By Beverly Gadson-Birch
According to USA Today, North Charleston ranked #41 among the 50 worst cities in the US. That is alarming news to say the least. While alarming, it comes at no surprise to me. Amidst the rapid growth, major housing developments and mega businesses relocating to North Charleston, there is a dark side to the city’s projected image and residents who live under substandard conditions in North Charleston.
According to USA Today, “More than one in every four North Charleston residents live in poverty, compared to 15.3% of South Carolinians and 14.0% of Americans. Poorer cities are often relatively dangerous, and North Charleston is no exception. There were 885 violent crimes in North Charleston for every 100,000 residents in 2016, compared to state’s violent crime rate of 502 per 100,000 and the nationwide rate of 386 per 100,000.” And, according to 24/7 Wall Street, “North Charleston has a population of about 112,147. The median home value is $152,000, the poverty rate is 25.8% and less than 25% holds at least a bachelor’s degree.”
So, can anyone tell me what’s going on in North Charleston? North Charleston is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the south due in part to gentrification in downtown Charleston and economic development. Gentrification in the City of Charleston forced many of its Black residents to relocate to North Charleston.
Although Blacks comprise 47% of the population in North Charleston, Black communities have not fared too well. Mayor Keith Summey has served the city since 1994. Twenty-four years later, the average black family and community are no better off than before he took office. If the statistics are correct, and I believe they are, more than one out of four North Charleston residents live in poverty. Why? I often say, communities cannot be any better than the education level of its residents. If less than 25% of the residents has less than a bachelor’s degree, perhaps my premise is true and not simply a hypothesis.
After the last election, Mayor Summey vowed that he “would not” provide services to Black communities because they did not support him. The lack of basic minimum service in Black communities are evident in inadequate playgrounds/playground equipment, jobs/high tech job training programs, education, economic development, adequate police patrol and housing. While the mayor is playing “tic for tac” or acting like Black and brown folks don’t pay taxes and are not entitled to the same services as majority white communities, his city is among the “Top 50 worst cities in America”.
Several months ago, we addressed the $33 million Charleston County paid to settle the old Naval Hospital claims. And let’s not forget the failed Noisette Project on the old Naval Base. Millions and millions of dollars squandered on failed projects that could have been spent to enrich the lives of long time residents of North Charleston.
While North Charleston continues to grow, many of its residents have been left behind. If you are not afraid to drive through some of North Charleston’s worst neighborhoods as I sometimes am, it is obvious where monies are not being spent. Look for yourself! For a city of its size, North Charleston has more than its fair share of crimes. What can the mayor do other than sit behind a polished desk and deny services to those in need? Well, I am glad you asked. The mayor needs to work on ways to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots, the homeless and homeowners, educated and deficiently educated, and employment and unemployment (which includes increasing the pay rate for those on the bottom of the employment scale.
The worst thing you can do Mr. Mayor is to do “nothing” and remain on the “Top 50 list of the worst cities in America” or you can roll your sleeves up and get to work. Think about it Mr. Mayor!! “Whatcha gonna do? America is watching YOU!!