The City Paper has joined forces with Lowcountry Local First, Preservation Society of Charleston, S.C. Community Loan Fund, Coastal Conservation League, and IfYouWereMayor.com for a series of articles featuring the seven men and women who want to replace Joe: Ginny Deerin, William Dudley Gregorie, Toby Smith, Leon Stavrinakis, John Tecklenburg, Paul Tinkler, and Maurice Washington.
The good folks at these organizations, collectively representing a broad base of Charleston residents concerned with local culture, commerce, and livability, came up with a series of questions to ask the candidates, and the candidates kindly answered them. Each week, the City Paper will run one series of answers in print and an additional one online.
This series will culminate in a Sept. 30 forum put on by these organizations. They have invited all mayoral candidates to participate and share their vision for the future of the city in a fast-paced, concise presentation, followed by moderated discussion and audience Q&A. The forum will explore issues related to quality of life and quality of place. You can expect topics like the local economy, the city's growth, and affordability to all be on the agenda.
This forum is free and open to public. Please RSVP at YourCharleston.org. Or you can join the conversations on Twitter during the forum with #YourChs.
Many of the challenges Charleston faces are regional issues, how would you propose working with others to lead a regional conversation?
Regionalism is key to the smart growth of our city and region.
In 1993, I was involved in facing the challenge of the Naval Base closure. I helped communicate with residents and businesses about the frightening prospect of losing a large part of our identity. Charleston County and two adjoining counties came together to form the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA) to fill the new and large void. The business community gets most of the credit for this major step toward regionalism. The greatest challenges were politics and egos but clear heads prevailed. Charleston came out of this crisis stronger than ever.
Working with other municipalities and regional leaders is vitally important, especially when it comes to transportation and education. I have been involved in Charleston County's education system for over 20 years — working with elected officials, school superintendents, community leaders, and school board members. My relationships with regional leaders has spanned decades. My experience shows I can help drive consensus with all pertinent stakeholders. It is crucial that we work together to achieve the best solutions for our city and our region. I have a reputation for working with others to foster consensus, to think big, and to get things done.
I think our region can be one of the relatively few "international" regions in America because to be successful we must compete successfully with the most creative, industrious city-regions in the world.
Transportation and land use remain top priorities. Over the next seven to 10 years the region will continue to experience tremendous growth. So we need to provide greater protections across the region for our natural resources and rural lands. And we need to get more serious about the transportation infrastructure needed to serve a region of one million people. We need better rapid, public transit. We need to employ new technologies in our public transit system. We need regional rail connecting us to other cities in the southeast. And we need a more complete road network.
Short term I think we should: 1) put in place the best regional plan in the country, 2) find a way to realistically, appropriately fund public transit, 3) finish I-526, and 4) long term we should build a passenger rail system connecting urban centers in South Carolina and other southeastern cities like Charlotte, Atlanta, Savannah, etc. As Mayor I will think globally when it comes to making important local (regional) decisions. I will be inclusive in my approach — not too focused on municipal boundaries when it comes to making regional choices. I will be relentless in my pursuit of solutions.
As mayor, I would maintain the position that we are bound more by our commonality than our differences and I would look to expand areas of intersection. Sharing best practices, maintaining current memberships, and exploring new opportunities.
I have a demonstrated record of working with local, state, and federal leaders; I've done so for my entire career in public service. Someone who has built trusted relationships with other South Carolina leaders and a proven record of bringing people together to get things done are qualities our next mayor must have in order to effectively lead our great city.
From my time on Charleston County Council to my current service in the state legislature, I have developed lasting relationships with leaders, not just in South Carolina, but all across the region and country. I understand the necessity of continuing that practice, and plan to as Mayor Riley's successor.
In a word, collaboratively. As any number of studies have shown over the years, many of the problems metro areas like ours face, such as schools, affordable housing and roads, are fundamentally regional in nature, and the only way to solve them efficiently is by working together to get the most bang for the taxpayer's buck.
For example, it makes absolutely no sense for three different garbage trucks from three different governing bodies to go down a single street — and yet that's exactly the kind of thing we're seeing today in certain areas of our city today. That's why, as Mayor, I plan to work with our neighbors wherever possible to consolidate services, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.
In addition, it's important for us as a city to understand that the solution to our growing traffic and transportation problems lie in regional collaboration and cooperation — we're not going solve this challenge on our own. And I plan to work closely with our regional partners to create the kind of specific, detailed infrastructure plan, including public transit that will be required to secure the federal and state funding we need to keep our city moving into the future.
I have been a mediator for much of my career. This experience has enhanced my ability to see issues from different angles and to work towards a result that is acceptable to all sides. A mayor is often required to be a mediator and I believe that given my career as an attorney, often serving as a mediator, I am in a uniquely qualified position to cooperate with leaders in our region. I have good relationships with members of both County and City Council, as well as with the legislature. My daughter Mary is a member of that body. As Mayor I will work with other regional leaders the exact same way I have conducted myself as an attorney and mediator in my professional life for decades: respectful, honest, and straightforward.
Given the intrinsic regional connections between transportation and land-use, economic development initiatives, environmental protection, and education, the only way to fully improve quality of life in our city is to ensure that regional and local perspectives, especially in the long-term, are mutually supportive. The best way to ensure our citizens see more of their hard earned tax dollars work directly for them is to maximize cooperation among regional governments.
I will regularly host meetings with regional leaders to discuss long-term plans and solutions to the many issues facing our regional community. In addition to meetings with regional leadership, my administration will schedule regular joint neighborhood meetings, where I will invite county council and legislative delegates to join me in discussing long term plans directly with citizens we all represent.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Candidates responded with no knowledge of any other participant's answers. Responses have been placed in alphabetical order.
Cover photo by William Brier