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Briefs: Sustainability director, Boeing, Maersk, and Demint and the Jews

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Sustainability Director Settling In With Green Support

Brian Sheehan, the City of Charleston's first sustainability director, barely had time to unpack before heading out to a national conference for the nation's leaders in greening local governments. The collection of only a few dozen directors from across the nation is an indication of just how new this effort is.

"We don't have a tremendous reservoir of leaders," Sheehan recently told a meeting of the city's Green Committee.

But what Charleston and other cities on the front end of this movement have is the commitment to mainstream energy alternatives, says Mayor Joe Riley, who urged the City Council to hire a sustainability director last December.

"It has to be addressed and will only be achieved at a grassroots level," Riley says.

Sheehan, who came from the sustainability office in Portland, says that he's not a zealot on green initiatives.

"We all need to make a personal commitment, and changing habits is a hard thing to do," he says.

The city can help residents make small steps by encouraging things like reusable shopping bags. Over time, those efforts can make a big difference.

"We can make this happen now," Sheehan says. "We can make these changes today."

He'll also look for ways to foster public-private partnerships.

"That's how we're going to get 80 percent to 90 percent there," he says.

S.C. GOP offends Jews in latest minority gaffe

If South Carolina politicians are intent on embarrassing the state while also marginalizing every minority, there is news on both fronts this week.

In the past, there was the ongoing uproar over the state's reverence to the Confederate flag and the high-profile indignation over the international travel ad "South Carolina is so gay."

In a column in the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, James Ulmer and Edwin Merwin, both county chairmen for the state Republican Party, used a Jewish stereotype to defend Sen. Jim DeMint's principled stance against earmarks — or projects used by legislators to drive federal money to their districts, sometimes without regard for merit or value.

"There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves," the piece read.

The men assumed the line was a positive reflection of frugality. In actuality, its a reference to the days when oppressed Jews were kept out of every other aspect of society, except for lending, according to Matthew Brooks, the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. DeMint called the comments "thoughtless and hurtful" in a statement to CNN and the two chairs later apologized.

Maersk Backs That Thing Up; Boeing Hints at Hand

In the midst of a national economic drought, Charleston has been dragged through the ringer like the viewers of a Nicholas Sparks movie — but with actors that are nowhere near as attractive. But last week brought glimmers of hope that Charleston will make it to the credits.

In a call to investors, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney laid out an argument for expanding operations in the Charleston market. The area is in the final stages of competition for the plane manufacturer's new Dreamliner facility.

"Diversifying our labor pool and labor relationships has some benefits," McNerney said during the call, directly referencing strikes the company faces every few years on the West Coast.

In other burgeoning good news, the State Ports Authority announced late last week that major client Maersk, which had threatened to pull out over local union costs, had signed a five-year deal.

Losing Maersk would have put a substantial dent in port traffic, but SPA President and CEO Jim Newsome delivered the news with a look beyond preservation, focusing on further expansion.

"Today we can handle two-way vessel traffic at up to 48 feet of draft with the tides," Newsome said. "This will today accommodate every ship that calls an East Coast port."

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