The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
October 20, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
TAPAS - Socialist tidbits and assorted Left-wing hors d’oeuvresLee Walton
The Cottages at Longborough
As predictable as flooded streets, crime on the East Side, and empty DASH buses on a Sunday afternoon, when anyone dares to let a little air out of one of Mayor Riley’s world-class social engineering balloons, the Palter and Chatter can be counted on to promptly counter with a public relations blitz to repair any perceived damage to the Mayor’s ego and image. Such was the case again last Wednesday when that journalistic wonder of Columbus Street, David Slade, countered recent criticism about one of Riley’s most heavily taxpayer subsidized deal-estate projects, The Cottages at Longborough. Slade’s latest sop to Riley, “Affordable city condos draw dozens of applicants”, dripped with the typical kudos, personal endorsements, high praise, and favorable spin which typifies articles by Slade as he and his Palter and Chatter puppet-masters do the Mayor’s bidding and damage control.
October 13, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Freddie’s busted and Fannie’s whacked
But Riley’s plan is still on trackLee Walton
Mayor Riley’s plan to provide affordable housing on the Peninsula remains as rigid and impractical as ever as our nation faces a financial crisis of epic proportions triggered by sub-prime lending to unqualified, mostly first-time, homebuyers who simply lacked the basic economic knowledge, personal budgeting skills, and resources to own a home in the first place. Faced with a string of recent City sponsored first-time homeowner failures and subsequent costly buy-backs, the Charleston Homeowner Initiative has become an embarrassing oxymoron to the City Administration and another in a long line of financial rat-holes into which Riley continues to toss millions of taxpayer dollars.
March 10, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Elpis mortgage default fails the Smell Test
Charleston City Council’s unanimous vote without debate or question last week to bail the nonprofit Elpis out of default on its Josiah Smith Tennent House $1.4 million mortgage spoke volumes about the extent of control Mayor Riley now exercises over his council, ostensibly elected to exert fiduciary control in the public’s best interest. From its inception in 1993, with the acquisition of the Josiah Smith Tennent House from the City for $5, Elpis has functioned as a funding funnel through which approximately $6 million have flowed from private donations and City and federal coffers with the unconstrained blessing and support of the Riley Administration. Over $1.5 million in federal HUD funds alone were awarded to Elpis by City Council. Apparently, the only worthwhile Elpis asset remaining is the House itself with a recent book value of $2.6 million and a $1.4 million mortgage. What else of public value has been purchased with or provided by the unaccounted for millions is anyone’s guess.
March 05, 2008
City Council, March 4
Elpis - where has all the money gone?
Parking contract awarded but with conditionsMarc Knapp
One wonders about our City Council. Elpis Inc, a non profit group, has received about $1 million from the City to support social programs and help restore the Josiah C. Tennent House on East Bay Street. The group has also received over $3 million in private donations and from bank loans. It has now defaulted on a bank loan and the City has agreed to buy the building for $1.415 million, the amount owed to Wachovia. The City will borrow the funds from Charleston LDC in a 20 year term loan, bearing interest not more than 4.5%.
March 19, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
Gentrification & Revitalization – Two Edges of the same Sword
Robert Behre offered Palter &Chatter readers a rare glimpse of in-depth, timely journalism in Sunday morning’s front-page Debate over gentrification a social, political hot potato. His article gave a fairly accurate description, from the local perspective, of a debate that is now occurring in many coastal cities throughout the South. This increasingly familiar cycle of urban renewal is now producing whole city blocks of new townhouses between Spring and Cannon Streets to fill the insatiable demands of mainly white, affluent empty nesters and retiring “Boomers from Off” who are discovering or rediscovering the benefits of living in the relatively dense, pedestrian friendly urban environment of Peninsula Charleston.
December 13, 2006
City Council, December 12
Mayor and Council get pay boost
More funds for Aquarium; the Budget; and Longborough.Marc Knapp
It may not have been the most important item on last night's agenda, but it was probably of the most interest. Council voted a large increase in the salary of the Mayor, and an even larger percentage increase for themselves. Beginning January 1, 2008, the Mayor's salary will be $149,000 a year, up 19% from its present level of $125,200. The increase for Council members will be much larger in percentage terms, up 36% to $15,000 from $11,000 presently.
March 30, 2006
Ansonborough Field. City seeks more "affordable housing"
Developers face a conundrum.Warwick Jones
The City may not always be sensitive to criticism. But at least it has its finger in the wind. It seems as though it felt a need for more affordable housing on Ansonborough Field. But whether this breeze was real or imagined, we are unsure. African-American members of City Council originally wanted "affordable housing" included in the development of Ansonborough Field, a reflection of the fact that a housing project was demolished to make way for the development. But we sense that enthusiasm has waned as members realize that the housing to be provided as affordable, is not. The City is persevering to ensure substantial "affordable housing" will be built on the Field. As before, we think it makes no economic sense. (See Afforable Housing on Ansonborough Field? March 6, 2006)
Posted by Warwick Jones at 07:16 PM
March 29, 2006
City Council, March 28
Stormwater fees, affordable housing and crimeMarc Knapp
There was much on last night's agenda. However, most of the discussion was on two items, affordable housing and crime, neither of which were on the agenda. Discussion on the former was precipitated by a major development proposed in West Ashley and that on the latter by citizens' comments.
March 09, 2006
City Council March 7
Where is the scrutiny?
Questions on Ansonborough FieldMarc Knapp
Our thoughts turned to Mr. Bob George last night. Mr. George of course was the Council member that was defeated by Ms. Kathleen Wilson in the series of elections that began in November last. The ex-council member was a thorn in the side of the Mayor who went to a great and ultimately successful length to support her election bid. The new Council may be better liking to the Mayor. But it comes up short in other ways.
March 06, 2006
"Affordable housing" on Ansonborough Field?
Developer's estimate suggests it makes no economic senseWarwick Jones
We have often wondered how serious the City is about "affordable housing". We wondered out loud more than a year ago (November 25, 2004) in a note Hailed, Hyped and Hobbled suggesting that there had been a lot of talk but not much action over the years. This was followed in early 2005 with a flurry of intent by the City to move on a number of projects. Some of these projects are underway though the housing provided may still be beyond the financial capacity of those most in need. But if there is a single project that brings into question the City's policy, it is that of Ansonborough Field. Much of the "affordable housing" will be beyond the means of the needy and it will be provided by what amounts to effectively an incredible subsidy. Indeed, one has to ask as to why the City is persisting on providing "affordable housing" on Ansonborough Field? It makes no economic sense and can only be because of political considerations, or stubbornness.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 10:53 PM
March 01, 2006
Developers present plans for Ansonborough Field
A supermarket is proposed opposite the AquariumWarwick Jones
There are three finalists in the bidding to develop Ansonborough Field. Each gave presentations and a description of what they planned for the Field to a panel that consisted of City staff, the Mayor and some council members. No details relating to costs were discussed in the public part of the session though undoubtedly they were discussed in the executive sessions.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 11:29 PM
November 09, 2005
City Council Meeting November 8
Cab fares, and "affordable housing" at LongboroughWarwick Jones, standing in for Marc Knapp who is ill
There wasn't much controversy at last night's Council meeting. Council approved an increase in taxi fares and amended the ordinance relating to "affordable housing" at the Longborough development of the Beach Company. As usual there was the usual slew of re-zoning approvals. But it seemed that all the re-zonings issues were only of local interest.
October 21, 2005
City Council Election Debate - District 4
Crime and "affordable housing" are major issuesWarwick Jones, Editor
We won't try and determine the winner of last night's Candidates Forum. There were five speakers at the meeting organized by the League of Women Voters. Each candidate spoke well and credibly about the problems of the District and their plans should they be elected. In total, there are seven candidates for the seat that is presently held by Kwadjo Campbell but who has chosen not to run again. Two of the candidates were not present last night because of personal reasons.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 06:48 PM
October 05, 2005
City Council Meeting October 4
Daniel Island Residents seek Court actionWarwick Jones standing in for Marc Knapp
There was no mistaking the ire of Daniel Island residents at the Council meeting early in September. The rezoning and City action to change an ordinance, designed to allow an "affordable housing" development in the center of Daniel Island was wrong they said. The issue was now back before Council, having received the approval of the Planning Commission. The residents last night again voiced their opposition to the Zoning and Ordinance change. But there was more, they declared their intent to take their grievance to the Circuit Court. This is the usual course of action after the Board of Zoning Appeals rejects an appeal against an earlier decision.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 08:36 PM
September 14, 2005
City Council Meeting September 13
City cranks up its "affordable housing" program
What about Ansonborough Field?Marc Knapp
Affordable Housing was the main topic in last night's council meeting. Fortunately, the discussion was more civilized than that of the previous Council meeting. Nor was there anything contentious.
August 17, 2005
City Council Meeting August 16
A new low in Council rhetoric
Move to change Ordinance to thwart Daniel Island residentsMarc Knapp
It was not an inspiring evening. It hit a low when the African American council members, Council member Lewis excepted, turned the grievance of Daniel Island residents in to a race issue. They were not to be persuaded by anything the residents said, or for that matter, by the African American minister who supported the residents. The minister spoke of the grievances she and other West Ashley residents had over a similar issue had with the City in relation to an "affordable housing" project.
April 27, 2005
City Council Meeting April 26
"Affordable Housing" under spotlight
Costs questionedMarc Knapp who covers City Council
"Affordable housing" was under the spotlight at last night's Council Meeting. It started of with a presentation by the City's Housing and Community Development Department. This was later followed by comments from Don Cameron of the City of Charleston's Housing Authority and questions and comments from Council members George, Fishburne and Shirley relating to the high cost of the City's initiative using the proceeds of a proposed $10 million bond issue.
April 13, 2005
City Council Meeting April 12
Citizens protest cut back at Day Camp
Proposed allocation of HUD fundsMarc Knapp who covers City Council
It was a long night even though there was little up for discussion. The Ways and Means and Council Meetings were delayed for nearly an hour while Council had a photo session. And then there was about an hour of presentations and recognitions.
April 04, 2005
"Affordable housing"- Strong initiative by the City
City will have to look to the Neck and Daniel Island for future developments in longer termWarwick Jones, Editor
One must applaud the recent efforts of the City to boost the availability of "affordable housing". At the same time, we have to note that its ability to provide "affordable housing" is becoming restrained. It is not only a matter of finance, but also availability of affordable sites. As we have noted in earlier comments, the Neck area is the only part of the Peninsula that holds real prospect of hosting housing that is affordable for families that fall well below median income levels. The right of the City to buy another 17 acres of land on Daniel Island for "affordable housing" at the developer's cost should give rise to more rental units, we believe.
March 23, 2005
City Council March 22
Some affordable housing issuesMarc Knapp who covers City Council
Usual issues on zoning…..
It was essentially a "meat and potatoes' night. There were no major issues, though of course this was not the case for some of the individuals disputing re-zonings. Council was sympathetic to the neighborhood who was opposing a re-zoning from Residential to Residential Office. The property was located at 16 Oakdale Place but one of its sides lay along Saint Andrews Boulevard. This was not enough to allow for the re-zoning as far as Council was concerned. And there was the change in conditions for a previously approved Planned Unit Development (PUD) that fell under the Bees Landing Master Plan and located between Bees Ferry Road and Ashley Gardens Boulevard. The applicant was reducing the density of residential units but adding business units. This was approved though there was some concern about the increase in traffic that would ensue. The mayor promised a traffic light at the intersection of the main road and the entrance to the development
March 08, 2005
City Real Estate Committee Meeting - March 7
How much "affordable housing" on Ansonborogh Field? Problem with the "affordable housing" bond issueWarwick Jones, Editor
The City spoke again of its broad plans for the development of Ansonborough Field at the Real Estate Committee meeting last night. Essentially the City plans on constructing about 250 condominium units, 2 small hotels, a possible building for a culinary school and some commercial space. It plans to move to a Request for Proposal (RFP) sometime in the next year or so. But last night's meeting was about pre-qualifying potential bidders for the project. The Mayor said that he hoped (expected) that there would be at least $5 million available from the RFP consideration that could be used to establish Concord Park and to pay the State Port Authority for a small parcel of land that abuts the Field. Concord Park will be the 5 acre space between the developments at either end of the Field.
February 23, 2005
City Council Meeting - February 22
First step taken towards an African American Museum
But financing hurdle is highMarc Knapp who covers City Council
As usually happens, the Mayor got his way. At issue was $250,000 of funding to make a preliminary study for a new African American Museum. But in fact, the issue was the museum itself. To approve the funding, the final objective had to be endorsed. After a spirited debate, the funding was approved, but not unanimously. Council members Shirley, Fishburne and George voted against the proposal. All black members of council voted for the funding.
February 15, 2005
City reveals plans for Ansonborough Field
Project includes an hotel and "affordable housing".Warwick Jones, Editor
The City's plans for Ansonborough Field got their first airing last week before the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association (HANA). Few liked what they saw or heard. But there was no point in taking it out on the messengers.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 12:13 AM
December 19, 2004
"Affordable Housing" - some views on architecture
7 Charles Street.
Thank you for the excellent review of the affordable housing situation in the city. I agree with you that the term " affordable " is relative but would like to share some additional thoughts regarding this definition. My interest in this subject is keen as I have volunteered to design a small project on the Eastside for the purpose of selling affordable units to first-time home buyers . My thoughts or musings on the subject may be of interest to others since they resulted from my effort to define " affordable housing " in the broader sense before beginning the design process.
December 16, 2004
Will Jimmy Gallant remain on Council?
Warwick Jones, Editor
City Council member Jimmy Gallant is now recovering from triple by pass surgery. We understand that he is doing well but not well enough to return to normal duties any time soon. In fact his doctor has ordered him to rest for a prolonged period and he is taking at least a 7 month "sabbatical" according to a letter circulated to City council members. The question now becomes will he return to City Council, or indeed, being so severely incapacitated, should he not resign? Should there be an election to replace him on Council? After all, 7 months or more is a long time for an area not to have representation.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 02:56 PM
December 08, 2004
City Council Meeting - Dec 7
Council OK's 6.3% budget increaseMarc Knapp who covers City Council
Council approved the $116.1million budget for fiscal 2005 with relatively little debate about the projected expenditures. The budgeted amount represents a 6.3% increase over the previous year and a real increase of about 4% after allowing for inflation of about 2%. Much of the discussion about the budget took place in the meeting of the Ways and Mean Committee. Mr. Steve Bedard, the City's CFO, was questioned frequently about items in the budget, particularly by Council members George and Fishburne. But there was nothing revealed that we would describe as contentious. However, the discussion in Council did give rise to some other issues, and some which took on very heated tones.
November 25, 2004
Affordable Housing - Hailed, hyped and hobbled (Part 1)
Warwick Jones, Editor
Introduction, Conclusions and Part I. The Recipients
We started working on this report about 2 months ago. It was prompted by a number of factors. Firstly, there was the concern of Council member Lewis that the City of Charleston had become very tardy in distributing funds that had been allocated to its Redevelopment and Preservation Commission. As he observed, there were many needy recipients. Fossicking in the data relating to HUD grants led us to Council member Gallant's interest in non-profits -- in particular Elpis Inc and Pastors Inc. We were struck by the seeming favored position of these two non-profits in obtaining HUD funds and the fact that neither was a significant "affordable housing" provider. Our interest rose when we observed the presence of two real estate developers and the Mayor of Charleston on committees at Elpis. One of these developers is the principal of the firm that plans to develop the Neck, an area that Council member Gallant represents.
Editor's note: Sections 2 and 3 have neem removed from the site for space reasons. However they can be viewed by downloading the report in PDF form. To view or download PDF version of this article( all sections), Press here
August 31, 2004
City too busy to consider "affordable housing' applications
Warwick Jones, Editor
For those of us who own our homes and which are in good condition, housing is not an issue. But for those who don't or who have homes desperately needing repair, it is. And there are a lot of people in Charleston who would like to own a home but can't afford it, or own homes that need urgent repair. Most of these people are hard working but are victim of the generally low wages and salaries in South Carolina, and the rising trend of real estate values in Charleston. To buy a home or to renovate, these folk need help. They can seek special loans from lending institutions, or assistance from non-profit organizations. Or they can apply through the City's "affordable housing" program. Or can they?
August 09, 2004
Senator Ford Speaks Out - If the Neck is developed, the residents must be protected
Warwick Jones, Editor
The potential development of the Neck Area has received a lot of press in recent months. As presently conceived, the development will be very large and re-vitalize a depressed and neglected part of Charleston. The city, which is encouraging the private developers, feels it will be an excellent project. It gave the nod to the development at the last meeting of Council. In discussing the Neck, the majority of speakers including the mayor, exuded good feelings about the development. Only one council member, Wendell Gilliard, expressed reservations. His was the only dissenting vote on approving the broad terms of the development.
May 19, 2004
Assistance with downpayments needed
Warwick Jones, Editor
Housing in Charleston may be much cheaper than many other parts of the nation. But then again, wages and salaries are much lower. Consequently, owning a house in beyond the reach of many folk. The need to help these people has spawned a number of programs the most important of which are funded largely with funds from HUD. The Cities and County also provide funds and to departments that are manged by them. They also support The Bank Consortium which provides low-cost loans and assists with closing costs on home purchases. I have no issues with these things except to say that I wish there were more transparency in the City's financings relating to affordable housing. We know how the money goes out but no records are kept (or available) about how it is spent.