HICKS COLUMN: Let it be, Charleston

nani rice/staff James Islanders voted for the fourth time Tuesday to form their own town. The previous three versions of the Town of James Island were overturned. Buy this photo

Congratulations, James Island. You are a town ... once again.

On Tuesday, a decisive majority of folks on the island voted to incorporate, which is the fourth time they've done it in the past two decades. You gotta give 'em this: They're persistent.

Maybe that persistence has finally paid off.

Every previous version of the town has been dissolved by state courts for one reason or another — its borders were too close to Charleston's, it jumped marshes and creeks, the paperwork was filled out wrong, their buy-one-town-get-the-second-one-free card had expired.

The arguments for and against the town over the years have been by turns reasonable and silly. Charleston doesn't want to be boxed in and unable to grow. That's understandable, but it's not James Island's problem.

And the Jim Isle argument that it didn't want to be annexed by Charleston is out the window since the city gave up forcible annexations.

Basically, too much of this has been about Joe Riley. But now it seems clear that this goes beyond the personalities.

This time, the folks who put together the town proposal may have come up with a version that is bulletproof. Trial and error has a way of breeding experts.

Bottom line, it's clear the folks out there want their own town.

Maybe it's time to let them be.

Double taxes, really?
Folks on James Island want to know why anyone else cares if they are incorporated.

It's a fair question. And there are good answers.

First off, the town becomes one more government entity in a county with too many already, another mouth feeding at the state aid to subdivisions trough. That takes money away from all the other cities, which would be fine — James Islanders pay in just like everyone else — but then the town rebates that money to homeowners instead of using it for city services.

Which means they aren't paying just like everyone else.

Then there is the argument about police protection. Like everyone else, James Island residents pay county taxes to fund the sheriff's office. Difference is, people in Mount Pleasant and Charleston and North Charleston also pay, but then have to fund their own police departments.

That's the double taxation issue in a nutshell.

Sheriff Al Cannon says he would patrol any city that disbanded its police force. Honestly, that's the only way the system would ever be fair, but that's not going to happen.

And ultimately, that's not James Island's fault. The folks there didn't create the system, they are just gaming it better than other cities and town.

And a lot of people are jealous.

Secession success
The reasons people on James Island want their own town aren't the kinds of things that show up on spreadsheets.

They want their own identity, they want their trash picked up twice a week by the Public Service District, not once by the city.

They don't want one vote on a Charleston City Council, don't want to drive to Leeds Avenue for every little thing they need.

That's an argument against single-member districts at the local level, and not a bad one. There are arguments in favor of them too, however.

Fact is, this island — home to a place called Secessionville long before the Civil War — wants to be on its own. And this time the architects of the town of James Island may have found their niche.

As Charleston officials predict, one day the town may have to stop rebating tax money to pay for a growing number of services. That's life. But so long as the town doesn't start hiring family members to do odd jobs for executive pay, they will probably coast along.

Perhaps it's time for Charleston to figure out it has lost this war too, and move on.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.

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