CRITICS' PICKS ‌ Politics & Public Affairs 

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Best Flip-Flop
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Every few months, Sister Lindsey shows some spine and criticizes the Bush Administration for how it's handling the Iraq War, for instance, or how it handled the Abu Ghraib prison controversy. And then his Republican handlers sink their talons in, tightening their grip on his soul, and he disappears from sight, or comes out in favor of some right-wing position. We think Graham should leave Washington, D.C. and come back home, where he could speak to both sides of the political spectrum. --Bill Davis

Best/Worst Program for Nuclear Disarmament
MOX Fuel
Usually, the CP smiles upon any form of nuclear disarmament. Unless, that is, disarmament means corporations milking our tax dollars to build nuclear processing plants with no set budget, and requires shipping of weapons-grade plutonium through Charleston Harbor on its way to be processed into commercial mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, making the plutonium susceptible to terrorist attacks. Plans to build the nation's first MOX processing plant at the Savannah River Site would no doubt lead to more nuke waste coming through the state and our harbor. This plan also increases the risk of bioterrorism, especially after a handful of environmentalists drove into the middle of a "secured" truck caravan carrying high-level radioactive materials. If it's that easy for peace-loving hippies to infiltrate a shipment, how hard could it be for nefarious terrorists? --Benjamin Schlau

Best Positive, Non Embarrassing Recognition for S.C.
Marine Genomics Project
Finally, South Carolina is known to at least part of the international community for being at the top in something other than domestic violence, unemployment, failing schools, diabetes, and the like. The Marine Genomics Project leads the world in predicting how marine life will react genetically to changes in their environments whether caused by nature or people, and it was developed at MUSC as part of a collaboration among the school, College of Charleston, NOAA, and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Scientists from all over the world send DNA samples here from subaquatic critters to have them sequenced and their genetic information entered into a computer to measure how the genes will react to environmental changes, such as a rise or fall in water temperature, algae blooms, and pollution. Researchers say this will one day enable them to "eco-forecast," allowing scientists to predict how organisms will react to changes in their environment before those changes occur. --Benjamin Schlau

Best Government Report that Went Nowhere
U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy's Report on the State of the Oceans
Spearheaded by ex-U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and signed into law by President Clinton, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy was charged to evaluate the health of the oceans and make recommendations for their protection. Commissioners were not chosen until after Bush was in office. In addition to federal biologists, including one who works at the Hollings Marine Lab on James Island, Bush appointed a couple of retired Naval officers for terrorism concerns and an executive from an offshore drilling company. All of the Commission's 16 members agreed that our country is destroying our subaquatic resources that "are critical to the very existence and well-being of the nation and its people" with overfishing, rapid development of coastal real estate aided by federally subsidized flood insurance, and inconsistencies among local, state, and federal regulations -- just to name a few. In response to the Commission's report, the president set up an executive committee to secure the health of the oceans. However, a year has passed since the report was finished, and little has changed. This Commission and the Pew Oceans Commission conferred and gave the White House and Congress a D-plus for their minimal work to protect the oceans. But the president is no stranger to bad grades. Despite some good words from Bush, the Commission stated he allocated zero funding in his new science initiative for Commission-recommended programs. Looks like the only undersea life our great-grandkids will know will be SpongeBob reruns. --Benjamin Schlau

Best Indication We Can Keep the Fifth Reich at Bay
Terrorist suspects released
From the Cold War to the Drug War to the War on Terrorism, the U.S. government has been using wars to deny U.S. citizens their constitutional rights for eons. But, after heavy criticism, the Bush Administration finally released "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla to civilian facilities last year after they'd held him without charges for over three years in the old Naval brig in Hanahan. The 4th District Appellate court said it was "cool" (not its exact words), but the case was about to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, which had ruled the year before that the White House could not lock up U.S. citizens without due process. We're not saying Padilla wasn't a bad guy intent on blowing up a dirty bomb. We're just saying that locking up citizens without charging them for a crime sets a nasty precedent that stinks of fascism. Habeas corpus, it's in the Constitution, and shit. Before you get all complacent in your freedoms though, remember the NSA is running wiretaps without warrants; and let us not forget COINTELPRO and other programs used to conduct surveillance, harass, and discredit students, labor activists, and civil rights leaders (including Martin Luther King) in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Those Nazi bastards never stop coming, do they? --Benjamin Schlau

Best Proof That South Carolina is the Lowcountry's Bitch
Gov. Sanford/Speaker Harrell/President McConnell
Not since the state's pre-American Revolution royalist days has the Lowcountry so dominated South Carolina politics. Gov. Mark Sanford, Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell (R-Chas.), and state Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McMcConnell (R-the 1860s) form a mighty homeboy triumvirate that could equal the plantation owners' power of yore. Thanks to their political pull, you might say the state's new capitol is in Santee, halfway between Columbia and Charleston. --Bill Davis

Best Proof S.C. Still in Bible Belt
'Intelligent Design' debate
Oh, Christ, will these born-agains ever quit? Intelligent design is the moron smokescreen of right-wingers who want to reintroduce the Bible and prayer into public schools. What's next, the creation of an official religion? Keeping girls and boys in separate schools? Here's an idea for creationists who are so in love with theocracy: Move to Iran and take Mark Sanford with you. --Bill Davis

click to enlarge Best Feminazi: - John Graham Altman III
  • Best Feminazi: John Graham Altman III

Best Feminazi
John Graham Altman III
When state Rep. JGA III (R-West Ashley) went on record last year questioning the culpability of women who return to the men who abuse them, he set off a political shitstorm that resulted in the legislature stiffening the laws against abusive mates. To paraphrase Newton, for every incredibly stupid action there can be an equally thoughtful and caring reaction. --Bill Davis

Best Nickname
The 'Twinglemans'
That's how some Charleston County School District employees down at 75 Calhoun derisively refer to David and Sandra Engleman, the conservative husband-and-wife team currently serving on the School Board. Voting as a bloc on most issues, the two have come to define the right wing of the School Board, along with Ray Toler and Lurline Fishburne. We weren't too impressed with the Twinglemans when Sandra said she would vote to expel three sixth-grade girls for what they wrote in a diary even though she hadn't read the diary herself. Her husband, she said, would vote the same. --Bill Davis

Best Indication That Politicians Aren't As Stupid As They Lead Us To Believe
State Republicans Acknowledging Global Warming
No matter what the White House tells you, the polar ice caps are melting and the average global temperature is rising, as are ocean temperatures. Maybe all those scientists are right. Maybe our elected officials should prepare the nation to deal with the coming waves of global climatic change and do what we can to stop it. Well, two Palmetto State Republicans in Washington, Rep. Robert Inglis and Sen. Lindsey Graham, have recognized the threats of global warming. The Post and Courier reported that Inglis and Graham said they buy the science of global warming, even though Graham voted against a bill sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain that sought to reduce industrial pollution to 2000 levels by 2010, thereby honoring the age-old political tradition of saying one thing and doing another. Perhaps we were stupid for thinking people weren't as stupid as we were led to believe. --Benjamin Schlau

Best/Worst Threat to Local Waterways
No Meaningful Regulations
The Lowcountry, as a collection of hundreds of thousands of individuals, is contributing to an ever-growing subaquatic nightmare. Lawn fertilizers, motor oil, and dog shit bacteria get washed over miles of pavement and down storm drains by the rains into the local waterways. The output equals industrial pollution, according to S.C. Aquarium biologist Whit McMillan. Nature provided a filtration system -- isolated freshwater wetlands -- but we're screwing that up, too. Not only do these wetlands break down harmful fertilizers, pesticides, and bacteria, they also provide nutrients to marshes feeding oysters and shrimp that feed fish, which feed us. But few things rile a developer more than clearing out acres of forest only to find a wetland where more houses could go. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was "protecting" these invaluable resources, but the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Corps did not have the authority. Stewardship, or destruction, is now left to state government. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control now "protects" wetlands with no clear regulations. S.C. Rep. Ben Hagood (R-Chas.) sponsored a bill last session to secure these resources, but lobbying from developers blocked its passage. The Coastal Conservation League is keeping up the fight with a new volunteer Lobby Team. For more info, go to Jack Abramoff need not apply. --Benjamin Schlau

Best Plan for Affluent Homeowners (a.k.a. Worst Plan For Renters)
Property Tax Reforms
As if being poor wasn't expensive enough already. The S.C. House recently passed a bill that could reduce residential property taxes by 85 percent. To compensate for the loss in state revenue, some legislators want to raise the state sales tax two cents to the highest level in the nation, at seven percent. Though the bill exempts groceries from the tax increase, everything else we buy could cost more, while renters will likely see no relief. We hope we are wrong, but just because landlords will be saving thousands of dollars, we are not expecting them to drop rent or not raise it as neighborhoods become more affluent. Proponents contend they at least cut taxes on something everybody needs: food, but residents of Charleston cannot live off bread and water alone. We need clothes, beer, music, movies, plays, toys, video games, firearms, more toys, prepared foods -- and our economy needs people buying these things until we create a new economic system. Hopefully, the Senate and the governor will weigh in with a sensible solution for property tax relief. Wait, did we just say that? --Benjamin Schlau

Best SocioPolitical Faux Pas
Not Lowering Statehouse Flags when Rosa Parks Died
Upholding South Carolina's reputation for many of the worst stereotypes of the South, Gov. Sanford did not order the state flag to be lowered to half-mast in respect for the passing of Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks. One of Gov. Sanford's spokespersons said the flag should have been lowered, but the governor does not have authority to lower the flag under current law. State law says the flag must be lowered only for the deaths of certain public officials, Memorial Day, and funeral days for servicemen and women from South Carolina who died in combat. Former S.C. Senate clerk Frank Cassiano, who is referred to by the Columbia newspaper The State as a "Democrat known for his knowledge of state law," sent a letter to the editor stating Sanford misinterpreted the law. "It does not make these the exclusive circumstances and limit the governor's ability to order the lowering of the flag out of respect for this beloved world leader," Cassiano wrote. Sanford did lower the flag for Pope John Paul II and when the space shuttle Columbia crashed but said he was later told he did not have the authority. As soon as the General Assembly gives the governor the authority, Sanford said he will give the order to lower the flag. We're wondering what kind of asshole would have called out the governor if he had lowered the flag. Then again, this is South Carolina. --Benjamin Schlau

Best Atavists
JIHADs -- James Islanders Hating Anything Downtown
Oh, Belvedere, my faithful huntin' companion, remember the glory days of our past, when everything in the Lowcountry was perfect, bucolic, and largely illiterate? Those were the days. That's why it pains me so that outsiders are coming into our sliver of Eden, with their new-fangled cars, computers, and cappuccinos and ruining everything. What with the College of the Building Arts getting the go-ahead to build its campus on what's left of McLeod Plantation, pretty soon the old "good ol' boy" network will crash harder than my BlackBerry ... er, I mean horse and buggy. --Bill Davis

Best Boondoggle
The blood's been in the water for a while on this one. John Knott came into town with a plan to build a modern urbanist's wet dream in one of the dreariest parts of N. Charleston -- the former naval base. Long wracked by charges of slow feet and favoritism, the former base was a dead spot on the local map. But Knott, the guy who developed Dewees Island, showed posters and plans, Powerpoints and plaudits that said it wouldn't have to stay that way. Since the City of North Charleston cut him a sweetheart deal, just about nothing has happened on the site. Except, that is, for missed deadlines and embarrassing debacles. Last year, Mayor Keith Summey had to finally admit he'd never received or reviewed any fiscal background papers on Knott, of whom a local developer once quipped: "It's not a feather in your cap when the only experience you've had in development is taking 10 years to finally sell the last lot on Dewees Island." Now it looks like perceptions are catching up with reality and Knott is being unmasked as a smart guy with a great idea and no way, financially, to pull it off. Maybe he could sell Mayor Summey 76 trombones. --Bill Davis

Best Ramping-Up Political Battle
Finishing 526
It's greenies against construction meanies on this one, and it could go either way (though the smart money is on completing the inner loop). The greenies say finishing 526 will finish-off Johns Island, delivering enough car trips to turn area roads into parking lots and destroy its lush environs. Meanies point out that new bridges leading to the island have only lessened traffic, and that the plan was always to finish the job. As for us, we think there's a reason the James Island Connector has a big fat ramp located at its Folly Road terminus. --Bill Davis

Best Development Slapdown
Not Widening Hwy. 162 in Hollywood
For the second time in six years, the public rose up and smacked down the S.C. Department of Transportation's plan to widen the state highway that goes right through Hollywood, but not before the state spent untold thousands on a private consultant, who got his ass kicked in the process. Highway Commissioner Bob Harrell (not Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell) was always the unconfirmed force behind the widening, but he vehemently denied putting the highway he lives off on the roads list. Regardless, that road's days as a two-laner are numbered. --Bill Davis

Best Plan Still in Committee
Charleston County Greenbelt
People flock to Charleston for its quality of life. Yet, the Lowcountry's beauty is leading to its own destruction. Life here is so good, and it's getting worse. More people means more traffic, dirtier air, longer lines, fewer trees, more litter on the beach, higher crime, more cops, catch limits on fish, rising property taxes, higher rent, and local businesses being pushed off King Street. The half-cent sales tax, recently put into effect, will facilitate more road construction, providing more jobs, but speeding up urban sprawl. Sprawl that would have happened anyway, which now might be slightly mitigated because the tax will also provide millions to preserve "greenspace." A committee composed of local officials holding public meetings is still deciding how to spend the money. Before you start hating the fact that you have to pay an extra five cents for every $20 you spend, ask yourself, do you want to live in a world covered in asphalt and cookie-cutter housing developments that kill local ecosystems? However you stand on the issue, public hearings and workshops will be held Mon., March 6 at 5:30 p.m. at the Johns Island Library; Tues., March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Charleston Museum; Wed., March 8 at 5:30 p.m. at County Council Chambers in North Charleston; and Thurs., March 9 at 5:30 p.m. at the Mt. Pleasant Library. --Benjamin Schlau

Suburbanites and Downtowners
Not In My BackYard and not on my roads. The irony never stops in our self-absorbed, short-sighted, close-minded society. People buy a house on the edge of suburbia and then bitch about the traffic they just increased. Everyone needs a place to live, but remember — if you buy a house on the far end of the suburbs, you're going to have to deal with traffic. Or, you can move downtown and live within biking or walking distance of amenities — and then bitch about those amenities sullying your neighborhood like downtown NIMBYs do. Heaven forfend a theatre or school move into your midst! How dare the urban world encroach on your multimillion dollar home! How about this for a solution: why don't the downtown NIMBYs trade spaces with the suburbanite NIMBYs, because it's obvious they both want what the other's got. Downtowners want peace and quiet and an acre of land to separate them from the riffraff, and suburbanites want to be closer to everything and not have to deal with traffic! Perfect. —Benjamin Schlau

Best Proof We still Need Reuben Greenberg
College of Charleston Crime Spree
Remember last fall's rash of muggings and stick-ups in and around the College that seemed to drag on for months without an arrest? If Reuben were still on the job, not only would he have cuffed-and-stuffed the perps within a week, he also would have bad-mouthed their religions and bitch-slapped their moms. --Bill Davis

Best Endurance
Kathleen Wilson
Whether it's swimming across a frigid lake in Switzerland or the roiling English Channel, there ain't no quit in City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson when it came to running against former Councilman Bob George for the seat representing James Island. Two election cycles in a row, Wilson, who is also a harpist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, took George to multiple run-offs, finally besting him in a special election that was marred with charges of libel and racism. Regardless, Wilson could either become a tireless advocate for her constituents, as her supporters claim, or a relentless rubber stamp for the mayor, as her critics contend. --Bill Davis

click to enlarge Best Charlestonian Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. (l) presents a big, fake key to Crisis Ministries Jeff Yungman, our critics pick for best Charlestonian Whos Not Mayor Riley
  • Best Charlestonian Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. (l) presents a big, fake key to Crisis Ministries Jeff Yungman, our critics pick for best Charlestonian Whos Not Mayor Riley

Best Charlestonian (Who's Not Mayor Riley)
Jeff Yungman
Jeff Yungman, a former New Orleans beat cop turned social worker turned Charleston School of Law student, is fighting what at times must seem like a one-man war on behalf of the homeless and their rights. During the day, he works as the head of case management over at Crisis Ministries. At night, he brokers deals to bring free legal aid into the shelter from local law firms, including Nelson Mullins, as well as taking law courses so he can handle all of his clients' legal issues. --Bill Davis

Best Mayoral Candidate Rumor
Leon Stavrinakis
Every four years, rumors swirl about whether Mayor Joe Riley will run again and who might replace him. The latest replacement candidate rumors center around County Council Chairman Leon Stavrinakis, a Democrat who has openly lusted over the mayoral office. Now, Leon is not only cagey -- we still don't know if he will run against John Graham Altman III for his House seat -- but he's also smart. (And he was elected Best Heir to Riley's Throne in this year's readers' poll.) Stavrinakis knows not to run against Riley in a Democratic primary, but he's got to be wondering if he can run a campaign for Mayor of Charleston while serving in Columbia, like Riley did in his early-20s. --Bill Davis

Best New Thorn in Riley's Side
City Councilman James Lewis
With James Islander Bob George off City Council, who's left to stand up to the mayor? Yvonne Evans? Hardly. Just about any morning, you'll find Councilman Lewis working at the Meeting Street Piggly Wiggly, restocking the freezer sections. And just about every morning you'll also find a list in his pocket of all the abandoned houses and properties the City owns on the peninsula. Look for Lewis, easily the testiest of the remaining black caucus still on Council, to try to force the City and Riley to get even more serious about affordable housing for its black citizens. Councilman Henry Fishburne, who unveiled a 10-point plan to overhaul City politics -- basically, getting the Riley Machine to tone it down a bit -- doesn't get the nod here, mostly because he didn't have the guts to confront the mayor to his face. --Bill Davis

Best Local Angel
Charlotte Anderson, Trident United Way
As the director of the local 2-1-1 phone line, Charlotte (hell, yeah, we're on a first-name basis with her -- and so are you) helps deliver needed human services to people all over the tri-county region. But that's not why she got best angel. It's because of the empathy and generosity she showed to Hurrican Katrina victims during a special "relief" edition of Movies in Marion Square we organized in the fall. Like Minnie the Moocher, Charlotte's heart is "as big as a whale." Hi-de-hi-de-hi-di-hi! --Bill Davis

Best Local Cause
Planned Parenthood
It's a damn sin that women have to crawl through a field of barbed wire around here to get any kind of reproductive health services or info. But thanks to a financial gift by cousins Harriet Simons Williams and Harriet Popham Rigney (wife of James Rigney, author of the Wheel of Time series under the pen name Robert Jordan), we may soon have a PP right here in Chucktown providing info and services to local women who may, or may not, want the gubmint out of their uteri. --Bill Davis

Best Drinking Club
Drinking Liberally
Voodoo Lounge, 15 Magnolia Road, West Ashley 769-0228,
Almost a year old in Charleston, Drinking Liberally Charleston is a weekly public gathering of local liberals who venture out to share cold brews and hot topics. This baby chapter, born in spring of 2005 to New York City's older, wiser 2003 parents, used to meet twice monthly, but as the state of the union continued its downward spiral, the membership called for more frequent doses to keep up their strength. The club now meets every Thursday at Voodoo Lounge in West Ashley, starting at 5:30 p.m. D-Libbers cry in their beers until they feel revived enough to reenter the right-wing wacko world, fortified from a regular session of progressive talk. Once is not enough for some, so the more physical of the crowd have begun Bowling Liberally on Friday evenings, and there's now even talk of Reading Liberally. If you've been waiting for the right time to share your liberal political leanings, check 'em out. Your only cost is your drink ... or your country. --Marilyn Jones

Best 'Who's Who' For Grown-ups
Renaissance Weekend
The Associated Press has described it as an "intellectual house party," and we couldn't agree more. On the last weekend of the year, Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, former astronauts, a former president, sex therapist Dr. Ruth (whom we scour the city for in hopes of catching a glimpse of), and several hundred other national leaders descend upon our city. What emerges is a dynamic series of "off the record" conversations that examine such cerebral topics as "America's Responsibility to the World," and "Genomics and the Revolution in Life Sciences." Pioneered by Philip Lader, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's, and his wife, Linda LeSourd Lader, Renaissance has been building bridges across politics, philosophies, geography, and generations since 1981. All participants are required to wear oversized nametags that announce first names in large block type while surnames are printed discreetly underneath, so if you plan to cruise through the fabled meeting of the minds, practice cutting your eyes and reading sideways; you never know who will be standing beside you at the shoeshine stand! --Ida Becker

Best Reason to go to CSOL
College Loan-Payback Program
The public service mission of the Charleston School of Law is to encourage its graduates to go onto public sector jobs, like becoming a public defender, or working in a solicitor's office. To encourage more of its students to be more like Jeff Yungman (see Best Charlestonian Who's not Mayor Riley), the CSOL needed to offer some sort of loan repayment program, especially since those positions are typically lower-paying. Recognizing the need, the founders of the college, according to Dean Richard Gershon, planted $100,000 in "seed money" last year into a fund to help defray those postgraduate costs. "Right now, we are starting to raise money for that fund," says Gershon, who hopes most of the school's future graduates will donate the equivalent of a day's salary to the fund. Even though CSOL is cheaper than USC School of Law's out-of-state tuition, it's still $25,000 a year. Gershon hopes to have around 20 graduates per class, or one-tenth the enrollment, go into the public sector. --Bill Davis

Best Christians
Bill Stanfield and Evelyn Oliveira
Metanoia, 529-3014
With their community outreach program, Metanoia at N. Charleston's St. Matthew Baptist Church, the Revs. Bill Stanfield and Evelyn Oliveira are working toward a better North Chuck. For three years, this married couple has been fostering mental and spiritual growth in kids from the Chicora/Cherokee neighborhood. Their Young Leaders after-school program is going strong, and fundraising efforts are in gear for this summer's Freedom School, an educational enrichment program to keep kids learning even when they're not in school. Stanfield and Oliveira are Princeton seminary grads working hard to see significant changes in their neighborhood, and that's all right with us. --Anna Claire Hodge


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