of sales tax proceeds for Fiscal 2006 to CARTA. The Finance Committee at its meeting last week stated that it would keep the allocation to 18% of the sales tax proceeds, a ratio that it fixed in the 2002 referendum paper. Committee members last week expressed fear that many voters would be incensed if CARTA were to receive more than this allocation particularly as the inclusion of CARTA as a recipient of sales tax funds was contentious.

The Finance Committee listened to CEO Howard Chapman's appeal for over $14 million last week but limited the allocation to $6.5 million. Last night, Council bumped it up by $1 million. Council member Bostic moved for the increase and it was seconded by Council member Scott and approved by Council unanimously. The newly allocated funds are to help in running CARTA but largely to finance the construction of more bus shelters. Sympathy to the request was helped by a long and intense thunderstorm prior to the Council meeting that surely would have drenched any CARTA patron waiting without the protection of a shelter.

As Mr. Chapman pointed out at the meeting last week, CARTA could use the extra funds immediately and most likely funds for Transportation (Roads, bridges etc) would be accumulated while projects are defined and brought to the expensive construction stage. Why couldn't CARTA use this money and take a lower allocation in future and still in finality remain within the 18% ratio, he said? As we said at the time, the idea had merit and clearly the Council thought so too. From where will the funds come is up to Council to decide on the advice of Mr. Windham. But is seems to us that it could easily come from either Transportation or Greenbelts.

Conservation Bank referred back to Finance Committee
At the Finance Committee hearing about 2 weeks ago, Council member Bostic introduced an ordinance to create a Conservation Bank for the Charleston region. The Committee decided that the idea should be first considered by the Green Belt Advisory Board. Our view on the proposal has been expressed in notes written two days ago and the time of the hearing two weeks ago. Last night Council decided to send the ordinance back to the Finance Committee for a rehearing. Council member Bostic said that in his opinion his idea had not been properly understood. He also cited the support for the bank and the editorial in a recent edition of the Post & Courier.

We are surprised at the about-face of Council as we view its first response as appropriate. We spoke to Council member Scott who seconded Council member Bostic's motion last night but voted in the Finance Committee meeting 2 weeks ago to send the proposal to the Greenbelt Advisory Committee. He said that some changes could be recommended to the Finance Committee that would make the Bank ordinance more palatable to its critics. This is certainly possible but we still feel that the Ordinance creating the Bank should be sent to the Greenbelt Advisory Board before it is considered by Council.

The writer is a member of the Greenbelt Advisory Board. As a matter of interest, it meets for the first time today at 3 pm.

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