For District 1: Shawn Pinkston
The candidates to represent District 1 appear to be very similar, but Shawn Pinkston has the edge. While many of those who live outside Daniel Island see it as a community that doesn't need much help, Pinkston is a candidate ready to step up for his constituents, who he feels have largely been left to fend for themselves while paying into the city.
An attorney and community volunteer, Pinkston worked as the communications director for U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis of Kentucky before enlisting in the U.S. Army following 9/11 and serving in Iraq. You've got to hand it to the guy. He seems focused and determined enough to at the very least speak up for what his community wants and focus on the specifics.
Pinkston's been consistent with his talking points throughout the campaign, and he will push for more effective public transportation throughout the city. An avid cyclist, Pinkston is also willing to take a serious look at alternative transportation options such as added bike lanes and pedestrian walkways. He says too many projects promised to the parts of District 1 not located on the Charleston peninsula have gone unfulfilled in recent years, such as a community center with an indoor gymnasium for Daniel Island and Cainhoy, as well as a public boat ramp that was to be built underneath I-526. These may seem like minor issues for the city as a whole, but you've got to start somewhere.
Incumbent Gary White is the first Daniel Island resident to hold a seat on City Council, and he ran unopposed in the last election. Tourism management in the city's historic district and regional traffic planning for the Clements Ferry Road/Highway 41 corridor are the two most urgent issues for White. Building the indoor recreation center to serve the Daniel Island and Cainhoy communities is also a top priority for him, but maybe it's time to give someone else a shot.
Pinkston may not be focused on all the larger issues facing Charleston, but as a candidate, he seems tenacious enough to keep things moving on City Council.
District 3: Jimmy Bailey Jr.
Jimmy Bailey Jr. recognizes the fact that City Council will need to step up more than ever as Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. leaves office after 40 years of leading the city. The son of former state Rep. Jimmy Bailey, the challenger's plans to ease traffic congestion include creating better connectivity for bike and pedestrian travel, as well as park-and-ride shuttles geared toward tourists visiting downtown. While Bailey says smaller, more immediate improvements like synchronizing traffic signals would help commuters, he also understands that providing opportunities for people to live and work in close proximity is key to the success of Charleston's future. Bailey believes it's time for the city to take a more active role in improving public education throughout the area to ensure local students have more employment options. He has experience managing community associations on both Daniel Island and Kiawah Island, which means he knows how to work with residents, businesses, and developers.
Over the past 20 years, Councilman James Lewis Jr. has positioned himself as a champion for the working man, but he hasn't shown many new ideas beyond crime prevention and affordable housing in quite some time.
In June, during a meeting with CARTA's Route Advisory Committee, Lewis spoke up for those employed in the food and bev industry who don't finish their shifts until long after the buses stop running. He is also the only council member up for re-election who voted against the measure to allow taxi companies to double their nighttime rates on weekends. Over the past two decades, Lewis has claimed victory in his district in every election, but now may be a time for a candidate who is willing to address a broader range of issues.
Lugman S. Rasheed is on his third attempt for the District 3 seat, and while he definitely has passion for his community, he just doesn't seem ready to take over as a leader. Much of the specifics seemed to escape Rasheed when he discusses his plans for the city, which is a shame because he seems genuinely enthusiastic about improving the lives of those he hopes to represent. He suggests building a public transportation hub near upper Meeting Street as a way to address congestion problems for those commuting downtown. Creating more on-the-job training programs for high school students is also a major goal for Rasheed, who is a regular participant in educational meetings with the Charleston Promise Neighborhood. Rasheed says he would improve upon Councilman Lewis' efforts to create more affordable housing for those working on the peninsula, but as a candidate, he needs more time to develop his ideas before he's ready for City Council.
District 5: Marvin D. Wagner
District 5 challenger Brian Byrd boils down the city's main issues into three categories: transportation, growth management, and flooding. Although he's not completely wrong, Byrd says that the key to solving these problems is accessible leadership, which when you're trying to manage an entire district may not be the best answer. Byrd calls for responsible growth supported by sufficient infrastructure, but he doesn't go into too much detail other than saying he will offer common-sense solutions.
Out of the two candidates for the District 5 seat, incumbent Marvin D. Wagner is the one with the clearest ideas on what needs to be done to solve the city's problems. He realizes that minimizing the area's traffic and managing growth go hand in hand. According to Wagner, the recent flooding highlighted just how vital the completion of I-526 is for Johns Island.
Limiting growth in District 5 is key for Wagner, who says that in the past, council has basically approved everything that came before them.
Finishing drainage projects and improving drainage infrastructure throughout downtown and West Ashley are also top priorities for the incumbent. He sees the redevelopment of West Ashley as critical to the district's future, and he has a solid understanding of the redevelopment taking place on the upper peninsula. Plus, it never hurts to have an accountant on City Council to keep an eye on the dollars and cents.
District 7: Keith Waring
Both candidates for District 7 say it is time for the city to focus on neighborhoods beyond downtown, but incumbent Keith Waring has the reasoned approach to bring about a comprehensive change for the area.
Waring wants to revitalize the look and character of West Ashley, as well as improve the area's infrastructure. Concentrating on aesthetics, he says driving into West Ashley should feel much more like driving into Mt. Pleasant, and more attractive roadways and sidewalks are the way to do it. Not to be one to waste money on the superficial, the councilman says funding and completing comprehensive drainage solutions are a proven must if Charleston is going to remain livable.
When it comes to affordable housing, Waring has actually put forth a specific plan for Charleston. He suggests the city construct high-density, high-rise buildings for low-income residents at all the public housing complexes on the peninsula. Copying the style of the three- and four-story apartment buildings already being constructed by the private sector, these new complexes would at least triple the amount of affordable housing on the peninsula.
Waring's opponent, Joe Johnston, calls for much-needed improvements to infrastructure in the older neighborhoods of West Ashley, but that doesn't do much to set him apart from the incumbent.
Johnston's main focus is addressing the high rate of employee turnover in city departments. He proposes forming a community-based public safety exit committee to evaluate conditions within the police and fire departments, as well as evaluate hiring practices within the two departments.
Johnston's idea to implement early intervention programs to prevent at-risk youth from ending up in jail is definitely important, and affordable housing is on his list of things to do, but he doesn't bring enough to the table to oust the incumbent.
Waring has proven himself to be a sensible member of council and his voice of reason will be needed more than ever with a new mayor stepping into office.
District 9: Aubry Alexander
Incumbent Aubry Alexander sees that the city's technology sector will play a major role in the economic growth of the area. By streamlining regulations and creating an environment to foster job growth, Alexander will continue to focus on setting a healthy framework for businesses. He understands the importance of establishing business incubation centers to facilitate the development of entrepreneurs, which is important if Charleston is to become a major innovation hub on the East Coast.
While he is keen on growing Charleston's tech industry, Alexander also acknowledges that there are many neglected pockets of the city that need improved infrastructure and recreation opportunities. When it comes to infrastructure, the incumbent is focused on two thing: drainage and transportation. Although he is against opening up a bike lane on the West Ashley Bridge, he has supported the creation of other bike paths onto the peninsula. From installing traffic lights to the completion of I-526, Alexander has pushed to improve mobility from top to bottom, and that kind of comprehensive effort is necessary to address an issue as complicated as traffic. As a member of City Council, Alexander has shown that he will listen to his constituents, review the facts, and maintain an attention to detail that serves the city well.
Challenger Peter Shahid's main campaign points have been economic redevelopment, recreation, and public services, but he has said little about the major problems with infrastructure that will become even more serious as the city continues to grow. He has called for the city to implement a master plan for West Ashley that includes incentives for both large and small businesses, and revitalizing the Citadel Mall area and Sam Rittenberg Boulevard are key concerns for the challenger. The problem is that his plans for improving public services don't really mention any specific complaints by residents.
Shahid's claim that the city has failed to fully consider West Ashley definitely has merit, but Alexander has a proven track record of addressing the concerns of voters and tackling a wide range of issues.
District 11: Bill Moody
Bill Moody might not be the most exciting candidate for City Council, but that could be a good thing in this year's District 11 race.
Challenger Chris Cannon is no stranger to running for office, and he has plenty of ideas for City Council. Unfortunately, they may not be suitable for public consumption.
Cannon says that Charleston has become too popular and that the overwhelming number of events in the city is damaging the quality of life of those living here. He would also push to reschedule the Cooper River Bridge Run to a time of year that is less busy for Charleston and move the finish line to Johnson Hagood Stadium as a way to avoid congestion downtown. Cannon also believes that the timing of traffic lights should be modified during all special events downtown, or the city should hire officers specifically to direct traffic.
He plans to address flooding by creating a city ordinance to designate all flooded streets as "No Wake" zones and make driving through such areas a fineable offense. While these are all new ideas for this year's City Council race, Charleston may not be ready for such a change.
Basically, the only thing that Cannon and Moody have in common is they both want to finish I-526. Moody may only be addressing the usual issues of drainage and traffic, but as the incumbent, he is simply the safest choice for District 11.