by Sam Spence
In the continually unfolding saga of I-526, the state Department of Transportation removed the I-526 project from its agenda, nixing a planned discussion on whether or not the state would take over the project from Charleston County. The move, DOT Commissioner Jim Rozier from Moncks Corner said, was made because the project is not officially the domain of the agency. So to clear this up, the commission deferred discussion of taking on the project because it had not yet taken on the project.
In the same article, Coastal Conservation League director Dana Beach speculated that top state and local officials had a hand in delaying the vote, floating the idea that state House Speaker Bobby Harrell, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, and others were "going underground" and calling them cowards. Ouch. This continues the war of words with Riley. Last time Beach spoke out about the funding of 526, which he characterized as corrupt, Riley called him reckless.
Meanwhile, influential business and political figures are taking to the editorial pages to make their opinions known and flex their media muscle. A few days after senior Republican State Senator Harvey Peeler accused the State Infrastructure Bank of "force-feeding asphalt to Charleston," today Charleston businessmen Ronald Jones Jr., chairman of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and John Darby, president of The Beach Company, wrote that the beltway's completion is a "crucial infrastructure need for the community." The duo points to the gridlocked local roads across the sea islands to Kiawah Island during the recent PGA Championship and future growth in the area as reasons for expansion. It was shortly after the tournament in August, state officials announced they had secured remaining funding needed to complete the Mark Clark.
Darby, identified as "Chairman, Trident CEO Council" in the letter, also heads up The Beach Company, the lead company behind the purchase and development of Kiawah Island. In addition to serving the local Chamber, Jones is an attorney on Daniel Island.Just another day of good-old-boy power-broking in the state of South Carolina.