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City Council March 7

Where is the scrutiny?
Questions on Ansonborough Field
Marc Knapp

Our thoughts turned to Mr. Bob George last night. Mr. George of course was the Council member that was defeated by Ms. Kathleen Wilson in the series of elections that began in November last. The ex-council member was a thorn in the side of the Mayor who went to a great and ultimately successful length to support her election bid. The new Council may be better liking to the Mayor. But it comes up short in other ways.

Take Tuesday night for example. There were three items on the Ways and Means agenda. These items were not trivial and included $150,000 for PASTORS, the non-profit group associated with Council member Gallant. The money was for the renovation of some rental properties for low-income folk. There was also $115,000 for emergency repairs on a storm water drain, and a parking lease agreement relating to the Medical University of South Carolina. It was all dispensed within a minute. And if there is an exaggeration in this time estimate, it is a matter of seconds. Not one question! We are not saying there was anything suspicious in these items. But the absence of any scrutiny is surprising, perhaps alarming. We bet that Bob George would have had something to say. Council member Fishburne probably would have asked questions too but was absent from the meeting. The member has now acquired the role of being the most inquiring on the Council.

The rest of the Council meeting took little time and to be fair to Council, there was little of substance. Most of the time was taken with presentations and Citizens Participation.

A heartening tale
We all laughed heartily at the speeches of the Fire Chief, some of his staff and Police officer Justin Sicheri. The amusement was in the telling of the tale, but it did not mask the gravity of the underlying situation. Officer Sicheri was pursuing an armed suspect when he suffered a heart attack. The police dispatch was notified immediately and with the cooperation of the Fire department, Officer Sicheri was being treated with a defibrillator in a matter on minutes. Prior to treatment, he was not breathing and his body was a deep blue. He came back to life shortly after treatment began and asked, apparently somewhat abruptly, as to what was every body doing. Looking very fit and healthy, he thanked his fellow officers, firemen and saviors last night, and spoke of the need for more defibrillators. After all, at $3500 apiece, they were not expensive considering the good they could do. And who in the audience was going to argue?
Why "affordable housing" on Ansonborough Field
My partner, Warwick Jones rose in Citizens Participation to ask why "affordable housing" was being placed on Ansonborough Field. Effectively, the "for-sale" units were being subsidized, to the tune of an average $400,000 each according to the estimates of one bidder. This was 5-6 times the level of subsidies paid by the City in the past. Why not sell these units at market rates and use the proceeds for "affordable housing" where it is sorely needed - in the East and West sides. Selling at market would net the City and extra $5 million, and much more if the rental "affordable housing" units were also sold. It may have been imagination but I think I saw the heads of Council member Mitchell and Lewis nodding in agreement during his comments. More details on the Ansonborough Field "affordable housing" were posted in a comment last week.

Mayor makes no mention of the development
And speaking of Ansonborough Field, it is interesting that the Mayor made no mention on the presentations last week by the three developers seeking to develop the Field. This is a major development, the cost of which could be $80 million or more. Certainly the bids need to be reviewed and discrepancies sorted out. Again as we noted in a previous posting, the suggestion of placing a supermarket in a building on the site of the proposed African American Museum, opposite the Aquarium, is indeed interesting.

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