In the oft-unscripted world of local politics, there's really no telling what a candidate is going to say. As the hopefuls for Charleston City Council and the mayor's office stopped by the City Paper office one at a time, they brought with them some wacky catchphrases and iffy claims — and a few bright ideas, too.
As in national politics, sometimes a losing campaign serves to bring issues to the table that the winner would do best not to ignore. So let's start with some noteworthy ideas:
• Wilmot A. Fraser, running for City Council's District 3 seat, talked some sense on the issue of cruise ships at Union Pier. The State Ports Authority, he said, has the most say-so on the issue, but the city has the right to put a cap on the number of visiting ships per year.
• Fraser, speaking on the issue of combating downtown arson, says the city should educate people and encourage them not to keep flammable indoor furniture on their porches. But if that doesn't work, it should be made illegal.
• Several candidates, including Marvin D. Wagner (for District 5), said the SPA should consider moving the city's cruise ship terminal from Union Pier to somewhere farther north, like the Columbus Street Terminal. Traffic is less of a problem there, and it could be a boon for nearby neighborhoods.
• Robert O'Brien (for District 7) said the city needs to build up its reserve fund by cutting the city budget 10 percent for each of the next two years. In the case of a double-dip recession, it certainly wouldn't hurt us to have some cash put away.
• Andy Brack (for District 11) said he would establish regular office hours if elected so that constituents always knew they could come by and share their concerns.
• Both Joseph P. Riley Jr. and William Dudley Gregorie (for Charleston mayor) want to increase trade by deepening the harbor. Not a bad idea, but good luck getting the hulking new freighters past the South of Broad blue bloods.
• David A. Farrow (for Charleston mayor) proposed a simple first step in deciding whether to create a bike lane across the Ashley River Bridge: Block off a lane with traffic cones for a few months, set up a surveillance camera, and see how many bicyclists actually use the thing.
And here are the iffy claims and laughable quotes:
• James Lewis Jr., the incumbent running for Charleston City Council's District 3 seat, says he has "one of the best working relationships with City Council, I think, of any council member in the history of Charleston City Council." Apparently modesty is not an important part of that relationship.
• Bob Thompson (for District 3) said taxes were an undue burden on seniors living downtown. "I don't know whether we have anything to do with the millage rate," he said, "but we can lower it if we do." If Thompson wanted to lower taxes, he should have run for County Council. Millage rates are adjusted at the county level.
• We like Aubry Alexander (for District 9), but his plan for an electric train system sounds like a classic pie-in-the-sky boondoggle. Before we start laying rails, let's try to make CARTA work.
• Andy Brack (for District 11) wants to hold more Piccolo Spoleto events in West Ashley. Sounds like a nice enough idea, but we're talking about one of the city's biggest tourist events, and tourists like to go places within walking or pedicab distance. Besides, part of the reason people love living in West Ashley is its relative absence of out-of-town visitors.
• The Rev. Chris Collins (for North Charleston mayor) wants the police to establish shotgun-armed, horse-mounted patrols in neighborhoods. "A criminal is going to think twice about burglarizing that home, knowing there's a shotgun and a police officer and a horse on the corner, and he can be there in a few seconds," he said. "So he's got to think, 'Can I outrun this horse? Can I tote a TV?' "
• Craig Jelks, amping himself up in a tweet before a debate: "Gearing up for the Charleston mayoral forum at 5:30 p.m. at the Charleston County Library! LET'S GOOOOOO!!"