What Joe Riley Wants – Joe Gets

In an Aug. 19, 2008, Post and Courier article David Slade explains that the Charleston, SC City Council is considering a $734,500 loan to the American College of the Building Arts – requested by Charleston’s Mayor, Joe Riley.

The article doesn’t really tell us why the college needs the money. It doesn’t tell us the full terms of the loan, but it hints that it’s the kind any of us would die for, but it does tell us why the City Council will probably approve the loan.

Mayor Joe Riley wants it done and Pierre Manigault is chairman of the college’s board of trustees – he is also chairman of the board of Evening Post Publishing, parent company of Charleston.net and The Post and Courier.

The article reports that Manigault said the “school’s survival is not in question but the next six months will be a critical time for the institution.” This was not a direct quote. It’s too bad we’re not told what the problem is at the College, other than a lack of funds.

Here’s just another case of it’s not what you do – it’s who you know.

The article paints a picture of an institution that has been given every break in the world and after four years is not accredited, which makes its students unable to get federal loans and other financial aid, operates in the red, lives off private donations and government grants – and to top it off – has only 55 full-time and part-time students. Out of the Class of 2009, 15 students started the program and only 7 will hopefully graduate this Spring. That’s less than a 50 percent retention rate.

I wonder what the staff to student ratio is at this institution?

This loan represents $13,354.54 per student. That’s quite an investment Charleston’s taxpayers will be making in these students and this college. That’s almost paying the tuition for each student for a year (Tuition is $18,372).

The loan will come from the City’s $18.4 million emergency fund.

I wonder if that money will be missed when Charleston has a real emergency – like another hurricane?

The article offers a historical timeline on the College’s finances and accomplishments since forming in 1998 – nine years after Hurricane Hugo did much damage to historical buildings in Charleston and there was a shortage of skilled craftsmen to do repairs.

Overall it seems like a good thing – having an institution which trains the next generation of skilled craftsmen – for Charleston, South Carolina and the Nation. Much like lots of other good ideas which people would like to get funding for, but it just seems like some get all the breaks and we’re asked to overlook problems which in other cases would be a deal breaker.

I hope the College survives and continues to be an asset for the overall community. I just offer this example up to readers to show – it’s not what you do – it’s who you know, and what Mayor Joe Riley wants – he gets. Anyone trying to accomplish something in Charleston better have the support of the Mayor or they are going to have a very hard road to travel. And I mean real support, not lip service. The Mayor gives lots of lip service to causes that just seem to be spinning in place.

And, as far as the Post and Courier goes, we’ve seen this kind of soft-server reporting on other troubled institutions like the SC Aquarium (continual problems), Spoleto Festival USA (past problems), and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (continual problems). Nothing new there. You offer some facts, conceal others, and present it all with supporting quotes by important people, but never offer an opposing view. They save the real reporting for things which they do not favor.

That’s Charleston.

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