In 2012, the top stories in Charleston included a detente in North Charleston's battle with S.C. Public Railways, the fourth and final incarnation of the Town of James Island, and County Council's flip-flop on supporting the proposed I-526 extension. They were big stories, but they were a little abstract at times. This year, local governments took steps that had more obvious and immediate effects: a texting ban in two cities, a skatepark plan in an industrial zone, and a new set of rules to govern late-night bars. If you didn't follow local politics before, you probably started paying attention this year. Here are the top 10 local stories from the 2013:
- After a long legal fight, Baby Veronica was returned to the Capobiancos
Veronica reunited with adoptive parents
It took three years and a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the legal battle over custody of a little girl named Veronica ended in September when she was transferred back to James Island to live with her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. The Capobiancos adopted Veronica from her biological mother at the time of her birth in Oklahoma in September 2009, but Veronica's biological father, a Cherokee man named Dusten Brown, sought to overturn the adoption under the protection of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which is meant to prevent unwarranted removal of Native American children from their homes. The sticky legal questions, the fraught racial politics, and the sheer drama of a girl being shuttled back and forth across the country drew the attention of everyone from Dr. Phil to the New York Times before SCOTUS overturned a state ruling and the Capobiancos were reunited with their daughter.
CofC looks for a new president
College of Charleston president George Benson will step down in June 2014, and the search is on for his replacement. Former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford said she was interested in the post back in August but has stayed quiet about it ever since. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, formerly one of the most powerful figures in state politics, has been openly campaigning for the post. Any other takers?
- Robert Ford reportedly used campaign funds to buy male enhancement meds
Robert Ford resigns ... and Marlon Kimpson takes his place
After the Senate Ethics Committee accused state Sen. Robert Ford of misusing campaign funds for — among other things — male enhancement drugs and kinky adult store purchases, Ford resigned in May, putting an end to his 20-year stint in office. Six Democrats crowded the primary seeking to take his place, and accusations were soon flying left and right about campaign shenanigans and unethical pay-for-endorsement schemes, one of which was allegedly hatched at an IHOP in North Charleston. In the end, Democratic candidate and attorney Marlon Kimpson dominated the money race and won a landslide victory over Republican Billy Shuman and Libertarian Alex Thornton.
- Jonathan Boncek file photo
- Charleston School of Law students railed against the school's prospective purchasers
Charleston School of Law gets cozy with InfiLaw
Few groups of people can express their rage quite as eloquently as a room full of lawyers and lawyers-to-be. When the news leaked that the Charleston School of Law was selling itself to a Florida-based law school consortium called InfiLaw System, current and former students voiced their opposition loudly, saying that consorting with InfiLaw would ruin the reputation of CSOL. A recent poll showed that 96 percent of current CSOL students do not support the sale of their school, but the school's administration appears to be going forward with the sale anyway.
- Jonathan Boncek file photo
City Council gets all up in your nightlife
On King Street and in the vicinity of the City Market, the scene can get ugly quickly after midnight. Bromo sapiens clash over Jäger bomb threats, catty cosmo-swillers claw at each other's coifs, and underage over-indulgers spew their stomachs' discontent in the gutters. City Council's response? For one thing, they upped the police presence in the bar district, using hospitality tax revenues to pay for eight new officers who started in October. For another, they started requiring bars to employ private security staff in proportion to their patron capacity after midnight. Will it work? Time and the weekend police reports will tell.
The downtown development boom moves north
We saw the wave coming this spring: Thousands of new hotel rooms cropping up. Towers full of luxury condos, hip lofts, and student apartments dotting the King-Meeting corridor. Über-hip restaurants slouching toward the Neck to be born. Downtown is booming, and Board of Architectural Review meetings have been heating up all year as landholders scramble to stake their claim in development pay dirt. We'll be keeping our eyes on the Evening Post Industries, parent company of the Post and Courier, which plans to develop 12 acres of land around the newspaper office on Columbus Street in a mixed-use project slated to include offices, apartments, and commercial space.
The State Ports Authority goes back to the drawing board on cruise terminal
Environmentalist and preservation groups exulted in September when U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel threw out an Army Corps of Engineers permit for a proposed $35 million cruise terminal at Union Pier. "You gave this permit a bum's rush," Gergel chastised the Corps, looking at a State Ports Authority project that could vastly increase the number of cruise ship passengers visiting the Holy City. The decision came on the heels of a study, commissioned by the Southern Environmental Law Center, that showed cruise ships could reduce their carbon monoxide emissions in the Charleston harbor by as much as 97 percent by plugging into onshore power instead of idling at the dock. The original Union Pier plan did not include an onshore power plug-in.
Mt. Pleasant bans texting while driving ... and Charleston follows suit
Mt. Pleasant put a clampdown on texting while driving in September, enacting a $50 fine for anyone caught tapping away on their mobile distraction devices behind the wheel. In October, Charleston announced a $100 fine for texting while driving, bicycling, skateboarding, or using any other type of vehicle. Looking forward to the 2014 legislative session, state Rep. Wendell Gilliard is seeking support for a bill that would ban texting while driving statewide.
- Paul Bowers file photo
Alice Boland thwarted at Ashley Hall ... and the Statehouse responds
It was a moment that could easily have gone down in history alongside Newtown and Columbine. On Feb. 4, a mentally ill Beaufort woman named Alice Boland drove to Ashley Hall School in downtown Charleston, drew a handgun she had legally purchased in Walterboro, and pulled the trigger while pointing it at staff members — and nothing happened. While the shooting itself was a misfire, it inspired an overhaul of state background-check laws. Parents from the school started a letter-writing campaign to lawmakers after the incident, Rep. Leon Stavrinakis took up the cause, and a mere 87 days later, the General Assembly passed a bill requiring gun shops to check potential buyers against a new database of mentally ill people.
- Cheaters never win... except for this guy
Mr. Sanford goes to Washington ... again
Apparently it takes more than a well-publicized extramarital affair to turn off Republican voters. The former governor, who refused to resign after admitting to an affair with Argentinian woman (now his fiancée) María Belén Chapur, didn't talk much about his personal misdeeds during his campaign to represent the First Congressional District, a seat he previously held in the late '90s. Instead, he simply said in a TV ad that he had learned a lot about a "God of second chances." Folks must have bought it, because Sanford trounced a field of 15 Republican contenders in the primary and then took home 54 percent of the vote in the general election against Democratic contender Elizabeth Colbert Busch and Green Party long-shot Eugene Platt.