Good afternoon,

The first sentence of an excellent Post and Courier editorial exposes the mayor’s fiction that the City does not have the power to regulate cruise ships. “Though inconsequential in substance, Charleston City Council’s new cruise ship ordinance does finally acknowledge that the city has some regulatory authority over the State Ports Authority.” Noting that the Historic Charleston Foundation “has researched the issue and concluded that the city has the legal authority to apply zoning regulations to land-based cruise ship operations in its historic districts,” and has presented a meaningful plan to regulate ships, the editorial recommends, “[the City] Council should pursue more meaningful cruise ship rules by further considering the stronger comprehensive plan submitted by the Historic Charleston Foundation.”(1)

Sunday’s P&C editorial cogently laid out the issue for Charleston: “The port of Charleston is essential to the economic health of the state, and especially to the Lowcountry. Cruise ships are a viable part of their work. But City Council should be willing to ensure that cruise ship operations don’t tip the delicate balance between commerce and livability downtown.”(2) That balance is exactly what the Preservation Society, HANA, the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the Coastal Conservation League, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Historic Charleston Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Charleston Mercury, the Post and Courier, the Charleston News Alternative, this blog and dozens of other organizations, businesses and citizens want. Hardly an unreasonable request.

Yet Mayor Riley remains defiant, defensive, and tone-deaf to these public concerns. In a 23-minute harangue at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Riley opposed any limits on cruise ships saying, “They’re [the State Ports Authority] people of their word, for crying out loud. They’re not some alien force. They’re our people. They’re our partners.”(3) Randy Pelzer, on the cruise committee of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, called the mayor’s ordinance “a sham” [be sure to read his one-paragraph take on the meeting, posted below]. Yet at the end, Riley had browbeat the Council to approve his vacuous ordinance 8-5. The good news–more City Council members stood up for the City against the mayor and voted “no.” Those members, Blake Hallman, Jimmy Gallant, William Dudley Gregorie, Michael Seekings and Tim Mallard should be congratulated.

Let’s pretend, for a second, that the SPA people are “our people.” Does Mayor Riley think that they and he are immortal? That nothing can change? That the future will be the same as the past? And while it’s apparent that he is not listening to many people in Charleston, it’s also apparent he is not listening to the people of the SPA who repeatedly say, “we have consistently opposed any attempt to limit our maritime commerce mandate… Any such action would present unacceptable and illegal limits on port business.”(4) That’s a pretty clear in-your-face statement to me, Mr. Mayor. So, are you listening to anyone?

A Charleston News Alternative editorial, “Just Because They Can,” cited the lack of SPA and City attention to public concerns throughout the entire cruise terminal process, and concluded, “No matter where you live in Charleston, if you are on the side of principle, you should heed the plan’s critics. If economics is your interest, it would behoove you to notice that the city is much better off than most, and that is because of the tourist industry—one that was here before the cruise ships and will continue to thrive without them. If politics is your concern, you should be worried when your leaders don’t listen and public input is worthless.” (5)

City Council Meeting Highlights, Tuesday 16 Aug 2011:

“Mayor Riley dominates the City Council and had carefully coordinated with a variety of chamber of commerce types to urge passage of the ordinance. All of them stressed that no amendment should be allowed in anticipation of Councilman Gregory’s efforts to table the ordinance and consider the Historic Charleston Foundation proposed ordinance. On the positive side, the Mayor by proposing his ordinance implicitly recognizes some power to regulate cruise activity, and five councilmen came out for the first time in opposition to immediate approval of his ordinance. Also, the Historic Charleston Foundation, for the first time, publicly aligned itself with our position on limits on cruise visits with a thorough ordinance backed, I understand, by an expensive legal study concluding that the city does have the power to regulate. We have been particularly disappointed that Councilman White consistently sides with the Mayor and the Port, perhaps secure in the knowledge that in the next election, our two downtown neighborhoods will not be in his Daniels Island district. As reported in the newspaper, I joined the president of Ansonborough’s association in calling the ordinance ‘a sham’ as it allows the City to say they passed a cruise ship ordinance, but it’s an ordinance in name only.” -Randy Pelzer

The Early Show:

And today’s CBS-TV’s “Early Show” covered the Charleston Cruise Ship Controversy interviewing CCL’s Dana Beach, the Preservation Society’s Evan Thompson, and Mayor Riley (who repeated his fictional account of the City’s impotence to regulate). The network sent a reporter and camera crew to Charleston to film its report. Dana and Evan presented reasonable concerns about the size, number, and frequency of cruise ship visits and their impacts on Charleston. The pictures of these giant cruise ships blocking our historic skyline from the water were arresting–and are more frightening if one considers the future. These ships are getting larger and larger and larger.

–Jay

1) “Pursue Real Cruise Rules” – P&C
http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/aug/18/pursue-real-cruise-rules/

2) “City Council Should Opt for Stronger Cruise Ship Rules” – P&C
http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/aug/14/city-council-should-opt-forstronger-cruise-ship/

3) “Cruise Ordinance Remains Afloat” – P&C Robert Behre
http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/aug/17/cruise-ordinance-remains-afloat/

4) South Carolina Ports general circulation email
http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=a7qm4edab&v=001Sz6hDUiNII5nZwcGe-OiHPrypUwXjqmeWtcwIN7oAlh8UacFRpcQ8cpwqV-S447v0ruAvZJUnKEvtJ1BmNADeDTbFRvMO9dDTj9H1ssu16kIe3BDHqlU4IKa7Zf8mg44

5) “Just Because They Can” – Charleston News Alternative
http://charlestonnewsalternative.org/article/Editorials/Editorials/Just_Because_They_Can/22948