Livability looms large in Charleston council races 

Charleston City Council Race

DISTRICT 1

District 1 candidates Marie Delcioppo and Angela Black Drake have a lot of ground to cover. District 1 spans from Cainhoy, Daniel Island, to the historic Ansonborough neighborhood.

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

Transportation to and from Daniel Island, which is only accessible by the often-gridlocked Clements Ferry Road and I-526, is one of the most-griped-about problems for island residents.

Drake's response to transportation woes is for more robust public transit. While it could work for Ansonborough, the idea is mired in other problems for Daniel Island and Clements Ferry Road, since public transportation is not available to residents of those areas. Her suggestion for a cyclist and pedestrian-friendly city is something to strive for, but D.I. and Cainhoy's isolated locations mean more planning for an idea that may be easier said than done.

click to enlarge Marie Delcioppo - PROVIDED
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  • Marie Delcioppo

Delcioppo's response to transportation issues focused on infrastructure and proper allocation of resources, suggesting that funds may need to be shifted and a better relationship with Berkeley and Charleston counties should be fostered. While it's an all-encompassing answer, it's one that begs for more planning and concrete solutions. Still, it speaks to the needs of the greater District 1 area and the popular topic of infrastructure.

Both candidates expressed a need for more public safety officials on Daniel Island — there is only one Charleston Police substation to cover the island and Cainhoy. —Heath Ellison

District 3

click to enlarge James Lewis - PROVIDED
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  • James Lewis

District 3's packed city council election centers around many of the same themes and concepts that have been seen throughout the county — flooding, development, transportation — and how a host of non-politicians plan to paw at those problems from their potential political position.

However, each candidate and the current councilman, James Lewis Jr., all have different ideas on where these issues stem from and how to address them. But, even moreso, many have different opinions on the severity of the challenges facing their communities.

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

While Lewis takes the issue of flooding back to the idea of funding, and the belief that as a city surrounded by water, Charleston will perpetually struggle with flooding, one of his opponents, Jason F. Taylor, calls it "the most critical existential threat that we face in Charleston."

Taylor recognized the lack of funding available for addressing many of the community's concerns, proposing a head tax for tourists visiting via cruise ship that could potentially bring in enough money to make a dent in what's needed to make a significant impact in some of these areas.

click to enlarge Jason Sakran - PROVIDED
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  • Jason Sakran

Unfortunately, the proposal, at least at the important levels, is less of a mandate he could institute through city council, and more of an idea that he would advocate for at the Statehouse, since Charleston's port is partially state-controlled. Taylor was the only candidate to make a proposal on that front.

The other challenger, Jason A. Sakran has focused more on unifying the city council, a valid move considering the council's recent history of gridlock and stalemates.

Other candidates were not able to be reached for interviews. —Skyler Baldwin

District 5

click to enlarge Marvin Wagner - PROVIDED
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  • Marvin Wagner

City Council District 5 includes parts of West Ashley and Johns Island, home to some of the areas discussed in the debate about overdevelopment in Charleston. Incumbent Councilman Marvin Wagner, first elected in 2011, has also aligned himself with members of council who have pushed back on initiatives floated by Mayor John Tecklenburg since he took office in 2015.

This time around, Wagner, who is challenged by nonprofit professional Karl Brady, hopes to continue to make gains on adapting to the influx of people moving to suburban developments in his district.

click to enlarge Karl Brady - PROVIDED
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  • Karl Brady

On Johns Island, Wagner has prioritized pushing for new bridges to move cars toward other areas of Charleston faster, and both he and his opponent support the extension of I-526. To that end, incumbent Wagner pumped the brakes on the proposed Ashley River bike lane after a traffic study that caused early morning backups onto Johns Island. That project is in limbo, but the sour taste lingers over the entire proposal for many, including Wagner. Brady has proposed a new cycling and pedestrian advisory group to spearhead bike and pedestrian passages to the medical district. Wagner has also been critical of the partially funded Maybank Highway "pitchfork" traffic pattern at the base of the Stono River bridge.

On the "fill and build" ban proposed and put before council last month by Councilman Harry Griffin, Wagner recently framed that ordinance as a trial balloon to force council and the mayor to take a position on the measure before the city ultimate addresses the issue with new stormwater regulations. First reading of Griffin's proposal passed unanimously. —Sam Spence

District 7

click to enlarge Keith Waring - PROVIDED
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  • Keith Waring

In West Ashley's District 7, incumbent Keith Waring and challenger Christian King are squaring off in a race driven from both sides about answering questions of constituents with few real divergent moments on key issues.

Waring has drawn a stark line between himself and Mayor John Tecklenburg's administration, aligning himself with Councilman Gary White's campaign for the top office after supporting the mayor in 2015. As part of the council delegation that has been highly critical of the mayor, Waring has aimed campaign rhetoric at Tecklenburg, who he says has not done enough to return money to West Ashley taxpayers.

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

The revitalization of Citadel Mall has been a talking point for pretty much every Charleston politician in the past decade, but the retail center itself actually sits in District 7. Initial plans for the area would transform surface lots around the mall into a dynamic mixed-use area, and included a 25-story office tower that was the object of plenty of scrutiny by West Ashley voices on city council. Besides questioning the high-rise, Waring has been principally concerned with how developers plan to move thousands of people expected to flow in and out of a newly redeveloped community hub. Both King and Waring have raised questions over how nearby neighborhoods would be affected by the changes at Citadel Mall, with many longtime residents living a stone's throw away in the Orleans Woods neighborhood. The plans will likely come before council again in November.

I-526 also currently dead ends into Hwy. 17 in District 7. Waring is among the Chamber of Commerce crowd that has pushed ahead with the extension of the interstate, citing congestion from commuters forced to cut through West Ashley to get to James Island. —Sam Spence

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

District 9

How can we make West Ashley better? That's the question for District 9 candidates. West Ashley is in the midst of several revitalization efforts, including a refurbished Citadel Mall and bringing back the Piggly Wiggly on Savannah Hwy, meaning there's no shortage of growth in West Ashley.

Both the incumbent, Peter Shahid Jr., and challenger Brett Barry are wary of the continued development in West Ashley because of the lack of road infrastructure. Shahid says that a West Ashley mass transit hub, like the one proposed in the city's master plan, can take cars off of the road while allowing people to be mobile.

click to enlarge Brett Barry - PROVIDED
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  • Brett Barry

His description of a "live, work, play" situation in West Ashley could very easily bring more people to the area, as it keeps residents in.

Leah Whatley, the third candidate for council, and both of her opponents, all support the completion of I-526. Barry says that mass transit could be a proper solution, but showed skepticism toward the current system.

On the other hand, Whatley's primary concern with the direction District 9 is headed is rising property values forcing some out of their homes. Her idea to invest further in the current residents of West Ashley and promoting the resources that are already there, like Historic Charles Towne Landing, could be a new angle to revitalize.

click to enlarge Leah Whatley - PROVIDED
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  • Leah Whatley

Despite each candidates' skepticism of untamed growth, the continuation of the city's West Ashley Plan indicates that development will not cease. Leveraging expansion to West Ashley's advantage and utilizing smart growth tactics are probably the better option for city council. —Heath Ellison

District 11

You can almost hear the ring of the bell before a boxing match when it comes to District 11's election, as a heated one-on-one bout between two with tight grips on their opposing ideals has already thrown sparks across the mat.

With only one challenger on the ballot running against the incumbent, the major issues are a bit easier to focus on, with fewer platforms to consider.

click to enlarge Bill Moody - PROVIDED
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  • Bill Moody

Incumbent Councilman Bill Moody has been in his seat since 2011, and has dedicated the last few years to the completion of a project that he believes will relieve many of the challenges faced by Charleston residents: I-526.

While this primarily focuses on the issue of traffic and transportation, that seems to be the bigger issue for this particular district, as Moody's opponent, Ross Appel, has a dramatically different view of what I-526's construction will do for the city.

click to enlarge Ross Appel - PROVIDED
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  • Ross Appel

While Moody says that more routes will lead to fewer cars on the road and therefore less traffic and congestion, Appel says that the completion of I-526 will lead to city development going "through the roof," which is another issue in itself that has been hovering around this election.

But aside from the political issues driving this election, this district ballot is more about generational differences in ideals than in politics. Appel has been vocal about the current council's opinions and methodologies, saying that they are more than a little outdated.

So, what this is really going to boil down to is a battle of experience. While Moody has been in office since 2011, Appel has no political experience and is considerably younger. Appel feels prepared to make an impact on council and bring new perspectives to the City of Charleston, whether or not his potential fellow council members are ready for them. —Skyler Baldwin


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