Charleston's mayoral candidates

Three of Charleston's mayoral candidates met for a panel discussion Tuesday morning, May 21, 2019. In attendance was Will Freeman (center) and council members Gary White (left) and Mike Seekings. Brad Nettles/Staff

Three of the seven candidates running for mayor of Charleston shared similar views on growth, affordable housing and flooding when they met with about 40 members of the Charleston Home Builders Association Tuesday morning.

But the candidates didn't see eye to eye on everything.

Asked about growth, City Councilman Mike Seekings said the focus needs to be on transit and that residents should not see density “as a four letter word.”

City Councilman Gary White disagreed on public transit improvements, saying it is "inefficient." He said he would work with developers to build job centers where people are living, specifically in West Ashley where many people live but have to leave to get to work. He also said he would create an economic development department. 

Resident and mayoral hopeful Will Freeman said he would encourage higher density on the peninsula and that the city needs a mayor who will advocate for state and federal funding for flooding infrastructure.

On flooding, White said the city needs a 20-year plan and should also tackle low-hanging fruit by addressing storm water infrastructure maintenance — cleaning ditches and making sure pipes are the right size.

Seekings said residents need to accept that tides are getting higher and the city needs to prioritize projects. He said flooding and transit infrastructure, like what he saw when visiting the Netherlands, should be multi-purpose.

On the city’s development approval process, White said the process isn't working.

“It is inefficient, it’s broken,” he said.

Freeman said the city’s development approval process needs to be streamlined and is similar to other towns and city in the county.

Seekings said he also favors changes to the city’s development approval process.

“When I’m in charge of this, your application will be time-stamped when it’s received, and you’ll be assigned someone in the city to be in charge of your project to communicate and set time standards,” he said.

Six mayoral candidates were invited Tuesday, but three didn't show. City Councilman Harry Griffin was traveling, and former City Councilman Maurice Washington and Mayor John Tecklenburg had scheduling conflicts.

West Ashley resident Sheri Irwin with the State Ethics Commission has indicated she is running for mayor but organizers said Tuesday's event was limited only to candidates who have publicly announced.

The forum marked the first time this year's mayoral candidates were invited to appear together. It won't be the last, and the mayoral field still could grow or shrink: Filing for all city races begins Aug. 5 and ends Aug. 19. The mayor and council elections are Nov. 5.

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Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5906. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelaporterPC. 

Mikaela Porter joined The Post and Courier in April 2019 and writes about the city of Charleston. Previously, Mikaela reported on breaking news, local government, school issues and community happenings for The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Conn.