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John Tecklenburg: What To Do Going Forward
11/11/2015 4:46:48 PM

(l-r) Kenny Riley & John Tecklenburg
By Barney Blakeney

Chronicle publisher Jim French joined with Ken Riley, president of the International Longshoremen Association(ILA), in a meeting with Charleston mayoral candidate John Tecklenburg, pointing out that the city's 30 percent Black registered voters, will be pivotal in deciding the run-off election with Rep. Leon Stavrinakis.

However, it was pointed out that both candidates, according to French, had neglected the Black voters as part of their planning goals for the future.

“Traffic congestion and completing I-526 dominated the discussion although everybody knows there’s no money for any of that. The issues important to Black folks were left out of the loop.” French added, “I don’t blame white folks for that, I blame Black leadership.

But we make contributions to the tax base that runs this city and I’m personally offended by the lack of focus on issues that affect us.”

Tecklenburg defended his campaign’s focus saying polls taken before deciding to run for the office indicated traffic and transportation infrastructure were the issues most residents were concerned about. However, his campaign broadened its scope to include more quality of life issues. And though such quality of life issues mean different things to different communities, some issues such as public schools and affordable housing are universal concerns.

Describing himself as both caring and business-minded, Tecklenburg said much of what may be expected from the mayor rests more in leadership than direct control. For example he said the city’s public schools must enable students to graduate ready to enter the workforce, but the school district and not the mayor’s office makes those decisions.

Tecklenburg said his overarching realization during his first attempt at holding public office is that he doesn’t have all the answers. The next mayor’s inauguration will be shaped by 40 years under the competent administration of Joe Riley and the tragedy of the June 17 murders at Emanuel AME Church.

“In the wake of the Emanuel shootings the plan of action must be continuing that unity. It was great that we took down the Confederate Flag, but what happens after that? What do we do going forward? My thought is what a great opportunity we have to build on that sense of unity,” Tecklenburg said.

Housing costs in Charleston is the nation’s fifth highest, he said. He hopes that can be addressed employing various strategies using public, private and charitable partners.

And while income inequity is generational, Tecklenburg said it can be addressed by improving schools and training students to participate in the new industries moving to the area. With all the development ongoing, there’s no reason people can’t find work.

The city’s budget is a drop in the bucket compared to that available through the private sector, Tecklenburg noted, but with examples like the state’s only minority business enterprise office, which he thinks can be improved, the city can flex its influence.

More emphasis on minority business participation in its construction and procurement activities and carefully applied pressure on developers can have an impact on the two things he feels are essential to successful communities - quality education and employment.

“We know there is inequity and that our culture is steeped in racism that impacts every facet of our lives. And we know that it’s generational. As a city we can set an example to address some of the things we see. But it’s going to take a multi pronged approach,” he said.

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