I’ve written more than once on this page that this year’s mayoral election offers us an opportunity for a needed civic conversation on the future of Charleston, on flooding in particular. Not many people appear to agree with me.
Nine months before the election, Mayor John Tecklenburg’s poll numbers are absolutely Joe-like. Tecklenburg may not be unopposed — Republican/Libertarian Will Freeman’s campaign is up and running on Facebook and has raised all of $45 on a crowdfunding website — but other prospective candidates may want to keep reading.
Poll 1: In a survey done for the Tecklenburg campaign, 73 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the mayor and 61 percent say he is doing an ‘’excellent’’ or ‘’good’’ job. Only 7 percent say he is doing a poor job, according to Democratic pollsters Crantford Research, a Columbia strategy and polling firm. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
Poll 2: For cynics who write that off as bought and paid for by the Tecklenburg campaign, a second poll done by a well-regarded North Carolina firm offers more of the same. Fifty percent of likely voters view the mayor favorably, 18 percent unfavorably. If the election were held today, 49 percent would vote for him. Twenty-three percent said they would vote for someone else, according to Public Policy Polling in Raleigh.
These are impressive numbers for a first-time mayor who was supposed to be a transitional figure after the celebrated 40-year reign of Joe Riley. The polls show the built-in advantages of incumbency, but also that voters are satisfied with the job Tecklenburg is doing, on flooding included. So far, no one has offered an alternative vision for the city.
Tecklenburg, a 63-year-old Democrat, is nearing $500,000 in the bank for November’s election, dwarfing any potential challenger. Councilman Mike Seekings, who has often told people he plans to run, had $63,000 in his campaign account as of the last filing.
The poll from PPP — a Democratic-leaning firm not affiliated with any candidate — offers no encouragement for the Republican Seekings, 58. In fact, Seekings, smart and hard-working as he is, finished last among five council members the pollsters asked voters about.
Only 11 percent of those asked had a favorable opinion of the peninsula councilman and CARTA chairman, while 11 percent viewed him unfavorably and 78 percent were undecided. Councilman Peter Shahid had the highest favorability rating at 20 percent followed by Keith Waring (16 percent), Bill Moody (15 percent) and Carol Jackson (13 percent).
No election is over until it’s over. But in a world of 500 channels, Charleston seems all too content with one.
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I wrote about Brianna Beland on this page in 2017. She was a young North Charleston mother — and heroin addict — who died in the Charleston County jail after being charged with stealing $3.94 in color pens from a Walmart at Tanger Outlets.
She was one of three people who died in four months at the jail that year, not for shoplifting or panhandling or failure to pay child support, but because they were poor. They were in jail because they couldn’t pay their fines or child support, our modern-day debtors’ prison.
Now it could be Charleston County’s turn to pay — again. In a court filing, Beland’s family has given notice of its intent to sue, saying Beland, 31, was allowed to die of severe dehydration as she suffered through days of heroin withdrawal. The filing names the sheriff’s office and its health care provider, Carolina Center for Occupational Health.
These are the same defendants who in 2017 agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a similar lawsuit brought by the family of Joyce Curnell, who died at 50 in the county jail two years earlier. Curnell, like Beland a poor woman living in a trailer, was also a substance abuser (alcohol) who died of dehydration during withdrawal. In a court filing, the Carolina Center for Occupational Health denied the allegations. The sheriff’s office didn’t respond to my inquiry.
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Neighborhood news: Charleston City Council apologized for slavery and passed the state’s first hate-crime law. On Tuesday, it will consider a resolution asking the Legislature to approve the Equal Rights Amendment. A vote to watch: Councilman Harry Griffin, who was for the slavery apology before he was against it.
Steve Bailey writes for the Commentary page. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sjbailey1060.