The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

The Watch



October 29, 2011

Mayoral Election
Of ships and sails and sealing wax, …and (men who would be) kings

Warwick Jones

Who they are we do not know. But their hands are busily turning the spindles and creating a web - exceedingly tangled to better achieve their immediate purpose of catching and deposing Mayor Riley. Their purpose beyond his deposition is murky.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 08:06 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2011

Cruise ships
If the City had control, how much would really change?
CCL’s exaggerated fears for the environment
Warwick Jones

The dust on the cruise ship issue refuses to settle, at least in some areas of the Peninsula. The Coastal Conservation League (CCL) and others appear to be looking for ways to instigate a lawsuit. They say that they support cruise ships and the Union Pier plan but the number of visits and the size of cruise ships must be regulated by the City, regulations on waste disposal tightened, and traffic and parking studies be undertaken, inter alia. Two neighborhood associations in the historic district support the stand.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2010

Cruise ships
Some still call for a controlling City Ordinance
Don’t think so!

Warwick Jones

The resolution that City Council approved two months ago should have put the cruise ship issue to bed. Council, unanimously, gave the nod to the Union Pier Plan of the SC Ports Authority (SPA), and cruise ship visits to Charleston. Letters from the SPA were attached to the resolution acknowledging its commitment. If the SPA wanted to increase the number of visits, the size of the ships or the number of passengers, it would first seek approval from the City. It agreed to allow only one ship to berth at a time, an average of no more than 2 visits a week, and a maximum passenger complement of 3500 a vessel.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 10:00 AM

October 29, 2007

City Elections
Why I won’t vote for Joe Riley!,
Corrosion by power
Warwick Jones

There are number of reasons why I will not vote for Joe Riley in the City election next week. But perhaps the major reason is his already long tenure as City Mayor. Another term will take the tenure to 36 years. It is not the actual time that he has spent in office that is an issue. It is the concomitant corrosion of the political and administrative processes, and the too often subordination of the will of citizens to the interests of developers. Over his 32 years in office, Mayor Riley has built a network, largely in the business, development and professional fields that allow him to harvest hundreds of thousands of dollar for his political campaigns. We don’t know what the final figure will be for this year’s campaign but that 4 years ago, was approaching $1 million. This is a multiple of what any opponent can raise.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2007

A park at Long Savannah dedicated to the fallen firemen
Sincere emotion or political opportunism?

Warwick Jones

Who really knows the depth of the suffering of those close to the firemen that lost their lives? We know it is great but fortunately few of us have had to bear such a tragedy. The loss of parents or grandparents is heartbreaking but is inevitability. It is something that has to be accepted. We may bleed from the suffering but the wound usually heals.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 02:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 06, 2007

P&C criticizes County’s contribution to charities again
But why is it ignoring the same practice of the City?
Warwick Jones

Everybody can express an opinion including the Post and Courier. Since the budget session last year, it has been very critical of the County’s practice of distributing funds to charities. The practice has existed for some years but last year was the first the newspaper questioned it. It questioned it again in an editorial last Sunday.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 24, 2006

A growing frustration with City policy

The Mayor - an undeserving recipient of accolades

Warwick Jones

It is the neighborhoods with their abundant and historic well-preserved buildings that give Charleston its charm. Mayor Riley describes the City of Charleston as "world class". We too think it is. But publicly we have expressed the view that its stature is despite the Mayor's administration and not because of. We think that City policy is causing Charleston to lose its luster. Ordinances ostensibly designed to protect the historic areas are not being enforced and some have been recently amended to serve development.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 06:14 PM | Comments (1)

July 11, 2006

Needless eye sores!
The City can and should insist on the removal of old utility poles
Warwick Jones

We have written many times about the rampant development in the City, the generous allowance of variances and exceptions by the Board of Zoning Appeals, the low level of standards applied by the Board of Architectural Review. We'll concede that there are two sides to most and if not all issues, even though the merits for some have been underwhelming in our view. But we wonder what the City administration's and its supporters' reason can possible be for not removing old utility poles. Apart for the cost, which we believe is modest and will be borne by the utilities, we can't think of any.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 04:55 PM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2006

County Council - "In flux" or doing its job?
We take issue with the P&C, again!
Warwick Jones

Today's front-page headline in the Post and Courier was "County Council in flux". The tenor of the critical story that followed was that Council is divided on many issues, some of these have racial overtones, staff is particularly sensitive to criticism, and some are thinking of leaving. And all of this followed the introduction of single member district voting.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 08:19 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2005

Clemson School of Architecture
The public speaks loud and clear
What is the City doing?
Warwick Jones

The Board of Architectural Review (BAR) may have done Charleston a favor. Of course it didn't mean to. There was no doubt as to its collective view about the proposed Clemson Architectural School. It was in favor. But its indifference to the views of the public, expressed at the BAR meeting, in the press and elsewhere, and the revelations of the City's actions to secure approval for the proposed building, have stimulated public outrage to a level unprecedented in recent times. No it is not just the offending Clemson building, it is the whole "process". There are ordinances that have been defined to preserve the historic fabric of the City. Why are they not being enforced? Why are they being undermined? There are bodies whose purpose is to encourage preservation and challenge the forces that threaten the historic integrity of the City. Where are they? The Clemson issue may pass, but the broader issue most likely will remain and with it a challenge to the City to mend its ways.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 06:22 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005

A Conservation Bank for Charleston County?
Some serious issues
Warwick Jones, Editor

Within the next few weeks, County Council will consider the creation of a Conservation Bank to serve Charleston County. While the name and its implied purpose may resonate pleasingly with citizens, it should be rejected by Council, at least in its present form. Its creation will fly in the face of the oversight that voters were led to believe would be put in place for spending of the half-cent sales-tax proceeds. The entity that will be considered is not a bank. It will simply be another non-profit group but with a board that arguably could be controlled by the County Council, and with easy access to the sales-tax proceeds. There may well be good reason to form a conservation group to focus on Charleston County, but it should not have some of the offending powers proposed for the new Conservation Bank

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2005

Clemson School of Architecture
Time for a reality check
What are the City and Clemson playing at?
Warwick Jones, Editor

Neighborhood design, building design, and infill and redevelopment, must complement the neighborhood setting. Some uses are not appropriate. Inappropriate uses would include excessively large buidings. City of Charleston's Master Plan

There were times in my education as an architect at Clemson where we weren't taught enough about the context of where a building would go. We ignored buildings of historical importance and made each building a monument to something. We produced a sort of chaos in our cities where each building was fighting with one another. Clemson President James Baker, reported by Post & Courier 1996

So you are a young professional starting a career. You save hard and buy a condominium in the City. You probably didn't think too much about it but you presumed that City zoning rules would protect your investment. You certainly did not think that in a year or so, there would be a 60 foot wall right slam against your condominium. Too bad about the view out that back window. Too bad about the potential fire hazard and access to the back of your condominium. Too bad about the market value. Too bad for the owners of the four condominiums that adjoin one side of the site where Clemson proposes to build it new School of Architecture. According to the City, and the architects for Clemson, the owners just have to deal with it.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2005

Clemson School of Architecture

Was the Spaulding - Paolozzi gift proper?

Directors of the Foundation include Mayor Riley and Clemson faculty

Warwick Jones, Editor

Countess Spaulding - Paolozzi may be getting a lot of credit she would not want. The funds from her Foundation have been used to make a $500,000 grant to the Aquarium and a $1 million grant to the School of Architecture that Clemson proposes to build in Ansonborough. In recognition of the latest grant, the School will be named after her.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 11:54 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2005

Half-Cent Sales Tax - An uncertain direction
Cause for Concern
Warwick Jones, Editor

There is no doubt that County Council and the Cities spent a lot of time convincing voters of the need for the half-cent sales tax. Observing County Council meetings over the last few weeks it is becoming obvious that Council should have spent more time dealing with how the tax was spent. There is cause for concern.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 01:41 AM | Comments (0)

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 term
Warwick 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.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 07:17 PM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2005

An African American Museum that costs $60 million? A Contentious Issue.
Remember the Aquarium
Warwick Jones, Editor

Remember 10 years ago when Aquariums were the rage of the nation. Many cities aspired to build one and some actually did - to their ultimate sorrow. All are financially against the ropes and Charleston's is no exception. Ours cost over $80 million and is losing nearly $2 million a year.

Continue reading "An African American Museum that costs $60 million? A Contentious Issue."

Posted by Warwick Jones at 01:29 AM | Comments (3)

December 26, 2004

Mayor's attack on Councilmember Campbell could back fire

Warwick Jones, Editor

There is something troubling about the matter of the Mayor's accusations about Councilman Campbell. It is not what Councilman Campbell allegedly has done, but rather how the matter has been handled. The surprise attack at the last Council meeting and the revelation in the Post and Courier (P&C) today that the Mayor is taking the issue to the Ethics Commission smells more of politics that righting any alleged wrong. The P&C reported on the Mayor's charges in the Thursday edition but the timing on the decision to take the issue to the Ethics Commission made it in time for the Sunday edition when circulation is the highest. Funny, if the Mayor felt so strongly, why didn't he announce his intention when he spoke to Council on Tuesday? Is he seeking political capital?

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

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

Continue reading "Affordable Housing - Hailed, hyped and hobbled (Part 1)"

Posted by Warwick Jones at 02:07 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2004

Sales Tax Referendum - Why you should vote NO!

Warwick Jones, Editor

The sales tax referendum is only 4 weeks away. The City and County are now heating up their campaigns to yet again convince voters of a need for an increase in the sales tax. This will be the third attempt to raise the tax. The earlier attempts failed. In the case of the first, the tax increase was rejected at the polls, and in the second, because the vote was overturned by the Supreme Court who found fault with the wording of the ballot paper. Hopefully, this is the last time a vote is sought. But we cannot be certain. The Attorney General has questioned the legality of the wording and a legal challenge is very possible if the referendum is successful. And given the tenacity of the Councils, it is possible that a No vote may not deter them for seeking another referendum in 2008.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 05:26 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2004

The Aquarium - a potential problem for the City?

Warwick Jones, Editor

Last year the South Carolina Aquarium (SCA) incurred a loss of $2.4 million. This year, most likely another loss will be incurred though hopefully much less than in 2003. But cash flow could fall further and create a need to draw further on borrowings. The question is how much further can it draw and what could be the ramifications for the City of Charleston?

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 05:58 PM

September 08, 2004

The Historic Charleston Foundation - Watchdog or tail-waggin' Spaniel?

Warwick Jones, Editor

The Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) can take pride in the large role it has played in preserving many of the City's historic houses. Over the years it has acquired houses, imposed covenants, and resold the properties to buyers prepared to maintain their historical integrity. It has also played the role of watchdog in BAR, Planning Commission and Zoning Board hearings, often opposing developments that were out of character with the surrounds. As well as these things, it holds house and garden tours that do much to advertise the charm and attraction of our city. So having paid these compliments, there were many of us wondering why the HCF plans to sell the McLeod Plantation property to the American School of Building Arts (SOBA), and why it was so supportive of the City's plan to raise the height restriction in the Ansonborough Field area? Prima facie, we would assume that HCF would have opposed both these moves.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2004

Post & Courier acknowledges an issue with the Aquarium - at last

Warwick Jones, Editor

The Post & Courier's story today about the tardiness of the Aquarium in providing its annual report for 2003 should have been headline news over a week ago. Councilmember Robert George wrote a letter to the Mayor and other councilmembers on August 12, 2004 complaining about the issue and pointing out that the Aquarium had breached the terms of its sub-lease arrangement. The Post & Courier was informed at that time and has waited a week to air the issue.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2004

The Aquarium - What is the Mayor hiding?

Warwick Jones, Editor

What is the mayor hiding? The audited accounts of the Aquarium for its last fiscal year should have been available some months ago. Councilman Mr Robert George has asked Mayor Riley for a copy several times in recent weeks but his request has been denied. He followed up this request with a formal letter to the Mayor and Council which was given to us yesterday.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2004

Green space - Can we take Mayor Riley seriously?

Warwick Jones, Editor

"In the blink of an eye, we could destroy an irreplaceable natural area or allow a use which irresponsibly changes a special place. Therefore we must be more prepared than ever. We must have a community vision and sound proactive initiatives in place. All developments and physical changes in our community must pass two fundamental tests. First, is what is planned excellent? Is it the best it can be? If the answer is no, it shouldn't be done. Second, will what is being proposed be useful and celebrated from 50 to 100 years from now? if the answer is no, it must not be allowed. We don't have to make compromises in quality now, if ever we did." Mayor Riley. 2000 Inaugural Address

Mayor Riley has made a lot of noise in the past about Charleston's need for green space. Actually we have press clippings that go back to 1975 where he is quoted about the need. There also was a charette the City organized on parks and green space a month or so after the charette on Ansonborough Field. I suppose that this was some sort of palliative for us who resented the loss of Ansonborough Field, or a large part of it, to the developer's hoe.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 03:57 PM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2004

CARTA - How many are truly hurting from the cutbacks?

Warwick Jones, Editor

Well the Sales Tax referendum is only 4 months away. We can expect the City and the Post & Courier to crank up shortly to begin a blitz with reasons why we need to vote for it.

CARTA, although only the recipient of probably less than 20% of the funds, will be the horse flogged the hardest. The City and the newspaper concentrated their efforts on CARTA in their earlier efforts to garner support for the tax. We expect they will attempt to do it again.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 07:08 PM | Comments (2)

June 07, 2004

Some odd shapes among new County Council Districts

Submitted by The Editors

Have you seen the new County Council District maps? If you have, you are probably shaking your head as to how some of the boundaries were formed. For example, the area below Broad Street on the Peninsula is joined with Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms. Hullo, we thought, this looks very much like "gerrymandering"! We made some enquiries and although it indeed looks like "gerrymandering", there were reasons for the strange boundaries.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2004

Arguably Unfair Voting Practice

The Editors

Why is it that we persist in the expensive and arguably unfair voting process we have in Charleston County, City and South Carolina? Why don't we not adopt the preferential system that is used in most other western countries.

Presently, if there are more than 3 candidates in a race, there is a run-off election if no candidate wins 50% of more in the first poll. This system tends to favor the candidate with the most money, who is better placed to finance two elections. If there are 5 or 6 candidates, the run-off may be very unfair because the preferences of those who voted for the candidates that did not make the run-off are ignored.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)

What really is the intent of the City with new height restrictions?

The Editors

Why is the City fooling around with height and setback restrictions in the historic district. Could it be that the mayor is setting the stage for the development of Ansonborough Fields? We have tried to interpret the releases from the City Planning Department but their broader purpose defies us. Why is the height of a building on one side of Meeting Street allowed to be higher than on the other? And why are we lowering the height restriction is some areas and raising it in others?

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 11:17 PM

The C of C library - Are citizens impressed by the design?

The Editors

Most residents of Charleston travel along Calhoun Street at some time so few will not have missed the new College of Charleston library. It may be grand inside and we confess to not having inspected it. But on the outside, it leaves much to be desired. On a stand alone basis, the building has some appeal but in a modern setting, not in the historic section of Charleston. Its existance has contributed to the change in character in the surrounding part of the City. There is no point in admonishing the B.A.R. it seems impervious to criticism.

So what do citizens think? Send us you comments.

Posted by Warwick Jones at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

Post and Courier fights back

The Editors

Have you seen how the Post and Courier has begun to devote a whole page each week to Letters to the Editor? Did it hear of the pending start up of CharlstonWatch to fill the void in its coverage? OK, we are vain and maybe deluding ourselves. But we are not holding our breath in anticipation of unbiased reporting. Let's see how it covers the sales tax referendum before we make a final judgement.

Posted by Warwick Jones at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)

Will Ansonborough Fields save the Aquarium?

The Editors
The mayor is going to a lot of trouble to develop Ansonborough Fields. Could it be an effort to save the Aquarium, or at least an effort to lessen the financial hemmhorage? The mayor is intent on some form of development on the site that leads to the Aquarium. The development will include space for retail stores as well as affordble housing. Will this be enough to make a difference? We doubt it.

Posted by Warwick Jones at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

Calhoun Street Building is no credit for B.A.R.

The Editors

How does the mayor choose members for the BAR? It can't be because of their ability to perceive architectural merit. Take a look at the new office building on Calhoun Street, just opposite the Galliard Auditorium. There is no set back and it is higher than surrounding building. It is just an undistinguished big box. Oh well, at least it makes the Galliard Auditorium look better.

Posted by Warwick Jones at 08:39 PM

Where are the black councilmen?

The Editors

There are 5 black members of City Council. Despite the disdain that the mayor shows to black issues, why do these councilors, with the exception of Councilman Campbell, vote with him on all issues? Take the issue of Ansonborough Fields. They support the development of the Fields proposed by the mayor, presumably because they think there will be substantial affordable housing included. But why does affordable housing need to be here when there is so much of East Side and the Neck areas that are crying for renovation and revitalisation. Ansonborough Fields has been greenspace for more than 10 years. It should be left as such. And the Councilmen should note that the children of the East Side lack playing fields. We haven't heard any of the councilmen suggest that Ansonborough Fields should be used to provide this amenity to a conspicuously deprived section of the community. They should!

Posted by Warwick Jones at 07:59 PM

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.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)