Charleston Mayor Joe Riley highlighted the city’s continuing good health in his annual State of the City address Tuesday, then stepped into the national gun debate by asking residents to lobby the mostly Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation to get behind President Barack Obama in the weeks ahead.
“We should encourage our senators and congressmen to support President Obama’s common-sense gun control program that would eliminate high-capacity magazines, ban assault weapons, close loopholes and create a universal background check for the purchase of guns,” Riley said.
“These measures and others will reduce gun violence in our country and in this community,” he said.
The comments were part of a 23-page, half-hour address in which Riley delivered a mostly upbeat speech about the city’s recent past and future, though few new initiatives were revealed.
One reason for that, he said, is that Charleston has more projects in the works than ever, ranging from the Gaillard Center makeover, re-doing the Battery seawalls, the opening of new parks and various deeply dug drainage projects.
“We’ve never had more on our plate,” Riley said after his remarks had concluded.
The speech in City Council chambers included the retelling of the many accomplishments from the last year — the city making numerous lists in terms of being a major tourism draw, its growing reputation as a job performance center and the high-profile bonuses of the Boeing plant and Charleston Harbor deepening.
He also touched on some of the more divisive issues, including Charleston County Council agreeing to move forward with completing the Interstate 526 loop after the city had offered to take up the project.
“The completion of I-526 is essential,” he said.
On plans for a new cruise terminal in the northern part of Union Pier, Riley said the project “has been slightly sidelined by unfortunate litigation.” But he added “we will prevail,” with a new state-of-the-art terminal being the result.
In terms of law enforcement, Riley said that for the sixth year in a row, violent crime is down.
“Since 2009, violent crime has decreased by 70 percent — from 909 violent crimes to 272,” he said, meaning “there are 637 fewer victims of violent crimes last year than in 2007.”
He also addressed the apparent solving of at least part of the string of arson fires that have plagued the city over the past decade after a suspect in some of the blazes was arrested last year.
“This does not mean that citizens should not continue to be vigilant,” he said, listing off the need for working smoke alarms, outside lights turned on and porches clear of debris.
Council members interviewed afterward said they agreed with Riley’s message. Councilman Dean Riegel said the note was a blueprint toward the last years of Riley’s final term in office. Councilman Robert Mitchell echoed support for Riley’s speech overall, and for his call for gun control.
“When you get to the assault rifle, I don’t think anyone needs to have that,” he said.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.
Joe Riley, who became mayor in 1975, delivered his 37th State of the City address on Tuesday night in Charleston’s ornate council chambers.×
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