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City Council Meeting September 12

A need for perspective
Fight against crime gathers momentum
Warwick Jones, covering for Marc Knapp

Unbelievable! That is one word we would use to describe last night's meeting of City Council. Your usual correspondent, Marc Knapp would've used a word much harsher! Probably some 2 hours were spent addressing a very minor parking issue on Tradd Street. After the first hour, some Council members wondered out loud why they were spending so much time on the issue. The Mayor said the same thing and then spent another 10 or so minutes discussing it. Council member Shirley, trying unsuccessfully to wrap up the discussion, referred to the well-known philosopher Marc Knapp and loosely quoted him as saying that you don't need to be a "brain surgeon" to deal with this issue. (Actually Marc's words were "rocket scientist" but the correct sentiment was conveyed).

Simple issue of two parking spaces
The issue was simple. A resident of Tradd Street has space to park his cars on his property. Unfortunately, his driveway is very narrow, and he cannot access it if cars are parked on the road opposite the driveway. He asked the City to prohibit parking in the equivalent of two parking spaces, opposite the drive. He argued that nothing would be lost to the community. He was simply parking his cars on his property whereas normally, he would be parking them on the street. The City originally agreed to the request.

The neighborhood association was not happy with this and thought that no parking spaces should be given up. It said that there were more permits issued for parking in the below-Broad area than spaces available. The community could not afford to give up the spaces.

Residents of Tradd Street had an opposite view. All present sympathized with the owner seeking the non-parking zones. Some pointed out the ample parking that existed in the area and that nothing would be lost.

Simple compromise suggested
We are not sure who first suggested the compromise. It certainly seemed reasonable to us. Mr. Hernan Pena, head of the City's Traffic and Transportation Department was personally to see whether the access to the driveway was possible if only the equivalent of one space was made non-parking. If it still were not possible to access the driveway, the city would revisit the issue, and it seemed to us that two spaces would be made non-parking.

There was a lot more said. But are we really interested?

Formal request to City for help on East Side Patrols
The most important issue before Council last night was again crime. County Council members Darby and Pryor spoke of the initiative planned for the East side and of which we have already written about over the last few weeks. The Council members and City Council member Mitchell have held a number of public meetings and sought volunteers to begin patrolling the Eastside to help eradicate crime and drug dealing

The Council members sought the City's help, and specifically asked to be provided with shirts to aid in identification of the volunteers, cell phones and flashlights, and the provision of five to seven undercover policemen, at least during for the initial period. Importantly they also asked for assistance in providing employment opportunities for the youth on the streets that they will attempt to counsel. They seek the creation of some 300 semi or unskilled positions within municipal government or commerce.

Understandably, there was only applause for what the Council members were attempting to do. Mayor Reilly also spoke of the need to do more in enforcing local laws and ensure the criminals went to jail and remained in jail. He was working with staff on the issue.

Anti-loitering ordinance finalized
Later on in the session, the Mayor spoke of the anti-loitering ordinance that the City proposes to introduce. A draft proposal had been presented to Council at an earlier meeting and we wrote about it at that time. The ordinance has subsequently been tightened. It was supported by all Council members.

Dock Side Theater gets $3.65 million in federal grants. The purpose eludes us
Some things we just don't understand. The fact that so few questions were asked during the meeting of the Ways and Means Committee, didn't help our understanding. Take two items on last night's agenda relating to the Dock Street Theatre. The theatre was receiving two grants - one for $3 million and the other for $655,000. For what we can make from the paperwork, the money comes from the Federal Government via FEMA. The letter to the City, informing it about the success of its application for a grant, came from the State of South Carolina, Military Department, Officer of the Adjutant General. What really throws us is the title of the grants. The $3 million grant is for "Seismic Retro Pre-disaster Mitigation" and the $655,000 grant is for "Hurricane Wind Retro Pre-disaster Mitigation". Where do they make up these titles?

Hey, we're happy for the Dock Street Theater. But it would be nice to know what the titles of the grants mean, and the real purpose. The City, to obtain the grants, is obliged to provide matching grants of $1.076 million and $218,000 respectively.

Citizen participation - parking, reversionary clause in Clemson land transfer, etc
Citizen participation brought out a number of speakers. Most speakers addressed the parking issue and we won't go there again!

This writer drew attention to the fact that there was no reversion clause in the deed that transferred the property on George Street from the City to Clemson University. The property was to be the site for a School of Architecture and cost Clemson $1. We all know that Clemson has decided not to build at this site after yielding to public pressure. It is acquiring a site on Meeting Street for the school.

It is normal policy of the City to have reversionary clauses when it makes gifts of property similar to that to Clemson. The attorney of the City is quoted in the Post and Courier, some 5 years ago, as saying there would be a reversionary clause in the contract. But our research shows that the clause does not exist.

Clemson may well sell the property and use the proceeds to help finance the new school on Meeting Street, so nothing is lost. But this misses the issue. The City gave property to Clemson with an understanding that it builds a school. If it didn't, the property should revert to the City. Legally, Clemson could walk away; keep the property without fulfilling what was expected by the City. It may claim that it would never contemplate such action. Maybe not, but legal documents are there to ensure there are no misunderstandings, and make agreements enforceable. We thought an explanation was called for.

Marc Knapp, presently recovering from knee surgery, also spoke last night on a number of issues, he suggested that the City's provision for fees to cover those incurred in its lawsuit against the Town of James Island was likely was extremely low. Actual fees were likely to be well in excess of the amount authorized. He also spoke of the shortcomings of CARTA and the lack of detail in the amended budget.

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