What did the media know and when did they know it?
By Jay Williams, Jr.
It was an epic fail. The media were stunned by the election results, became disoriented, briefly introspective; now some are angry. Moving back a step might be good.
What happened? How did the media and pollsters miss the Trump Train so badly that on the night of the election, they pondered a Clinton landslide, a Democratic takeover of the Senate and big House gains? The last Fox News poll gave Clinton a 4-point lead, touting that her level of support “is close to that of Barack Obama’s winning coalition against Mitt Romney in 2012.”
A gift after 150 years gone
By Charleston Mercury Staff
Regular Mercury readers will likely remember a cover story from the February 2015 edition exploring a mysterious Confederate diary recovered from a dying Charlestonian in the last days of the War Between the States by a Union soldier and residing with that soldier’s family for generations.
State, national trends converge in election
By Scott Buchanan
By any measure, the 2016 presidential election was unprecedented. Some have compared the election as a surprise along the lines of Harry Truman’s defeat of Thomas Dewey in 1948. However, Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 is an even bigger shocker than 1948. Truman was an incumbent president who campaigned feverishly, while Thomas Dewey stopped campaigning in mid-October 1948 and began planning his transition. Others have commented that Trump’s victory was more akin to Andrew Jackson’s victory in 1828. Trump’s victory was even more improbable than either 1828 or 1948 in the sense that Trump has never held political office previously, making him the first president in that category.
The Charleston Puzzle: The missing pieces
By Jay Williams, Jr.
Do you have one? That 1,000-piece “Bird’s Eye View of Charleston” jigsaw puzzle? Even if you don’t own one that shows those beautiful red roofs, wonderful church steeples, and handsome 18th and 19th century buildings, you can envision that iconic box cover in your mind.
Cruise terminal controversy may have only one solution
By Jay Williams, Jr.
There’s good reason for the cruise terminal controversy. Union Pier may be the worst place to put it.
There must be a balance between residents’ quality of life and the cruise ship tourism that Jonathon B. Tourtellot, a National Geographic Fellow, once called “the strip mine of tourism.”
On April 12, more than 125 citizens attended an Army Corps of Engineers public hearing as part of a process to decide if the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SPA) should be given a permit to build a new terminal at Union Pier. (See many comments on our letters to the editor section on pages 14 and 15.) Col. Matthew Luzzatto, commander of the Army Corps’ Charleston office, stood as he listened to two hours of public comments. Most speakers highlighted the negative impacts from cruise ships and respectfully offered options to reduce them. Before making its decision to approve the permit, approve it with special conditions or deny it, the Corps will review all comments submitted by May 12, 2016.
The Corps previously approved a “maintenance” permit with no public comment, but citizens appealed. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed that permit and chastised the Corps’ review process saying, “The Army Corps of Engineers, unreasonably and unlawfully, restricted its ‘scope of analysis’ to an insignificant fraction of the project that lay within the agency’s jurisdiction.”
Real growth, real issues
The SPA submitted revealing information to the court. Quoting from the ruling, “The Ports Authority has acknowledged that a cruise ship terminal can ‘present special challenges’ in ‘managing automobile and pedestrian traffic,’ ‘protecting the environment,’ ‘and preserving Charleston’s unique character’ and ‘there are still lingering questions about how well the cruise ship business will fit into the context of this diverse, world class city.’” “Evidence provided by the Ports Authority supports the [opponents] claim … that the number of cruise ships and passengers has increased in recent years and the proposed new and larger passenger terminal would likely significantly increase the number and size of cruise ships visiting Charleston and the volume of cruise passengers in the historic Charleston waterfront.”
From 2000 to 2013, the number of Charleston’s cruise ship passengers increased by 547 percent. So with a new 100,000 sq.-ft. terminal featuring an 1800’ pier, the home-ported 2,056-passenger Carnival Ecstasy could be replaced with a 3,450-passenger ship, creating new impacts even under current limits. In that 2013 ruling, the Court, citing SPA data, concluded that simply to service this increased volume of passengers on an average cruise day, “up to 20 tractor trailers, 16 small trucks, 32 busses, 90 taxis and 1600-passenger vehicles would need access to the very confined” terminal area that “lies immediately adjacent to the Charleston Historic District and the Ansonborough neighborhood.”
What about even more ships, traffic and impacts? In January, Cruise Industry News Quarterly wrote, “While Carnival remains the port’s number one customer, there is the potential for another home-ported line, as the city recently completed doubling the size of its airport.” And the new Union Pier cruise terminal would be much larger, able to berth two ships simultaneously.
Last May at Charleston City Council, Jim Newsome, the SPA’s CEO, asserted that Charleston’s cruise business “is not a growth industry,” noting that in 2010, “we had 67 cruise ships.” He didn’t say that Charleston would host 93 port calls in 2015. This year, Charleston will host 100 ships. That sure looks like growth.
That ordinance doesn’t limit anything
We’re now just a few ships short of the SPA’s own voluntary limit of 104 ships per year. No worries, right, because of that much-heralded City Council ordinance passed to address to cruise concerns. But that ordinance didn’t limit anything. It only requires the SPA to notify the city one year in advance when plans to exceed the voluntary limits of 104 cruise ship visits or the 3,500-passenger maximum. So if the promise isn’t kept, there are no consequences.
On the night the ordinance passed, the SPA’s public relations director, Byron Miller, sent an email confirming the ordinance’s irrelevancy: “As you’ll recall, this ordinance does not limit or impact in any way the cruise business in Charleston.”
At last May’s City Council meeting, SPA CEO Jim Newsome, mostly reaffirmed this earlier quotation: “In my view, cruising is a maritime commerce business, not a tourism business,” he said. “It’s more like an airport. Sure they may stay a night or two before or after the cruise, but for us it’s about the maritime commerce.” That night he said, “Most of the cruise passengers … board the Carnival Fantasy to become tourists, but in Nassau and Freeport.”
Carnival cruisers are not coming to Charleston; they’re going through Charleston. So much for those touted economic benefits.
This time, it’s a different process
This time, the Corps must abide by the congressionally mandated Section 106 process to assess all environmental and historic impacts.
A founding father’s mansion — 117 Broad St.
By Peg Eastman
Located on the southwest corner of Broad and Orange streets, the five-bay Georgian double house at 177 Broad St. was once part of Dr. Samuel Carne’s 18th century orange garden, a site believed to have been a venue for concerts in colonial times. The mansion was built in 1760 for James Laurens (1728-1784) by Charleston architect-builders Miller and Fullerton. The interior was graced with tall ceilings, a center stairway and two rooms symmetrically located on either side. It clearly reflected Laurens’ prominence in the community.
The Matriarch of Medicine: Dr. Marjorie M. Mengedoht, M.D.
The Face of Charleston by Johanna Spinks
By Katherine Mengedoht
Painted by international artist Johanna Spinks, this series is entitled the “Face of Charleston”; Charlestonian Katherine Mengedoht is the co-creator. The purpose of this public art project is to highlight our city by offering the portrait and story of one individual per month. Each portrait is painted in a single two-hour sitting with no further adjustments or changes. Johanna, Katherine and the subject get to know each other during the sitting and the life story of the sitter is gleaned from their time together. This is award-winning portraitist Johanna Spinks’ third installment of “The Face of …” project. To find out more, go to www.johannaspinks.com.