Task force should step it up, Post and Courier, February 28, 2012, editorial.
At the end of last week’s Peninsula Task Force meeting, one member offered a challenge to the group: We’ve lost momentum. Let’s get back on track and take on the tough initiatives that we were charged with tackling.
What a great idea.
When Mayor Joe Riley and Historic Charleston Foundation Director Kitty Robinson teamed up more than a year and a half ago to establish the task force, the issues that were on people’s minds were difficult:
What do we do about traffic on peninsula Charleston? Bicycles? Hotels adjacent to residential areas? How do we preserve neighborhoods and maintain diversity? What about cruise ships, affordable housing? The general “delicate balance” of tourism, business and livability for residents?
The task force with members from neighborhood associations, businesses, the port, environmental interests, preservation organizations, the College of Charleston and the tourism industry, rather quickly hit a snag: There seemed no resolving the divide on the issue of cruise ships, so the topic was shelved.
Certainly the task force did some good work assessing how people get around the peninsula and how to ease congestion. Some recommendations regarded bicycles, buses, pedicabs and walking. As a result, the city added bike parking in key places downtown. Some free bus service was made available. And King Street is closed to vehicles one Sunday a month so people can shop, stroll and have lunch.
Still, on Friday members spoke about the greater number of proposals that have languished.
The elephant in the room is cruise ships. Indeed, it was after the Historic Charleston Foundation engaged Miley and Associates to do an independent evaluation of the impact of cruise ships (which have enthusiastic support from the mayor) that the monthly meetings stopped happening.
Now that the Historic Charleston Foundation has received results of the study, and the meetings have recommenced, the task force should try again.
Jim Newsome, president of the State Ports Authority, is a member of the committee, as are people who live nearby, people whose businesses might be affected by cruise passengers and environmentalists. Failing to use their collective wisdom, information and experience would be shortchanging the city and its residents.
Skeptics have wondered from the start of the committee if it would be yet another group to meet, talk and recommend — without making a substantial difference.
This is not the time for the group to shrink from tough issues facing the peninsula.
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