Some West Ashley residents and government representatives are wondering who sent them a postcard depicting a huge pile of garbage next to the round Holiday Inn Charleston-Riverview.
The answer is a Columbia nonprofit organization called Citizens for Common Sense, which was registered with the S.C. Secretary of State last May by Columbia resident Adam Piper. The group is a 501(c)4, a "social welfare organization," which can engage in some political activities.
Piper, 24, who said he works as "counsel to" the Columbia political consulting firm Richard Quinn and Associates, said his nonprofit group spent about $13,000 to send 25,000 postcards to West Ashley residents. The money was donated by "local taxpayers and concerned citizens living in the Charleston area." He said he couldn't release the names of any of the donors.
But, Piper said, he sent the postcards to warn West Ashley residents that some Charleston County Council members are opposed to the county continuing to burn most of its household waste in an incinerator off Spruill Avenue in North Charleston. The incinerator also is known as a waste-to- energy facility because it converts trash to electric power.
If the county doesn't renew a 20-year contract with Montenay Charleston Resource Recovery, the company that runs the facility, more trash will be dumped in the Bees Ferry Landfill in West Ashley, he said. That would be bad for taxpayers, the environment and the neighborhoods near the landfill, he said.
Piper said nobody from Montenay contacted him to help the company land another contract.
The postcards arrived Monday, just two days before today's special Charleston County Council Finance Committee meeting, where members plan to discuss a consultant's report on solid waste and possibly vote on whether to sign another contract with Montenay.
A James Island resident called The Post and Courier on Tuesday to say she received a pre-recorded message on her home voice mail from the Citizens for Common Sense telling her to show up at today's meeting to support the incinerator.
The postcard instructs residents to call council members Colleen Condon and Curtis Inabinett.
Piper said he isn't sure why those two particular council members were listed on the card, "but who's on it is not as important as the message," he said.
More garbage would go to the landfill if the incinerator is closed. But some council members have said they want the facility to close because residents who live near it, who are mostly black, elderly and lower- income, have complained about smoke, odor and health problems. It's also more expensive to burn trash than it is to dump it in the landfill.
Councilman Vic Rawl, who represents the district in which the Bees Ferry Landfill sits, said he doesn't know anything about the postcards.
And Louis Mintz, a West Ashley resident who represents the Bees Ferry corridor on the Green Ribbon Committee, the county's citizens panel on solid waste, said he also knew nothing about them.
On Piper's Web site, adampiper.tv, he describes himself as "a frequent conservative commentator and a candidate for third vice chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party."
He also said he's the former primary South Carolina contact for Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign and that he oversaw the campaign's daily operations in the state.
Piper said he thinks continuing to run the incinerator is just common sense. "Let's protect West Ashley from being called West Trashley," he said.