The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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City Council Meeting January 10

Citizens' comments hold most interest
Who should nominate the Mayor pro tem?
Marc Knapp

It was a brief meeting. We could be flip and say it was because of the absence of Bob George and his questions over matters before the Council. But in reality, there was little of issue on the agenda that was worthy of questioning. The first meeting of the year opened with the welcoming of new Council members, followed by awards and the usual rezoning matters. And just in case you have not been following, there are two new Council members, Robert Mitchell and Kathleen Wilson. Councilmember Mitchell replaced Kwadjo Campbell who did not run for re-election. Council member Wilson replaced Robert George who she narrowly defeated in the election.

Citizen claims regulations are not uniformly applied
If there were highlights to the meeting, they came from comments by citizens, and Council members speaking on non-agenda items. A resident of the Sherwood Forest development in West Ashley gave a very impassioned speech. He was incensed that he was threatened with a fine of $1000 a day for leaving a Bobcat (small front end loader, not that of the feline species) in his drive. He had just returned from helping in the hurricane-ravaged South after an absence of some months and was confronted with what he considered an injustice. He spoke of the decaying and dilapidated houses in his neighborhood, which the City had neglected. He spoke of the drugs and crime about which the City was doing nothing. He could wear the threat of a fine if the City enforced all of its other regulations and ordinances but clearly it was not doing so. The Mayor had met with the gentleman earlier and he repeated at the Council meeting his assurances that all the issues would be looked at.

Seniors do not have to pay strom water fees
In the Citizen's Participation period, I questioned why, of the seven properties to be annexed, five were not paying any storm water fees. Two were exempt and the other three were not paying any fees at all. No one on Council could or would answer why. After the meeting, I asked Laura Caveness, Public Works Director, why these properties were not paying any fees. The reply was that three of the properties did not have any buildings on them; therefore, they did not have to pay any fees since without a structure on them they did not impact the storm water system. The other two were exempt because of a little known ordinance that if you are over 65 year and have the homestead exemption, i.e.; owner occupied home, you can get an exemption from the city and not pay any more storm water fees. I would suggest that everyone that meets these two requirements call the Charleston Public Service office at 843-724-3754 and get the necessary forms to be exempt from this tax.

Preservation bodies question direction of City's efforts
My partner Warwick Jones also drew attention to the concerns of the Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) and the Preservation Society as to the City's planning and zoning and the adverse impact on the historic ambience of the City. He noted that the HCF is planning a public forum to discuss the issue and the Preservation Society has asked in its latest edition of its journal whether the City preservation standards are being eroded. He also noted the outrage relating to the proposed design and placement of Clemson's School of Architecture. This was manifest in the numerous letters to the Post & Courier opposing the school.

Who should select the mayor pro tem?
Council member Shirley was obviously upset with the appointment of Council member Waring as Mayor pro tem, to replace Council member Morinelli. Council member Waring held the role in 2004. Council member Shirley noted that it was also Council's right to make the appointment though Mayor Riley made the nomination. He drew attention to the fact that in the 17 years he had been on Council, he had held the position only once. He said he was not seeking appointment but thought that Councilmember Fishburne who had been on Council for more than 8 years deserved to hold the position and suggested he be considered for 2007. What the Council member did not say, but what was a clear implication, the Mayor needed to look beyond his chosen few in making such appointments.

Civil law likely to frustrate Council member's hopes
8incil mans Council member Gilliard came up with the "lost cause" of the evening, He asked Council and the City Attorney as to what could be done about loitering. He was referring to crime in the East and West sides of the City in particular, and one presumes, drug dealing. He asked as to whether property owners could be held responsible for the people to whom they rent. Presumably, he wanted to have landlords evict, or refuse to lease to loiterers or perceived criminals. Council member Gilliard may have noble desires and a strong feeling of frustration in dealing with what is happening in these areas, but some how we think that civil law will stand in the way of his desired remedy.

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