Good afternoon,

Senator Ford has reversed his position (1). But, why?

In a thoughtful, well-reasoned Post and Courier commentary just last week, Sen. Robert Ford highlighted the many benefits of moving cruise ship operations from Union Pier up to the larger Columbus Street terminal. Such a move would take traffic off East Bay Street, would economically benefit the East Side, would provide more jobs if Union Pier privately developed, would retain all the port jobs, would reduce impacts on the historic district, etc. In addition, the 155-acre Columbus Street terminal will provide more parking and more of a geographic shield to neighboring areas from negative impacts than the smaller 65-acre Union Pier site would be able to shield downtown and Ansonborough. We and others praised the suggestion, and if you have not read his op-ed, you must (2).

Now Sen. Ford has made a U turn: “Constituents read me the riot act.” Really? If his constituents did protest, what horrible slate of evils were they told or sold to make them so negative? Who told them? What problems with a cruise terminal at Columbus Street are there that could cause such a quick, negative reaction, a reaction so powerful as to force Sen. Ford to reverse his well-ascribed suggestion? Or was it something else?

Consider this. Whoever put such intense pressure on Sen. Ford cannot pretend that whatever problems that might arise at Columbus Street won’t also exist at Union Pier–a site where we’re told by the SPA and the City that has no problems. But if it’s not good for the East Side, how can it be good for downtown and Ansonborough?

Is there more in play than meets the eye? While the responses and reactions to Sen. Ford’s original article were almost all positive, the operative word here is “almost.” Take this letter, from Jim Newsome of the State Ports Authority, fired off to Sen. Ford immediately after his original commentary was published. Don’t just read the content, note the tone of this letter.

If you were a state employee, as is Newsome, would you have written that letter to a state senator?

Ford reacted, “He was completely out of order. I think Mr. Newsome needs to learn that he needs to respect all members of the General Assembly.” Newsome replied to the Post and Courier, “If he took offense, I certainly apologize.” But what recipient of such a letter could not be offended?(3) Does Mr. Newsome believe he’s invulnerable?

The SPA and the City can’t have it both ways. If the cruise terminal does provide an economic benefit, as its proponents claim, that benefit is far more needed on the East Side. Then when do we have the discussion–the one about the best cruise terminal location–the one that was never held or studied by the SPA, as is required by law (as Sen. Ford had pointed out)? Nothing should happen at Union Pier until, at the SPA’s expense, an independent firm selected by the legislature conducts a full, transparent study of all potential cruise ship terminal locations.

–Jay

1) Sen. Ford’s statement, “A Change of Heart”

2) Cruise toward Prosperity on the East Side – Sen. Robt. Ford
http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/aug/25/cruise-towardprosperity-onthe-east-side/

3) Sen. Ford Reverses on Cruise Terminal – David Slade
http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/sep/03/ford-reverses-on-terminal/