Let me begin this by saying I have nothing but the utmost respect for our elders. I would never assert that any "young" person — especially myself — has all the answers. I fully understand the value in having additional years of life experiences.
However, given recent events it seems as though something is missing on Charleston City Council. That would be the future of the city, and I'm not talking about children. I'm talking about the 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds who are working, paying taxes, starting businesses, and trying to improve this city.
Much has been written over the past few years about the lack of gender diversity in politics. I couldn't agree more that having more women involved in the political process would provide a better and more diverse point of view. However, we need to make sure that diversity goes beyond just gender. If we believe diversity matters when it's race and gender, it would logically follow that age diversity matters, and it's needed to make sure all of our community is being represented.
Let's look at some facts. The average age of a City Council member is 60, while the median age of a City of Charleston resident is 32. The average age on County Council is a little younger at 55; the median age of a county resident is 35.
This is not to say that people who are 60 can't understand the issues that matter to a 30-year-old. But it begs the question, if there was one, not even a representative amount, but one person in their 30s or, god forbid, 20s on City Council, would the debate about midnight bar closings be different? Would the bike lane over the Ashley Bridge continue to be delayed, or would a young person think about their friends and co-workers who would use it on a daily basis? Would issues concerning internet connectivity (like citywide wi-fi access) come up in the public realm? Would parks in West Ashley and James Island become a higher priority as people look for safe places where their kids can play?
Now much of this problem comes from apathy. In the last Charleston City Council election, only 365 people voted in the city's smallest district and 1,186 people in the largest. That means between 3 and 10 percent of registered voters actually voted. And when you look at the demographics of who votes in these smaller elections, it mimics the makeup of City and County Council. If this is the case, there is no one to blame but the 90-97 percent of people who didn't register to vote or bother to show up to vote. If they had, perhaps both councils would look different and the discussion about bar closings, transportation, and quality of life would be dramatically different.
I've seen an explosion of responses about the midnight bar closings online. At least two different online petitions have garnered over 2,500 signatures so far. Simple math would say if all those people showed up to vote — and a few even considered running for office — we could dramatically change the political dynamic in Charleston.
The good news is a new generation is already stepping up and ready to lead, but they need to be supported if change is going to happen. People like Clay Middleton, Catherine LaFond, Erika Harrison, Ben D'Allesandro, Joe Good, Patrick Bell, and many more have already run for office and are clearly the political future of Charleston. The only question we have to ask ourselves is how long we will wait to elect them?
Brady Quirk-Garvan lives in Avondale and works for Natural Investments, a socially responsible financial planning and investment group. He is also the chairman of the Charleston County Democratic Party and can be reached at BradyQG.com