The six candidates seeking to become Charleston's next mayor offered their own take on tackling what the incumbent has said is the city's biggest issue: flooding.
A Monday forum brought together Mayor John Tecklenburg and challengers Sheri Irwin, Renee Orth, City Councilman Mike Seekings, former City Councilman Maurice Washington, and City Councilman Gary White and focused solely on keeping the city dry.
Their exchange was mostly cordial. The gloves could come off during another debate in West Ashley on Thursday.
Tecklenburg highlighted ongoing efforts to create a "peninsula protection" berm barrier that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to make public in January, a major capital project that could be paid for primarily (65 percent) by the federal government.
A lot of the decisions Charleston public officials make are trying to solve a problem. A new road will help fix traffic. A new workforce housi…
Tecklenburg cited flooding and drainage as the city's No. 1 issue last year, after the city had been swamped for three straight years by major storms. Under his watch, he said the city sought advice from experts in the low-lying Netherlands and installed dozens of check valves to reduce the problem of sunny day flooding.
Seekings, after the presentation, said the proposed check valves were his idea, part of his work to serve his current council district, which includes Harleston Village, long a notorious spot for sunny day flooding. During the forum, Seekings said flooding on Drake and South street on the East Side stopped after he advocated that a check valve be installed there.
Washington and White said they each brought coalition-building skills to the table, demonstrated through each of their tenures on City Council.
When asked how each candidate would prioritize flooding projects, Irwin cited the Low Battery and Church Creek Basin. Seekings said the hospital district's Calhoun West basin would be a priority, as well as the Church Creek basin.
Orth, who is running on a "climate crisis platform" said city residents must get involved in any solution. "Money won't solve the flooding crisis," she said.
White said he would focus on maintaining the city's drainage system, and that the city's storm water manual, which is currently being revised, should include maintenance as a priority.
Irwin said to limit development in flood-prone zones, the city should do away with its urban growth boundary, stop overbuilding and make the city less dense. Orth said the city should stop single-family zoning and instead allow duplexes. Seekings said the city, like it has learned through the Dutch Dialogues process, should not build where water is or where water goes.