A new era of reason may be dawning in Charleston. In a must-read column in today’s Post and Courier, Senator Robert Ford cuts through animus of the “my way or the highway” diatribes from SPA and City officials, and points the way for cruise ships to co-exist with Charleston’s history and energize its future development.
In “Cruise toward prosperity on the East Side,” Ford begins with a truism that neither the SPA nor Mayor Riley will admit: “I have taken many cruises myself. I know that cruise terminals are not located in residential areas, but away from such areas where their negative impacts are felt less by residents.” Not only does Ford favor moving cruise ship operations to the underused Columbus Street Terminal, where there “is ample space there and a warehouse as suitable for a cruise terminal as the one proposed at Union Pier,” but adds a point of significance: “Indeed, cruise operations could expand at that location without impacting residents and businesses. Longshoremen and other maritime jobs would be better protected and indeed could increase beyond the voluntary limits on cruise activity imposed by the SPA at Union Pier.”
Ford points the huge economic benefits the Columbus Street terminal could provide to the East Side, the incentive for development that could be created by a port entrance off Morrison Drive, the additional jobs, and the economic advantages that would accrue to state, county and local government by selling all of Union Pier for development. Sen. Ford is suggesting a win-win-win solution that would also reduce negative impacts of cruise ship tourism on downtown, safeguarding the Colonial-era buildings, homes and gardens that, together, provide the biggest draw for tourism in Charleston.
But then Sen. Ford turns a bright spotlight on SPA officials:
“I was astonished to learn that SPA officials told experts employed to site the new cruise terminal to look only at Union Pier. The experts did not even consider the alternative location at the northern end of Columbus Street Terminal. SPA officials have obviously failed to address the negative impacts on local residents despite being required to do so by state law. The legitimate concerns of local residents should be the top priority of the SPA Board, not rubber-stamping efforts by SPA officials to hold onto their real estate holdings in Charleston.” [emphasis added]
He also points out the unseemly trick devised SPA officials and their phony letter writers:
“The chairman of the SPA, in an op-ed piece in The Post and Courier, has tried to mislead the public and Legislature into believing that local residents are trying to end all cruise operations; he even stated that residents are trying to stop cargo operations. His job is not to vilify and demonize local citizens voicing legitimate concerns and suggesting reasonable alternatives. I am sure that he would object, too, if a cruise terminal were proposed for his neighborhood, although he is safe from that danger in his hometown of Columbia.” Do not miss reading, and distributing, Sen. Ford’s column.
Senator Ford’s column comes two days after a press notice was sent out by the S.C. Ports Authority. The release announces that the SPA and City have joined to ask the state supreme court to rule on the lawsuit filed against Carnival, then takes the specious leap that the lawsuit “…could also bar other commercial ships docking in the City, such as those carrying BMWs, power generation equipment, and other products shipped by major employers and industries across the State.” It then quotes the petition, “‘By casting a pall on the legality of any vessel calling on any port in this State, the lawsuit chills the [Ports Authority’s] ability to recruit, promote and encourage maritime commerce’ and fulfill its state mandate, according to the petition for original jurisdiction.”(1) One can only wonder if the state supreme court will fall for the notion that the suit against Carnival to regulate Cruise Ship Tourism, to regulate the belching of continuous soot from engines required to power spas, pools, restaurants, cabins, etc. while in port, or regulate the impacts of the random disgorging of 5,000 passengers and crew from each vessel, could be the equivalent of regulating cargo ships, especially cargo ships that mostly go under the Ravenel Bridge away from the City.
We will soon see how blind justice is. But we already see that Senator Ford wasn’t wrong when he says that the SPA “has tried to mislead the public and the Legislature into believing that local residents are trying to end all cruise operations…[and] are trying to stop cargo operations.”
At the end of the day, knowing that rules can be changed and limits can be lifted, the only real win-win solution will to move the cruise terminal to Columbus Street or other location besides Union Pier downtown. Congratulations to Sen. Ford for pointing that out.
Oh, yes, there is one other item in the P&C you may want to read, a letter from a woman who recently visited Venice, a port and historic city where cruise ship tourism has begun to destroy both Venice’s past and its future.(2)
Can one pray for an age of reason? Yes. –Jay
1) Port and City ask Supreme Court to Cruise Lawsuit
2) “Slaves to Tourism”