Battle widens, gets personal

Keith Summey

TYRONE WALKER

A group opposed to North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey's now-dead offer to put a Confederate monument on public park land says the mayor should learn from the experience.

They also say he should dedicate more time and effort to the city's poorer neighborhoods, rather than on a vision that leans toward "Confederate submarines and monuments."

The Concerned Citizens of North Charleston and Charleston County held a press conference Tuesday where their message ranged from calling Confederate secessionists "traitors" to accusing Summey of not doing enough to help impoverished parts of the city.

"Mayor Summey's vision includes improvement and development only for certain segments of our community, especially when that development is beneficial to his political allies," group member Oliver Addison said in a press statement.

He added that at the same time, North Charleston "recreational and community facilities in minority communities are in woeful need of repair."

Summey responded by saying three leading members of the group were using the press event to continue their history of political shots, ignoring progress made in recent years.

"Dot Scott's a nut, I don't deal with her," Summey said, referring to the community activist and local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leader who was one of the participants at the press conference.

He added that he didn't pay attention to former mayoral challenger Hillery Douglas or to Addison either. Both men spoke at the press conference.

The rhetoric escalated a day after Summey withdrew his invitation allowing the Sons of Confederate Veterans space for a monument at the city's Riverfront Park. The group wants to erect a 12-foot granite memorial to the signers of South Carolina's 1860 Ordinance of Secession. After the proposal drew racially divisive overtones, Summey said he favored allowing the monument at the submarine H.L. Hunley's restoration lab at the former Navy base.

Summey said the three press conference figures have ignored every improvement he's attempted, including his most recent effort to bring a chain grocery store into the city's southern end by spending $2.5 million to buy the Shipwatch Square shopping center.

"They oppose everything that I do to make the city better," Summey said. He accused the trio of "running their mouths" with "idle rhetoric," and "that's all it is and I don't pay any attention to them."

Scott said she would not respond to Summey's name-calling. "I respect the position of the mayor, but I'm not getting into calling people idiots and stuff," she said, adding "this is not me and him, this is about issues of North Charleston."

Douglas said there are other parts of the city where the mayor needs to concentrate, pointing to a variety of concerns from street drainage to youth recreation and business development in poor communities such as Union Heights and Liberty Hill.

"It's not racial," Douglas said. "We just want equal treatment."

Scott lives in North Charleston and is a member of the concerned citizen group. When alerted to the mayor's description of her, Scott said she wanted to avoid making the debate personal.

"Calling me names is not going to stop me from fighting," she said.

Even as the verbal fight escalated Tuesday, there also may be hurdles growing over placing the secessionist monument at the Hunley lab.

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, the state's leading Hunley advocate, said there could be display issues because the area is state property.