The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
Sofa Store Fire
May 27, 2009
City Council, May 26
Rare musical treat for Council goers
Preliminary plans for fire victims’ memorialMarc Knapp
I never thought that covering City Council meetings would give me an opportunity to be a music critic. Last night’s meeting featured Council member Wilson and two other members of the Charleston Symphony, playing the second movement of Debussy’s Sonata for Harp, Viola and Flute. The performance was in celebration of this year’s Spoleto Festival.
May 13, 2009
City Council, May 12
Citizens criticize lack of facilities at parks, pedestrian safety, and firefighter pensions
And more grant applicationsMarc Knapp
It ought to have been a short meeting. There were no public hearings and no “first readings” on the Council agenda. And the agenda for the Ways and Means Committee was largely Grant applications. But a lengthy and plodding presentation by Staff on “Bicycle Friendly Community” and an active Citizen Participation period extended the meeting to about 3 hours.
February 25, 2009
City Council, February 24
Anger over Sofa Store fire accountability flares
New Council member, Boat abandonment, new bond issueMarc Knapp
The embers over the accountability for the Sofa Super Store fire were fanned by some citizens last night. Members of the family of one of the lost firemen spoke harshly about the issue. Their appearance before Council was precipitated by the release of the report on the fire by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). One of the speakers asked why the report was not on the agenda of the Council meeting. It ought to be, he said.
June 18, 2008
City Council, June 17
Chief Thomas says farewell
Preservation Plan, Long Savannah and CARTA budgetMarc Knapp
Chief Rusty Thomas received a standing ovation last night. He and four other long standing members of the City administration, who were retiring, were honored at the City Council meeting. The Mayor spoke eloquently and passionately about the service rendered by the staff members. But predictably, his comments relating to the Fire Chief were the most passionate.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 01:47 PM
June 10, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Joseph Pericles Riley, Jr., having chosen politics as his only career, now finds his fate falling out of his control in the local public arena. Last week Pericles watched his mythical kingdom of Rileyworld continue to slip from his imperial grasp as a consequence of his three-decade mismanagement of the Charleston Fire Department. The unpardonable lost of nine CFD firefighters on Riley’s watch has now even been questioned by one of his handpicked lackeys, albeit now independently courageous Councilmen, the Reverend Jimmy Gallant. As Public Safety Committee Chairman, Gallant attempted to call a special meeting to ask Pericles and his “Good Old Boy” political crony, Rusty Thomas, for answers to demands for information from several of Gallant’s constituents, other citizens of Charleston, CFD firefighters, and firefighter experts from around the nation.
June 02, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Riley at the BatLee Walton
The outlook wasn't hopeful for the Charleston nine that day;
The Sofa Store was full with flames, with but one more prayer to say.
And then when one hose dried of thirst, and another did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the firemen from everywhere that came.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 09:14 AM
May 28, 2008
City Council, May 27
Council wants to be involved in selection of the new Fire Chief
A strong rebuff to the MayorMarc Knapp
It was not the Mayor’s night! Reflecting pressure from constituents, Council members successfully persuaded the City to drop some proposed amendments to its parking regulations. But the big upset came at the end of the meeting when Council defied the Mayor and voted its inclusion in the process of choosing the City’s new Fire Department Chief.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 11:51 AM
May 19, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Riley’s Spinning – Out of controlLee Walton
A tipping point in the threshold of political credibility and trust was crossed last week when the unspoken covenant between the mayor of Charleston and the citizenry he is elected to serve was boldly and blatantly smashed in a public display of audacity unseen for over three decades in the Lowcountry. Politicians often are accused of misrepresenting the facts, cherry-picking facts to suit their purpose, or using facts out of context as they spew forth political hyperbole to support their positions. However, until last Thursday, even in the Riley Administration, there has been the public perception of some truth or factual basis for the rhetorical spin always emanating from City Hall. Deep down in the core of the Mayor’s previous diatribes, he could at least find some shred of fact, albeit misrepresented, distorted, or twisted, to support his contention. Last Thursday he boldly crossed the line – Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. lied to the press and the citizens of Charleston in a display of intellectual deviousness that would make a suffering schizophrenic proud.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 08:26 AM
May 16, 2008
Sofa Super Store Fire
Viewers can download Routley Report
The most definitive report on the tragic Sofa Super Store fire was released yesterday. All the news media have reported extensively on it. The authors are very damning of both the City Fire Department and the owners of the Sofa Super Store.
We thought viewers may like to see the Routley Report in its entirety. It is 2.5MB so it may a minute to download. The report is well written, detailed and well researched. It has many illustrations which help to explain the factors behind the deadly blaze.
May 11, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Rusty Thomas – too ignorant to resign, too dangerous to terminateLee Walton
Many Charlestonians grew up thinking their city government existed to protect the lives, safety, and property of its citizens; now most know with certainty that the primary objective of the Riley Administration is to protect its own interest. As recently as in this past Saturday’s Palter and Chatter, Riley was again quoted doggedly defending Chief Rusty Thomas as “…dedicated, hard-working and a ‘great leader’…I have confidence in (Thomas) and we will move forward with him as a leader.” In reality, Riley hasn’t got much of a choice. He handpicked Thomas and created his “best fire chief in the nation” image with a creative public relations campaign that ultimately won Riley his coveted Class 1 ISO Rating. Now Riley must live with the unintended consequences of his choice and the deaths of nine firefighters on his conscience.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 11:40 PM
May 07, 2008
City Council, May 6
Withholding the Routley report “was not the best”
An emotionally charged meetingMarc Knapp
Everybody knows that Mayor Riley changed his mind about the release of the Routley report. Last Friday, the Mayor announced that the release of the report would be delayed indefinitely. By yesterday, he had changed his mind and announced that it would be released on May 15. For us, the surprise was not that he changed his mind. The surprise was the first decision, to delay issuing the report. Commissioned by the City, the report was expected to be the most definitive on last year’s tragic fire at the Sofa Super store. The Mayor surely was aware of the indignation a delay would stir among the citizenry, and particularly firefighters and the families of the fallen. The stream of citizens appearing before Council over the last few months seeking the release of the report can hardly have escaped his notice.
May 04, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
The Riley Conspiracy - A public deception and unpardonable disgrace
Who will speak out for the citizens of Charleston and the survivors of the nine CFD firefighters so tragically and needlessly lost on the evening of June 18, 2007? Who will demand accountability of Charleston’s elected officials? Will the editorial staff and owners of the Palter and Chatter continue to stand idly by and shamelessly look the other way as the Riley Administration continues to rationalize the irrational and defend the indefensible? Will Charleston City Council finally find the fortitude to reach deep within its viscera and find the collective courage to say, “Enough is enough”? Will the taxpayers of Charleston ever know the real cost of Riley’s incompetent leadership that precipitated the ongoing CFD cover-up? Are there any other local elected officials on County Council or in the state legislature with courage and character enough to openly challenge Riley’s cover-up and conspiracy being perpetrated in City Hall and demand a full accounting of the events now being spun with overlapping webs of deception and tangles of blatant lies? Is it too much to ask that the governor of this state commence an immediate criminal investigation of the Watergate Style Conspiracy continuing to develop within Riley’s personal fortress of deceit, formerly Charleston’s City Hall?
April 28, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Riley’s policy on city personnel accountability – Loose as a GooseLee Walton
What is the rationale behind the City administration’s profoundly inconsistent responses to the killing of a single goose and the death of nine firefighters? In response to the former, the city terminated a personnel contract with a local employment agency that provided dozens of temporary employees to the City for over nine years because one of their workers killed a Canada goose at a City park. In response to the latter, Mayor Riley continues to extol his confidence and unwavering defense for an unqualified, uneducated fire chief whose gross incompetence resulted in the unnecessary and tragic death of nine city firefighters? How can a reasonable person reconcile the City administration’s divergent responses to these two events without drawing a comparison between them?
April 23, 2008
City Council, April 22
Council wobbles a bit over sofa store site purchase
Some proposed parking changes generate ire?Marc Knapp
At one stage in last night's meeting, we thought it was unlikely the Council would approve the purchase of the Super Sofa Store site on Savannah Highway. The Mayor was “taken aback” by the criticism or lack of enthusiasm for the purchase and made an impassioned speech in its support. He reminded Council that it had unanimously approved the purchase at a meeting last year. He also declared that the City's reputation was at stake if it failed to move ahead with the purchase. The City needed the memorial for the fallen firefighters, and it would be a travesty if a car dealership or hamburger vendor were allowed to occupy the site.
April 20, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
$1.85 million for sofa store site - a high price for the Mayor’s absolution
Although the idea was rumored to be floating about City Hall after the tragic events of last June 18th, Mayor Riley finally announced last week that he would recommend to City Council on Tuesday, April 22nd that the City purchase the former Sofa Super Store site for $1.85 million. As reported in last Saturday’s Palter and Chatter, Mayor Riley has no firm plan but only the intent to “…come up with the best way to design an appropriate memorial.” His personal guilt and that of his handpicked lackey, Chief Rusty Thomas, have now taken yet another twisted turn to deflect accountability while seeking atonement for the totally unnecessary deaths of nine City Fire Department (CFD) firefighters. Following on the heels of sweeping procedural changes within the CFD and the expenditure of millions of dollars for new equipment, training and increased manpower, the purchase of the sofa store site raises many legitimate questions regarding the Mayor’s true motives and his hidden agenda crafted to protect his own public image.
March 26, 2008
City Council, March 25
Citizens losing patience over release of Sofa Store fire report
HUD grants for 2008/9 - Elpis slated to receive $150,000Marc Knapp
The tragic sofa store fire was not on yesterday's Council meeting agenda. But it got attention. Two members of the public, one of whom lost a brother in the fire asked when the Routley Commission report would be available. The Commission is charged to provide a full report on the fire and the response by the City Fire department.
February 25, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Fire Sprinkler Reimbursements – Who pays and who benefits?Lee Walton
Proposed statewide efforts to underwrite fire sprinkler systems for homes and businesses hit critical snags last week that now threaten to block legislative action sought in response to the loss of nine Charleston firefighters in last June’s Sofa Super Store tragedy. Recent articles in the State and Palter & Chatter have followed differing versions of current bills as the House and Senate struggle to resolve the fundamental issue for funding subsidies. Although broad, nonpartisan support still remains to encourage and partially fund installation of sprinkler systems, there is an apparent lack of political will to accept responsibility for funding rebates or tax credits by state, county or local governments.
February 13, 2008
City Council, February 12
A kiss for Councilmember Shirley
Where’s the report on the Sofa Store fire?Marc Knapp
Yesterday’s Council meeting was short and lackluster. Indeed the highlight was the kiss planted on Council member Shirley’s forehead by a citizen when the Mayor announced that it was the Council member’s birthday. This expression of “bonhomie” did not persist into Citizen Participation when she accused the City of not caring in the treatment its citizens. She is the owner of Tellis Pharmacy on King Street. It has been robbed a number of times and the police seem unable to ever apprehend the thieves.
February 03, 2008
Shrimp 'n Grits
Sofa Super Store – “We don’t know who is most responsible for this tragic loss.”
Public statements like that above which appeared in last Saturday’s February 2nd Palter & Chatter article, Sofa store lawsuits in flux, not only beg the question, but accentuate the collective head-in-the-sand attitude and questionable motives of those in positions of responsibility to frame the proper questions. As “complex” as Circuit Judge Roger Young declared the circumstances of this case to be, one clear, unambiguous fact remains - if nine firefighters had not been ordered into a known death trap, they would still be alive today.
December 17, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
December 07, 2007
City Council, December 6
City wraps up 2008 budget. What was the cost of the Super Store fire?
Citizen takes issue with Council member GallantMarc Knapp
So what was the cost of the Super Sofa Store? Council member Fishburne both posed and tried to answer this question during budget discussions at City Council last night. His estimate, made after discussion with CFO Bedard of the City was about $5.9 million. This included accumulated spending by the City to date of $2.8 million, and another $2.4 million budgeted in 2008, and other items such as air pack purchases. The Council member also argued that much of the spending represent under-funding of the Fire Department in previous years. The City was now just attempting to catch up.
October 21, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
Shortcomings of City Fire Department again highlighted
Post Incident Assessment Report stresses compliance with National and State StandardsLee Walton
The Phase 1 Routley Report released last week as “…an independent comprehensive review of the Charleston Fire Department and the overall state of fire protection in the City of Charleston, following the tragic Sofa Super Store fire…” hit deep into the soft underbelly of a department caught in a cultural and philosophical time warp while still struggling to cope with the loss of nine of its own. Even after being subjected to intense editing by Mayor J. Pinocchio Riley and his loyal little workshop of wooden-headed elves and fairies, the findings and recommendations set forth in this, the first of a three phase project, leave little doubt about the depth and breadth of serious life safety shortcomings endemic to the CFD.
October 15, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
“Charleston – we have a problem…”Lee Walton
But unlike the three fortunate astronauts of Apollo 13 who were highly trained, well equipped and guided by NASA’s integrated command structure, the Charleston 9 were ill prepared to overcome the tragic fate that confronted them on the evening of June 18th. Not unlike the crew of Apollo 13, the courage and commitment to duty of the Charleston 9 never wavered, but the Charleston Fire Department’s leadership and command structure was fatally flawed, and their lives were unnecessarily sacrificed as a consequence. It is now painfully evident, after four months of in-depth investigations and condemning revelations, that the tragic loss of nine firefighters had its genesis in the decades of incompetent leadership under Fire Chief Russell Thomas. It is also now blatantly obvious that Mayor J. Pinocchio Riley continues to lie to the citizens of Charleston in a shameless effort to salvage any shred of his Fire Chief’s shattered credibility.
October 08, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
J. Pinocchio Riley – The Prince of PalterLee Walton
Given the latest revelations contained in the October 7th Palter & Chatter front page story, “Firefighters lacked water”, the citizens of Charleston must now question the Mayor’s mental capacity to adequately evaluate and rationally respond to the complex combination of leadership errors and omissions that culminated in the tragedy of June 18th and caused the unnecessary death of nine brave firefighters. The Mayor’s actions demonstrated thus far are not those expected of a competent, rational and reasonable person faced with the same daunting challenges.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 08:11 AM
October 01, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
City’s OSHA challenge – a typical J. Pinocchio Riley tacticLee Walton
It’s now obvious that Mayor Riley’s cunning little Joseph McCarthy style publicity stunt staged in OSHA’s Columbia office last week fizzled as he desperately sought to divert attention away from that agency’s scathing indictment of the June 18th Charleston Fire Department tragedy that cost the lives of nine brave, albeit poorly led, equipped and trained firefighters. Armed with an expensive brace of new, taxpayer-funded pettifoggers and accompanied by Administration invited media coverage, J. Pinoccho Riley was certain his well planned attack would finally expose that “vast right-wing conspiracy” slinking around the halls of the State House and now using OSHA to give him and his city a world-class “black eye”.
September 26, 2007
City Council, September 26
Unusual gift to the City
Mayor out of contact with constituents over fate of Chief?Marc Knapp
Not surprisingly, matters relating to the Sofa Store fire consistently come up at Council meetings. Last night, Council applauded City businessman Gene Reed for his $228,000 contribution to buy new uniforms for the City Fire Department (CFD). Mr. Reed expressed sympathy for the victims of the fire and great praise for the CFD, Chief "Rusty" Thomas and Mayor Riley. He said the members of the CFD should be “more rewarded than they are”.
September 24, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
City lacks Standards of Accountability in LeadershipLee Walton
Effective leaders hold themselves accountable just like everyone else on the team. Maintaining such accountability involves seeking complete honesty. Skilled leaders consistently receive feedback from those who work above them, beside them and for them. A failure to provide a structure for such accountability will lead to a crisis of character and leadership. - Zondervan
As predictable as gnats on a spring evening, Mayor J. Pericles Riley pitched a world-class temper tantrum this past week after SC OSHA released its revealing and profoundly critical assessment of the Charleston Fire Department’s leadership and organizational meltdown on the evening of June 18th that resulted in the tragic death of nine firefighters. Not surprisingly, in the aftermath of OSHA’s scathing indictment of the CFD command structure and “willful” leadership indifference, Riley now has the unmitigated gall and audacity to challenge these findings as “incorrect conclusions” that, when “factored out”, would be ”…an affirmation of the leadership of the fire department…”. What world class hypocrisy!
September 19, 2007
Mayor’s Press conference on Sofa Store fire
Nothing new except the spinMarc Knapp
At last night’s much-heralded press conference, Mayor Riley tried to put a new spin on the same old information. It was not very convincing and the same questions are being asked. The Fire Department had a major melt down on the eventful evening of June 18. Nothing that the Mayor said last night exonerates the City from blame, or excuses the fire-site poor management. To say that this tragedy came about through mishandling by a bunch of “keystone cops” would be an understatement, in my opinion.
September 17, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
Twenty-Seven Reasons why CFD isn’t World ClassLee Walton
With little fanfare and no prior notice, Mayor J. Pericles Riley matter-of-factly delivered a seven-page report to Council members at the Tuesday, September 11th City Council Meeting that listed twenty-seven (27) immediate changes being implemented in the Charleston Fire Department. The list is detailed, comprehensive and addresses many apparent personnel and procedural shortcomings that have been the topics of intense, open debate following the tragic loss of nine CFD firefighters on the evening of June 18th.
September 12, 2007
City Council, September 11
Fire Department to change practices. More changes likely
BlueCross/Blue Shield to administer health services. Decision on BZA ruling deferredMarc Knapp
The Mayor announced some major changes relating to the City Fire Department on Tuesday night. The list of changes distributed to Council members ran to 7 pages and dealt with personnel, training, command, safety, communications and water supply. The Mayor stated that the changes had been implemented in the wake of the enquiries still underway. In response to a question from a Council member he noted that more changes were likely as the final reports of the investigations were completed.
September 09, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
Riley serves Charleston his Banquet of Consequences
For over three decades Mayor J. Pericles Riley has single-handedly picked and molded each City of Charleston Department Head into loyal, unquestioning servants with a total disregard for the obvious fact that many are undereducated, ill-trained and under qualified for the responsibilities delegated to them. The only qualification of consequence to Riley is blind, unwavering loyalty and a willingness to “fall on a sword” when necessary to protect his image. Until the evening of June 18th, Riley, with the support of this loyal administration of lackeys and sycophants, has managed to bluff, blunder, threaten and cajole his way through the governance of the City by polemic arrogance, intimidation, political pressure and his Madison Avenue crafted persona.
September 03, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
Riley – Mayor or Maestro?Lee Walton
The current power imbroglio among a few Charleston City Council Members and Mayor J. Pericles Riley following in the wake of the tragic death of nine city firefighters has again focused much needed public scrutiny upon the legal powers and responsibilities of city council. Under the seemingly endless imperial reign of Pericles, the functions of council have been relegated to that of an emasculated advisory committee to be ignored or patronized at the pleasure of the Mayor. His recent public discourse with a few members of Council’s Public Safety Committee exemplifies Riley’s self-proclaimed role as Maestro of the Chamber Music emanating twice monthly from City Hall.
August 22, 2007
City Council, August 21
Council defers discussion on Fire Department deficiencies
Approves rezoning for hotel and Dock Street Theatre contract amendmentMarc Knapp
The rezoning of a proposed hotel site on King Street and the management of City’s Fire Department were the two most important issues discussed on Tuesday night. Some Council members were also unhappy about the cost of renovating the Dock Street Theatre and the low participation of minorities in the sub contracting.
Posted by Warwick Jones at 01:13 PM
July 18, 2007
City Council July 17, 2007
The Sofa Store site, Ansonborough Field and down-zoning on Johns Island
Too much for one evening!Marc Knapp
Summer meetings are a test of endurance. Last night's was no exception. It lasted 5 hours. In summer, there's only one meeting per month instead of the normal two. Not surprisingly, the seats get uncomfortably hard and concentration impossible. It is not helped by some Council members raising trivial issues at the end of the meeting, seemingly designed to garner attention than to address real issues.
July 16, 2007
Shrimp N' Grits
Smoldering Questions Spark Need for ChangeLee Walton
With the continuing revelation of facts surrounding the June 18th Charleston Fire Department tragedy, which cost the lives of nine brave firefighters, it’s increasingly evident that Charleston’s Fire Department is a glaring exception to both regionally and nationally accepted command procedures and fire-ground response protocols. This past Sunday’s well documented Palter & Chatter article, Experts question hose choice, is the most recent in a continuing series of articles describing the downward spiral of events that lead to the “total chaos” of June 18th. Together these articles present a clear and unambiguous indictment of the leadership and out-dated, tradition-bound command procedures practiced by Fire Chief Rusty Thomas. The long standing “…hard-charging, aggressive approach to battling fires...” first exposed in the Palter & Chatter’s Sunday, July 1st feature article, Tradition of Risk, now appears to have placed Charleston’s firefighters in unnecessary positions of extreme risk with ineffective equipment incapable of quenching a raging inferno or useful to save their own lives.
July 09, 2007
Shrimp n' Grits
Class-One Damage Control or World-Class Cover-upLee Walton
In the recent aftermath of Charleston’s world-class public service tragedy that resulted in the loss of nine firefighters, Charleston’s Mayor and his sycophantic administration have adopted nothing short of full court press tactics to deal with mounting adversarial news releases and the rising level of open criticism from expert, professional firefighters and national safety experts throughout the Country. As typical of Riley’s duplicitous efforts to deflect blame and divert accountability from himself and his loyal band of yellow-dog protectors, he’s now adopted the tactically deceptive cloak of self-righteous hypocrisy in a blatant attempt to regain the moral high ground. Three of his current thrusts to deflect the growing number of critics include: championing statewide legislation to mandate retrofitting sprinkler systems in older buildings; dropping or drastically reducing sprinkler system impact and meter fees and monthly service rates; and audaciously suggesting that “No one should be trying to make political hay out of this tragedy.” The utter mendacity of such actions rises to nothing less than world-class levels of dissembling and misrepresentation.
July 02, 2007
A park at Long Savannah dedicated to the fallen firemen
Sincere emotion or political opportunism?
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.
June 25, 2007
Shrimp 'n Grits
Courage Under Fire
My first reaction was visceral, like a quick fist to the gut that takes your breath away. How could this tragedy have happened in Charleston? How could nine brave men have died so quickly and violently protecting the life and property of those they served? After reading Tuesday morning’s Palter & Chatter headlines and numbly watching the morning news, the sorrow that followed created a solemn sense of profound helplessness. The upwelling of tears was unstoppable as the number of firemen, so tragically lost, was repeated again over the radio on the way to work. Why? Why did so many men have to die this way? Heroic, gallant, loyal, courageous – these mere words can never describe their final actions as they did their duty and made the ultimate sacrifice their profession often demands. Later, their names, faces and backgrounds personalize the loss even more. It was like losing a close business acquaintance or neighbor that you never took the time to really get to know. As the days passed last week, I developed a deeper understanding of the special bond and fraternal brotherhood these brave men shared as they lived, worked and finally died together. In the end, their courage never failed them – but their leaders did.
Hard questions need to be asked about Charleston’s tragic fire
Laxity, poor judgment and management?
How many mistakes does it take to kill 9 men? Answer: Only one.