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Struggle for Stimulus purse strings to pit Riley against Sanford
Lee Walton

If this past weekend’s Senate debates offered one clue of local importance in the ongoing evolution of the pending Obama-Pelosi Stimulus Bill, it’s the strong probability that federal funds to South Carolina, and the Lowcountry in particular, will flow through the state government and Governor’s Office and not directly to Charleston City Hall. Given the magnitude of federally mandated state-level regulatory infrastructure already in place to administer and allocate federal funds for state transportation, education, and public infrastructure projects, even most liberal members of Congress are leaning strongly toward state-level oversight via existing grant and loan programs developed and enhanced over many decades. The last things members of congress need during future campaigns are reminders of stimulus fund graft, corruption, and uncontrolled waste for lack of sufficient fiduciary oversight, particularly with a very partisan bill as this one promises to be.

Notwithstanding Mayor Riley’s specious contention that Obama-Pelosi “Washington Candy” should be tossed directly into Charleston coffers, local governments may only have direct access to stimulus funds through well-regulated federal oversight incorporated into the existing Community Development Block Grant Program. Mercifully, gone are the heady and giddy days of direct federal funding to municipalities from the Revenue Sharing Program that Riley greatly coveted during his early terms.

Riley’s adoption of the national municipal mantra that “…direct funding to local communities is the most transparent process…” to create new jobs is in stark contrast to Governor Sanford’s contention that, if the stimulus bill passes over his strong opposition, strict state oversight will be essential and critical to control waste and misuse. Recent political pontificating in Washington by Riley and his former executive assistant and one-time protégée, conveniently named as a liaison to the nation’s mayors, is only the preliminary jousting in a power struggle that is sure to heat up the airwaves, front-pages, and asphalt between Charleston and Columbia. Riley is hell-bent on exercising as much influence in Washington and Columbia as possible to achieve his “spoiled-brat” objectives, Unfortunately for Riley, Governor Sanford has become a worthy suzerain and impediment to the mayor’s “world class” grab for all his “Washington Candy”.

With a City Hall pork-laden project funding wish list of over $1 billion, Riley is sure to have many a dust-up with the Governor over the next few years. One thing for certain – Riley will meet far better than his match if he decides to take on Mark Sanford.

Let the fun and games begin!

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