Mayor Joe Riley described Charleston as a city flourishing on a broad front as he delivered his annual State of the City address Thursday in a speech that repeated his support of the demise of the anti-cruise ship lawsuit.
Calling the complaint "almost laughable," Riley said the only reason for it was the "hope that it would scare the cruise ships away," he said. "And it did not."
The case was tossed out by the state Supreme Court this month.
And while Riley also described a city making progressive leaps, he went on to advocate for area schools and libraries, saying voters should get behind efforts to increase funding for both at the ballot box this fall.
"I believe it is important that we extend the one-cent sales tax for school construction," he said.
"The economic growth that this region is experiencing is not one-sided. We must have world class education for our children and that demands 21st century world class schools."
Charleston County School District leaders are eyeing the November 2014 general election to ask voters to extend the 1 percent sales tax for school construction. But they'll need lawmakers to change state law for that to be a possibility.
In relation to libraries, Riley said the nature of technology means Charleston County must move to stay out front as he advocated "expansion and updating." Charleston County leaders are favoring putting a library improvement referendum on the ballot in November as well.
"We will have an opportunity to vote to enhance the most precious asset we have," he said, "and that is the freedom to access knowledge."
The advocacies came as Riley delivered his next-to-last state of the city address, though it was delayed by two days because of this week's snow and ice storm. The mayor earlier said he will not seek re-election in 2015, calling the decision irrevocable.
Speaking to a television audience, Riley concentrated on some of the familiar themes of recent years as he spoke of different areas of the city and efforts to curb problems like crime and flooding, while encouraging neighborhood growth and expanding economic opportunities.
"The closely followed Milken Institute ranked Charleston the 11th best performing economy in our nation," he said.
He went on to say some 829 new homes were built in the city last year, the second largest number in the city's history.
"The housing industry is also surging in response to the growing economy and also because people and their families want to live in our neighborhoods and enjoy our quality of life," he said.
In the area of police services, Riley said violent crime decreased by 17 percent last year - part of a 70 percent drop in serious crime in the past seven years.
And while he listed a number of parks being constructed across the city, he also said the International African American Museum could eventually draw an significant affiliation with the Smithsonian Museum system. He hopes to begin construction on the $75 million museum two years from now.
Overall, Riley gave the city's accomplishments high marks over the last year.
"This is the state of your city," he concluded. "Old in history but ever so young in spirit."
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551
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