They've got ditch problems on James Island.

For more than a year now, one local man has been showing up at council meetings to complain about the canyon that the town dug in his yard. Town council agreed it was a mistake and voted to pay $5,000 to pipe the ditch and cover it. But the work still has not been done.

It seems Mayor Mary Clark is against the move and says it will set a bad precedent.

In the past few months, more and more people have been showing up to council meetings, raising a ruckus and protesting just like the guy with the mutilated front yard. But they have a different ditch problem.

They think the town has been driven into one.

Criminal clapping

Two years ago, no one even filed papers to run against the mayor or council incumbents. As a result, they cancelled the election.

Some took it as a sign that folks were happy with the way the town was running.

If that's the case, you have to wonder what last week's showing says. By Wednesday, the end of the 2010 election filing period, 11 people had committed to run for four council seats, and four others signed up to take on Clark.

What's changed?

--A few months ago, the council on a 2-0 vote gave Clark's son nearly $50,000 to develop a computer mapping system for the town -- this after he won the contract to run the town's web site. The contracts were advertised, but some complain the requests for proposals were written to discourage competition. Whether they were or not, no one else bid.

--The town recently tried to condemn McLeod Plantation after its bid to buy the historic property was rejected. Some people think using eminent domain to grab land outside the town's jurisdiction smacks of the sort of government over-reach that led them to form their burg.

--When the town's election commission chairwoman protested some of these recent decisions, the mayor tried to force her to resign. She didn't, and the resulting chill has been just about enough to reverse global warming.

It also doesn't help that council members can't put items on the agenda -- but staff apparently can -- or that Clark has threatened to have some audience members arrested at council meetings for clapping.

Clark, as tough as ever, has derisively referred to such outbursts as "Hate Mary Day."

New town holiday?

The most surprising thing here is that so many long-time Clark supporters are joining the critics, and doing so loudly.

One person close to the town's inner-workings says the number of candidates reflects the frustrations of people who feel the town has become what it was designed to avoid: a chosen few making decisions for everyone. Some even say James Island is turning into Clarksville.

But no one is ready to write off Clark just yet. If the four other mayoral candidates split the disgruntled vote, the ever-resilient mayor likely will coast to another term. It takes only a plurality to win office in the town of James Island.

So it looks like it will be up to Jim Isle voters to decide if they want to designate Aug. 3 as the town's official "Hate Mary Day."