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Open Containers, Air Pollution, Thomas Ravenel

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"I mean it's almost like Goebbels-style journalism. If you repeat a misstatement often enough, people will begin to believe it."

Sen. Glenn McConnell, accusing Gov. Mark Sanford's office of dirty, Nazi-style politics regarding recently passed immigration legislation the governor felt was too lenient with business owners. Source: The State

Open Container Crackdown

First they came after the cigarettes inside; now they're after the wine glasses outside. After offering warnings to event organizers last year, the City of Charleston has begun a crack- down on open container violations during local artist and design events.

The popular "walks" typically involve galleries or shops opening their doors and several wine bottles for a few hours in the evening as interested buyers, socialites, and booze hounds mingle. Last spring, it wouldn't have seemed unusual at all to see a group of 20-somethings in sundresses making their way down Broad Street, stopping only long enough at the next venue to top off their drinks. These days, they're risking a ticket.

If the businesses were in strip malls, this wouldn't be such a problem, but because they're populating city streets where you have to get out on the sidewalk to go from one stop to the other, they're hindered by the city's open container laws.

Last month, at least one Upper King Street Design Walk patron received a $200 ticket for carrying her plastic cup of wine down the street.

"There could have been a dozen tickets given," says Susan Lucas, a design walk organizer and operator of the French Hare Gallery and Galleria.

Upper King businesses were warned last year that they would have to temper the good times, so each participating shop and gallery hung a sign in April alerting patrons to the potential violation if they left with alcohol in hand.

"We all poured a little less wine so people wouldn't have to finish so much in one store," she says.

While Lucas understands there can't be exceptions to the city's open container laws, she says she's been of mixed mind on the increased enforcement.

"On one hand, we can't allow open containers and public drunkenness," she says. "On the other hand, we wanted a party." —Greg Hambrick

Child's Play at the Port (Keep the Inhaler Handy)

For the second year in a row, Charleston received an "F" from the American Lung Association for our high levels of fine particle pollution, or "soot." A primary cause of asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke, Charleston's levels average around 30 micrograms per cubic meter, just below the EPA's acceptable maximum of 35. Coal-fired power plants and emissions from ships and trucks are the primary sources of soot. The State Ports Authority is concurrently building a new terminal at the old Navy Base, which will increase port capacity by 50 percent and has received all of the necessary environmental permits to be built.Their own Environmental Impact Study predicted the terminal would emit particulate matter at a level of 45.7 micrograms per cubic meter, over the EPA's 35 standard and acceptable only because ships are an unregulated "mobile" source. Despite that grim possibility, SPA announced a contest last week for the county's public school seventh and eighth graders to name the new terminal. The winner receives $500, which can be used at their discretion, including for health care. For more information on the contest, see www.scspa.org. —Stratton Lawrence

May 29

That's the day former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel will report to a medium-security prison in Georgia to serve his 10-month sentence for handing out coke to friends, signaling that we may not be seeing further arrests in the case anytime soon. Source: The State

Change on the Brain

Forget assertions that Barack Obama's preacher problems will drag down the ticket. Both Anne Peterson-Hutto and Eugene Platt, the two Democrats looking to unseat Rep. Wallace Scarborough in November, suggest this year in particular is good for Democratic hopefuls and they seem ready to take up the presidential candidates' message of change.

"A lot of people are fed up with the status quo," says Hutto.

Platt has good reason to be hopeful — he lost by a scant 40 votes in the 2006 general election against Scarborough, but he references Obama as a particular asset.

"Nationwide, people are embracing the notion of change," he says. "If Obama is on the top of the Democratic ticket, my stock will be way up there." —Greg Hambrick

$1,000

That would be the maximum initial penalty for employing an illegal worker under legislation approved by the General Assembly last week. The new requirements to verify employment will go into effect in July 2009 for businesses with more than 100 employees, with the rest coming online the following year. Repeat violations could send fines to up to $10,000 per illegal employee. The law would require electronic verification through a pilot federal program or through an undetermined state employment verification form. Source: The State

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