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‘Port Opponents’ List a ‘Port Enemies’ List?- an article published in THE NERVE-

‘Port Opponents’ List a ‘Port Enemies’ List?

Posted on November 7, 2011 by Eric K. Ward    

 

More than two dozen Charleston-area businesses have been targeted in an anonymous negative publicity campaign apparently stemming from a long-running struggle in the port city over how to handle its growing cruise ship industry.

The names of the targeted businesses, including some of Charleston’s most popular restaurants and attractions, are featured on a nondescript list labeling them opponents of the Port of Charleston.

The S.C. State Ports Authority, a state agency with broad operating powers, owns and runs the harbor.

The “port opponents” list has been posted in various hospitality businesses in Charleston and circulated throughout the commercial port community, according to port officials and other sources.

Those port officials readily acknowledge the existence of the list and that it has been distributed to and fro. The officials say, however, that they do not know who’s behind the bulletin or who has disseminated it.

John Hassell, vice chairman of the Ports Authority board, says he has seen the list. “Yeah, it’s real,” Hassell says.

The “port opponents” list isn’t exactly on the level of 1950s McCarthyism, when former U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, provoked mass hysteria in making unsubstantiated claims that he possessed a list of communists working in the State Department and other realms of the federal government.

Still, some observers see parallels between the two.

“It’s like McCarthy,” says Dana Beach, founder and director of the Coastal Conservation League. “I mean they’re waving this (port) enemies list.”

The Coastal Conservation League is party to a lawsuit challenging the operations of Carnival Cruise Lines in Charleston.

The list contains no identifying information as to who created it, who circulated it and who posted it in certain businesses. It’s just a barebones, 8.5-by-11 sheet of paper that says “PORT OPPONENTS,” with 18 names under “RESTAURANTS,” five names under “HOTELS” and four names under “ATTRACTIONS.”

More and larger cruise ships docking in Charleston appears to be the source of the controversy.

“Increasingly, our ability to flaunt our fair city to home buyers is frustrated by the recent influx of cruise ships,” Thomas Bennett of Carriage Properties writes in a letter to the editor published March 2 in the Charleston Post and Courier.

“These gargantuan ships puffing black exhaust and bellowing horns stand in stark contrast to the distinctive properties we are selling. Traffic is snarled and views of the harbor are blocked.”

Continuing, the letter says, “Twice a week, sometimes more, we must avoid the waterfront, when it is the very place our clients are clamoring to see. Yes, Charleston has accommodated cruise ships for decades, but never at such a high frequency, and certainly not at the immense scale now standard for modern cruise ships today.”

Several other Realtors put their names on the letter, too.

Likewise, a group of hospitality businesspeople penned a column expressing similar concerns in the Post and Courier in April.

A key worry among business, neighborhood, historic and environmental groups in Charleston is how far out to sea cruise ships dump sewage, and whether the nasty stuff washes ashore.

The concerned parties say they recognize and appreciate the economic impact of the Charleston port and do not aim to shut down the cruise ship industry.

Rather, they say they simply want the city to put some reasonable standards on cruise ships, such as limiting the vessels to one at a time and two per week, or 104 per year, in the Charleston harbor.

They also seek a guarantee that the ships will not dump sewage closer than 12 miles to shore.

An open letter to the Ports Authority board posted on a website advocating cruise standards for Charleston makes this case. Forty-six people, many of them representing businesses, community groups or government entities, have attached their names to the letter.

Several of the companies affiliated with that letter are on the “port opponents” list.

Thus far, Charleston City Council has resisted calls to regulate cruise ships, with Mayor Joe Riley arguing that the city lacks the authority to do so.

Instead, the council in September adopted an ordinance setting up a process to “engage the community” at least one year ahead of any plans for cruise traffic to be increased.

Although the groups and individuals concerned about cruise ships openly acknowledge the economic importance of the port, the list makes no such distinction.

Neither do the port officials interviewed for this story who know about the list.

“I’ve seen that circulated,” Ports Authority spokesman Byron Miller says.

So who’s behind it?

“I don’t know,” Miller says. “I know that there are certain people here locally who have aligned themselves with anti-business, anti-job growth initiatives.”

He describes the list as “sort of a word-of-mouth thing” that’s “constantly growing, quite frankly … because there are local businesses that are opposed to the port and its mission.”

But why?

“Don’t know,” Miller says, “can’t answer the question.”

Regardless, people have a right to avoid patronizing such businesses, Miller says.

Hassell, the Ports Authority vice chairman, sounds a similar theme. He says the message of the list to the commercial port community is “these businesses are not supportive of your businesses and your jobs.”

Asked whether the “port opponents” have concerns about cruise ships or the port in general, Hassell says, “I think the general impression is they oppose (port) operations in general.”

So what do they want to do, shut it down?

“Sure,” he says.

Seriously, they want to shut down the port – or perhaps privatize it?

“It’s the latter, I think,” says Hassell, a former interim president of the Ports Authority who now works full time as head of the Maritime Association of South Carolina, a Port of Charleston advocacy group.

Two people whose companies are on the list say it totally misrepresents their position.

“The shameful thing about that is I’m not against the port or the actions that they’re conducting down there,” says Randall Goldman, managing partner and CEO of three of the four attractions on the list.

To the contrary, the port is one of the biggest economic engines in the state, Goldman says. And he says he is all for tourism and the business it creates. But Goldman says what does concern him is Charleston getting choked and degraded by too much cruise traffic.

Goldman says the list is “very unfortunate” in the sluggish economy. “In this economy it’s kind of like a bad restaurant review,” he says. “Let’s let the market dictate who stays in business.”

Steven Dopp, part owner of a hotel on the list, put his name on the open letter supporting cruise ship standards in Charleston.

The letter says those who have signed it support the Ports Authority’s role in the state’s economy. “Clearly these people are not port opponents,” Dopp says.

C4 proposes a “CHARLESTON CODE OF CRUISE SHIP CONDUCT”. (Also found on Code of Conduct page.)

C4’s Proposed

CHARLESTON CODE OF CRUISE SHIP CONDUCT

 

The Charleston Tourism Ordinance states that the purpose of tourism regulation is “to maintain, protect and promote the tourism industry and economy of the city and, at the same time, to maintain and protect the tax base and land values of the city, to reduce unnecessary traffic and pollution and to maintain and promote aesthetic charm and the quality of life for the residents of the city.” 

 

Cruise lines must realize that in Charleston their cruise ships docking at Union Pier literally sit at the doorstep of residential neighborhoods and significant historic districts.  These neighborhoods and communities deserve to have all visiting cruise ships adhere to the following standards:

 

1.  Cruise ships should respect the traditional height, mass and scale standards of the city.  No ships with passenger and crew capacity above 3,000 should regularly visit the city.

 

2. Cruise ships add to congestion, pollution and visual obstruction.   There should be no more than two cruise ships in Charleston during a single week.

 

3. Charleston is an old city and the air quality impacts not only those living and visiting, but also the buildings themselves. Ships running hotelling engines constantly while in port should connect to onshore power or, if onshore power is not available, should burn low sulfur fuel and request that onshore power be made available to them.

 

4. Charleston waters deserve respectful treatment.  Cruise ships should not discharge gray water or black water or incinerate garbage within twelve miles of shore.

 

5. Residents of the peninsula area are sensitive to loud noise because it reverberates between buildings.  Cruise ships should avoid making external announcements and playing music via external speakers while in port.  Cruise ships should not use horns or PA systems more than required by International Maritime Organization safety.

 

6. Cruise lines are not currently required to pay accommodation or passenger taxes in Charleston unlike other port cities. Cruise lines should voluntarily pay an impact fee of $5 per passenger into a fund for community improvement as a show of respect and appreciation for the maintenance required for upkeep.

 

7.  Cruise ships should support the local Charleston/South Carolina economy by purchasing provisions from local vendors.

 

8. Trust, but verify.  Cruise lines should provide quarterly data about fuel used, discharges made and local purchasing to allow measurement against these standards.

 

Read “Cruise terminal should be equipped with onshore power” in today’s P&C-

Read “Cruise terminal should be equipped with onshore power”
a commentary by Gil Baldwin, M.D. in today’s P&C.

Cruise terminal should be equipped with onshore power
The Post and Courier, December 6, 2011, Commentary

There has been a great deal of discussion, both pro and con, about the cruise ship industry in downtown Charleston.

As a physician who practiced medicine here for 38 years, I would like to address the facts of cruise ship air pollution, its impact on citizens, tourists and dockworkers, and finally question why our State Ports Authority (SPA) has so far refused to include onshore power in its plan for the new terminal.

The American Lung Association’s president and CEO, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Charles D. Connor, paints a detailed picture, stating he “saw firsthand the staggering amounts of pollution” from cruise ships during his waterborne career.

He reminds us that cruise ships “spew tons of soot and smog-forming pollutants.”

“Communities near ports tend to suffer from a high burden of pollution, triggering asthma attacks and a variety of respiratory diseases, sending those who suffer from chronic lung conditions to the hospital and the emergency rooms.

These pollutants cause thousands of premature deaths across the United States every year.”

Cruise ship pollution is unhealthy for anyone who works or lives near it. As a retired physician, the negative health effects on Charleston’s population are a major concern to me.

I am puzzled. The SPA does not seem concerned about the longshoremen spending time near potentially cancer-causing pollutants. These workers need their jobs, but why continue to endanger their health instead of addressing the soot filling their lungs?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that establishing an Emission Control Area in North America, which requires the use of low-sulfur fuel within 200 miles of our coast, could save our country $47 billion to $110 billion in health care costs by the year 2020.

Estimates include reductions of thousands of instances of premature mortality, chronic and acute bronchitis, hospital admissions, and emergency room visits.

The Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) actively opposes the use of cleaner fuel, but they do support the use of onshore power. Carnival Cruise Lines is also willing to push onshore power as it is more cost-effective for them than to pay for the cleaner, yet more expensive fuel. Our port is understandably interested in keeping Carnival satisfied. Consequently, there should be no opposition to onshore power.

Charleston can protect its own by having the foresight to require that the SPA install plug-in capability. With an additional investment in onshore power, our city would join the ranks of responsible port communities.

If many other ports around the world use onshore power, why can’t, or more importantly, shouldn’t Charleston?

This is not a “new technology,” as the SPA keeps telling the public — the U.S. Navy has used it for over 50 years.

Investing $35 million in public funds for a new cruise terminal certainly should include onshore power to protect all of Charleston from air pollution, as we welcome cruise passengers to our beautiful, historic city.

J. Gilbert Baldwin Jr., M.D.
Hasell Street
Charleston

Dr. Baldwin received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. His post-graduate training in internal medicine and hematology was completed at the Medical University of South Carolina. He practiced in Charleston for 38 years, in addition to serving in the U.S. Army Medical Command in Europe and in Operation Desert Storm.

 

 

Read “SPA unfair”- a letter to the editor from Laurens Street resident in today’s P&C

SPA unfair
The Post and Courier
, December 6, 2011, letter to the editor

I am writing as one of approximately 50 homeowners who will be greatly affected by the proposed State Ports Authority cruise terminal. Our homes, in Anson House and Laurens Place, face directly and are in immediate proximity (about 100 yards) to the proposed terminal. Ships’ smokestacks will be as close as 150 feet from the nearest homes.

It seems entirely unreasonable that the SPA has refused even to consider any site other than this one, when the health and livability of so many residential homeowners and their families are being put in jeopardy. When we recently stood on our piazza watching the Fantasy depart, the noxious fumes from the ship were so strong that they made our throats hurt, to the point that we had to retreat inside.

We read with dismay the Nov. 26 op-ed about the SPA’s tactics. It is galling that the SPA, a public agency, has hired a public-relations firm, which then makes unfounded allegations, obviously with SPA approval, against all the taxpaying citizens who have expressed concerns about unregulated cruise ship operations.

It is unconscionable that the SPA and its public-relations firm continue to play the “snob” card against concerned citizens who have repeatedly made clear that they do not oppose cruise ships nor any other port business but do expect that SPA be regulated to protect livability and the health of Charleston’s citizens. It is equally disturbing to note that SPA managers receive sizable monetary bonuses based on the SPA’s growth. According to its own web site, the SPA “operates for the public’s benefit,” and yet its leaders have a personal, self-serving interest in advocating for growth in operations.

When growth trumps every other consideration, isn’t this a conflict of interest? Shouldn’t the SPA have been willing to fairly consider all possible sites along the Cooper River for its terminal?

Is it appropriate that a public agency disparage citizens who have with integrity raised legitimate questions about important issues of public health and livability?

Tommie Robertson
Laurens Street
Charleston

See today’s commentary & editorial in The Post and Courier

Continue debate on cruise ships, but without vilifying, Post and Courier, November 26, 2011, Commentary, Carrie Agnew, C4 Executive Director

Endangered Charleston, Post and Courier, November 26, 2011, Editorial

Illogic

Imagine that you won last week’s mayoral election and,
with clear, fresh eyes, you had the opportunity to make Charleston an even
better, more livable city than it is.  Bruce Smith, in a letter to the Post
and Courier
, takes this fresh approach:  “Anyone who is willing to tolerate
the [cruise] ships, given their druthers and a clean slate would never allow
them to dock in downtown Charleston.   They will have learned from many other
ports that placement of a terminal slightly removed from the hub of economic
activity and the center of tourism with frequent and free transport to and from
the center of town would be ideal.”  He notes that, “Harbors were never in the
‘center’ of town, even in Charleston, but on the periphery, to avoid all the
detrimental impacts they create… “We have a chance to do it anew, either north
or east of the city’s center, the way our founders would have chosen.”

Mr. Smith suggests that while the economics of the
industry are “attractive,” “our public persona and the quality of our lives
should never be sacrificed…  “Why would anyone think the use of an old
warehouse and a huge parking lot would be a smart decision?   We shouldn’t cut
any deal with the SPA until it is exactly what we all know and agree would be
the best solution for the next 100 years, not the next five.  On Nov. 2 the
Fantasy was departing, and I could hear every one of the 35 “chimes” and
announcements between 3-4 p.m.  I am nine blocks from the terminal.”(1)

Mr. Smith’s letter implies a fundamental question: “Why
some are wedded to the current and proposed situation is beyond comprehension.”

The answer is that the “go along, get along” mentality of
our public officials is easier than working to create the best solution for the
next 100 years.  And that old way of doing things is steaming ahead.

Last week, the State Ports Authority (SPA) fast-tracked
its “revised” terminal plan through the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) and
received preliminary approval.(2)  Of course almost any change to the original
warehouse design would have been an improvement.  The changes include replacing
a roll-down metal door with a folding door and making the bus loading area look
less like a loading dock; but those were changes that should have been in the
initial design given the various architects’ time, money spent, and “public
input,” but were omitted nonetheless.  In a halfhearted-defense of the BAR, the
problem here is more than the design of the terminal.  The bigger problem, as
Mr. Smith points out, is the actual placement of a cruise ship terminal so close
to downtown.

photo
Artist rendering of “revised” terminal plan for Union Pier, provided by the SPA,
published in the Post and Courier.  Click to enlarge.

And the other issue is that people can only “envision”
the building itself, when the far more important problem will be the activity
surrounding this terminal.

So if this “revised” terminal design looks a lot like the
“original” design that we published last week, that’s because it is.  The design
is compromised because the SPA is determined to use an old warehouse as the
basis for its new warehouse-like terminal.  Starting fresh would require
extensive permitting and involve delays in construction.  And the SPA’s obvious
goal is to build its Trojan Horse inside the city walls before Charleston’s
residents wake up to what’s happened their city.  So a warehouse it will be.
Now here’s what really matters.  The terminal will be surrounded by 9 acres of
asphalt parking lots.  And likely fences and security people to keep
non-cruisers away; that will mean that most everyone will be blocked from
getting to the waterfront when the ships are in.  Plus the terminal area will
have accommodations for lots of busses, taxis, vans and carriages to take
cruisers hither and yon, perhaps it will even feature a cell-phone waiting area.
And it will have an 1800′ pier, enough for two cruise ships, not just the one
the SPA has promised us.

What people cannot see or hear now, and many can’t
envision in the near future, are the many provision trucks coming in and out,
the busses and taxis turning, the cars streaming in and parking across these
nine acres, the noise and soot from the ships themselves, or the increasing
masses of people that will be boarding and later disgorging into the various
conveyances and onto the downtown streets.  The “artists rendering” above shows
relaxing hues of a green and blue, but the reality will be less inviting.  What
it will be, of course, is the waterfront equivalent of an airport.  Actually, it
will be the equivalent of an airport, bus station, and vast parking lots
all-in-one.  And none of it will be on the City of Charleston tax rolls.

Yet the go along, get along mentality is so strong that
when the SPA released a completely inane public statement to the Post and
Courier
last week, few noticed.  In announcing that the Port of Charleston
will be transferring materials for a new nuclear plant, “[t]he SPA said it will
be handling about 24,000 tons of equipment bound for the V.C. Summer Nuclear
Station in Jenkinsville (northwest of Columbia), where South Carolina Electric
& Gas Co. and Santee Cooper plan to add two new reactors.”  That’s great.
The release added, “[t]he SPA said the deal underscores the need to keep the
Columbus Street yard as a pure cargo terminal.”  Why?   Because, according to
the article, shipments will begin in December and continue “for more than four
years” as “[a]n estimated 30 vessels will bring in the machinery and other
equipment, with some pieces weighing up to 700 tons, the SPA said.”(3)   Please,
dear reader, do the math.  Ignoring the fact that the SPA owns the huge
Wando-Welch and other terminals that could handle these shipments, or that the
Port of Charleston faces “huge challenges to grow its port,” according to the
SPA President Jim Newsome(4), the SPA is actually telling us that 7 ships a
year over the next four years
is the reason the underused Columbus Street
terminal can’t also be used for cruise ships!?  Seven ships a year!?

photo
Aerial view of the 155-acre Columbus Street terminal with the
Ravenel Bridge in the background.
Columbus Street is more than double the size of Union Pier. P&C photo.
Click to enlarge.

Randy Pelzer, of the Charlestowne Neighborhood
Association’s cruise ship task force, challenged this illogical position.
Pelzer said that a cruise terminal would only use 20% of the Columbus Street
property and it would only be used on a part-time basis, so, “[i]t’s big enough
for both” (cruise and cargo traffic).  But that logic was summarily rebuffed by
SPA spokesman Byron Miller, who offered no data, evidence or rationale for his
terse response: “It’s needed for cargo.”

We note a second letter to the P&C. This is from
residents of Fripp Island who “are frequent visitors to the beautiful city of
Charleston.  We are aware of the prospect of cruise ships gaining more access to
the historic harbor, and are very distressed.  We know concerns have been
expressed by the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Preservation Society of
Charleston, two neighborhood associations, the World Monuments Fund, the
National Trust for Historic Preservation and numerous citizens, business groups,
taxpayers and others.”  They point out that “[d]espite this, the State Ports
Authority is going ahead with its plans for a cruise terminal with no deference
to these groups and individuals and their concerns about pollution, congestion,
stress on the historic fabric and livability of the city or studying other
locations for the cruise terminal itself.”(5)   They’re right.  The Holy City is
being deluded by bureaucrats, a sophisticated PR machine, and a void of
leadership into making a permanent, scarring sacrifice to its future quality of
life, a sacrifice made all the more illogical given the comment from the SPA’s
Jim Newsome that the cruise business is an important part of the port’s
diversification strategy, “but it will never be part of our growth
story…”(4)

The letter from the residents of Fripp Island concludes,
“We join others in asking for help from the State Legislature to rein in the SPA
to make it responsive to its duty to weigh the negative impacts of its
operations, along with the potential positive ones, on residents and to be
responsible as a government agency to serve the people.”

–Jay

——

1)  No Deals – letter to the P&C

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/nov/11/letters-to-the-editor/

2)  Cruise Ship Facility gets BAR nod – Post and Courier

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/nov/10/cruise-ship-facility-gets-bar-nod/

3)  Port to handle Nuke Plant cargo – Post and Courier

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/nov/09/port-to-handlenuke-plant-cargo/

4)  Port’s CEO:  Charleston’s Port must Grow – Charleston Business Journal

http://www.charlestonbusiness.com/news/41694-ports-ceo-charleston-rsquo-s-port-must-grow

5)  Curtail Cruises – letter to P&C

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/nov/10/letters-to-the-editor/