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"That's how we have giraffes, hippopotami, and the clap."

Kurt Vonnegut on the existence of a divine being. Vonnegut died last week at age 84.

 

Riley defends suspension

The news from last week's City Council meeting was supposed to be the amendments to the city's carriage animal ordinance (given initial approval), but council members weren't done talking about the video of a skateboarder getting pushed in to a bush. Seen that one? Of course you have.

The altercation, which occurred more than a year ago, involved a skateboarder and his brother illegally riding on (and likely damaging) the benches in Waterfront Park. The short video starts with Corey Dowds riding the bench and ends with Pfc. Willie Simmons pushing him into the bushes before giving the cameraman a talking to. She did not ticket the kids, possibly realizing this could come back to haunt her. But after a recent crackdown on downtown skaters, the two brothers released the video that's now been viewed by a national audience on CNN, ABC, and elsewhere.

An investigation following the video's release led to a 10-day suspension without pay for Simmons, angering some City Council members who think she was just doing her job.

"There's a difference between a push and a shove — streetwise," said Councilman Wendell Gilliard. "She did not use extreme force."

Councilman James Lewis said he has seen officers ignoring nearby skaters since Simmons' suspension.

"This incident is going to make officers scared to say something," he said.

Mayor Joe Riley, who has spoken fondly of Simmons throughout the video drama, said he felt "compelled" to respond to Lewis, Gilliard, and others who questioned the penalty.

"She made a mistake," he said. "There is no circumstance when the city will condone an officer using extreme force."

A suspension was appropriate because of the severity of the offence, Riley said.

"Push, nudge, shove, or whatever — they can't do it," he said. —Greg Hambrick

"We have different sensitivities and at different times we're going to come to different decisions, and I think that is best left to the states."

Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, defending the flying of the Confederate flag. Source: The Associated Press

Finally able to hoist a high-gravity beer?

South Carolina may be on its way to getting swilly on less. House Bill 3624, essentially a repeal of Prohibition-style blue laws making beers containing over 5 percent alcohol illegal in our state, passed subcommittee last week and goes to the full Ways and Means committee this week. A similar bill passed the Senate last week as well. The organization Pop the Cap SC has been pushing the bill for years and may finally see success, allowing microbreweries and homebrewers to openly enjoy their tasty 7 percent stouts.  —Stratton Lawrence

6

That's the total number of homicides so far this year in the city of Charleston after an upper peninsula shooting last week. Source: Post and Courier

$1

That's the hourly rate planned for public beach access parking on Folly Beach, set to begin next month.

School Board takes on transfers, charters

Tensions were high at the School Board meeting last week, with two board members accusing white parents of transferring their students out of minority schools. Meanwhile, the lines grew clearer between supporters and opponents of the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, with some board members suggesting they'll oppose granting use of the former Rivers Middle School campus to the group.

The district routinely takes on a list of transfers every meeting. Members will occasionally oppose the transfers with little comment about their particular displeasure, but last week Ruth Jordan let it be known that she was tired of white families running from schools because of an influx of minority students.

"I don't want to be a part of segregating our public schools," she said.

She noted one concern that students were requesting transfers from Laing to Moultrie (both in Mt. Pleasant) because students from struggling North Charleston schools were transferring to Laing.

Gregg Meyers said he didn't think that was what was going on, but that the district should study it. But Hillery Douglas said that he has seen just such circumstances in West Ashley.

"The board has done a terrible job of assigning pupils," Douglas said. "She (Jordan) is absolutely right."

The ire of Jordan, Douglas, and others then turned to the proposed charter school. The district has been in discussions with the charter school parents about the shared use of the presently vacant Rivers Middle School. The district has its own ideas for the campus, including a high tech high school program.

But several board members said they were wary of providing the use of the building, or of a proposal to provide trailers for the charter school while the building is rehabbed, considering the other needs facing District 20 schools.

"We need to take care of district needs as a first priority," said board member Toya Hampton Green.

David Engelman, a frequently isolated voice on the board, provided his support for the charter school.

"It's a community group trying to found a school that does something other than fail," Engelman said.

Board member Arthur Ravenel Jr., who is an outspoken supporter of charter schools, noted that whether or not the school will come to fruition is the state's decision, not the board's. The only thing the district can decide is whether or not it provides the charter school a roof. —GH

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