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"There's no defense against that predator known as the automobile."

Jack Cover, a turtle specialist and general curator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, on the fast-disappearing habitat of the turtle. Source: New York Times
Chamber, League Ready for Legislative Session ·
The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters held a breakfast for members and the local legislative delegation last Wednesday, but a Republican breakfast on the same morning left the crowd of legislators to two Charleston Democrats, Reps. David Mack III and Floyd Breeland. The legislative no-shows didn't stop the chamber and league from highlighting their legislative priorities.
The chamber will push for legislation that makes the business environment more attractive, including business license, property tax, and worker's compensation reforms, says Mike McGinty, chair of the chamber's Public Policy Committee. The state's road needs will continue to be a problem, even after suggested Transportation Department reforms. McGinty highlighted the need for funding for the access road for proposed port expansion, but Breeland noted the road has become a concern for Rosemont residents who may be affected by a new Interstate 26 exit ramp proposed for the project.
One of the League's main concerns, not surprisingly, is voting. They're particularly concerned about adequate access to polling places for the elderly and disabled and the access to "recountable and accurate" records from the new touch-screen voting machines used in November's general election, says Barbara Zia, Charleston-area president of the League.
Both groups encourage the state to focus on public school solutions to education problems rather then private school vouchers or tax credits.
"Public education has got to be the solution rather then finding ways to get away from public schools," McGinty says. —Greg Hambrick

30 ¢

That's how much Gov. Mark Sanford wants to hike the cigarette tax. But, while others look for any increase in the tax, the lowest in the country, to go to looming health care costs, Sanford wants to send it back to taxpayers as an income tax credit.

Sesquicentennial

Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston), has prefiled a bill in the state Senate to create the South Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Advisory Board. The group will determine statewide observances for the 150th anniversary of the war and to ensure observances are inclusive. Another bill filed earlier this month by Sens. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) and Daniel Verdin III (R-Laurens) calls for establishing May as Confederate Memorial Month.

"They never should have come to an island. You're kind of stuck. You've got a three-mile stretch on that connector. You can't go anywhere. It's pretty dumb, really."

Lt. Ray Wright on the alleged armed robbery of a gas station across the street from the Isle of Palms Police Station. A chase ensued, but the suspects couldn't go very fast in the alleged get-away car, a Buick Skylark that went no faster then 75 miles per hour. "It probably was as fast as they could pedal," Wright said. Source: Post and Courier
Council salary hikes win early approval ·
Charleston City Council gave initial approval last week to increasing council salary from $11,100 to $15,000 and the mayor's salary from $125,206 to $149,000, beginning in 2008 after next year's elections. The recommendations for hikes came from a citizen committee, led by William Moody Jr., tasked with reviewing the four-year-old salaries.
While several council members say their work is a labor of love, the council approved the hikes 9-2.
"The job here is a full-time job, whether we like it or not," says Councilman Wendell Gilliard.
Council members Henry Fishburne and Kathleen Wilson voted against the hikes. Council member Paul Tinkler was not present at last week's meeting.
"I don't think anyone on this council ran for the money. I don't think the mayor ran for the money," Fishburne says, but "we're kind of getting away from the public service part of things."
Moody notes that the discussion on increasing the mayor's salary was all over the board until the committee unanimously settled on the $149,000 amount, with a three percent annual increase, putting the salary at $162,000 after four years. Changing the city's type of government to the more common administrator form would likely cost the city that amount or more, Moody says.
In other news, Mayor Joe Riley was expected to move his office back into City Hall at the end of last week. The building has undergone extensive renovations costing more than $10 million. City Council will continue to meet in the city courtroom on Lockwood Drive until remaining work on council chambers and the exterior of the building is completed early next year. —GH

Much Ado About the Wrong Thing ·

City Paper recently reported on the dilemma Charles Towne Montessori School parents faced as a cell tower went up next door, potentially exposing children to high-level RF radiation. Hoping to allay fears, the owners paid a third party to test RF levels before and after the tower was turned on over Thanksgiving break. The test indicated that levels had actually dropped, leaving everyone scratching their heads (parents are still waiting on the actual data). The parents' association then purchased an EMF tester, the type of radiation emitted at the ground level from a cell tower. One classroom reported unsafe levels. Ironically, the source was powerlines that have run next to the school for years, not the new tower. They're investigated relocating the classroom, but in the meantime it's business as usual at the school rather than the mass exodus that seemed imminent this fall. An undo controversy, perhaps, but with your kids, better safe than sorry. —Stratton Lawrence

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