Sofa Store Report, Conservation Voters of SC, Thomas Ravenel 

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"The goals that I want to see accomplished I can best accomplish from here. For me it's always the things I want to see done, not the office."
House Speaker Bobby Harrell announcing that he does not plan to run for governor in 2010. Source: The State

Final Fire Report Faults Building, Fire Department

While the Sofa Super Store was in violation of city building and fire codes, an independent review team report released last week poured on the salt, pointing to an array of fire department inefficiencies that contributed to the handling of the June 18 blaze that killed nine firefighters.

"The Charleston Fire Department was inadequately staffed, inadequately trained, insufficiently equipped, and organizationally unprepared to conduct an operation of this complexity in a large commercial occupancy," the report states, noting firefighters did what they were trained to do. "The analysis indicates that the Charleston Fire Department failed to adequately prepare its members for the situation they encountered at the Sofa Super Store fire."

Chief Rusty Thomas, who announced his resignation a day before the report's release, took responsibility for the department's handling of the fire.

"All those guys belonged to me," he says. "I would give anything if we could have done anything different that night to not have this tragedy."

Things the report suggests could have been done differently include appointing an incident commander to monitor the entire scene, utilizing modern technology and equipment like thermal cameras, developing detailed pre-planning for large structures and make them accessible at the scene of the fire, and designating safety officers and others responsible for looking out for firefighters in distress. The report also cited a dangerous culture in the fire department that compensated for a lack of organization by implementing dangerously aggressive and uncoordinated fire-fighting operations.

"The Charleston Fire Department took pride in conducting aggressive interior fire attacks using small hose lines with very limited water flows," the report states.

Calling the fire an "almost unparalleled tragedy in the fire service," Gordon Routley, the leader of the review team, says he's seen tremendous interest in the report from around the country.

"This report will be in every firehouse in America," says Mayor Joe Riley, who commissioned the report, along with immediate recommended changes that were released last year and a long term fire plan expected later in 2008.

$22 billion

That's the amount missing From S.C.'s road needs over the next 10 years, according to a report by the national nonprofit TRIP. The report notes that rush-hour traffic in Charleston is 17 percent more congested than at other points of the day, the highest in the state. Roads left without improvements will press that total to 34 percent, rivaling Atlanta and Denver.

Conservation Group offers Endorsements

The Conservation Voters of South Carolina announced their endorsements last week for the June 10 primary. The group says it made those decisions based on candidate questionnaires, interviews, and analysis.

"This diverse group of candidates demonstrates that conservation is not a partisan issue to South Carolinians," says Executive Director Ann Timberlake. "Voters are less and less concerned with whether candidates are red or blue — the public wants 'green' candidates."

Here are the local endorsements:

• Dwayne Green, D, Charleston Senate No. 42

• Clay Middleton, D, Charleston House No. 111

• Joe Bustos, R, Charleston House No. 112

Ravenel Partied With Cougar, Fraggle

Last week, The State released interviews made by former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, who was convicted earlier this year for handing out cocaine to his friends. In the interviews, Ravenel talks about a lot of people that he's done coke with and about passing it around "like a football," but names were blacked out by investigators because they're in the midst of an ongoing investigation and more arrests are possible. Here's a sample of the interviews. We've replaced blacked out names and facts with fictional characters and details.

"Ravenel used cocaine that night, but explained that he did not use cocaine with the females as they were too young. Ravenel describes one as being named Hannah Montana and another unknown female who he describes as being very thin with a very fair complexion. Ravenel further explained he may have 'made a move on her,' meaning Wii bowling tournament but was probably rejected."

"Ravenel advises that he has used cocaine with Blanche Devereaux on several occasions. He has known her for several years but has not seen her recently by choice because of her lack of moral character. Ravenel relayed a recent incident at his residence where Devereaux was brought to Ravenel's house by a date, and while the date waited in the kitchen for her, she had sex with another individual in an upstairs bedroom."

"Mokey Fraggle gave Ravenel a package of cocaine. Mokey is a well known fraggle who has been featured in numerous magazines and has sold doozer sticks to people like Travelling Matt."

"Ravenel advised that Mr. Darcy is a friend from Charleston. Darcy is from a very affluent family with vast property ownership through the state ... Darcy has received cocaine from Ravenel and given cocaine to Ravenel on several occasions."

"Mort Goldman is a pharmaceutical salesman who Ravenel believes has a drinking problem."


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