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James Islander takes issue with Post & Courier

Errors, distortion and misinformation

If there was a Pulitzer Prize for disinformation Brian Hicks would be on the short list. His recent piece on James Island displayed, in only a few hundred words, an amazing facility for factual error, distortion and misinformation.

His “explanation” of the state’s annexation law would alone qualify him for this year’s Pinocchio Award. According to Hicks, the state legislators changed the law to “allow the town to jump marshes and bodies of water to incorporate as a city”. The fact is that the law was a brainchild of none other than Joe Riley, in his brief stint as a state legislator. It was written by Riley for the sole purpose of allowing the City of Charleston to jump those marshes and bodies of water and begin its endless march toward annexation of James Island. To ascribe this legislation to the Town of James Island makes as much sense as blaming the Poles for WW II because Hitler invaded their country.

Mr. Hicks goes on to scold James Islanders for not having a property tax and suggests that we’re somehow getting a free ride. He neglects to note that we pay the same property taxes as everyone else in Charleston County. Is he suggesting that we should not get public services for these taxes?

The same is true of the half-cent sales tax and other local taxes and fees. There’s no James Island exemption that I’ve heard of.

Police protection is another one of Hicks’ peeves. He complains that the Town somehow persuaded the state legislature to exempt it from a “law” requiring certain levels of police protection. No such law exists. The requirement he refers to was based on an Emergency Regulation issued by SLED in October 2005, at the urging of the City of Charleston; the Town of James Island was clearly the target. That’s why the state legislature wrote it out of the incorporation law.

The listing of funds that other entities provide to James Island is equally misleading. Most towns and city governments receive this funding and more. And among local governments the City of Charleston is usually the first hog at the trough.

In his indignation at the cost of James Island’s “free ride”, Mr. Hicks conveniently overlooks the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars that the City has spent over the years fighting the Town’s incorporation, a seemingly endless effort that even has City Council members grumbling. He also overlooks the cost of duplicative police, trash pickup and fire protection that the City of Charleston has brought upon itself by aggressively gerrymandering James Island. He does not mention the several million dollars of James Islanders’ public money that was turned over to the City of Charleston when the courts ruled against the Town in the past. Where did that money go?

If Mr. Hicks had simply asked “why?”, as journalists are supposed to do, and asked it of James Islanders, he might have formed some different conclusions. He might have noted, for example, that while Peninsular Charleston has gotten a Baseball Stadium, an Aquarium and even ice skating in Marion Square, James Island got...the Sewage Treatment Plant on Plum Island.

Nowhere in the piece does Mr. Hicks mention that each time there has been a ballot to form a town James Islanders have supported it overwhelmingly. Islanders have paid Attorney’s fees from their own pockets, have volunteered to refurbish the modest Town Hall, and in general have shown a degree of civic pride and grassroots determination that other communities might envy.

All we James Islanders want is the power to control our own destiny. On July 4, 1776, some very wise men expressed this longing when they declared that:

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government“

Works for me.

Kenneth C. Jacobsen
CAPT USN (Ret.)
607 Wampler Drive
James Island
795-7519