City of Charleston voters on Tuesday will choose six people to serve on council for the next four years. Two incumbents are unopposed — Dean Riegel in District 10 and Kathleen Wilson in District 12.
Mike Seekings in District 8
Some of the biggest challenges the city of Charleston faces can’t be resolved quickly.
That’s why it is important to have Mike Seekings’ reasoned, experienced voice speaking up for ongoing projects like improving drainage, repairing the Battery and implementing plans to provide safe travel for bikes going between West Ashley and peninsula Charleston.
Mr. Seekings, first elected to council four years ago, considers as one of his top priorities the city’s failing infrastructure. He’s not yet satisfied with the city’s ongoing efforts to address flooding. He feels strongly that the west end of Calhoun Street is critical and must get quick attention. When it floods, doctors and patients find it impossible to get to and from the hospitals.
Mr. Seekings’ district has expanded to include the Battery — a neighborhood where there is considerable interest in regulating the local cruise ship industry. He wants to require cruise ships to plug in to shoreside power when they are idling at dock instead of continuing to produce emissions. He also will push for “responsible and enforceable limits” on the number and size of cruise ships that are based or call here in the interest of the health and livability of peninsula Charleston. He correctly points out that cruise ships produce no revenue for the city, which provides traffic control, EMS and street repairs. That needs to change.
Although repair of part of the eroding Battery has begun, Mr. Seekings wants the city to budget for the full project to ensure its timely completion.
A lawyer, Mike Seekings is an avid runner and a bicycle enthusiast who says he will keep pressure on the powers that be to convert a lane of the bridge from west of the Ashley to the peninsula for bikes and pedestrians.
He also serves on the College of Charleston’s Traffic and Transportation Committee to mitigate tensions between town and gown, particularly on parking, bicycles and skateboards.
Further, he promotes the upper part of peninsula Charleston as a good place to attract businesses and add to the city’s tax base. (He voted against raising property taxes last time, and would like to see the tax hike repealed.)
Mike Seekings has a strong grasp of issues that Charleston City Council can and should tackle. He has been an independent voice. Give him another term to make more headway.
Liz Fulton in District 4
Liz Fulton understands the big picture in Charleston. She understands the urgency of getting flooding under control and keeping property taxes reined in. But she also sees everyday needs in the large and diverse District 4 and has the patience and persistence to make sure they’re addressed.
Some of the problems are relatively minor. For example, some streets, like Drake, have potholes that Ms. Fulton says already should have been fixed. As a council member, she would stay on the case until street crews are on the job.
In Cannonborough/Elliotborough, the big issues are related to livability, development and conflicts between established residents and transient students. Improving the town-and-gown relationship is important, and one way to accomplish that is to add sorority and fraternity representatives to the committee charged with addressing those issues.
Liz Fulton is a lawyer, with a background in marketing and journalism. With that perspective, she is confident that she can help the city draw new businesses and employment opportunities to her district, which she describes as “the most exciting in Charleston.” Parts of the city’s Digital Corridor are in the district centered along booming upper King Street.
But training and educational opportunities are needed so that residents can find jobs and not be pushed out of their neighborhoods as housing costs rise with the new prosperity. Better public transportation is needed in District 4, and in the greater metro area, to assist those efforts.
When Liz Fulton was a student at the Charleston School of Law, she did legal research on the issue of cruise ships. Her research convinced her that the city is missing the boat by not imposing restrictions on the number and size of cruise ships using the local port. She also advocates for shoreside plug-in power so the ships don’t run their emissions-producing engines while at dock.
Infrastructure is a primary concern for her. Drainage problems in particular demand more city attention and resources. So does bicycle accessibility. As a cyclist, she has seen the benefits of reducing the number of cars using the streets and parking places downtown. Better education is needed about bike laws. And access across the Ashley should be provided, she says.
She has energy, a positive outlook and a strong sense of independence. She would deal with the small stuff while keeping a citywide perspective. Liz Fulton would bring new ideas and passion to City Hall.
Dudley Gregorie in District 6
In his four years as a Charleston City Councilman, Dudley Gregorie has done his share to bring the city’s infrastructure up to date. But the problem is more than drainage alone. “Growth in the Charleston area is unbelievable,” he says. “How do you move all these people?”
His solutions are worth the city’s attention. Public transportation should be advanced both locally and regionally. For example, he wants to see high-speed rail connect Charleston to Atlanta, Charlotte and Savannah.
The city’s improvements to storm drainage need to be expanded to places like Ashley Avenue, Gordon Street and Sumter Street, he says.
Of course, paying for such extensive infrastructure is a problem. But Mr. Gregorie has a solution — a partial solution anyway. He points out that the city gets no revenue from the cruise ships that are based or visit here. Other cities charge fees to help offset wear and tear on their infrastructure. Charleston should do the same.
In addition, he wants to the city to enact enforceable restrictions on the size and number of cruise ships that visit here, and he wants the city to require cruise ships to plug in to electric power when they are at dock.
Dudley Gregorie, who lives in Wagner Terrace, has seen his district redrawn to include parts of James Island. He hopes to begin cooperative dialogue among Charleston, the town of James Island, the James Island Public Service District and Charleston County — all of which have authority over parts of the island — on issues of mutual interest.
And he is eager for the city of Charleston to make way for bicycles on the James Island connector to accommodate the growing demand by cyclists, and to get cars off the roads.
The ambitious Horizon project just north of Cannon Street on Charleston’s West Side is an example of how the city can help provide workplace housing and bring jobs to the area, he says. The city should look at applying that sort of solution more broadly.
Dudley Gregorie said he personally pays for a staffer to help him respond to constituents’ requests for help. He is committed to serving the people of his district and beyond.
He has been an independent voice, standing for actions that he believes will make “the greatest city in America even greater.” Give him a chance to continue his quest.
Blake Hallman in District 2
Blake Hallman approaches his role as city councilman the way he does his role as owner of two restaurants. He looks hard — under rocks if necessary — to find where business can be done more efficiently, without compromising the city’s assets. During his first term in office he examined each department of the city, and found some opportunities. One example: He is pushing for the consolidation of trash services in areas like James Island that are served by more than one jurisdiction. He estimates it would save taxpayers $300,000 to $500,000. He says Charleston has done a great job of being fiscally responsible and protecting the city’s livability. And as the city looks forward to a population surge, Mr. Hallman believes meticulous oversight is even more important.
He sees opportunity for the city to fuel revitalization west of the Ashley, including delivering on a senior citizens center that has been promised. He views the Citadel Mall property as a prime piece of real estate that warrants the city’s best planning. It could serve a mix of retail, hotels and businesses, or even be a business incubator.
Mr. Hallman has wisely supported imposing enforceable restrictions on the cruise ship business in Charleston. He also wants to require that ships use plug-in power when at dock.
His constituency would likely be divided on the subject of bike accessibility from West Ashley to peninsula Charleston. But Mr. Hallman has a sensible idea: Try the plan to convert a lane of the Legare Bridge to bike and pedestrian use. If it doesn’t work, it can be modified. He also believes there must be a way to make the James Island connector safe for bikes.
Blake Hallman gets things done. He was one of the forces behind preserving Morris Island before being elected to City Council. And he worked with the mayor to achieve a happy resolution to a dilemma over an historic church building on Wentworth Street. The congregation that was renting the church managed to buy it, thus retaining its historic use.
Mr. Hallman’s practical thinking, his attention to detail and his ability to focus on what’s important make him an asset to Charleston City Council. He should be elected to another term.