Lawmaker Challenges Harrell On Highway Boondoggle

A state lawmaker is challenging the expenditure of between $130-150 million on an unnecessary $558 million highway project in Charleston, S.C. S.C. Rep. Robert Brown (D-Charleston) says the state can’t commit cash to the so-called Interstate 526 expansion project because the money won’t be available for several years – and…

A state lawmaker is challenging the expenditure of between $130-150 million on an unnecessary $558 million highway project in Charleston, S.C.

S.C. Rep. Robert Brown (D-Charleston) says the state can’t commit cash to the so-called Interstate 526 expansion project because the money won’t be available for several years – and because the S.C. General Assembly has yet to appropriate the funding.

In a letter to members of the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) board, Brown cites a 2013 opinion from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson which notes “state agencies are generally prohibited by law from entering into contracts which obligate state funds beyond the fiscal year.”

According to Brown, the agreement being pushed on SCDOT by powerful S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (RINO-Charleston) would commit an additional “$130 to $150 million in state funds to the I-526 contract” despite the funding not being available for another six years – and without the “authorization or ratification” of the legislature.

The SCDOT board has rejected this road once already – but legislative pressure (including potentially illegal involvement from Harrell’s political action committee) has placed it back on the front burner.

We oppose I-526 – which has negligible public benefit and dubious local support. In fact it absolutely baffles us state lawmakers are throwing this kind of money when just this year they passed a law borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for “road repairs.”

A law which paves the way for serious eminent domain abuses … 

The whole thing is yet another example of how totally out-of-whack the Palmetto State’s spending priorities are … and how ridiculous its party distinctions are. Seriously … how ironic is it that a Democrat is trying to stop the wastefulness being pushed by a “Republican” Speaker?

Ah, South Carolina …


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venomachine December 5, 2013 at 9:17 am

The developers want the road. That’s who this is for.

You know me December 5, 2013 at 9:49 am

Follow the money. Whats in it for Booby?

lindsey g December 5, 2013 at 9:52 am

BTW, is his wife still wanting to marry that woman? WTF?

CNSYD December 5, 2013 at 11:24 am

Read Wilson’s statement slowly. “generally prohibited” Lawyerspeak that provides a loophole.

SamAdams2010 December 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm

… ah the comma that gave rise to a whole profession: the loophole.

Lee December 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Good for Sen. Brown.

Lee December 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm

We’ve been consistently lied to here in Charleston about this project. Just one example: the voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 2004 but we never were told that the plan was to use that money as a local match for the state money to extend I-526. That’s just one lie. It goes on and on, including the promise to compensate landowners, which was a lie from the start.

Slartibartfast December 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I-85 from border to border has needed to be 5-laned since 2003. The traffic survey for 2011 (2011, mind you), which we have seen, shows that I-85 has approx 3 times the amount of traffic than the highway should support. Where’d the money for I-85 go? The Upstate contributes twice the amount of tax money to the state than any other single region. Does anybody else understand the amount of animosity growing up there?

Billy December 5, 2013 at 8:47 pm

We need this road badly. 98,797 driving miles saved PER DAY, over 6000 driving hours saved PER DAY, thousands of dollars of gas and vehicles expenses saved per day. I thought this was a conservative blog. Conservatives believe in investments, not throwing money down a rathole, and with these savings numbers this road pays itself off fast. Who cares if the developers want the road (72% of residents want it too)….people want to live there and people want to sell their land, free market. For a conservative blog this sounds alot like a bunch of angry tree huggers pretending like this is about saving tax money.

Lee December 5, 2013 at 10:15 pm

We have real transportation problems in this state that, yes, usually involve people waiting in traffic. Backed up traffic on the bridge to Johns Island isn’t a major problem. Just widen Maybank to the same width as the bridge. I live in Charleston, and there is nothing that I-526 will fix that couldn’t be fixed a lot cheaper by using other methods. I-526 is just pork barrel politics. I feel bad for the people who actually need this money to pave and repair their roads and bridges. Shameful.

The Colonel December 6, 2013 at 5:06 am

Hey Will – what will road improvement to the mythical “Port of Jasper” cost?

larry December 6, 2013 at 10:50 am

there are a million things wrong with the project but no one seems to address the most obvious. do you think running a hose from your ass to your mouth is a good idea? because that’s what running a BYPASS directly into DOWNTOWN is.

Strom McCallum December 17, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I admire the efforts made by opponents of the proposed I-526 extension. These activists have brought an issue that was well-understood but seldom-discussed in activism circles to the forefront- the very real risk posed to the culture of the Lowcountry.

Over the last few decades, the Lowcountry’s culture has been threatened by the influx of tens of thousands of non-natives. The state’s property tax system has allowed the influx of wealthy non-natives to drive up property tax rates, forcing low-income, land-owning native Lowcountry residents off their land. This property tax system has also hurt local farms (which are rendered uncompetitive by higher property taxes) and consequently aided urban sprawl by forcing farmers off their land.

In our cities, there are campaigns to attract wealthy non-natives and develop high-income housing under the guise of ‘”protecting architectural traditions” and “urban renewal”. Preference is given for the development of expensive traditional architectural designs marketed towards wealthy transplants over aesthetically-traditional, yet high-density housing that lower-income natives can afford. “Urban renewal” is simply a euphemism for “displacing low-income natives with moneyed outsiders”. Nothing is being renewed or revitalized- only replaced by something else from the outside.

Both the current property tax arrangement and “urban renewal” programs have been supported by many in the real estate industry- It’s completely fair to say they have a racket going along with cultural displacement. Let’s call it what it is.

This trend can be seen to some degree in all of the Lowcountry’s metropolitan areas- While the Lowcountry is defined by Charleston’s sphere of influence, this sphere of influence extends far beyond the Charleston metropolitan area its self. The Georgetown, Conway, Beaufort, Aiken, Florence, Hilton Head, and Hardeeville areas are some of the other places in the Lowcountry that have experienced cultural displacement.

Gullah, the English creole language of the Gullah people (one of the cultures within the larger Lowcountry culture) and lingua franca of much of the Lowcountry until relatively recent times, has been systematically attacked through the displacement of Gullah communities by Northerners establishing resorts and suburban communities. The Charleston Brogue- not just that of the city limits, but all dialects of Lowcountry English- has also retreated into the houses of minds of those who fear discrimination in employment, and abandoned by youth and younger adults who fear they will be ostracized if they retain their native tongues.

Resistance to linguistic displacement is key in our struggle. We need to wake and realize that not everyone needs to speak Upper Midwest English to be a smart, successful person. Nor do we need Upper Midwest “General American” English to be the dialect of our mass media. We should encourage linguistic revitalization through the restoration of our dialects to the airwaves. In the United Kingdom, the importance of this has already been realized- The UK “standard” dialect, Received Pronunciation, no longer dominates UK mass media.

There is also the issue of ecological destruction. As urban sprawl has intensified in the last few years, more marshlands, woodlands, swamps have been developed- the protection of our natural wonders is a key part of our cultural defense efforts. They are pieces of cultural iconography like any other. The proposed extension of I-526 only promises to encourage sprawl and further damage marshland ecosystems.

Some deride us for standing up for our culture. When they do that, we should just ask them how they would feel about the same thing happening in Scotland, Friesland, or Catalonia. As a constituent people of the United States, we in the Lowcountry have every bit as much as the constituent peoples of the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, or any other country to our culture. If the same thing we are experiencing happened in any of these places, there would be a global outcry. There should be no double standards. Everyone’s cultural independence and right to their home should be respected.

Proponents of our displacement also say that they are bringing wealth and prosperity to an impoverished land. The fact that we face high levels of poverty is no secret, and we must acknowledge this- but when these proponents make these claims, they imply we are unable to address these issues ourselves and that we are incapable of being the custodians of our own land.

Our cultural preservation efforts, like those of any other people, are perfectly compatible with modernity- We can use the money set to be allocated for the extension I-526 to improve our schools and the economic well-being of our people. There is no cognitive dissonance in being a proud defender of one’s culture and also recognizing a need to improve the standard of living in one’s land.

Of course, stopping the I-526 project isn’t an easy task- We must draw attention to our struggle from outside the Lowcountry if we intend to win. And it’s important to remember that this is just one hurdle in a series of many others yet to come.

The situation we face is not particular to us- It is part of a trend happening all across the South. Look at the plight of the native inhabitants of the Atlanta area, the Cajuns in Acadiana, the Louisiana Creoles, the native inhabitants of Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, the Texas Germans of Central Texas, the Isleños of Southeastern Louisiana, the native inhabitants of West Texas, the native inhabitants of Florida, and countless others. Southern culture and the South’s peoples are under siege. It’s as simple as that.

Does the current trend affect areas of South Carolina outside the Lowcountry?

Without question! This is an issue of statewide significance- Not only does the completion of any project like this encourage more frivolous DOT spending, but it accedes to displacement and urban sprawl taking place in the Upcountry.

Look at the urban sprawl and displacement in the South Carolina side of the Charlotte, North Carolina metropolitan area. Look at the same thing is going on in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson area.

Write to out of town newspapers (both in state and out of state) on the issue and draw attention to the larger trend.

Bring in the support of Southern environmental groups from outside the Lowcountry.

This is something state political leaders must address. Press the gubernatorial 2014 gubernatorial candidates on the issue. Let your concerns be known to your state assemblymen.

Demand for the abolition of property taxes and the establishment of a hefty development tax- one that only those who wish to perpetuate the current trend of sprawl will be subjected to.

We cannot solve the crisis by only continuing to argue with the same opponents we have faced for years. It’s time to broaden the scope of our activism.

-Strom McCallum

The Carolus Blog

Follow me @StromMcCallum on Twitter


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