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Riley’s “shovel-ready” stimulus list – political candy for his cronies
Lee Walton

Over the past few weeks Charleston’s Mayor J. Pericles Riley has made a Herculean effort to convince citizens of the Lowcountry that his $1 billion wish list of “pork barrel projects” is the only way to save Greater Charleston from “…the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.” Both he and Governor Sanford have been dueling via a string of Palter and Chatter commentaries in vain attempts to claim the visionary high ground in a war of words reminiscent of two spoiled brats kicking dust at each other during recess. Unfortunately for our city, state, and nation, our Governor and Charleston’s mayor represent the polar-opposite political extremes in a national debate that is now shaping our economic future for the next several decades. One can only hope that the outcome of the coming congressional stimulus debates will result in an effective, measured response that will slow the downward economic spiral without triggering the unintended consequences of stag-flation, a return to the “misery index” of the Carter administration, or worse.

To his credit, Governor Sanford is one of a few in the national spotlight that understands the oxymoron of trying to spend our way out of debt. The undisputable logic of his closing comments in his January 9th commentary, “Borrowed stimulus…” accurately summarize the current quandary – “ issuing debt on top of debt to solve a problem created by too much debt threatens both the financial strength and the sustainability of our country.” Isn’t this the same death-spiral that brought down Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the largest brokerage houses on Wall Street? What makes congress, the future president, and even Riley think that spending what we don’t have to build a lot of things that we don’t need or can’t afford will save our national economy?

As for Riley, his sputtering attempts to legitimize his $1 billion “shovel ready” project list of “earmarks” with flapping gyrations and little-boy foot stomping are comical at best and tragic for the future of Charleston. Try as he might to discredit and belittle Governor Sanford, there’s one fact that still haunts Riley, Sanford is governor and he never will be – that brass ring was snatched from his scrawny grasp years ago by a much better man than he’ll ever be.

Apparently Riley’s recent name-dropping laundry list of ultra liberal, secular progressive national politicians proudly touted in his January 8th commentary was intended to impress someone – the only two he missed were Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy. Then there’s his contention that Charleston would “…set priorities through a transparent process and public hearings…” and that “…direct funding to local communities is the most transparent process…” This from the same hypocrite that orchestrated an unannounced, secret meeting with several other local politicians to solicit support for his $45 million Johns Island “Cross Island Parkway” to be funded with Washington Candy while gaining him political status and influence on Seabrook and Kiawah Islands. Given his past track record with public “white elephants” and financial rat-holes including the Aquarium, Maritime Center, Ball Park, Majestic Square, the Calhoun Street Drainage Tunnel, and countless others, Charlestonians can’t possibly have much confidence in his ability as a transparent, financial visionary.

One can just imagine what Riley would do if he got a pot of Washington Candy as a Community Development Block Grant. His deal-estate development cronies and political gadflies would be so thick at City Hall that his political side-kick, Louie Lightfoot, would have to pass out numbers for the “pay to play” queue to Riley’s office.

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