By David M. Taub
In Paddy Chayefsky’s classic work titled “Network,” a deranged TV anchorman Howard Beale goes bonkers on the air and declares: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
His large viewing audience, equally angry and uproarious, chorus: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”
Well, I know how Howard felt, and I am pleased to see that so many of my fellow Beaufortonians seem to feel the same outrage that has now enveloped the controversial and ill-conceived plan — River Place — for redevelopment of the marina parking lot.
I am optimistic to believe the mayor and city council, the City’s Redevelopment Commission and the sole-source developers the city selected for the downtown marina parking lot project are listening now to the thunderous voices of anger and outrage being raised by an aroused citizenry unified in their opposition to River Place. I, like the growing list of well over 1,000 of my fellow Beaufortonians, wish to see the city leadership replace the River Place project with what is being referred to as the Civic Green Plan.
What is the Civic Green Plan I endorse? In its simplest form it is, with some yet to be decided tweaking, a plan that the city has already adopted, namely Phase II of the Sasaki Plan for upgrading and expanding Waterfront Park. Phase I has already been done, comprised of renovation of the Pavilion, construction of public restrooms, remodeling of the children’s playground, and additional brick work throughout the park. Phase II, on hold due to funding considerations, calls for elimination of asphalt and replacing it with open green space, an enhanced Farmer’s Market, new marina ship store, and a bandstand for live music performances.
Billy Keyserling (now mayor) and Donnie Beer (now Mayor Pro Tempore) were on City Council when the plan was adopted and they voted for it. It remains an unsolved mystery why now they and the other members of the current City Council (absent George O’Kelly, steadfastly in opposition) apparently have abandoned a highly desirable plan they previously adopted in favor of one of unknown speculative and uncertain virtue.
If the expansion of Waterfront Park was a good idea when the city adopted it around 2004, I, and my fellow Beaufortonians, believe it is an excellent plan today, far superior in every respect to that proposed in River Place.
In the few weeks since Mr. Chaffin presented his ephemeral “vision” of River Place, over 1,500 of our citizens have signed a petition beseeching city’s officials to abandon this project. But we are not in favor of only stopping what I, and many others believe River Place is: “the wrong plan, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.” Rather, we favor replacing it with a grand plan to expand the Waterfront Park and add more green space and open vistas — River Place proposes just the opposite.
The Civic Green plan will add to the economic vitality of the city and its precious historic downtown. Virtually every study done in communities such as ours, regarding adding open green space to attract locals and visitors is successful — economically, socially, and environmentally. The Civic Green Plan, in stark and graphic contrast to River Place, is “the right plan, in the right place, at the right time.”
Good government demands elected officials lead with judiciousness and intelligence, and it also requires an informed active and engaged citizenry. If we believe in participatory democracy at its most basic level, now is the time for citizens to have their voices heard, loud and clear — a clarion call from them to our elected officials to provide true and meaningful leadership.
Sign the petition by going online and register your opposition on social media — the council members are checking these sites every day and they will hear your voices. Come to the council meetings, stand and be heard.
The great 19th Century philosopher Edmund Burke is often quoted as saying with insight as certain today as then: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
Nothing less than the very foundation and future of our irreplaceable landmark historic district and its unique and treasured downtown and Waterfront Park is at stake. “We the People” cannot afford to be silent and do nothing.
David M. Taub was the former mayor of the city of Beaufort.