Challengers push in new directions for gridlocked city council 

Voices in City Hall

Charleston-area voters head to the polls on Nov. 5 to vote for city council, mayor, and other local offices. Until the election, we'll be highlighting local elections you'll find on the ballot. This week, we are looking at Charleston City Council and next week (10/30) we'll have an analysis of local races. Find last week's mayoral interviews and additional race profiles online at charlestoncitypaper.com/election.

DISTRICT 1

Marie Delcioppo
click to enlarge Marie Delcioppo - PROVIDED
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  • Marie Delcioppo

As the president of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association, Marie Delcioppo became a local figurehead for the Daniel Island community, and she hopes to bring her coordinating skills to Charleston City Council District 1.

"I think that I've established that track record of bringing people together — the city, the county, the state, Dominion Energy, the port — bringing all these people together to find real solutions to the problems we're all facing," Delcioppo says. "I've fostered those relationships to really help grow a strong community on Daniel Island and up Clements Ferry and Cainhoy."

When asked about her vision for city council, Delcioppo says that infrastructure is the top priority. "I also lump into that category flooding and public safety," she explains. "I've experienced it on Daniel Island firsthand, but in talking to people all across the city, everyone feels as though city services have declined."

"I believe they are citywide problems," she says. "I know here on Daniel Island and Clements Ferry, we're having a hard time with the simplest things, like getting our garbage picked up."

"I think that we need to be honest and we all deserve more from our city government," she says. "Those challenges that we're facing — traffic, and flooding, and growth that is outpacing our ability to keep up with it — are big issues and they just seem to be growing bigger every day." —Heath Ellison

Angela Black Drake
click to enlarge Angela Black Drake - PROVIDED
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  • Angela Black Drake

Angela Black Drake's interest in running for the District 1 seat began when she was the president of the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association. "I was always and continue to be hands-on, and transparent, and engaged with our civic leaders, city employees, and the residents, and the neighbors," she says.

Drake has served on several boards for the City of Charleston, including the Short Term Rental Task Force and the Late Night Activity Review Committee.

When asked what policies should be implemented for District 1, Drake mentions traffic, transportation, and infrastructure.

"I think we need to look at our policies regarding transportation and infrastructure," she says, adding that Daniel Island needs more firefighters and police officers to cover the growing area.

Drake shows an interest in keeping an eye on hotel and rooftop bar ordinances.

"I think the hotel task force did a good job through their study and their diligent work on the ordinance, city council studied it in their manner," she says.

On traffic, Drake says that alternative forms of transit are going to be key to decongesting roads. "You have the mass transit section, you have biking, you have pedestrian-friendly walking areas," she says. "All of these working together, we can't look at just one source to solve the situation. We have to look at it as a comprehensive plan between the city and the region." —Heath Ellison

DISTRICT 3

James Lewis
click to enlarge James Lewis - PROVIDED
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  • James Lewis

After volunteering his own time to his neighborhood in the community beginning in 1977, James Lewis Jr. decided that he could better serve from a City Council seat. After his second run for the position, he was elected. Up for re-election in District 3 this year, Lewis reflects on what is important to him moving forward.

"A lot of these people didn't have people to go to with their problems before I was here, and I think I have given that to my constituents," he says.

But, Lewis understands that to be a good councilman moving forward, he has to also address the bigger issues facing Charleston. Though he says that flooding is a problem that may not ever be solved, he believes that development is one thing the city can address.

"The people that work in the city, that work downtown — they can't afford to live in the city, because developers aren't building places for them to live in," Lewis says.

Lewis said that affordable housing ties in more closely to city development and developers than many realize. "We need to slow down that development and look at ways to try to build more affordable housing for the working people here." —Skyler Baldwin

Jason Sakran
click to enlarge Jason Sakran - PROVIDED
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  • Jason Sakran

Jason Sakran takes a long-term perspective, saying his District 3 race is about looking ahead.

"At this time in our city's history, with all the challenges we have, we need folks on council that are thinking of the next 20-25 years and can articulate that vision to the community," Sakran says. "I felt the need that there needed to be a city council representative that can unify the entire district."

Sakran says that he has talked to well over 1,000 people during the campaign, and the "overwhelming" theme he kept hearing was about the lack of responsiveness from the city council.

"People just want to be heard," he laments.

Sakran has no history in politics, but claims a long history of community engagement, most of which has been related to education and working with children.

"I have been involved in the community since I moved back in 2009," Sakran says, "and the beauty of what I've chosen as a career is people ask me what kind of work I do in the community, and the point of my life is that the work I've chosen to do is intertwined in the community."

When it comes to flooding, overdevelopment, and historic preservation, Sakran challenges the community and its leaders to look at solutions that benefit the city long term.

"When I encourage people when they go to vote is to make the decision, not about what you're most comfortable with today — but looking toward the future and what the city is going to need in the next 10, 20, 30 years," Sakran says. "I think I'm the only candidate that's prepared to do that." —Skyler Baldwin

Jason F. Taylor
click to enlarge Jason F. Taylor - PROVIDED
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  • Jason F. Taylor

Attorney Jason F. Taylor says he never thought he would run for public office, especially since "lawyering" is a 24/7 job.

"All these things I was doing in the neighborhood," he explains, "not because it was my job but because I wanted a higher quality of life for the residents — we can't count on the government to do that for us."

With ideas of advocacy and representation for his community, Taylor believes he can make a positive change in the city.

"We want an all-inclusive city," he said. "We want equal treatment for services and residents. I feel like residents feel left behind by tourism."

In addition to tourism, Taylor showed great concern for the impact of flooding on the community.

"Flooding is the most critical existential threat that we face in Charleston," he said. "As residents, we can see it — it's happening. We need a unified, comprehensive plan ... as far as action I can take, on day one, if elected, I'm going to go right to the city infrastructure and apply for $2 million to commence work on Calhoun and the Church Creek basin."

Taylor ties in the issue of flooding with historic preservation and transportation, believing that for significant progress to be made, the community needs to zoom out to see the bigger picture.

"For too long, Charleston has looked at itself at an isolated, micro level, but that's not a long-term feasible plan," he explains. "It's a reactive approach, whereas I am going to go proactive." —Skyler Baldwin

NOTE: Luqman Rasheed and Robert Gaither will appear on the ballot for District 3, but did not respond to interview requests.

District 5

Marvin Wagner
click to enlarge Marvin Wagner - PROVIDED
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  • Marvin Wagner

Voters in District 5 will have to decide between staying the course or blazing a new trail when it comes to representation on Charleston City Council. Incumbent Marvin Wagner is seeking re-election to finish the job he started in 2012. Among council's accomplishments, Wagner lists repairs to the Battery, a new lane on Maybank Highway leading onto Johns Island, and the widening of Bees Ferry Road.

As a voting member of CHATS policy committee, Wagner has been involved in the plans surrounding the creation of a bus rapid transit line. With a focus on infrastructure planning, Wagner has long been a proponent for the completion of I-526. Despite having firmly planted himself on one side of the issue, Wagner believes he and other local leaders are in a good position.

"I have a great working relationship with my guys, the other council members. I get along fine with the mayor, even though some of the others don't," says Wagner. "We've got West Ashley revitalization, including Citadel Mall, and that is probably going to be the biggest thing that has happened out here in forever. We've got a whole lot of stuff that is just right there, the three-yard line with a fresh set of downs.". —Dustin Waters

Karl Brady
click to enlarge Karl Brady - PROVIDED
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  • Karl Brady

Challenging the two-term incumbent is relative newcomer Karl Brady.

Originally from Asheville, N.C., Brady's past endeavours include a stint with Teach for America, Boy Scouts of America, Trident United Way, and the Salvation Army. While in Connecticut, he also served on his local school board. After settling in Charleston, Brady was spurred to run after two public meetings during which he felt his opponent failed to speak up. First during City Council's debate over the slavery apology resolution and then during a public forum on a recent rash of petty crime in West Ashley.

"That was really the thing that rubs me the wrong way. This is clearly something that is impacting residents and their property, and you don't want to talk at the forum. I felt like we were not getting adequately represented," says Brady. "And I felt like with my background in human services, my involvement here in the Charleston community in the various leadership roles that I hold around town that I could be that voice for the voiceless."

Brady's platform revolves around a proactive approach. He hopes to tamp down a perceived tension between Johns Island residents and city representatives through improved accessibility. On the matter of infrastructure, both Brady and Wagner believe the city should take the lessons learned from the recent Dutch Dialogues on flooding and implement those strategies effectively. In order to accomplish this, Wagner says the city must rely upon state and federal funding to make these infrastructure projects a reality. For Wagner, raising taxes is not an option.

In terms of addressing the city's transportation woes, Brady is looking toward a strong cooperation with county and state agencies to further develop the region's multimodal transportation network to provide a variety of viable transportation options — and get drivers out of their cars.

"I'm an Eagle Scout. I believe in leaving things better than we found them. If you look around, I don't think that we're leaving Charleston better than we found it," says Brady. "So if you want to change that and have better leadership, better infrastructure, and better quality of life for all, a vote for Karl Brady means we can be better together." —Dustin Waters

DISTRICT 7

Keith Waring
click to enlarge Keith Waring - PROVIDED
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  • Keith Waring

The race in District 7 surely has the attention of Mayor John Tecklenburg, who has the opportunity to see one of his main detractors on City Council unseated.

District 7 Councilman Keith Waring is seeking re-election for a third term. His main platform points this election are keeping the city fiscally sound, revitalizing West Ashley, and improving housing affordability.

"The biggest symbol in this city that exemplifies this problem is, to my knowledge, we do not have an employee in city hall that lives downtown," says Waring. "They all commute. That never used to be the case."

Waring describes the city's finances as being in "jeopardy," citing a more than $40 million deficit on the largest drainage project in Charleston's history. Waring mentions that the first three phases of the project were at or below budget, and it wasn't until phase 4, which occurred completely under Mayor Tecklenburg's first term, that the budget began to burst. Waring has no idea where the city will find the funds for the fifth and final phase.

Looking back on the early days of when the city was expanding, Waring says the annexation of West Ashley was essential because the area already had firm infrastructure in place and a good tax base to contribute to improvements needed on Daniel Island and the peninsula. Now, Waring believes it's time to pay back the areas of the city west of the peninsula.

One strategy Waring has in mind for this is a more equitable dissemination of accommodations and hospitality sales tax revenue. According to Waring, the city has collected $305 million in these tourism tax dollars. Of that total, $300 million went to the peninsula, while only $5 million went to West Ashley.

"If we're not going to be included in that revenue stream in a fair way," Waring says, "then West Ashley ought to really become a more affordable option in that we should be able to opt out of paying those taxes." —Dustin Waters

Rev. Christian King
click to enlarge Rev. Christian King - PROVIDED
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  • Rev. Christian King

Challenger Christian King, who worked in real estate before her call to the ministry, hopes to parley her experience advocating for her community into a spot on City Council. But King isn't in the race to push forward with her own personal agenda. Instead, she hopes to utilize the "ladder-up" participation strategy, which raises the engagement of low-income members of the community and allows local officials to act as a more direct conduit for the will of the people.

According to King, "What I'm hoping to improve on City Council is communication between the city and what's going on, possible resources that could help empower and change my community, especially low-wealth communities, so they feel that they have a voice and they know what's going on and are actively engaged."

On the topic of transportation, King wants a more frequent bus schedule that cuts down on wait times for riders in West Ashley. King also plans to push for more bus shelters and improved amenities for West Ashley commuters waiting for their next ride.

Affordable housing is also a key concern for King, who believes city leaders aren't being creative enough when it comes to addressing this problem. She suggests an increased focus on collaboration with various groups such as nonprofits and churches, who may have available land, rather than aligning with the interests of for-profit entities.

"I'm very much against overdevelopment. I don't want to really use that word but there are more larger developments going on that are impacting the communities in terms of displacement," says King. "I was very much in favor of the mayor's suggestion in terms of a moratorium on hotels. A lot of the things that I've seen the mayor put forth, I have not seen City Council vote for them even though they would be impactful for the West Ashley area and community." —Dustin Waters

DISTRICT 9

Peter Shahid Jr.
click to enlarge Peter Shahid Jr. - PROVIDED
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  • Peter Shahid Jr.

Peter Shahid was elected to represent District 9 in 2015 and became Mayor Pro Temp in 2019. Shahid has tried to promote smart growth in West Ashley over the last four years.

"I'm still promoting the West Ashley revitalization plan," says Shahid. "We have work still to do ... It's not going to be an overnight project."

The two marquee projects in the West Ashley revitalization plan, according to Shahid, are reopening the closed Piggly Wiggly near Orleans Road and Savannah Highway, and redeveloping Citadel Mall.

During his time on council, Shahid has also promoted the Stormwater Management Department, which was created in December 2018.

On traffic in West Ashley, the councilman says that he doesn't believe that "we can just build our way out of traffic congestion. Of course, maintaining good roads and safe roads and complete streets is vitally important, but if we can address the 80 percent of folks who live in West Ashley, get them to work into West Ashley, that's going to have a huge impact on the number of cars going downtown."

"If we can create a situation of live, work, play in West Ashley, that's going to be a positive way of addressing people not having to travel downtown," he says, adding that a mass transit hub and alternatives to cars will help. "We've got to make sure that we're managing growth in a very positive way," he adds. —Heath Ellison

Brett Barry

Expounding a message of infrastructure first, Brett Barry hopes to represent Charleston's District 9 in 2020. The candidate says that rapid growth inspired him to campaign.

"I think the city policy has really failed to properly align growth with the capacity of our roads and other infrastructure," says Barry.

When asked about the biggest issues facing District 9, Barry says that he wants to focus on the "needs of the residents."

"As city council talks about a $2 billion fix for flooding mitigation, a lot of the flooding issues out here have to do with ditches that haven't been maintained or properly cleaned," Barry says.

As far as development in Charleston goes, the candidate wants to avoid high-density zoning. "We've seen what's happened on the peninsula with all the apartment development," he says. "It's just build, build, build, and we'll deal with the traffic later, and the residents are sick of it."

To lessen traffic woes, Barry says that I-526 should be completed, zoning should slow growth, and the city needs user-friendly mass transit.

"We should have these buses run in a way where we're filling them up," Barry says. "Definitely, mass transit is part of the solution, I just don't think we've implemented it in a correct way." —Heath Ellison

Leah Whatley
click to enlarge Leah Whatley - PROVIDED
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  • Leah Whatley

Describing herself as "an everyday concerned citizen," Leah Whatley served as a police officer for three years. In her campaign for District 9, she wants to bring West Ashley revitalization solutions "without driving up property taxes, in a way that the community could celebrate."

One of her first suggestions is to promote Charles Towne Landing in more tourism literature, part of her proposed "asset-based community development."

"Rather than identifying all the problems in the area, you go and you identify everything that's right in the area," she says. "The very first asset that you're going to identify in the area is the people."

Whatley says that she decided to run for council because of a perceived lack of a community voice. "I never felt heard and I felt alone in that until I started talking to other people and realizing other people also didn't feel heard," she says. —Heath Ellison

DISTRICT 11

Bill Moody
click to enlarge Bill Moody - PROVIDED
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  • Bill Moody

"I think I have provided a lot of leadership on a whole bunch of things," reminisces Charleston City Councilman Bill Moody. "There have been a lot of parks; we've been about getting flooding fixed in my district — we have $4.5 million there; we've got several projects going."

Moody has been involved with numerous civic groups dating back to the mid-1960s, with his reelection in 2015 rounding out that list.

"I've always been about community service," he said. "I had retired from my professional career, got home, stayed home for a couple years, and decided this was something I wanted to do, so I jumped into it."

Moody is zeroing in on key issues in the upcoming race: relieving traffic and preserving Charleston's historical significance.

"With traffic — I've been fighting for I-526 to get completed, and that's what my opposition is hell-bent on stopping. So far, we're winning ..." he said. "They are trying to get seven votes on council that will remove municipal consent on that, and they haven't been able to do it legally, so they're trying to do it legislatively."

Growth and development of the city is yet another of the hot-button issues, and Moody believes that it's all about managing that growth.

"We've got to have smarter growth," he explained. "Moratoriums and other absolutes like that don't work. There are other unintended consequences that you have to consider — you have to look at each one of those things, and when you start taking other people's property, you've got to be careful."

Part of that management is ensuring that the high number of people moving to Charleston have places to live affordably.

"We just have to keep at this, and what I want to look for is permanent, attainable housing," Moody said. —Skyler Baldwin

Ross Appel
click to enlarge Ross Appel - PROVIDED
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  • Ross Appel

Ross Appel, the only candidate challenging Moody in District 11, believes his experience, despite his age, gives him the best perspective possible to address them.

"I feel like I have a background professionally that will make a significant impact on city council," said Ross Appel. "For the last decade, I have been a zoning, land-use attorney representing local governments, individuals, non-profits, even some developers and small businesses."

Appel says he has been on the frontlines of some controversial land-use issues, but not only that, he also has a background in local government finance.

"I sue local governments from around the state for illegally collecting and spending taxpayer dollars," he explained. "So, even though I am somebody who is very progressive on a lot of issues, I am a bit of an oddball, because I have this fiscal responsibility streak to me."

Appel's plans for city council don't stop at addressing community issues, however. He intends to radically change the way the council works.

"I want to bring generational changes of attitude and approach to city council," he began. "For too long, it has been plagued by what I like to call, 'old-time political drama.'"

"I'm not doing this to get involved in political drama with a bunch of old men," Appel continued. "I'm getting in there to make a difference and make a change in the City of Charleston. We cannot afford another four years of gridlock, backbiting, and all of these ridiculous sideshows while our city is sinking."

One of the bigger issues surrounding this particular district is the I-526 project that the incumbent has been fighting for. While Appel is not necessarily against the project, he doesn't agree that it is the solution others see it to be.

"You cannot build your way out of traffic ..." he said. "That is ancient dinosaur thinking from an old guard of politicians that have been letting us down for generations, and it's time to let it go." —Skyler Baldwin


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