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Nibbles ‘n Bits – Carr’s admission of omission, C of C + ACBA, and Hippodrome’s demise
Lee Walton

Sometimes it’s just difficult to select a single topic from the several revelations that pop-up in Charleston during a particular week. Such was the case this past week with several local news stories competing for attention in the local media. Three items in this past Wednesday’s edition of the Palter and Chatter were particularly interesting, because each dealt with the rationalization and acceptance of an underlying issue of failure, either corporate or personal.

Carr’s admission of omission
There are few who would argue with the broad, sweeping and rapid success achieved by the leadership skills and management style of Thomas Carr as he shouldered the heavy burden of Department Chief and lifted the Charleston Fire Department out of the depths of depression, anger and remorse following the tragic loss of nine firefighters in June 2007. In less than eighteen months he has worked diligently to modernize the CFD by rapidly adopting national training, command, and equipment standards. But, by all accounts, his greatest success has been earning the respect and trust of a department betrayed by the shortcomings of its past leaders.

Nonetheless, the admitted fact that he concealed his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease while being interviewed and vetted nearly two years ago is troubling. His admission of this significant omission now clouds the character of a man who knowingly withheld the very serious knowledge of a material fact that would probably have eliminated him from consideration had his condition been known to the Mayor, City Council, and the citizens of Charleston. Viewed under the clear, bright light of truth, what Carr did was wrong. There’s no acceptable way to dismiss or rationalize such a lie of omission. By doing so he tarnished his own character and image in the eyes of many who expected better from a new CFD Fire Chief.

C of C + ACBA
The C of C’s President Benson rides to the rescue again, this time for the long-suffering, longer foundering American College of the Building Arts (ACBA). The ACBA, darling of the Palter and Chatter, its board chairman, and the City Administration, is like a reoccurring bad dream. Much like the movie Groundhog Day, the same story just keeps happening over and over again. Each time a new champion with seemingly deeper pockets appears in the nick-of-time to snatch the ACBA from imminent demise only to get sucked down the same bottomless rat-hole until the next time. Even though Benson and, we strongly suspect, Mayor J. Pericles Riley snookered the C of C Board of Trustees into swallowing a Rococo plastered 6-ought hook, there’s hope that the State Commission on Higher Education, isolated from the maddening vapors of Charleston’s political intrigue by almost one-hundred miles of I-26, sees this little drama sequel for what it is and nixes any use of dwindling state public education funding for the financial and educational folly that ACBA has become.
Hippodrome’s demise
When emotion, hype, and arm-twisting from City Hall rule over sound business planning on the Peninsula, the outcome is often predictable and sometime even tragic. Apparently, such is the case with the Charleston Hippodrome Theater stuck in the same backwater location that sucked the former IMAX under in a whirlpool of debt. Even though the facility might be “amazing, perfect, and beautiful”, it’s still in the wrong place. Nothing at Aquarium Wharf has been even a marginal financial success, including the Mayor’s world-class Aquarium. A long succession of restaurants and businesses have come and gone for the same basic reason that every real estate broker has known since Omar first sold sand dunes to pharaohs, it’s location, location, location. Calhoun east of Washington is going to be a hard nut to crack as a tourist or local destination. It might as well be on the backside of the moon for most folks who want a livelier, safer place after dark. There are neighborhood restaurants, taverns and even small movie theaters tucked in shopping centers all over the Lowcountry with the common décor and ambience of an old cardboard box, but they do well year after year supported by loyal patrons who opt for the convenience, synergism of place, and safety not to be found at the east end of Calhoun Street.
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