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City Council, April 10

Animal welfare ordinance faces no hurdles
Strange explanation of Foundation's investment with Al Parish
Marc Knapp

It's been more years than we can count in the making. And the Committee that was responsible for the Carriage Horse Welfare ordinance before Council yesterday was not the first to make an effort. Council was not inclined to dispute, or even discuss any issues relating to the ordinance. It was passed with only three Council members opposing because, in their view, the ordinance was not necessary.

SPCA endorses ordinance
Perhaps Councilmember Fishburne summarized the view of many members. He was not happy with some aspects of the ordinance but was going to vote for if. It had been drafted by a caring citizen-committee after much deliberation, and for that reason, deserved support. He and other members were probably encouraged by the comments of Mr. Charles Karesh, who heads the local SPCA. He endorsed the ordinance without qualifications.

Only two members of public take issue
Only two members of the public rose to take issue with aspects of the ordinance, one of whom was my associate Warwick Jones. He noted that the ordinance required horses be taken off the street when the “heat index” reached 125 or above. The “heat index” was devised by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and reflects a number of factors - in particular temperature and humidity. Mr. Jones said this threshold was too high. He submitted a chart prepared by NOAA that indicated that a heat index of 125 above was in the “danger” or “extreme danger” zones for humans and animals. The application of this threshold would have had no effect last year on limiting carriage operations despite heat-wave conditions for a number of days and headlines in the Post and Courier cautioning readers of venturing out in the heat. Another member of the public suggested shortcomings in relation to carriage loads, temperature, stall size and enforcement.

Council member Gilliard asked Mr. Tom Doyle, who represented the carriage companies as to whether there been any deaths because of heat or exhaustion in the last 5 to 10 years. Mr. Doyle said there hadn't been. Council member Gilliard then rhetorically asked why was it necessary to introduce measures limiting the operation of horses. “If it ain't broke, why fix it?” said some other Council members. To see the Ordinance, Download file.

Why were funds given to Al Parish for investment?

We raised the issue of the investment by the Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation (CDCF) through Mr. Al Parish. The initiative for the creation of the CDCF came from the City some years ago and has been being funded at least partially by the City. Mayor Riley is a director. We asked why a City initiative like this, was placing money with an unlicensed investment adviser such as Mr. Parish and for seeming speculative investment? It seemed very inappropriate. Council member Shirley had a similar feeling when the Post and Courier published its first report last Saturday on the likely loss of considerable sums, and charges to be brought against Mr. Parish. He immediately rang the executive director of the Foundation, who was a friend, and was assured that public monies were not involved. In fact, the monies come from private subscription and the Foundation could sort of do what it wished. (So drop dead Jones and Knapp!) Mayor Riley commented that the amount was about $35,000, and the board intended to invest in high grade securities - government bonds – and not to speculate.

There is something not credible about these explanations. If the funds were marked for high-grade government securities, why wasn't Councilmember Shirley told when he made his first inquiry? And really, are we to believe that the Foundation went out of its way seeking Mr., Parish to manage this investment? These no/low risk, low yield securities can be bought from any broker and indeed the return is little different from that offered by a bank on deposits. Why was Mr. Parish sought out at all? His self proclaimed skills were not needed for this investment. He touted the high returns he could achieve by his “in house” proprietary methods. And if the Foundation believed that these returns could be achieved on no-risk government bonds, we have a bridge in Brooklyn we could sell it. Or maybe Mr. Parish has already sold it? And regardless of intention, why was the Foundation dealing with an unlicensed fund manager/financial advisor?

Council members support Officer Simmons…….
A number of Council members spoke strongly yesterday in support of police officer Willie Simmons. Ms. Simmons was suspended for two weeks because of an incident relating to a skateboarder at Waterfront Park. It was alleged that she used excessive force in apprehending a skateboarder. The incident occurred last year but a film clip was shown publicly only a few weeks ago. A number of Council members spoke of the incident at the last meeting of Council, and how it was an obvious setup to engender sympathy for skateboarding, and at the expense of the officer’s reputation. Ms. Simmons had a clean and impressive record of performance noted Council members. Councilman Gilliard said that by virtue of the media, the incident had become a national spectacle. We need to be more supportive of law enforcement, he said. He also took issue as to what was “excessive” force. That used on Rodney King some years ago was certainly excessive. But there was no comparison with that force used by Officer Simmons. It was all out of proportion. Council member Lewis was worried about the impact on the local police force and the likely intimidation by the issue. He had observed an individual skating along King Street amongst traffic. He asked whether this was legal. And if not legal, why the nearby police officers made no attempt to apprehend the skater.

………But Mayor Riley doesn’t
Mayor Riley felt compelled to respond. In no circumstances would the City of Charleston condone the “unnecessary” use of force. This incident was handled by the book. It was thoroughly considered and the substantial punishment was accorded by the seriousness of the offence, he said. He spoke of the high standards of the City police force and the need to maintain these high standards. No officer with a gun, can use such unnecessary force.

We understand that Officer Simmons is appealing her punishment

And what of those fire trucks?
It came at the very end of the meeting as Council members were beginning to prepare to leave. Council member Lewis decried the fact that he learned of some important City matters through his constituents, and not through Council. In particular, he noted a major accident relating to City fire trucks. Council had never been told about this even though the damage was considerable. He also noted that at the last Council meeting, the City agreed to buy two more fire trucks - and they were costly.

Considering the lateness and the timing, the Council member’s statement went nowhere. It will be interesting to see whether the matter is raised again at the next meeting.

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