The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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I’m just a Pothole!
Lee Walton

Has anyone else noticed the rapidly deteriorating condition of the more heavily traveled streets and highways throughout Greater Charleston this winter? For the life of me, I can’t remember so many streets with unraveling pavement, loose asphalt chunks as big as cats, potholes the size of wheelbarrows, and asphalt ruts at major intersections. Notwithstanding the recently well publicized “graveling” of the asphalt pavements along I-26 and I-526, many other streets downtown, throughout West Ashley, Mt. Pleasant, and James Island are quickly becoming serious physical hazards. Of particular note are the deplorable pavement conditions on upper East Bay and Morrison Drive, Calhoun Street east of King, Lockwood Boulevard south of Calhoun, and the notorious oil-pan-splitting Bee Street. Other “rough and raveling” roadways throughout the area include several sections of Savannah Highway, Maybank Highway and Harbor View Road. As quickly as we learn to dodge a particularly bad pothole, another forms a few yards away. Weeks usually pass before the occasional shovel of asphalt haphazardly appears as a not-to-permanent patch.

Why can’t the State Highway Department, The County Public Works Department and area municipalities do a better job keeping major streets and critical commuter roadways in safer, less dangerous condition? With new copper gutters being installed for City housing projects and CARTA literally blowing millions of our half-percent sales tax dollars out the exhaust pipes of their empty, lumbering behemoths, area taxpaying commuters deserve better!

A bridge to nowhere – at taxpayer expense!
For those who track the financial goings-on in the Banana Republic of Charleston, the February 27th Palter and Chatter article, “Waiting to blossom”, that lamented the recession-inflicted financial woes of the much hyped Magnolia Development, contained a devilishly revealing conclusion. To quote reporter Katy Stech, “Money has not stopped flowing into the project. The site is a tax increment financing district, which provides the developer upfront money based on the tax revenue the property is projected to generate…”

The only problem is that the City TIF district tax revenue projected to pay for the new bridge and other ongoing infrastructure construction was based upon tax revenue that the project was projected to generate before the current game-changing recession. High-stakes deal-estate development gambles like Magnolia have soured nationwide as the article clearly acknowledged. In today’s “new normal”, scale-down, scale-back, refinance, and postpone indefinitely are new development buzzwords. But the problem with the TIF bond debt service requirements is that they were based upon a much larger, denser, and more ambitious mixed-use development plan that can’t pass today’s financial smell-test.
The tax generating development that finally occurs in Magnolia will be smaller-scaled and delayed as the article inferred. This creates a big problem for the City and tax-paying citizens alike. The TIF district bond debt was to be paid from revenue generated by new development, but if that revenue stream doesn’t materialize as originally projected, the bond debt must be paid from the City’s General Fund. The “full faith and credit” of the City was pledged to pay off the annual TIF bond debt service. If there isn’t enough revenue to meet all other municipal expense obligations and the Magnolia TIF bond debt service, guess who pays?

Charleston, a Port-of-Entry – for pathogens
The sad tale of the cruise ship, Celebrity Mercury, has hopefully played out as the first big tourist cruise event of the season, but not before Charleston and the cruise line got unwanted, national “black eye” news exposure for an onboard Norovirus breakout that sickened over 400 passengers and dozens of crew members. From the comments now filtering out in the news and on area blogs, many of the suffering passengers were all but complimentary about their cruise and first visit to the Holy City. New passengers waiting to board this past Friday were also treated to an unpleasant surprise after CDC inspectors and cruise line officials delayed the ship’s departure another day for a much more intensive ship-wide sanitizing scrub down.

Giver that the relatively dense lower Peninsula is now predominately populated by the transient tourist and hospitality industry, rotating around 1,800 passengers and crew through the local community once a week may have some serious unintended public health consequences. When considering tourist arriving from throughout the southeast to board and then visiting the Bahamas and other Caribbean ports in constant contact with worldwide infectious diseases, Charleston has all of the elements necessary to become one dense little petri dish in which to grow all kinds of unpleasant, possibly dangerous bacteria.

Lord help the fledgling cruise industry in Charleston if the Celebrity Mercury has another virus outbreak following on the heels of its most recent unpleasantness.

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