This may come as a shock, but there are people in this state who really don’t like Charleston.
And unfortunately, some of them have a fair amount of power.
As Diane Knich reported last week, the state Department of Transportation board opted not to vote on whether to take over the Interstate 526 completion. Board members had several excuses, but the actual reason likely is that they didn’t have the votes.
If you saw the editorial page piece by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler in Tuesday’s Post and Courier, this all makes perfect sense.
Peeler said the State Infrastructure Bank is “force-feeding asphalt to Charleston, while the rest of South Carolina is on a starvation diet.”
Truth is, he is not alone in that assessment. A good number of people think there’s too much preferential treatment for the Holy City.
Well, that may be about to change.
For a long time, Upstate politicians ran South Carolina.
We cut in on that business more than a decade ago, when we hit the power trifecta with Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, Speaker Bobby Harrell and Gov. Mark Sanford. Charleston no longer needed to wield power — bureaucrats did our bidding to avoid raising their ire.
Since it was established, we have been frequent customers at the State Infrastructure Bank. It funded part of our new bridge, handed over money for 526 and the Crosstown. And then it gave 526 a little more.
It really is an embarrassment of riches.
Even before all that, people were jealous. You could hear the grumbling around the Statehouse nearly a decade ago. Now some of those malcontents have power.
“Senator Peeler has made comments like that before,” says now Lt. Gov. McConnell. “We don’t need to go back to regionalism in South Carolina.”
McConnell says the Infrastructure Bank isn’t set up to pave roads — it’s meant to build big things that locals can’t. And in fact, he meant for the bank to spread the wealth. McConnell opposed a measure that required matching funds for bank projects, because he thought poor, rural counties couldn’t ante up.
We have a problem with crumbling roads, he says, because the state — led by some of the very people griping about us — doesn’t spend enough on maintenance.
As logical as that is, it won’t stop some people from hating on Charleston.
The DOT’s wishy-washy attitude toward 526 may be a sign of things to come.
Commissioners point out that the project is far, far down on the state’s priority list, which sounds a lot like the argument espoused by opponents of the road. Even if it’s true.
For that reason, a lot of people will try to stop the flow of state money to 526, and probably anything else we want. Which is too bad — we still have needs. Whether 526 is one of those is debatable.
One thing’s for sure: You can bet there will be a lot more arm twisting before the state is trucking any more asphalt into Charleston.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com.