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State of the City Address – Same Old Song, Same Old Dance
Lee Walton

Charleston’s reincarnation of the Eveready Bunny made his annual appearance before City Council last Tuesday evening, wildly flapping his arms, and beating his own little drum with the same old tired rhetoric, polemic hyperbole, grandiose claims, and hollow promises that the Lowcountry must suffer to hear year after year. After taking credit for Charleston’s relatively good economy, of which he happens to be a recipient, albeit not the creator, Mayor Riley wasted no time or effort in touting his close personal connections with the new Obama Administration and his prominence as the conduit through which promised federal stimulus dollars and assorted “Washington Candy” would flow into the City of Charleston.

Not surprisingly, Riley’s speech was peppered with his latest string of new economic “initiatives” to stimulate high-tech business growth within the City with new “state-of-the-arts” programs that would make his city a “national center” for progressive knowledge-based businesses. One must wonder why, with the same promises year-after-year, Charleston hasn’t eclipsed Charlotte’s Research Triangle or California’s Silicon Valley as the nation’s wonder capitol of world-class technology? If hollow promises and political hyperbole would make Charleston the world-class high-tech business incubator Riley now seeks, why hasn’t his last thirty-odd years of the same old rhetoric and shop-worn initiatives done so?

Riley also didn’t waste the opportunity to take a few well-aimed cheap shots at Governor Sanford about the composition of and methods by which the Port Authority Board would be selected. One can just imagine the emasculated lackeys Riley would stuff it with if given half the chance. It’s bad enough that he sticks his fingers into everything from County Council to the School Board. Just imagine what he would do with the Port of Charleston on the Peninsula – the Union Terminal would become more self-serving public monuments, hotels, trendy shops, and restaurants (as currently master planned), and the Columbus Terminal would become his latest award-winning infill urban redevelopment project funded by more tax-increment financing bond issues for the benefit of his already well-healed Irish-Catholic deal-estate development cronies.

The height of the Mayor’s hypocrisy in this year’s address is best demonstrated by his claim that his new Charleston Green Committee and its soon-to-be-selected Sustainability Director will make his city government “…become a leader in energy conservation.” If the city “…has been working on energy conservation for a number of years…” why doesn’t it turn off last year’s holiday lighting on all the palms on Broad Street from King to East Bay? At least it should have the decency not to burn most of them 24-hours a day. This from the same inspirational leader that outlaws non-polluting, street-legal electric vehicles, but defends empty CARTA behemoths as they wander aimlessly about the streets of Charleston burning expensive diesel fuel and spewing tons of toxic fumes throughout the Peninsula.

With the right challenger to face him, maybe The Mayor’s next few State of the City Addresses will be his last.

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