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"It doesn't make any sense that my employer would allow me to handle its money. I don't have any knowledge of investing."

The Lowcountry's former superstar investor Al Parish, responding to questions about the millions of dollars Charleston Southern University entrusted with the instructor, according to Susan Hardesty, a forensic psychiatrist at the Medical University of South Carolina. Source: Charleston Regional Business Journal

Hotel Decision Delayed

Last week, the Board of Architectural Review gave their strong support for the nine-story hotel set to replace the old, nasty library on King Street. And then they said it wasn't ready for approval, deferring a decision to give the developers one more crack at the small stuff.

"It's close to where we hoped it would be, but I don't think you can let it go to final approval," said board member Sandy Logan, who praised the building, but said that he wanted to see more excitement on the first floor.

A packed house came to hear the debate over the proposed nine-floor, 105-foot building, with half the room supporting a much-needed facelift to one of the few black eyes left on Marion Square, while the other half support development, just a much smaller development. It's the difference between a Charleston landmark and another boutique hotel.

"We must not lose sight of the fact that this city is based on the scale of 18th- and 19th-century buildings," says Robert Gurley, with the Preservation Society of Charleston, which lobbied hard to have the board send this back to the beginning of the approval process all over again, obviously hoping he'd get something smaller.

But board members said the building's height can be an asset by creating an appropriate border for Marion Square.

"Marion Square has been allowed to bleed," Logan said.

If there was a consistent complaint, it was that the building didn't look like Charleston. Logan said it looked like New York, Robert Demarco said it looked like a South Florida resort, and Chairman Craig Bennett said, "It's got Florida, New York, and perhaps Chicago elements in it."

Aside from the recommended changes for the first-floor retail, board members also stressed that they wanted high-end materials used in construction.

Board member Robert Stockton highlighted what may be the most important concern about the building's design: the pool.

"Are we sure we want to look across the square and see traveling salesmen in bathing suits?" While we agree, it looks like the pool won't be that visible, thank goodness. —Greg Hambrick

18 hours

That's how long state emergency officials expect the drive from Charleston to Columbia would be if a quick hurricane evacuation was necessary. Source: The State

Graffiti artists respond

Local graffiti artists are responding to Mayor Riley's Wipe Out Graffiti campaign. "Graffiti is not an issue of creativity, but a definite form of vandalism," Riley said when launching the campaign earlier this month, including a cleanup hotline for property owners as well as increased enforcement to catch graffiti vandals in the act.

The mayor can't say that vandalism isn't a problem if it's aesthetically pleasing, says local graffiti artist Sheepman.

"He wouldn't be doing his job," he says. "The law says that vandalism is vandalism — creativity doesn't matter."

But Sheepman says that graffiti artists don't always consider what they're doing as malicious defacement of property.

"Defacement is an opinion, as graffiti doesn't always spoil the surface, to many it enhances a surface," he says "I don't always like graffiti myself. Sometimes I think that people put stuff up just because they can or they're trying to prove something. I like graffiti if I think it looks good, or if it's in a spot that makes you wonder 'How the hell did someone get up there to do that?'" —Greg Hambrick

"You prepared me well."

Exiting Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, in response to Charleston County School Board Member Ray Toler's assertion that her new job in Seattle won't be a cakewalk. Board member Arthur Ravenel also tried to give her a little ribbing by noting that "I've got a Ravenel relative up there."

Radioactive Watchdogs

Despite bordering a major nuclear waste landfill, the Savannah River is a relatively healthy waterway where it passes the Department of Energy's site south of Aiken. The river's health is due in no small part to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL), which for 56 years has monitored the riparian ecosystem and the environmental impact of nuclear processing. DOE recently reduced funding for the lab, threatening to close it completely. The Savannah River Site sits on top of a major aquifer that supplies groundwater to much of S.C., yet a new proposal aims to direct waste here from all over the country. SREL provides the crucial role of ensuring that water and surrounding ecosystems remain relatively untainted. Check out www.savesrel.org to learn more. —Stratton Lawrence

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