By Barney Blakeney
For many residents, the perception of the state of the City of Charleston is one of a community in transition. Last week in his state of the city address, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg offered evidence of that perception and promised continuing transition.
Tecklenburg listed a litany of accomplishments in his two years as mayor, achieved with help from a more engaged citizenry and a streamlined, more efficient administration. Included among the accomplishments were creating the largest, most ambitious master plan for West Ashley revitalization in the history of our city, enacting responsible moratoriums on James Island and in flood-prone areas of West Ashley, placing new restrictions on hotel approvals and expanding and accelerating hundreds of millions of dollars in current drainage and flooding improvements.
The city’s collaborated to provide more than $2 billion in funding for new and improved roads, more and better greenspace, and a bus rapid transit system that will finally give citizens an attractive option for public transportation, Tecklenburg said, while lowering violent crime reducing homicides from 11 in 2016 to six in 2017. The city founded the first ongoing Freedom School last year, expanded summer reading opportunities and enrolled more children than ever before in recreation programs.
The city launched its most comprehensive affordable housing strategy ever with increased workforce housing requirements for developers and $20 million in public investment. Together the initiatives are expected to meet a goal of creating up to 800 units of housing for teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters, hospitality workers, senior citizens and more. All while balancing tough budgets without a tax increase, and protecting the city’s Triple A credit rating.
“But now is not a moment for big speeches about small things. Instead, it is a time for setting clear priorities,” Tecklenburg said. “It’s a time for speaking directly about our plans. It’s a time for rolling up our sleeves and focusing our work on the most important issues facing our city today, particularly those related to controlling over-development and protecting our citizens’ quality of life – namely, flooding and drainage, traffic and transportation, affordable and workforce housing, and maintaining public safety.”
West Ashley Dist. 7 Councilman Keith Waring responded to Tecklenburg’s address. “It was a good talk,” he said.
Obviously drainage is a major concern for most residents throughout the city. But additionally, affordable housing also will be a crucial issue. Leveraging the $20 million voters approved for housing initiatives last November is a challenge the administration will face. But funding necessary drainage projects will be more challenging, he added. And while West Ashley redevelopment is a prominent issue, that too must be funded from as yet undetermined sources, Waring said.
Waring said residents must remain engaged. “When we allow others to plan for us, it usually doesn’t work out too well for us,” he said. “Citizens need to be involved in-between the elections as well,” he said.