Wednesday, January 10, 2018

With new members on board, Charleston City Council seems unsure what to do on Calhoun plaque

Departing councilwoman Kathleen Wilson tells colleagues to not "settle for mediocrity"

Posted by Adam Manno on Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 11:03 AM

click to enlarge The first Calhoun monument was erected in 1887, the second in 1896 - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • The first Calhoun monument was erected in 1887, the second in 1896
Charleston City Council kicked off the year on Tuesday night at City Hall with emotional departures, excited arrivals, and a lot of thanking God.

Mayor Tecklenburg introduced Council's three newest members: Kevin Shealy of District 2 in West Ashley, Harry Griffin of District 10, also in West Ashley, and Carol Jackson of District 12 on James Island.

Things got interesting in a few departure and introduction speeches.

Departing District 12 member Kathleen Wilson, who was unseated by Jackson, advised her colleagues not to "settle for mediocrity."

"I think sometimes the good Lord removed me from this because I have bigger fish to fry," she said.

After Wilson's speech, Mayor Tecklenburg presented her with flowers because "she was the only member of the fairer sex on our Council."
During his re-introduction to Council, District 6 member William Dudley Gregorie praised city staff, as well as his efforts with Wilson to accomplish things like the Folly Road Overlay, a moratorium on development, and the construction of the West Edge development. He thanked voters twice for choosing him over challenger Amy Brennan.

"Again, I thank District 6 for voting for the color of my competency and not the color of my skin, and for making gender subordinate to experience," he said at one point.

Carol Jackson, who is not a Charleston native, sought to distinguish herself from her colleagues by merit of choice.

"Charleston chose a lot of you, but the people like me and my family, and a lot of our friends, are coming to Charleston because you are an amazing city that we want to contribute to with our time and talents," she said.

A few items on the agenda were undertaken after all members were sworn in on various Bibles for the new year.

The History Commission's finalized language for a plaque to be placed next to the Calhoun monument at Marion Square was first on the agenda.

Commission chairman Harlan Greene defended the text amidst hesitation from council members and disagreements over the "rewriting of our past" by some members of the public.

"It’s odd that a statue like that has no interpretation," Greene said. "There was a spirited debate going back and forth. Even some members of the commission aren’t happy with it, but when we voted on it, it was the spirit of compromise."

Mayor Tecklenburg asked the commission to add context to the plaque in August 2017. He called the commission "well-selected," and reminded the public that local governments are simply removing statues in parts of the country, sometimes forcibly.

"I thought it was fair and appropriate to try to add some context history," he said.

District 11 member Bill Moody, who represents parts of James Island and West Ashley, showed little interest in debating the language any further.

"If it was up to me, I’d just leave it right there, but that would piss off two groups instead of one," he said.

Gregorie brought up pre-filed bills in the state House that could possibly amend laws that prevent the removal of monuments without Statehouse approval.

"We’re talking like this is the only thing we could do: try to explain it," he said. "But its really not."

District 7 member Perry Waring asked Greene for a racial breakdown of the vote, which could not be provided without official minutes from the History Commission. Ultimately, Waring was the only member who did not vote to defer a vote on the plaque language.

Separately, the ordinances to re-zone the former "Veggie Bin" property at 10 Society Street and a nearby parcel at 32 Laurens Street were up for second reading, but council members deferred a third reading at the behest of the property owners.

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