REVENGE, POLITICAL ADVANCEMENT AT HEART OF FARMER’S MARKET DEBATE
No media outlet in South Carolina has been more aggressive than this one when it comes to criticizing S.C. State Ports Authority (SCSPA) chairman Bill Stern. We’ve battled with him for years – arguing that the SCSPA should have been much more aggressive in leveraging private capital to expand our state’s port infrastructure over the last decade.
Specifically, we’ve advocated ad nauseam that private investment should have been used to build a port in Jasper County, S.C. – which is home to the last deepwater port location on the Eastern Seaboard.
(Unfamiliar with this debate? Click here to bring yourself up to speed).
Anyway, while Stern refused to take actions that we believed were in the best interests of our state’s long-term competitiveness – to his credit he also refused to go along with the hugely-controversial decision by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointees to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) board to grant Georgia a key environmental permit for its port expansion plans.
In fact he publicly rebuked Haley for her actions – saying that South Carolina “got played.”
This “Savannah River Sellout” – for which Haley was rewarded with a primetime speaking slot at the 2012 GOP National Convention - effectively kills private sector port plans in Jasper while putting taxpayers on the hook for Georgia’s port expansion.
It also dramatically diminishes our state’s competitiveness … making it much harder for the Port of Charleston to regain the ground it has lost to Savannah and other competitors over the last decade.
Anyway, Stern’s refusal to play ball with Haley’s sellout has earned him a new enemy – S.C. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-York).
Norman has long been one of our favorite lawmakers – voting consistently in the best interests of South Carolina taxpayers. In fact we supported him aggressively when he challenged House Speaker Bobby Harrell (RINO-Charleston) for his leadership post in the S.C. General Assembly two years ago.
That all changed this year, however, when Norman cast the only vote in the entire S.C. General Assembly in support of Haley’s “Savannah River Sellout.” In two key votes on this issue, Haley was rebuked by a count of 298-1.
(Norman sat out the first vote, incidentally).
Since that vote, Norman has been a loyal attack dog for Haley – which is ironic when you consider the governor’s piss poor record of protecting our tax dollars.
In fact Norman has been aggressively going after Stern over an alleged “corrupt deal” involving a piece of land that’s being sold to the S.C. Department of Agriculture for the State Farmers’ Market.
“If Bill Stern is buying, don’t sell,” Norman told the S.C. House earlier this year. “If he’s selling, don’t buy.”
While it goes without saying that South Carolina taxpayers should have no exposure whatsoever when it comes to the operation of a Farmers’ Market, the truth is no “deal” was ever struck between Stern and Weathers regarding this property. According to our sources at the S.C. Department of Agriculture, Weathers and Stern simply agreed that an independent appraisal would be conducted on the land. Any sale would have not only required this appraisal – but also a public vote by the S.C. Budget and Control Board (SCBCB).
None of that has stopped Norman, though, who has fashioned himself into the instrument of Haley’s revenge against Stern over the latter’s refusal to condone the “Savannah River Sellout.”
Wait … why doesn’t Haley just come out and criticize Stern herself? Seriously … if this Farmers’ Market issue is such an egregious assault on the taxpayers, then why doesn’t Haley use the power of her bully pulpit to expose it and rake Stern over the coals?
Oh … that’s right. We forgot.
Given her initially undisclosed history as a paid lobbyist … err, sorry … “consultant” for a Columbia, S.C.-based engineering firm, Haley has absolutely no room whatsoever to talk when it comes to Farmers’ Market-related issues … or the S.C. Department of Agriculture, for that matter. In fact were she to try and make a stink over the deal, a whole host of uncomfortable, unanswered questions would likely resurface.
Hence Haley’s need for Norman’s services … which he reportedly bartered in exchange for the governor’s support for his lieutenant gubernatorial aspirations in 2014. How cozy, right?
Obviously South Carolina taxpayers shouldn’t be called upon to fund port infrastructure or a farmers’ market (any more than we should be called upon to fund Haley’s “economic development” efforts), but the more we look at this issue, the real “insider deal” here doesn’t involve the Farmers’ Market land – it involves the people attacking it.