Mayor Joe Riley announced an ambitious plan to plant 10,000 trees in the suburban parts of Charleston as he delivered his annual State of the City address Tuesday.
He also stressed that the city is doing everything possible to solve the pattern of more than 80 arsons that have plagued the Charleston peninsula's midtown for almost a decade.
"We are employing the best technology that is available and, of course, the most important technology is human -- what people see or hear," he said.
Riley's half-hour address touched on familiar themes of recent years, including the need to deepen Charleston Harbor to 50 feet, control flooding and advance the International African American Museum.
The idea of planting 10,000 trees was a new offering. He called it something needed to beautify and reforest areas off the peninsula that, over the decades, have become more concrete than green as major roads expanded.
"The result of this over time has been widened arteries and somewhat of a roughness in appearance on the edges of wonderful suburban neighborhoods," said Riley, who has been mayor since 1975. He was re-elected to a 10th term in November.
The mayor proposed creating a new community organization that will work with the city to direct the projects. Funding sources weren't addressed, but Riley said it would be through a mix of public and private partnerships.
"These trees will be planted along highways, shopping areas, streets and even parks," he said.
The types of species involved would run the gamut, from palmetto to native oaks to crepe myrtles, cypress and others that are deemed fitting, he said. Some of the routes to be target would include the Glenn McConnell Parkway, Savannah Highway and Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.
"This is not something that will be done in a year and, of course, city building is a never-ending process," Riley added, saying the effort would continue after he leaves office. "But I believe that we should be committed to the reforestation and beautification of the edges of our suburban neighborhoods."
Some members of City Council liked what they heard. Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson said the project is an opportunity for neighborhoods and communities "to speak up and make their needs known."
Beyond his tree initiative, Riley said city officials anticipate that when official FBI crime statistics are released this year, the numbers will show an estimated 55 percent reduction since 2007.
He continued the call for the Legislature to help tighten conditions for repeat offenders who commit violent crime while out of jail on bail or probation.