HICKS COLUMN: Cruise-ship confab was preaching to the choir

You gotta love the anti-cruise-ship crowd.

They brought in 150 people this past week to talk about balancing cruise ship visits with quality of life in our historic port city. Think about that — a port that wants to limit the number of ships that call here. Isn't that our business?

Of course, these folks say they don't want to ban these ships. They just want a balance, which means sticking all the cruise ships up on the East Side — so the beautiful people don't have to see so much of the riffraff or hear that dreadful calypso music.

They also have concerns about pollution in the historic district. Apparently they figure folks on the East Side would just think it's black snow.

One of the central themes of this confab was how people “concerned” about cruise ships should make more allies.

And then they turn around and don't invite the State Ports Authority or Mayor Joe Riley, the very people they need to be confabbing with.

Stop the carnival

This meeting was the very definition of preaching to the choir.

The World Monuments Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation got together with the good folks from the Preservation Society of Charleston to throw this shindig. Dissenters weren't invited; even press access was limited.

Instead, this like-minded crowd heard from people who have been successful in limiting cruise ships in other cities, and were told the only way to bring about compromise was to keep arguing.

That's all fine — nothing wrong with arguing or balance. But why didn't this group invite the folks they need to be arguing with?

Answer: They didn't want to hear the pro-cruise-ship folks, and the other side doesn't want to hear any more from them. And that's the problem.

And it's not going to get solved by listening to “Kumbaya.”

Come sail away?

An Alaska attorney told the crowd they shouldn't fight being labeled as elitists — they should embrace it.

He's talking about the sinister yet genius “Snobs vs. Jobs” campaign the pro-cruise-ship folks rolled out to combat this insurgence. Thing is, there's little way to avoid such a label when the cruise control crowd's idea of a solution is to dump the new cruise-ship terminal on poor neighborhoods.

Look, the Preservation Society and Historic Charleston Foundation have nothing but the city's best interests at heart here. They are good folks. And limiting the number of cruise ships that can call on Charleston every year would be a nice gesture.

Ports officials rightly note that we are never going to be Fort Lauderdale or Key West anyway — we're too far north — so what's the big deal?

If the city would just do it, perhaps these costly lawsuits and all the hand-wringing would go away. And if it didn't, well, then it would put the lie to talk of balance.

And it would suggest that some of these cruise-ship opponents are sailing through life on the SS Oblivious.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

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