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The “New Gaillard Center” for no new taxes – The Big Lie

Lee Walton

U.S. Representative Joe Wilson had it right when he blurted out “You lie” during President Obama’s State of the Union Address. The same can and should be said for Mayor J. Pericles Riley’s ridiculous claim that the sources of the $71 million for the public’s share of his latest $142 million world-class “Gaillard Center” would come from existing city revenue sources and new borrowing that would not impact taxes.

Hot on the heals of Riley’s latest mid-summer announcement of his proposed “New Gaillard Center”, proudly heralded as the City of Charleston’s most ambitious and expensive public project ever undertaken, are Riley’s well orchestrated, well timed and masterfully choreographed pleas to County Council, the Charleston County School Board and his own hand-picked lackey City Council. He now has the brazen audacity to demand that they each should forgo tens of millions in anticipated, and arguably budgeted, property taxes expected by each at the end of the current 10-year King Street Gateway Tax Increment Financing District.

Riley’s well timed, typically extravagant proposal is being touted as another, albeit surely the most expensive, in a long string of “must rush approval through – once in a lifetime opportunities” that require immediate public action without time to logically think of either the consequences or alternatives to such an extravagant commitment of finite public revenue. Each of the elected councils being asked to relinquish these much anticipate revenue sources could otherwise use these needed sources of funding for general operating budgets and funding or debt service for other needed capital projects.

The financial shell-game that Riley and his chief pettifogger, “Charming Charlton” are now playing before County Council, the School Board and Riley’s own twelve-member council of emasculated sycophants is nothing but a Big Lie! Long anticipated tax revenues planned to fund operating budgets and other badly needed projects, but now diverted to Riley’s “New Gaillard”, must be replaced by other sources – there’s no free lunch. Arguably, anticipated property taxes, when no longer required to retire TIF bond debt, would also be available to reduce existing property taxes, business license fees or any of the other numerous and often oppressive public tax sources giving badly needed relief to city and county tax payers.

Notwithstanding the obvious threat from Riley’s latest world-class vision, the timing couldn’t be worse. Local businesses and non-profits are struggling to just stay afloat. Employment is stagnant, and many working-class families are barely hanging on in a hand-to-mouth existence. What kind of leadership example does this latest of Riley’s thoughtless schemes represent? It must surely rank right next to “let them eat cake” as a crass, careless use of public resources.

Joe Wilson had it right, but in this case, it’s Joe Riley – You Lie!

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