The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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Shrimp 'n Grits


Lee Walton

Joseph Pericles Riley, Jr., having chosen politics as his only career, now finds his fate falling out of his control in the local public arena. Last week Pericles watched his mythical kingdom of Rileyworld continue to slip from his imperial grasp as a consequence of his three-decade mismanagement of the Charleston Fire Department. The unpardonable lost of nine CFD firefighters on Riley’s watch has now even been questioned by one of his handpicked lackeys, albeit now independently courageous Councilmen, the Reverend Jimmy Gallant. As Public Safety Committee Chairman, Gallant attempted to call a special meeting to ask Pericles and his “Good Old Boy” political crony, Rusty Thomas, for answers to demands for information from several of Gallant’s constituents, other citizens of Charleston, CFD firefighters, and firefighter experts from around the nation.

The total absence of information given Council explaining recent, smoke-and-mirrors Fire Department personnel promotions and transfers, compounded by demands for more input from City Council in the hiring of a new fire chief precipitated the meeting called by Public Safety Committee Chairman Gallant. Predictably, Pericles reacted violently to this ill-timed threat to his absolute control of his city and his council. Again, predictably, he used the only leadership style he knows – raw political intimidation and the cooperation of a willing accomplice, the owners and editors of the Palter and Chatter and other lap-dog cronies in the broadcast media. Pericles had to act swiftly and with much emotional appeal (theatrics) in a classical full-court-press damage control effort to control the minds of his now increasing and emboldened critics.

Pericles called a special press conference to rationalize and minimize the total lack of competent and skilled leadership of the CFD that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of nine firefighters. All the local media with cameras rolling took their cue from Pericles for the “prime time” production of, “As Rileyworld Turns.” Pericles predictably rationalized his mistakes with half -truths and falsehoods about how he was going to improve the CFD for what he called the “shortcomings” found in the Phase II Routley Report, which graphically enumerated hundreds of grave and horrifying mistakes in the command structure and senior leadership within the CFD. Pericles now has the audacity to boast that he will now make “the fire department among the best in America.”

According to his rhetoric and rationalizations year after year, Rileyworld has had the best fire department and the best fire chief in America. For the last thirty-plus years Pericles has been able to fool most of the people most of the time and some of the people all of the time; however, people are beginning to realize that the time has come when Mayor J. Pericles Riley, Jr. can no longer fool all of Charleston indefinitely.

Pericles continues to insist that his power over City Council is absolute, particularly when in comes to hiring a new fire chief. His stable of loyal cronies, lackeys, political hacks, and protectors, even includes former Charleston County Manager and County Councilman, Ed Fava, who in a recent Palter and Chatter letter to the editor, attempted to validate and defend Riley’s absolute authority to rule the City while chiding City Council for not understanding the nuances of a “strong mayor” form of municipal government and being “driven by personal motives.” Pardon us Mr. Fava, but demanding accountability and answers from elected officials in positions of responsible charge for the tragic, unnecessary lost of nine city firefighters is not a “personal motive” – it’s responsible citizenship.

Now Pericles wants the citizens of Charleston and his Council to simply close the book and put the tragic deaths of nine public servants behind us and simply “move ahead”. But how can Rileyworld move ahead with the same stale management and broken system of absolute power and control? Where is the accountability? Shouldn’t Charleston’s mayor be answerable to the City’s Public Safety Committee’s concerns without causing the resignation of it’s chairman? Pericles has failed not only Councilman Gallant, elected by the people of his district to represent them and ask tough questions, but he has failed all the citizens of Charleston in lacking sufficient leadership ability in the most basic of services a city delivers to it’s citizens - public safety.

The electorate of Charleston must wake up from Pericles’ false lullaby of failed leadership and demand accountability of its City Council at the polls. The concept of representative government was founded on the bedrock of public accountability, not half-truths, falsehoods, charades, theatrics, and blatantly false rhetoric. Charleston never had the “best fire department” or the “best fire Chief in America”, and anyone who would have us believe it is not only lying to the citizens of Charleston, but more disturbingly, lying to himself.

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