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Crime & Flooding, the Sept-children of Pericles
Lee Walton

Why have the citizens of Charleston allowed themselves to be numbed by the deplorable state of two of the most basic responsibilities of municipal government? Why, decade after decade, do we tolerate the levels of criminal activity and urban flooding that has become commonplace and acceptable in our everyday lives? Are the citizens of other cities with similar population demographics, tax bases, resources and challenges willing to accept such intolerable levels of drug activity, murders, assaults, robberies and property losses to urban flooding as commonplace events or business as usual? Two recent Palter and Chatter news articles this past week exemplify the level to which Mayor J. Pericles Riley and his administration of subservient poltroons have desensitized the citizens of Charleston and conditioned them to accept the unacceptable.

Pericles tolerates Crime and its conjoined twin, Urban Blight because, at a level that is just barely tolerable to the citizenry, they become useful tools to promote urban renewal, infill and redevelopment of older, less affluent and less desirable neighborhoods. Older urban commercial and residential neighborhoods, by their very nature and evolution, are generally characterized by working families of moderate means and resources. In Charleston's urban core, these neighborhoods also contain the highest concentrations of multi-generational minority populations. So why is urban crime allowed to reach such levels in these neighborhoods and why, in a city, according to Pericles that had, "…the Greatest Police Chief in America…and…the best Police Department in the Southeast…" doesn't Pericles give more than an occasional public walk-about with TV news crews to this most basic of public services?

A review of Glenn Smith's Sunday, August 27th article, CRIME, contains a vital key that explains why at least 17 citizen-driven efforts to reduce crime never got traction much beyond the initial planning effort - a lack of committed public leadership, priority and resources on the local municipal level. Sure, Pericles is always there to get the initial press coverage, shake hands, co-op anything of political value for his own benefit, and pledge support for each community based initiative. But, when the cameras are gone and the supporters start to fade away, Pericles' support quietly slips out the nearest unwatched door like he does after most speaking engagements. Why? Why is nothing of consequence ever delivered by local government to those crying out for help? Could it be because stable, relatively crime free working class minority neighborhoods just don't fit into Pericles' vision of what he wants his Acropolis to be? Compared to more modern upper income residential subdivisions and trendy shopping attractions, they also don't pull-their-weight in the generation of tax revenues - that's what makes them vulnerable to manipulative, covert redevelopment schemes.

Just look around at where the City's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts are located - Right! They're in the crime ridden, blighted neighborhoods, primarily, Upper King and Meeting, the East Side and the Charleston Neck. Strangely, the existence of blight is one of the essential legal elements necessary before a municipality can designate an area a TIF district. The customary land planning objectives of TIF districts are urban renewal and redevelopment. And what is Pericles' objective for his TIF districts? Increased property taxes, sales taxes, business license fees, hospitality taxes and accommodation taxes - it's like a gold mine to fund greater, more glorious, magnificent monuments for his Acropolis. So, if Pericles' grand scheme is to rid his Acropolis of blighted areas and redevelop them using TIF districts as the mechanism, he's found the perfect, legal redevelopment tool, but he's got to make the citizens tolerate just enough crime to make his scheme work.

Unlike crime, Pericles tolerates urban flooding throughout his Acropolis because he doesn't possess a sufficient knowledge or understanding of the problem to grasp its magnitude and complexity. Its solution is long-term, very expensive, underground, out of sight (unless it doesn't function properly) and most importantly to Pericles; it's not glamorous or very newsworthy. Stormwater management and problem resolution have always been a mystery to Pericles. It's one of the unique issues that have plagued his administration for three decades. He fears what he can't understand and sees anyone as a threat if they understand what he can't. That's why he isn't willing to hire and keep a professional, experienced engineering staff qualified to tackle the problem on the required scale; he just can't stand to delegate the long-term management and solution of this complex, technical issue to the competent, professional experts essential to its resolution.

Over a decade ago, just before Pericles was up for reelection for the even then umpteenth time, a flurry of blue and white bumper stickers were seen around Charleston boldly stating the obvious. As seemingly crude as it was, this statement is still applicable today - It's the Drainage Stupid.

Your Comments:

What's it going to take for Charlestonians to WAKE UP!?!?! RIGHT ON!

Posted by: rastamule at August 30, 2006 03:49 PM

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