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So what else isn’t World Class in Riley’s Emerald City?
Lee Walton

For nearly four decades the citizens of Charleston have been either awed, misled, or intimidated by “…that man behind the curtain…” as he frantically jerked levers, pushed buttons or pulled strings to beguile Charleston with smoke, mirrors, glitter, festivals, and other assorted side-shows. Time and time again Charlestonians were told that, under Riley’s inspiring leadership, his self-made Acropolis by the Sea was second to none, “World Class”, and the envy of cities throughout America. Time and time again we were told that we either were the best of or had the best of all those municipal attributes that made this City second to none.

The Mayor’s incessant political hyperbole, when viewed in retrospect and in light of the findings of the 272-page Phase II Routely Report now brings many of his other repeated exaggerations into sharp focus under the strong light of reality. Less we forget, Riley’s own handpicked panel of national fire experts found his uneducated lackey fire chief and fire department “completely unprepared” to tackle the Sofa Super Store fire that resulted in the tragic deaths of nine CFD firefighters.

So what else isn’t World Class in Riley’s Emerald City? There’s nothing World Class or award winning about the dependable delivery of municipal public services or providing adequate public safety, but the former should keep city streets clean and flood free while the latter should protect the roof over our heads and allow us to walk the streets anywhere at anytime without fear of losing our property or lives. Over the past year the citizens of Charleston have been given ample reason to question the Riley Administration’s integrity, sincerity and the basic ability to set municipal priorities that put the citizen’s safety and welfare first above all other considerations. One need only pick the low-hanging fruits of the Mayor’s bad judgments and misdirected actions to bring down the whole house of cards masquerading as the Riley Administration.

For the past several days, afternoon thunderstorms have rendered many major City streets and neighborhoods impassable. Flooding downtown has become so commonplace that Charlestonians have to drive high-bodied, gas-guzzling SUV’s and accept street flooding as an everyday inconvenience that one should expect when living in the Lowcountry. The Palter and Chatter no longer bothers to report knee-deep flooding in Calhoun Street, East Bay Street, around the Medical Complex or the Market Area. If we’re lucky, one of the local radio or TV stations will at least warn us to avoid the usual City canals.

Why do we accept the same old shop-worn excuses? Riley has had a City Master Drainage Plan for three decades, but the expensive, show-place projects completed thus far have only scratched the surface of the problem. Tens of millions have been ostensibly spent to improve drainage in the East Bay, Calhoun and Concord area with only marginal results and questionable benefit. Why was drainage project priority given to this gateway to Riley’s monumental financial turkey, The South Carolina Aquarium?

The same can be said for The Joe, Riley’s namesake and diminutive want-to-be “Camden Yard” ballpark built on a former city garbage dump and tidal mud flat. Millions were spent to construct this facility, the adjacent Brittlebank Park and the extension of Lockwood Boulevard in an area that continues to settle not-to-slowly back into the Ashley River. Adding insult to injury, Riley chose to build and recently expand the City’s Police Department Headquarters and Municipal Court facilities in that same, most geotechnically unstable area of the City rather than consider more stable, cost-effective building sites off the peninsula. Last, but surely not least, were the financial blunders and good-old-boy deal-estate developments that gave city taxpayers the financial “black holes” known as Charleston Place and Majestic Square.

Little wonder that the Charleston Fire Department survived as an emaciated skeleton for over three decades with tragic results. Can the same be said for Riley’s Police Department? Rapes in college neighborhoods and burglaries in downtown churches are unacceptably frequent. Murders in the East Side have become an accepted fact of everyday life.

Why didn’t the Public Services Department have sufficient funding to hire and train the necessary building code inspectors that could have prevented or mitigated the Sofa Super Store tragedy? Why have tens of millions of tax revenue been spent to make Charleston a tourist mecca at the expense of the citizens who must live and work in a City whose infrastructure is either settling or crumbling beneath their feet?

Why isn’t the Mayor being held accountable for the consequences of his decisions? It’s time for the citizens of Charleston to ask the tough questions and demand factual, truthful answers.