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City Council, April 24

Holocaust speech provokes reaction
City to form a “Green Committee” Is it really necessary?
Marc Knapp

Every year, members of the City’s Jewish community speak before Council as part of the Days of Remembrance of the Holocaust commemoration. Candles are lit and short speeches made about the horror of the Holocaust and the need to guard against a repetition. The ceremony usually passes without incident. But this year, one speech raised the ire of at least one citizen, and understandably so.

One of the speakers for the Jewish community drew a parallel to what happened in Germany and the trouble in the Middle East. He noted the existence of 600 million Muslims. “We need to stop them today”, he said. We blinked. Maybe he didn’t intend to be so inflammatory but to tar all Muslims with the one brush was offensive and inappropriate.

Too much for a Muslim citizen
And as we suspected, it was too much for Mohammed Idris. Mr. Idris is a Muslim and a frequent speaker before City council. He took serious issue with the inference that all Muslims were bad. We won’t report all that he said in the Citizens Participation period. But he did say all races or religions produced some evil persons. African Americans were being persecuted in the days of the holocaust but this did not mean that all whites were bad. But like the Jewish speaker, he also went too far and some remarks were offensive.

Mayor Riley had the power to curtail Mr. Idris’s speech after some of his remarks but wisely chose not to. Mr. Idris was provoked. To restrain him may have blown the incident out of proportion.

Unfortunate generalizations
Generalizations are unfortunate. And like the Jewish speaker, it is easy though irrational to work up antipathy to Muslims with what is going on in Iraq. But all Muslims should not be condemned because of the actions of a few. We note that the Muslim community has been the most consistent in the support of the Citizens Patrols Against Drugs on the East side. At the same time, the support from the Christian churches has been minimal according to members of the Eastside.

City begins Green initiative
The only item on last night’s agenda worthy of comment was the City’s Green initiative. The initiative has a number of objectives but the prime is the “creation of a local action plan on climate change”. As can be imagined, these also encompass such things as energy conservation, reducing traffic jams, improved transport choices and so on. The City will also form a Charleston Green Committee to be charged with developing civic policy recommendations related to energy conservation, greenhouse gas reductions, green buildings and development programs and “sustainability leadership”

We are cynical
We are a little cynical. The move seems to have emanated out of the US Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement of which Mayor Riley was a signatory. This occurred in 2005 and now nearly 2 years later, the matter is before Council. If it were important, shouldn’t it have come a lot sooner?

The move comes with reports of savings. “In 2006, we ( the City ) lowered our carbon dioxide levels by 19,000 tones by installing more energy efficient lighting, enhancing the efficiency of our heating and air conditioning systems and installing low flow water devices. These reductions are equivalent to the removal of 2800 vehicles from the streets of Charleston. These same retrofits also benefited the City and its taxpayers with over $550,000 in annual energy savings”. .

Who made the calculations?
We would like to know the basis for such calculations and who made them. We understand that a major part of the reported savings came from improvements at the Guillard Auditorium. Equipment was old and obsolete. It needed replament anyhow. Aslo, the formation of a special committee seems more like political opportunism rather than a genuine desire to protect the climate. We would have thought that staff was capable of deciding on most of the matters to be set before the Green Committee

Concern over pollution arising from trucks serving proposed new port
We also rose in Citizens Participation to comment of the pollution issue relating to the proposed port at North Charleston. A citizen had previously risen to speak of the potential pollution from the truck trips generated by the new port. A resolution was also on the Council agenda asking the US Army Corp of Engineers to verify the data on the final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed port.

We noted that there was a network of railway lines in Charleston. More containers could be hauled over these lines than at present. Indeed, it would not be an impossible task to boost carriage by the equivalent of 6000 truck trips a day limiting the increase in the number of truck trips over I-26. Of course it would be necessary to create another terminal outside Charleston where the containers are unloaded and then reloaded to trucks. Will it be less efficient and cause delays in delivery? Probably, but pollution, and pressure on I-26 would be contained.

Streetscaping on Lower King - again!
Council approved a $119,000 contract with Davis and Floyd Inc for design of the lower King Street streetscape. There was little comment except that some Council members hoped that the business on King street would not be disturbed. And the Mayor assured them that any disturbance would come only with the construction phase which was likely to be after the busy Christmas season.

But nobody asked why this streetscape was being undertaken? Wasn't this part of King Street improved some years ago, Remember the headlines in the Post and Courier when the well known merchant Berlins refused to pay for its assessment because the scaping was uncessary or too expensive. So why are we doing it again?

Congestion on Bees Ferry Road - again!
It almost seems a lost cause. Yet another citizen rose to ask/plead for some relief to the traffic congestion in the Bees Ferry Road area. It reminds us of Mark Twain's comment on the weather. "Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it". Of course this is not true in the case of the CIty. It is attemptimng to make it worse, The CIty has asked the County to effectively approve the Long Savannah Planatation by moving the Urban Growth Boundary and allow the development to annex into the City. This development will add some thousands of houses to those already planned for the area. Traffic congestion is likely to get worse rather than better though from what the citizen said, it is hard to see how it could get worse.