Flooding, Development, and Traffic, Oh MY!
The Mayor and Four West Ashley City Council Seats Up for Re-Election
by Bill Davis | News Editor
Six candidates for mayor and 11 candidates for City Council representing chunks of West Ashley are all skipping down the yellow brick road to City Hall, chanting versions of “Flooding, Development, and Traffic, Oh MY!” as the meat of their campaign slogans.
Some of their wording may be different, like when incumbent Dist. 7 Councilman Keith Waring and his challenger the Rev. Christian King intone “affordable housing” instead of “development.” (There are also planks including crime and safety, more on that in the profiles.)
But the message, on or off the peninsula, in or out of West Ashley are roughly the same: water, cars, and buildings are impacting voters’ quality of life and all the candidates want to be seen as having all the solutions.
What knits Charleston together, then, are its problems.
Downtown, cranes and hotels are crowding out the sun.
In West Ashley, dreamt-of 25-story buildings at the Citadel Mall site are scaring the wits out of some.
In Church Creek Basin, stormwater control is still felt to be out of control and studied to death, with not enough action having been taken.
On the peninsula, flooded roads surrounding the hospitals threatens the well-being of everyone in the city and beyond, all the while the literal weight of more and bigger buildings — coupled with additional residents and their subsequent vehicles — are smooshing down the dirt so that the peninsula will soon need a sea wall to keep the ground separated from the harbor.
West Ashleyians used to marvel how downtowners survived their morning commutes, where cars choked thoroughfares on and off the peninsula.
Now, we nod our heads as we fight for a slot on highways 17 and 61 every morning as commuters drizzle out of Johns Island and onto Interstate 26.
The City Council races seem to be referendums on Mayor John Tecklenburg’s first — and potentially —only four-year tenure. There’s a dividing line right down the middle of those in and out of his camp.
Of course, that line already exists on Council and runs through the heart of West Ashley, as Dist. 11 councilman Bill Moody has put together a coalition in this part of town that opposes the mayor at most turns. Joined by fellow incumbent Dist. 7’s Keith Waring, it has become the equivalent of sport found in The Hunger Games trilogy.
Usually including incumbent Dist. 5’s Marvin Wagner and Harry Griffin (not up for reelection), West Ashley has often become enemy territory for Tecklenburg, who lives this side of the river.
Of those facing reelection this year, Dist. 9’s Peter Shahid is the most staunchly in Tecklenburg’s support.
Obvious fights have already broken out between Moody’s clan and Tecklenburg’s, as evidenced by the brouhaha over the mayor’s hiring of consultants and a very public assault on the decision to put his wife’s name on the back of his business cards that led to a nothing-burger of a fiscal audit of his spending.
This may be costing West Ashley valuable time and opportunities, as internal warring could slow revitalization, stormwater mitigation, and traffic control efforts. On the other hand, it is said that gridlock makes for good government.
But gridlock also makes for terrible traffic.
There are some truly original new ideas in the council races, including using a city-sponsored ride-share app where commuters could pick up those standing for buses in exchange for, say, reduced movie ticket prices.
Nd there are some more fanciful ideas of what the mayor’s office is up to in the mayoral race.
As such, voters West of the Ashley may need to think more about how to package their votes, versus just picking the best candidate in each race. Consider if you want a councilperson on Team Moody or Team Tecklenburg. (Yes, this introduction just devolved from The Wizard of Oz to The Hunger Games and now an allusion to the Twilight trilogy. Sorry.)
One of the biggest divides in all the races in question is if there is a place for buses, bikes, and pedestrians as parts of the solution for the city’s traffic woes. Or was the attempt to cordon off a lane on a bridge into the peninsula from West Ashley during rush-hour a sign of more extremist times to come?
Read between the lines and vote accordingly on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Mayor for the City of Charleston
John Tecklenburg (incumbent)
Mayor John Tecklenburg has taken a tough path; he’s followed Joe Riley’s 40-year reign and has done so in a much more inclusive style. Whereas his predecessor ruled by fiat, like a benevolent dictator for much of his time in office, Tecklenburg has reached out to the community for input.
And the feedback on his tenure from within City Council has been mixed, with two councilmembers running against him and lobbing criticisms at his efforts: not in control of flooding, bends too much to developers, and talks more than he walks.
“I had a phrase I used in my childhood for all of those: salami, salami, baloney,” says Tecklenburg taking a break from his two jobs – running the city and running for office.
Tecklenburg answers each charge with his record – something the others don’t have but get to target his.
On flooding, the mayor says the city now has due to his leadership “the most comprehensive drainage and sea level plan, which the two councilmembers voted for.” He asks what did Gary White and Mike Seekings propose in their 21 years combined on Council?
On bending, he calls baloney yet again, saying that the mess of height zoning was left over from the previous administration, and he was just the guy who had to come in and clean up. Tecklenburg reminds that both White and Seekings were on Council at the time and must’ve been “asleep at the switch.”
As for not doing, the mayor rattles off a litany of accomplishments on his watch, from passing tough stormwater ordinances, building fire and police stations, multiple completed drainage projects with more in the works, aiding redevelopment in West Ashley, as well as creation of the first two TIF districts on this side of the river, and so on.
Tecklenburg’s top three planks are flooding, affordable development, and traffic. No surprises there. How he differentiates himself on flooding is by taking the 50 to 100-year view of not just taking care of continually flooding areas, but also looking at the longer-range future of stormwater mitigation in the face of rising seas and climate change.
Affordable development, for the mayor, means fostering more housing within the reach of not just the working poor, but also cops and nurses, and teachers.
Tecklenburg says that traffic and congestion have been “the toughest nut to crack,” and thanks Gov. Henry McMaster for saving the 526-completion project. “When it was time, I stood up for that project,” he says, reporting that the state DOT just relented and committed to improving traffic light technology along Savannah Highway.
West Ashley apartment resident Sheri Irwin is easily the strongest advocate for property rights in any of this year’s races.
Irwin is a consistent attendee at West Ashley Revitalization Commission meetings, and is deeply concerned in development issues, be they relating to infrastructure or housing. She calibrates refrigerators and incubators for a living at a local laboratory.
A self-pronounced foe of “urbanization” and “sustainability,” Irwin got into the mayoral race, in part, after becoming convinced that City Hall was attempting to force the residents of Ashleyville, a historically black neighborhood, out of their homes and into “projects.”
She also refers to “Agenda 21,” which some see as a Tea Party conspiracy, but she says is what some use so that the people don’t get educated as to what’s really going on globally.
(Agenda 21 refers to a multilateral move made in the early 1990s via the United Nations to encourage more sustainable development throughout the world; others see it as a ruse to promote globalization, akin to a “New World Order.”)
She also alleges that the city has plans to install tolls on highways 17 and 61, despite that being a violation of federal law. Tolls are reserved for new roadways. Irwin claims some in government have confirmed the plans to toll those two roadways.
Additionally, one lane of both highways would be reserved for buses, she says,
Irwin says she’s asked both planners and city officials about both and is yet to get a straight answer from any of them. She also says she’s seen the plan for the tolls on city-produced plans.
Irwin, who lives in the Concord complex off Sycamore Avenue, believes the next assault on homeownership will be ever-escalating municipal property taxes.
Like others running for office, she is against the possibility of allowing 25-story buildings to be constructed at Citadel Mall. “Two problems: the soil can’t handle it, and no one wants it to be an urban area,” says Irwin.
Irwin says that city money shouldn’t be spent for the revitalization of private land, for example Citadel Mall, and worries that TIF money raised along the Sam Rittenberg corridor will be misused for this purpose.
M. Renee Orth
One could argue that Renee Orth is the Marianne Williamson of the mayoral race. Whereas the nationally known author Williamson is preaching a “revolution of love” in her presidential campaign, local lawyer Orth is running as a “climate crisis candidate.”
No surprise considering that the sometime lawyer and James Island resident has for the past three years helmed Stone Soup, a volunteer organization that fights local hunger with huge pots of soup.
Orth champions a host of revolutionary ideas that deal directly what she sees as the planet climate crisis. She believes that the climate crisis is merely an offshoot of an economic system that exploits the people and the planet, and that if you can shift the system to benefit community prosperity, you can help heal the world.
Her first way to begin the healing is for the city to erect and maintain what she terms as “raingardens” all over the city that would be populated with edible fruit trees. She says the idea is not that “revolutionary,” as Atlanta has begun planting 7 acres of a similar idea all over its environs.
Her second project would deal with traffic. Having moved here four years ago from Los Angeles, she’s seen and knows traffic. Orth does not think the way forward is through reliance on more roads or more buses, but rather through technology.
Leaning on the app-based success of companies like Uber and Lyft, Orth would like to see the city sponsor a phone-based app that allows for real ridesharing. That way drivers, like her, going down the street alone in their car, could find out where people standing at bus stops were headed and then give them a ride within a few blocks if they were headed that way, too.
“We can game-ify it, in that if we make things fun people are more likely to use them,” says Orth, who adds this could create a more connected community as well as address some of the wealth inequity that plagues the city.
Her third project would be an initiative that would work to create worker-owned cooperatives that would, with the help of the raingardens, help feed the hungry within the city.
“We’ve been so focused on money, we’ve become blind” to the imagination it would take make sure the entire community was thriving,” says Orth. By banding together and attacking our community’s social ills, “then we could save money for big projects like draining the peninsula … we can do better.”
Downtown lawyer and City Councilman Mike Seekings is finally running for mayor after he was expected to run four years ago. And judging from his commercials, the interim chair of the Cooper River Bridge Run is running and running and running.
Seekings was first elected more than two terms ago in a district that included West Ashley, as evidenced by his initial attempts to solve the commercial/residential parking situation in the Avondale Area. (His mom lived across the street in Byrnes Downs.)
He says his first priority if elected would be to better address flooding that bedevils downtown first, primarily in the hospitals area, and then in Church Creek. He says the peninsular focus is because the hospitals are for everyone in the region and are the biggest employers, too.
Seekings espouses redoing the West Ashley Circle, as it directly impacts the flooding issues in Church Creek. “City Hall should be directly tackling that head-on,” he says.
Seekings says he literally has cranes working in his backyard at his downtown home. One of his commercials says, “If a sky full of cranes is your vision for Charleston, then you already have the mayor you want,” says one of his commercials in an obvious swipe at Tecklenburg.
Seekings charges Tecklenburg with not keeping his promises and allowing development exceptions for friends’ projects. He promises never to “cave” to developers and to maintain and support smart development through proper zoning decisions.
Seekings points to Sargent Jasper project downtown as the biggest example of the mayor’s “flip-flops.”
As the interim chair of CARTA, Seekings holds that he has a wide view of the city’s transportation and traffic woes, especially in how it ties into the region’s issues. A supporter of high-speed bus routes and a stand-alone bike/pedestrian bridge from West Ashley to the peninsula.
He also calls the roughly $3 million spent on the former Piggly Wiggly site in West Ashley a “failure” that sits fallow and is currently being used as a trash dump site for detritus kicked up by Hurricane Dorian.
Overall, Seekings criticizes the mayor for “lots of talking” not being followed up with lots of action. He also holds that accommodations and hospitality taxes should be spent on projects in the area the taxes were collected. That could play well in West Ashley, which he says has seen more new hotel rooms in recent years being constructed downtown.
This marks the third time former City Councilman and downtown money manager Maurice Washington has run for mayor, the last time netting a little under 1,400 votes.
His three main goals are to improve education, largely seen as a county issue, though; improving infrastructure, and finally affordable housing.
Washington argues that education is “everybody’s issue.” While he is not calling for a city takeover of education, he is calling for more cooperation and a “partnership” between the city and the county in how schools help kids along the road to becoming prepared workers.
He emphasizes the importance of spreading broadband access to the internet as a partial answer to delivering education to students’ homes. “What good is giving a student a laptop when they live in a zip code that cannot connect to the internet,” he asks.
To make improvements to all sectors of society and the economy, Washington says everyone has to be “connected.”
Like Seekings, Washington would prioritize flooding efforts in the medical district off Calhoun Street downtown: “If you ever had to rush a loved one to a hospital or an emergency room, you’d want the streets dry and conditions favorable as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.”
And like with Seekings, Church Creek flooding issues would be a close second for Washington. “They did some bad things at Church Creek,” he says, referring to an entire neighborhood the city and the feds had to purchase due to flooding and bad planning.
But he says the problem is bigger than just Church Creek, “Did you know there are 100,000 buildings in FEMA floodplains locally,” Washington asks, continuing by claiming that 57 percent of all local developments were also built in floodplains.
Washington would like to see planning and zoning drive development, and not the other way around, and have development pay for infrastructure needs going forward.
The city has been wrong about its annexation process, says Washington, and should’ve had immediate delivery of services to new properties as its requirement rather than its goal. That way, when homes were brought into the fold, services like fire, police, trash, and transportation could be available “day one.”
To help solve the city’s dwindling affordable housing stock, Washington espouses more high-density zoning, so that more people can find housing closer to their work.
After 12 years on City Council and now running for the next four as mayor, Gary White eschews the label of “politician,” preferring to be seen as a servant with a “business background.”
A former West Ashley resident, White has lived on Daniel Island for years, and represented its interests on Council for the past dozen. And he’s been dissatisfied with the job the mayor has done since 2016.
White says he’s seen an unfocused mayor, incapable of delivering a clear path of leadership for the city going forward.
When it comes to flooding, White calls for a 20-year strategic plan to be crafted, but for a focus on short-term, affordable projects that will render immediate positive impacts. Maintaining the current stormwater maintenance system is key, he says, along with special attention being spent on what he terms “choke points” in the system, like outflow clearing.
White thinks it’s a shame that a “high tide and a small rain can shut down the city,” and the cost of solving these kinds of problems are attainable through collection of stormwater fees.
Controlling development needs to have a leader in City Hall that can “articulate their plan and then have the ability to say yes and have the courage to say no,” even when it’s in response to a developer or builder who wants to make a significant investment in the city, says White.
Leadership, according to White, should begin before the mayor goes into Council Chambers, and there can be no “double standards.” He says that the mayor has defied moratoriums in the past by bending the rules to allow friends to erect projects in certain overlay zones.
White also says that the current mayor makes sure that all of his department managers are in lock step with his positions, which seems to fly in the face of his criticism of a lack of leadership.
He is also concerned about the recent proposed redevelopment for Citadel Mall, which he says focuses too much on height and density.
As in flooding, White will champion short-term traffic projects with immediate positive impacts until 526 is completed. He points to the good work being done in widening Glenn McConnell Parkway as an example.
White does not see enhancing CARTA as a congestion panacea, since “big swathes” of the city, including Daniel Island, aren’t reached by the bus service.
District 11 City Council
William Moody (incumbent)
William Moody is unquestionably the biggest powerbroker on Council. He has built a coalition of West Ashley councilmen into a formidable force fighting for this part of town’s piece of the fiscal pie at City Hall.
He has also been a staunch opponent of Mayor Tecklenburg since the latter took office, supporting ant-Teck candidates in the last election, and bringing together a phalanx of current councilmembers to flank their colleague on Council, Gary White in his candidacy for the mayor’s office.
Moody says to expect four more years of the same if he is re-elected, referring to accomplishments completed during his current tenure: paving the Greenway and Bikeway, work on flooding, a $4 million drainage project in his district, the purchase of WPAL and the Bender Street parcels for future parks, the completion of Higgins Park, helping in the push for a new Stono Park Elementary, and not to mention the push for the creation of a TIF district for revitalizing the Sam Rittenberg Boulevard/Citadel Mall corridor.
Like others, the accountant thinks 25-story buildings there are “too tall,” but admits there is no way developer Richard Davis (“Flip This House”) can make it work with buildings closer to the ground than five stories.
Citadel Mall’s revitalization, Moody says, is already pulling hundreds if not thousands of car trips off the roads, as workers and patients no longer have to go downtown for medical care. That is having an impact on traffic, he says.
Moody says it’s time to “circle back” on getting the car dealerships to get their power lines buried underground. Expensive, but many darkened homes during the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian show that more protection could lead to more comfort and safety.
He also says to continue to fight for more of the collected hospitality and accommodations taxes in West Ashley. Moody hates that there has been so much growth in those areas in West Ashley in recent years, but the money flow has just trickled in from City Hall here.
It bothers Moody that despite all the talk, “every subdivision in West Ashley STILL has an outfall problem,” he says referring to where stormwater lines vomit out into nearby waterways. Moody has been preaching for years that outfalls need to be better maintained and cleared.
Moody lumps his lawyer challenger, Ross Appel in with some of the folks he took on as clients, saying he sued the county to stop 526 and backed higher density development on a former plantation in West Ashley.
Ross Appel knew to expect Moody’s attack on his work as a lawyer. He deflects Moody’s assertion that he was in lockstep with the S.C. Coastal Conservation League environmental assault on 526, reframing it as a “good governance” lawsuit keeping local officials in check.
Appel’s suit pointed out that money raised from the county’s half-cent sales tax couldn’t go for 526 completion because it was not one of the 15 identified projects on the referendum that created the cache of money. “It doesn’t take an Alan Dershowitz-level of lawyer to see the problem with that,” he says.
But what do you expect for an accountant who’s claim to fame was auditing the mayor over business cards, asks Appel, a member of the zoning board.
Appel lodges the complaint that Moody has spent too much time and energy opposing Mayor Tecklenburg at every turn that he’s missing some of the “tenacity” needed to attack bigger issues like protecting West Ashley’s and James Island’s premier neighborhoods from flooding.
As such, Appel says “human excrement” flows down the street when sewers overflow during hard rains. “That’s not always talked about,” he says, but should be. “It’s an embarrassment for the ‘best city in America.’”
Bottom line, Appel charges that Moody’s animosity and obstructionism toward Tecklenburg is a diversion that’s not serving the district. He says he’ll outwork Moody, and will work with Tecklenburg or Seekings, or whomever wins the mayoral campaign for Dist. 11’s benefit.
“We have to get beyond partisanship and find ways to cooperate at the margins,” says Appel. As such, he says Moody wants to paint him as a “liberal extremist,” but his third plank would be to address what he sees as the “explosion” of city spending in some areas that is drawing away money that could be spent on better pay for cops, and other first responders.
Because Appel has already exposed some of the shaky legal ground the 526 completion project is on, he says perhaps a better focus would be to push for drainage plans laid out in 2016 than focus on a traffic relief from a proposed inner belt that is still years from happening, if ever.
District 9 City Council
Peter Shahid (incumbent)
Attorney Peter Shahid has the same incumbent problem as Mayor Tecklenburg: he’s got a record. Not a criminal one, but as a servant and that gives his opponents plenty of targets.
Shahid’s introduction to Council was not smooth four years ago, having just unseated a member of Moody’s clan. To make him more unpopular with his West Ashley representing colleagues on Council, he was soon given the plum job of heading up the WARC, or West Ashley Revitalization Commission, snubbing other longer-serving councilmen this side of the river.
His top three planks include what he terms “continuing the revitalization of West Ashley” (read: guiding development), and solving flooding and traffic issues.
Shahid understandably bristles at the suggestions his opponents have lobbed at him and WARC, saying there’s been too much talk and not enough walk. He contends that there are plenty of non-headline grabbing efforts underway in West Ashley.
Additionally, he argues back that since the commission’s plan was approved of by Council has not been enough time to overcome all the neglect of the preceding four decades.
“The decline of West Ashley didn’t happen over a year-and-a-half … so expecting solutions in place in a year and a half is not realistic,” says Shahid. Particularly, since the plan was the result of extensive asks for input from the residents.
“This really is the peoples’ plan,” he says, in contrast with the last revitalization plan City Hall hatched, which included reconfiguring Citadel Mall, but was done without even so much as a phone call getting returned from the bank that used to own it.
Shahid gives credit to the creation of the city’s new stormwater management department being credited where he thinks it’s due: to himself. That department focuses solely on flooding issues,” instead of also dealing with rodent control and fleet management like it did when it was a part of the city’s public works department.
Like others in the race, he is waiting to hear from the Dutch dialogue report, already knowing there won’t be one singular approach to managing stormwater downtown or in West Ashley.
Leah A. Whatley
While some candidates in this year’s races have mentioned “asset-based community development,” local spa owner Leah Whatley has doubled down on the idea.
Basically, she argues that helping West Ashley grow into its future should come from a focus on what it already has, its assets, instead of what it could have. That way, local residents, their needs and talents, come first and foremost.
The brainchild of Jane Jacobs, who heavily influenced Joe Riley’s reshaping of the peninsula, ABCD (great initials!) hopes to create stronger and more sustainable communities in the future.
Charleston native Whatley is adamantly opposed to what she sees as efforts to transform the city into something no one living here would ever want. She is especially concerned that Council might allow for out-of-character buildings to soar a the Citadel Mall site.
She worries that voters will interpret her opposition as being from “the party of no,” instead of focusing on the positive effects possible under ABCD–style planning.
“I definitely feel that the community’s voice is not being heard,” says Whatley.
The former police officer wants to see more done to protect the historic fabric of West Ashley, as has been done on the peninsula and out in the plantations.
She sees the state historic site Charles Towne Landing as the “crown jewel” of West Ashley, a jewel that will shine even more brightly as the celebration of the site’s 350th anniversary is on the calendar for next year.
Challenger Brett Barry paints himself as the most “infrastructure first” focused candidate in this race. That is when he’s not focusing on reducing emissions in the transportation sector through the use of fossil fuels at work.
The former Pennsylvania farm boy followed his love of history down to Charleston, where he now finds the big heads down at City Hall have failed to align the city’s capacity with its infrastructure, especially when it comes to roads.
Barry blanches at the idea of allowing 25-story buildings to be built at Citadel Mall, as they would “dwarf” even the tallest buildings downtown. Additionally, he believes that allowing for 1,000-plus apartments and 500 hotel rooms on the same site would overwhelm everything from surrounding roads to drainage in that area.
He said the recent unveiling of the proposed plan garnered a collective “gasp” from citizens. Barry contends that this gasp shows the “disconnect” between Councilmembers and the general public.
Like Councilman Moody, Barry doesn’t hold much hope in the bicycle being a solid solution for the district’s transportation and congestion woes. “hats off to those who ride, as they are really dedicated to that mode of transportation.
“But we live in a high humidity area, with very hot months during the year. As such the elderly do not want to go to the grocery and have ten bags of groceries to carry on their ride back. We need a community asset solution when it comes to traffic.”
Barry also champions efforts to bury power lines, and even bike lanes “as long as they don’t restrict current traffic.”
District 7 City Council
Keith Waring (incumbent)
Eight-year incumbent Keith Waring loves to go to battle to make sure West Ashley gets its fair share of city tax dollars.
His first plank in his campaign is making sure all the communities west of the Ashley — here, Johns, and James islands — get an equitable share of municipal money as compared to what the city spends preserving and improving the peninsula.
Waring’s second plank is for this part of town to get a bigger share of hospitality and accommodations tax revenues spent in West Ashley. He says West Ashley gets a “fair shake” when it comes to property tax expenditures on trash, police, fire and the like.
Waring points out that over the last 18 years, starting back when his dad held the same seat on Council, the city has taken in $300 million in hotel and accommodations taxes, but spent $6 million on this side of the Ashley River.
“We cannot allow that trend to keep going that way; people in West Ashley need to know that people (on Council) vote for these dollars to go downtown,” says Waring. When it comes to projects west of the Ashley River, he says City Hall has told him, “’we don’t have the money for it,’ but downtown is looking pretty good to me. We can do better.”
When it comes to development, Waring says the priority should be to “double our efforts on affordable housing.” Since he holds that most affordable housing efforts in his district will be of the “infill” variety, it is important that a smaller lot-size be included in city zoning to help keep costs down.
But he claims that Tecklenburg’s administration has been mulling it for 10 months with no action taken.
Flooding doesn’t make his top three issues, perhaps because it hasn’t affected it like it has others. As such, Waring wants to see more money and attention spent on police presence and training there.
“Look, it doesn’t flood seven days a week, but tell me a day when we don’t need [the police].”
Rev. Christian King
One of the most civically involved residents of Ardmore, Reverend Christian King runs the Pink House, which is a resource center for her “lower-wealth” community dealing with afterschool activities for the kids and on up to hurricane preparedness for the adults.
King won a major victory for her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood a few years ago when she noticed none of the West Ashley revitalization plans included, much less mentioned, her neighborhood. City officials scrambled to include Ardmore. Unfortunately, little has materialized, but she remains hopeful.
Her candidacy is an extension of her efforts to make sure her peoples’ voices are heard on Council and at City Hall. Like Waring, she sees the key to smart development in West Ashley is to include more affordable housing stock.
And like Waring, she sees most of the new stock will have to constructed in their district in infill opportunities. She just hasn’t seen much of that happening, so far. King is calling for higher density ordinances to be crafted so more workers can find housing near their jobs.
When it comes to infrastructure, instead of dedicating more money for more and wider roads, King wants to see more spent on enhancing CARTA offerings. She would advocate for applying for county half-cent sales tax dollars to fund more routes through more needy neighborhoods to create a more “dependable” transit system.
When it comes to prioritizing the roughly $2 billion in flooding projects the city says it needs to be tackled locally, King says it makes sense to reach out to New Orleans to discover their best practices before Charleston gets hit with its own “Katrina.”
Overall, King says too much time and effort has been spent at City Hall making sure developers make their profits and not enough on making sure to improve the quality of life issues in all sectors of the community.
Snagging tourist dollars has been the priority for too long for City Hall, she says, reminding that “all of us want vibrant communities where we can work, plan, live,” whereas an overdependence on outsiders “who come in and buy high-priced condos or rent an apartment … but not engage in building our community” does little to improve the quality of life for those who live here year ‘round.
District 5 City Council
Marvin Wagner (incumbent)
Incumbent Marvin Wagner is tired of studying flooding, he wants something done. “We’ve studied it to dang death,” he says, the same week as the dialogue with Dutch water engineers was to be presented to City Council.
Wagner, an accountant, says the city has spent $30 million studying flooding but not “a dime has been spent in Church Creek.”
Unlike many of the others running for council, Wagner also sees flooding as an issue outside of downtown and West Ashley, with tendrils stretching into rapidly developing Johns Island, which he partially represents.
As such, he would like to see a more equitable share of flooding money spent in his neck of the woods in comparison with what’s getting spent downtown.
Wagner stresses that like traffic problems, there will not be one single “silver bullet” solution to flooding, and that it may take a myriad of options to fully get it under control.
Traffic problems, from Wagner’s perch are a whole lot more holistic than just completing 526, which is still years away, or constructing a full cloverleaf at the Main Road and Savannah Highway intersection.
“It starts with the reality that there aren’t but two ways on or off Johns Island, Main Road and Maybank Highway,” he says. Wagner thinks it’s going to take one, maybe two more bridges on and off the island, and maybe some ramps onto 526 to really get a hold of the monstrous traffic in his district.
Traffic is intertwined with development in Wagner’s mind, as he worries where the city will make up for lost affordable housing as I-26 continues to expand and widen.
“We are already going to need 900 units in the next four to five years, and we’re about to lose some, where they gonna go … let’s face it, dirt, the land around here is expensive … I wish I knew all the answers.”
Humility seems to be a cornerstone in Wagner’s approach, as he contends there is no “I” in any City Council victories only, “we.”
“No one person can claim victory over anything, to get anything done on Council takes seven votes. It’s either ‘we’ did, or it didn’t get done.”
Karl L. Brady
Karl Brady is a straight-up do-gooder. After years spent working for non-profits, Brady went back to school to get a masters and started raising money for those same non-profits. Today he is the director of development (think: fundraising) for the Salvation Army of North Charleston.
The Carolina Bay resident got tired of seeing Wagner and City Council merely reacting to crises in the area rather than being proactive, especially when it comes to flooding. To his way of thinking, Wagner’s hands were on the wheel when the car ended up in the soggy ditch.
When it comes to flooding, Brady says he wants even more to be done to limit nonporous surfaces (roads, driveways and the like) in future development of large-scale neighborhoods.
Brady faults Wagner for not being as accessible to the public as, say Councilman Peter Shahid is with his weekly community coffee klatches. Access, says Brady, would mitigate some of the concern in the population.
“You may not always agree with how I voted, but I will not be afraid to sit down with you and tell you why I did what I did,” says Brady.
Brady currently serves on the board of a local bicycle and pedestrian commission and supports “multimodal” solutions to traffic issues going forward.
“People have got to realize that multi-modalism is the future, and that we’ve got to not just design our communities for cars. Look at Atlanta, their downtown connector has nine lanes going both ways and it’s clogged every single day.
“So, we have to look at other alternatives; just looking at the number of people you see riding down Savannah Highway every day with grocery bags hanging off (their bikes handlebars) will tell you that,” says Brady.
Finally, Brady supports the city opening a police academy of its own locally to make sure there are enough officers to counter the wave of petty crime before it escalates into major crime.
District 3 City Council
Coverage of this race will be limited because even though the district includes a few neighborhoods and marshes off of St. Andrews Boulevard, it is primarily a peninsular district.
James Lewis (incumbent)
This is incumbent James Lewis’s 20th year on Council, and he’s gunning for four more representing the West Side. He barely survived a runoff last time, and with five candidates, some more visible than others, it looks that could be a repeat.
His top three planks are affordable housing, drainage, and crime. Lewis wants to help lead the city to take whatever affordable housing funding they can get from taxes and the federal HUD for projects bonded out to increase their value.
Lewis was interviewed the day before the Dutch dialogue was to be unveiled, so much of his plan here relies on the information shared by water engineers from Holland. He would concentrate resources to reduce crime, and stop problem areas from welcoming a higher concentration of crime.
This is not Luqman Rasheed’s first tilt for this office. But we were unable to find any current platform on the candidate. In the past, he has advocated for more police and increased job opportunities for the youth.
Jason Sakran owns two restaurants and runs the county school districts after-school programs. He lists his top three issues as flooding, traffic, and safety. He thinks the city has made a good start on the two dozen or so drainage projects that has begun, but wants more money identified to pay for more projects in the future.
When it comes to traffic, he sees the key is to get as many of the people commuting across county lines off the roads in some form of enhanced Lowcountry transit, that would initially include dedicated bus lines running on roads parallel to I-26. As for crime, he wants “opportunity crimes” nipped in the bud via a bigger police presence, be they on patrol in cars, bikes or horses.
Jason F. Taylor
Broad Street lawyer Jason F. Taylor is the biggest preacher of inclusivity in the race. He has vowed to wrest power away from the powerful “good ol’boy” network and return it to the people, regardless of what they look like, who they love, and how they worship.
He is equally strident about Charleston not being seen solely as a tourist destination by City Hall, with the focus returned to livability issues of residents.
Robert Cason Gaither
No information available.