By Barney Blakeney
The political scene respective to the Black community in 2018 seemed somewhat lackluster in the City of Charleston and at the state level. Charleston City Councilman James Lewis said political highlights in Charleston included initiatives to develop affordable housing, but not much else. At the state level, representatives David Mack and Robert Brown both said issues such as education and healthcare were sidelined by a focus on the failed nuclear reactor construction that ultimately left utilities ratepayers on the hook for the $9 billion cost of the abandoned project.
2018 was all about flooding across Charleston as residents sunk financially. Amid unprecedented housing and commercial construction, housing costs continued to drive low and moderate income residents further from the city, Lewis said. Charleston voters in 2017 approved a $20 million bond referendum to provide affordable housing and city council this year approved a fee in lieu of requirements that developers construct a percentage of affordable housing as part of their projects. Beyond that, the ‘creek’ continued to rise along with the cost of housing, Lewis said. On a brighter note, city employee salary raises and parks construction in the Ashleyville and Wappoo Road communities were budgeted in addition to funding for flood relief at Huger and King streets, Lewis said.
The state legislative 2018 political year was consumed by focus on the failed V.C. Summers nuclear plant construction. SCE&G officials in 2017 stunned the state’s electric and gas consumers when it announced it would abandon construction of the nuclear plants in Fairfield County. So much of legislators’ time was consumed with the debacle, few other issues were tackled, said S.C. House Dist. 109 Rep. David Mack. Ultimately Black folks whose utilities cost often are a big chunk of their household expenses will see little reprieve, he said.
“That $1,000 rebate ain’t gonna happen. There’s no way ratepayers will be made whole,” Mack said.
Livable wages for state employees, education and healthcare funding also got put on hold. Even as many rural hospitals across the state face closure, the Republican-controlled state government still refuses to expand Medicaid.
House Dist. 116 Rep. Robert Brown said, “Issues for the 2017-2018 session were affordable housing, flooding, livable wages and school security. We made some progress on these issues, but not enough to make a substantial difference because of the Republican-controlled House. The fight will begin again in the 2019-2020 session as we file new bills on old issues. The S.C. Legislative Black Caucus and Democratic Caucus work closely together on these issues because Black Caucus members make up over 70 percent of the Democratic Caucus.”