It’s hard to believe that the Charleston mayoral race will be decided in no time and that in less than just two months we’ll know who Mayor Joe Riley’s successor will be. Accordingly, it behooves everyone to get to know the candidates and their unequivocal stands (if that’s ever possible in politics) on difficult issues ASAP.
The 15-item questionnaire that appeared in The Post and Courier a couple of weeks ago was exceedingly useful in helping to accomplish that objective, although exclusive “yes” or “no” answers were beyond the pale for all candidates except one (Maurice Washington). The others had at least one “maybe” (William Dudley Gregorie) to as many as five (Toby Smith, Leon Stavrinakis and Paul Tinkler.) Mr. Tinkler dropped out of the race a few days ago citing professional obligations.
A few other things are worth noting. Despite the amazing contentiousness it has generated over the past two decades or so, all the candidates support the completion of the Interstate 526 beltway. Not surprising really. By putting “no” to that question the feeling would be created that the candidate doesn’t want to improve traffic conditions west of the Ashley, which represents a huge voting bloc.
Furthermore, I imagine Mayor Riley wouldn’t endorse anyone not in favor of the project, and he represents a huge voting bloc — not to mention the political influence wielded by developers and commercial real estate interests.
Voters opposed to the project need to try and sniff out which candidates are more sensitive to growth, environmental concerns, utilization of light rail and road improvements in order to assess the level of enthusiasm for a project that is nothing if not controversial.
On the other hand, those in favor of the project might note that the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce — a major supporter of the project — endorses Mr. Stavrinakis.
Only one candidate (Ms. Smith) unequivocally supports “gathering place” zoning. None would definitely raise taxes, although four might (taken in the context that Riley raised property taxes and other fees several times over a 40-year time frame.) Three — Gregorie, Smith and Stavrinakis — would not consider other locations besides Union Pier for a new cruise ship terminal.
I had a fun time answering the questions and matching my views up against those of the candidates and am delighted to say that Maurice Washington and I agree on more of the issues posed than any of the others. (My friend and neighbor Henry Fishburne, at one point a candidate himself who withdrew for personal reasons, has philosophies similar to Washington’s and supports him.)
Here are some more questions that need to be asked of the individual candidates:
1. Would you support an agreement between the S.C. Ports Authority and the city of Charleston limiting cruise ship berths to 104 per year?
2. Do you support the horse and carriage trade?
3. Do you support mandatory cruise ship shoreside power access?
4. Would you support term limits?
5. Is Charleston growing at a satisfactory rate? Too quickly or not quickly enough?
6. Are you satisfied with current levels of property taxation? Too high or not high enough?
7. Do you strongly support Charleston’s preservation movement?
8. Do you support the Beach Co.’s plans for the Sergeant Jasper and St. Mary’s Field properties?
9. Do you support the concept of charter and magnet schools?
10. Would you support turning Burke into a charter school?
11. Would you support the arts and the Spoleto Festival?
12. Are you satisfied with the number of bars on Upper King Street and their required closing hours?
Of course there are many, many more questions to ask — and I’m sure more insightful ones — but those are a few humble starters.
With all the craziness going on in the world nowadays, my regular contributor Walter Duane reflects on the quality of overall character and contribution making a difference.
Emily Dickinson put it best, he says:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
“The Judeo-Christian religions teach us to help others. St. Francis’ prayer tells it all: ‘For it is in giving that we receive.’
“To live long is good, but to live well is better.”
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at email@example.com.