Choosing our elected officials is a fundamental American right. Unfortunately, far too many eligible voters don’t exercise it in municipal elections.
For instance, in the 2011 Mount Pleasant Town Council election, the turnout was only 15 percent.
But the town’s voters get another chance to put themselves into the self-governing process again today by choosing from five candidates for mayor and eight for four council seats, all chosen at large.
Charleston, Summerville, Moncks Corner, the Isle of Palms, Seabrook Island, Awendaw, McClellanville and Harveyville also are holding municipal elections today. And there’s a tax referendum on the ballot in Dorchester County.
Our recommendations in the four contested Charleston City Council races and the Mount Pleasant mayor and council races:
Charleston City Council
Mike Seekings, running for a second term in District 8, accurately warns that infrastructure improvements are a crucial challenge for the city. He rightly cites fixing persistent flooding problems and repairing the decaying Battery as key priorities. He advocates expanded biking access, and also stresses the need to promote the upper part of the peninsula for business development.
Liz Fulton, challenging the incumbent in District 4, would bring a fresh, well-informed perspective to council. She’s fully attuned to both the problems and the opportunities facing her downtown district, which she calls “the most exciting in Charleston.”
She persuasively supports reasonable city regulations on cruise ships — including mandating that they use shoreside plug-in power while at dock to reduce unhealthy emissions. An avid cyclist, she knows the importance of enhanced bike access.
Dudley Gregorie, the District 6 incumbent, has an admirable record of constituent service — and a keen vision for the tests imposed by continued population growth. He emphasizes the need for expanded public transportation, both locally and regionally. He also pushes for drainage improvements throughout the city.
And he correctly points to the Horizon Project, just north of Cannon Street on Charleston’s West Side, as a model for the city to follow in adding jobs and workplace housing.
Blake Hallman, running for a second term in District 2, brings a practical businessman’s bottom-line judgments to city government. Among the potential savings for taxpayers he has identified is a consolidation of trash collection services on James Island.
He also sees a positive chance for city revitalization efforts in West Ashley, including the addition of a senior citizens center. And he backs requiring cruise ships to use shoreside power while at dock.
Mount Pleasant mayor
Linda Page is the right choice to replace Billy Swails, stepping down after one term as Mount Pleasant’s mayor. Ms. Page would prudently direct Mount Pleasant’s inevitable growth in a sustainable manner.
A proven consensus builder, she’s wary of the dangers that come with too much residential development and not enough commercial growth. In just one term on Town Council, the businesswoman and lifelong Mount Pleasant resident has earned the praise of many local leaders, on and off that panel, for her even-handed, practical approach.
Mount Pleasant Town Council
Elton Carrier, the only incumbent Town Council member on the Mount Pleasant ballot, has a solid financial background as a retired banker. Chairman of council’s finance committee, he’s a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility as the town strives to meet its infrastructure challenges. And he warns that tax-base dependence on residential growth is a threat to the town’s long-term bottom line.
Joseph Wren, as a small business owner, understands the importance of making Mount Pleasant more attractive to potential employers in the private sector. He warns that residential growth alone isn’t the long-term path to prosperity for the town. He also has solid credentials in preserving the town’s heritage through his work on the town’s Historic Commission and the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy.
Ben Bryson is an ardent, informed advocate for recruiting businesses to the town, including office development, to ease its over dependence on residential growth. He sees tax credits and zoning adjustments as ways to advance that crucial goal.
His professional background in real estate, current service on the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals and the Charleston County Board of Assessment Appeals, and past service on the Lowcountry Housing Trust and the Mount Pleasant Workforce Housing Advisory Committee give him valuable insights.
Gary Santos served three terms on council, ending in 2009. He was right to push for the building-permit cap adopted 12 years ago when residential development outpaced infrastructure. And he’s right to warn now that a return to unrestrained growth, whatever the short-term tax benefits, would create a long-term fiscal crisis for the town.
A former chairman of council’s recreation committee, he deserves considerable credit for the rec department’s remarkable ability to meet the public’s growing needs as Mount Pleasant’s population has steeply climbed.
Those are our choices.
But regardless of whether you agree with our opinions on who the best candidates are in Charleston and Mount Pleasant, remember, you have no choice in local government if you don’t make your voice heard in the ballot box.
So get out and vote.