Last week was a pretty good one for Mayor John Tecklenburg — even if it doesn’t look that way to some folks.
First, he went to the Charleston County School Board to defend Stono Park Elementary and urge the district to live up to its commitments to build them a new school.
It was a great bully pulpit moment.
Then he got to introduce a major new business for West Ashley — an area which can always use new blood — when the Whole Foods grocery chain announced plans to build on Savannah Highway.
And on Tuesday he got City Council to go along with a study on a hotel moratorium for downtown.
The latter two were campaign promises, and just a month into the job he’s delivered. Not too bad at all.
But wait, some will say, a study on a hotel moratorium is not the same thing as an actual moratorium. That’s not exactly what Tecklenburg said on the campaign trail.
No, it’s not. It’s actually a more sensible and measured approach than the nuclear option.
The mayor recognized that, and the political reality on City Council, and he adapted.
That’s good leadership. And even if it doesn’t make everyone happy, it should.
As Diane Knich reports, the mayor did his due diligence with City Council and lobbied members to support the moratorium.
But for various reasons, they couldn’t go along with it. A lot of them said it sent the message that Charleston was closed for business.
Some of them, quite frankly, see any kind of ban on business as a continuation of the war on tourism pushed by a handful of downtown neighborhood groups. Which is fine, those folks have a right to be concerned about their neighborhoods. And in fact the city should study the impact of the tourism boom regularly.
Just as it has been doing for 40 years.
But what a study on hotels is likely to show is what Councilman Bill Moody so astutely noted at council last week: a hotel downtown causes less traffic than an office building or an apartment complex in the same spot.
Plus it brings in more revenue, which keeps everyone’s taxes low.
Maybe the study will show that, or perhaps it will bring up some other pertinent information that helps shape city policy moving forward.
Some people may roll their eyes at the idea of another study, but fact is it’s important. That has been Charleston’s M.O. for years and it’s worked.
Just look how well the all-or-nothing fight is going in Mount Pleasant and Summerville.
Honestly, more debate and unvarnished facts are what we need to make informed decisions, and you can’t do that by simply throwing up roadblocks. See: cruise ship terminal, Sergeant Jasper, Interstate 526, et al.
The only thing we truly need a moratorium on is, well, moratoriums.
It’s a fair argument that perhaps a better strategy would have been to gauge support for the moratorium before putting it on the agenda.
But you could also make the case that the mayor’s way was more transparent.
And when the moratorium turned into a study of hotel needs in downtown, Tecklenburg joked in his good-natured way that at least he’d gotten everyone’s attention.
But that’s not all.
The mayor handled this — one of his first controversial challenges — with grace, diplomacy and political savvy.
Best of all, Tecklenburg did no damage to his relationship with City Council — which was already good — and he moved the ball forward. That’s an encouraging sign.
Charleston City Council is the least dysfunctional governing body in the Lowcountry and the fact is that even in a strong-mayor form of government, no one can do anything by themselves.
Which is as it should be.
Privately, almost all members of City Council are supportive of the mayor and they did not want to do him any political harm. That’s why this hotel moratorium didn’t turn into a political brawl.
There was a polite debate that would have made Marjabelle Young Stewart proud, common ground was found and everyone moved on.
That’s not only good for Charleston, it’s a good lesson for other communities struggling with similar issues.
So yeah, it was a good week for Mayor Tecklenburg.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.