Many hats are off to the Town Council of Sullivan's Island, who voted last week to make their municipality the first in the Lowcountry to go smoke-free. For years Charleston City Council has talked about a ban on smoking in workplaces, only to back down when the usual whiners and complainers (i.e., the food and beverage industry) sound off.
Charleston City Councilman Henry Fishburne, who has been leading the effort for a smoke-free ordinance, said he hopes the Sullivan's Island action "will encourage, inspire, and embarrass" other municipalities to take similar action.
It was good news, indeed, and what was even better was that we could actually read it in our daily newspaper, the Post and Courier. Unfortunately, the P&C is not so forthcoming with stories that do not seem to fit its agenda.
For example, last week the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted 37-25 to lift the 25-year moratorium on natural gas drilling on the Outer Coastal Shelf. The vote brings us one step closer to the day we will have gas and oil wells off the coast of South Carolina. Seems to me that this is a story the good folks of Charleston might like to keep up with. The issue could come to the floor of the House for a vote as early as next month and our own Rep. Henry Brown has already said he supports drilling in our coastal waters. But folks won't be writing letters or raising hell if they don't know about it and the P&C has been keeping this monumental issue largely under wraps.
Here's another story you didn't read in the Post and Courier last week. The P&C got its ass kicked in its own backyard by The State, which ran a three-day series of stories about Charleston's own Sen. Glenn McConnell and his Hunley submarine. That's three front pages and 10 inside pages describing how McConnell has used stealth and skullduggery to surreptitiously fund the preservation of and the building of a museum for the Hunley, using taxpayers' money.
Here are some of the findings of The State:
• The cost of the Hunley project is approaching $100 million.
• Without public debate, McConnell — who is president pro tem of the Senate and arguably the most powerful politician in the state — has arranged funding of the Hunley project through a quasi-public agency called Friends of the Hunley. Much of the funding is "fragmented and tucked away in various agency budgets," where no individual or agency has oversight, The State reported.
• As permanent chair of Friends of the Hunley, McConnell has made himself unofficial spokesman for the project. In that capacity, he has told some whoppers in his effort to mythologize the Hunley and its crew. In one case, he claimed the gold coin found aboard the submarine was worth $10 million. McConnell has also made outrageous claims as to the technological significance of the Hunley. Both of McConnell's claims were soundly refuted by experts in the respective fields.
• McConnell has arranged for Clemson University to take over preservation of the Hunley, at a time when money was running out and visitors to the sub's conservation lab were dwindling. To pay for Hunley upkeep, Clemson will tap state money designated for university projects to attract high-tech and medical jobs.
• McConnell had Clemson administrators sign a contract restricting what university scholars and researchers can write about the Hunley.
• McConnell has led the state on a reckless adventure to build a $42 million museum to house the Hunley, yet his commission has done absolutely no feasibility, site, or market studies, which experts say are critical to knowing whether such a venture can succeed. He has done this as numbers have dropped at the conservation lab and as a $3 million Hunley simulation in Myrtle Beach closed for lack of tourist interest.
• McConnell's commission chose North Charleston as the site for their Hunley museum, far from the tourist traffic and historic sites of Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, but suspiciously close to McConnell's family-owned CSA Galleries, which bills itself as the nation's largest Civil War store.
This information was on the AP wire and could have been picked up by the P&C in an abbreviated format, if the editors and management had wanted you to know it. I sent an e-mail to P&C editor Barbara Williams, asking her to explain why her staff chose to ignore the Glenn McConnell story. I received no response. At the Post and Courier, it seems that silence is golden.