Allowing Elected Officials To Stick Us With Debts

By Barney Blakeney

With the November 6 general elections looming, a couple of items that came across my desk in the past week seem more important – a request by the S.C. National Action Network for investigations into the former Charleston Naval Hospital property sale and redevelopment and rate reductions for SCE&G customers. Voters should consider those issues when casting ballots in the November elections.

Both issues are high profile right now, but they’ve been around awhile. The issue of SCE&G rate reductions like the sale and redevelopment of the old navy hospital on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston, probably wouldn’t be of much concern to voters had we done our jobs all along. Most citizens have been so uninvolved in the electoral process the tail has been wagging the dog so long it seems natural. We’re wringing our hands about the representation we get in government. But we elect our representatives, even when we fail to cast ballots!

South Carolina National Action Network President Elder James Johnson brought by letters his organization’s sent to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, S.C. State Law Enforcement Division, the S.C. Attorney General’s office and the Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor asking for an investigation into the multiple sale of the former Charleston Naval Hospital. That thing has been a problem for citizens since the City of North Charleston bought it in 2012 for $2 million. Its 24 acres was a steal of a deal. It’s been stealing from us ever since.

Months after the purchase, the city flipped the property for $5 million in a deal boasting benefits to county residents. The deal included partners with all kinds of ties to elected officials. Promises were made and additional deals were cut to redevelop the 10-story hospital into a facility to accommodate county agencies and other occupants. Covered in red, the issue still failed to get any attention from voters and taxpayers. Then last year the new owners bailed out of the project after millions of dollars had changed hands. On their way out they sued the county which settled the lawsuit for a cool $33 million.

Trying to keep track of the money flow in the naval hospital deal is like me trying to figure out new math back in the 1960s – add this, subtract that, factor in the other thing – all of it is confusing. Still I know 2+2=4 always! And when I add up what went down with the naval hospital deal Charleston voters lost money and the folks doing the math were our elected officials.

Just a few days earlier I got the report that the South Carolina Legislature finally decided to order SCE&G rate reductions in response to the V.C. Summer nuclear construction project fiasco. What took them so long?

Them sapsuckers went to Columbia three days a week from January to June, costing taxpayers millions of dollars for their salaries, per diem and other expenses but got next to nothing accomplished then came back in extended session to pass rate reduction legislation that should have happened last year! To add insult to injury, the deal still ain’t completed – the public service commission, which is appointed by the legislature – still must finalize the deal. Point blank, there’s no guarantee ratepayers ever will see any reduction.

As the first of July rolled in last week I talked to a good friend who complained of having to juggle paying rent, making her car payment and making a partial payment on her utility bill. We shared the same concerns. I try to pay my utility bill on time each month. But like a lot of folks, one unexpected expense means somebody either gets paid late or doesn’t get paid at all. It bothers me that the people we elect to office to look out for us drag their feet when it comes to making the decisions that affect our quality of life.

Since 2007 SCE&G has been charging its customers to pay the cost of constructing the V.C. Summer nuclear plant. I understand that it’s normal practice for businesses to pass on the cost of providing services and products to customers. That’s how it’s done. But how does a business get away with charging customers for products and services it doesn’t provide? And how does that happen when there are watchdogs paid to prevent that from happening? Ain’t that what we pay our legislators and public service commissioners to do?

I don’t know about anybody else, but if I don’t produce what these people who pay me to write for this newspaper want I’ll lose this spot. Elected officials work for us, not the other way around. If they’re not working to produce what we want – a better quality of life – they should lose their spots! Why do we continue to elect people to positions who fail to perform their duties?

Holding public office ain’t about friendship. It’s about performing a service. What’s especially egregious is when the friends we elect to public office use their offices for personal gain at our expense. Yeah, it matters what Donald Trump is doing in Washington, D.C., but it matters more what our elected friends allow to happen in North Charleston and Columbia.

If it was up to me I’d throw all the bums out and start fresh. But that ain’t feasible. So we should be real selective when we cast our ballots in November. We’ll have to re-elect some of them devils, but we should make it abundantly clear that unless they get right in a hurry, their acts will be out in the next round.

Especially Black folks! We ain’t got time to play with those fools! This thing is getting tough and only will get tougher. We don’t have the luxury of electing Black folks who jerk us over just because they’re our friends. We must elect people to office who will get the job done!

Leave a Comment