Charlie Smith of Charleston is the winner of the Golden Pen for his Aug. 12 letter about the importance of retaining the 75 percent supermajority for City Council to be able to override Planning Commission decisions.
“Our citizens could have no stronger control over the inevitable flood of hedge fund money fueling both good and bad growth in our city today,” he wrote.
Mr. Smith took issue with Councilman Keith Waring for characterizing the state-mandated rule as a “surviving vestige of Jim Crow.” The supermajority rule, he wrote, “prevents citizens from being overpowered by a simple majority vote of their city council.”
At the same time, “There are plenty of ‘Jim Crow’ vestiges remaining in our zoning codes and lending practices that have since emancipation hobbled the ability of African Americans and lower-income families from building wealth through real estate.” He cited exclusionary zoning laws and redlining as examples.
“Charleston’s supermajority requirement actually is our best protection for keeping places like Maryville and Ashleyville from being bulldozed and redeveloped like Middlesex and North Central were in the 1960s,” he wrote.
Unlike council members, planning commissioners don’t have campaign accounts that “developers can legally fill,” he wrote, concluding that if the supermajority rule were removed, a simple majority vote by the council could “hand our city’s development future over to faceless, out-of-state hedge fund operators who may have no regard for our citizens.”
The Golden Pen is awarded monthly, and winners are invited to attend an annual luncheon with the editorial staff.