This morning is eerily quiet and still. Just after daybreak I was on my bike, stretching my legs before facing the likelihood of sitting long hours in evacuation gridlock. I cruised through Mt. Pleasant, surveying peaceful, still-intact neighborhoods, loaded garbage cans pulled out to the street corner, a few landscapers trimming limbs and mowing lawns as Hurricane Matthew churns and whirls out in the Atlantic, deciding in his own good time whether he’ll deliver a wallop or breeze on by.
The clouds are dusted with hints of pre-dawn pink, but that soon dissipates into overcast skies, giving the Charleston harbor a steely hue. Some acrobatic turkey vultures are having a blast hang-gliding on invisible updrafts, meanwhile down the street at the Exxon, grumbly anxious drivers start to form lines again. We humans clearly don’t soar so freely, or judging by short tempers in the lines, with much joy.
With Matt on the prowl, no one’s sure what yet to expect (by the time you read this, that will have changed); but for now, we’re bracing ourselves — which feels sort of normal given that many of us have been bracing ourselves amidst the season’s political tempests for quite awhile.
It’s almost refreshing to have Twitter a-twit with scary weather scenarios — Jim Cantoreisms, red and orange-blazed maps flashing treacherous storm-surge predictions, pictures of empty grocery shelves — rather than the usual flood of Category 4 and 5 Trump tirades, slandering women, Muslims, Mexicans, and us working folks not “smart” enough to bungle business deals to the tune of $900 million, then game the tax system in our favor. Sadly, Hillary Clinton’ retorts, though at least sane, rational, and on point, don’t engender much I-heart-America sunshine either.
On both national and local fronts, the political barometric pressure is dropping to unseemly lows, and not much of anyone, except those of us packing up our family photo albums and pets, is taking the high road. And that’s particularly challenging here in Charleston, since our elected officials can’t work together to address our dismal roads, high or not. Case in point: the Theater of the Absurd otherwise known as Charleston County Council, under the stage direction of our own bully-boy, Chairman Elliott Summey.
“I painted it that way,” bragged Summey on an audio tape, referring to his feigned support of I-526, all the while winking winks, shaking hands, and slapping good ol’ boy backs behind the scenes to intercept the pro-526 Hail Mary he crafted with Mayor Tecklenburg. His “painting,” however, looks more like a crooked stick-figure portrait of Council Chairman-turned-526 Champion. Summey’s plan to resurrect the contentious roadway’s completion entailed promising $150 million from the pending half-cent sales tax referendum, that would pay for four rail overpasses related to the new North Charleston port terminal (named after Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman of Florence, who not coincidently sits on the State Infrastructure Bank Board that must approve the 526 deal).
Not only did he single-handedly make 13th hour changes to put 526 back on the proposed tax referendum project funding list, Sand-bag Summey has been mining the Doar Road land — that the County Council (a-hem) purchased, and that Summey’s company then won the low bid to mine and develop into a park — in defiance of DHEC limits, inteding to sell that sand back to the state for these same four port overpasses specified in the $150 million funding deal. The “for ports only” transaction was made possible by a DHEC exemption passed by Senator Grooms. Though Summey initially landed a ports contract for the sand, the SPA is evidentally sourcing elsewhere.
If you’re lost in the muddle here, don’t fret — I imagine teasing out the complexities of these you-pat-my-back-I’ll-pat-yours deals would be a little like doing the math on The Donald’s elusive tax returns. The bottom line-in-the-sand is these Summey-directed backroom dealings with our taxpayer dollars are cloudy at best and deeply shady at worst. We don’t need Rob Fowler to tell us the forecast ain’t pretty, folks.
And so we wait for the storm. The real one out in the Atlantic, feeding off warming ocean temperatures and feeding on our fears of the unknown, the uncontrollable. And we wait for the other storms as well. The ones we have some small power to change the direction of even as they pick up steam as we head to the polls. As we do our rain dances, and maybe hold an umbrella for our neighbor; as we select a new Commander in Chief, and say “yay” or “nay” to a half-penny for our thoughts on whether we can trust local officials with $2 billion in sales tax revenue.
We wait and wonder how lucky we’ll be or how much damage we’ll incur. We shake our heads at the windy, messy swirl of it all, the way it all gets so sticky and cloudy, and then after a fierce cleansing storm, hope for the rinsed blue sky to return.