Charleston mayoral candidates speak on different issues facing the city

VIDEO: Charleston mayoral candidates speak on different issues facing the city

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - For anyone who lives within Charleston’s city limits, the primary race on the ballot will be for mayor.

Mayor John Tecklenburg hopes to cement a second term in office while City Councilman Mike Seekings and others look to unseat him to become just the Holy City’s third mayor in the past 45 years.

There are six candidates in total, and Live 5 News asked each to give their take on issues that face the city.

Growth and development

Sheri Irwin: She did not respond to my specific questions. We found several things, though, on her website in regards to development including wanting to stop the urbanization of West Ashley. She also opposes “sustainability” and wants to stop the city’s plan to change zone laws where she says they would be allowed to build apartments in single-family neighborhoods.

Renee Orth: She did not respond to the specific questions we sent last week. We did not find anything on her website in regards to her ideas about growth and development.

Councilman Mike Seekings: “All development decisions are quality of life decisions. As mayor, I'll always put residents over developers, unlike the current mayor who approved more than 2,000 hotel rooms in his first term.”

Mayor John Tecklenburg: “Charleston’s success over the past few decades has certainly created some development challenges, which we’re working to overcome. In my first term, I worked to protect our neighborhoods and citizen’s daily livability. It took over three years and a lot of convincing, but we finally passed tough new hotel restrictions. Also, I was happy to regulate illegal home rentals and to secure over $45 million for affordable housing. Moving forward, we will continue that focus on our residents by restricting unnecessary development, and ensuring that future development adds to our neighborhoods and quality of life, not take away from it.”

Maurice Washington: “I sincerely believe that a failure to disengage from business as usual on the development front, is pushing Charleston unwittingly toward an unsustainable future.”

Councilman Gary White: He did not respond to my specific questions. We found on his website that he wants to create an Economic Development Department that is charged with supporting the economic diversity, vibrancy, and livability of our city with a clear focus on creating a robust and diverse economy.

Traffic and transportation

Sheri Irwin: She did not respond to specific questions. We found on her website, though, several things in regards to traffic. One of which includes wanting to stop the city’s plan to turn the right lanes on Highway 61 and Highway 17 into bus lanes only and left lane into toll lanes only.

Renee Orth: She did not respond to our specific questions. On her website, though, she says she wants to establish a voluntary, nongovernmental program that rewards citizens for carpooling through an app. She also wants to make public transportation free of charge.

Councilman Mike Seekings: “Our traffic problems continue to worsen and the mayor has failed on numerous occasions to secure much-needed funding. I’m at the forefront of the state’s first mass transit project, Lowcountry Rapid Transit, and I have a prioritized list of infrastructure projects as part of my Plan for Charleston.”

Mayor John Tecklenburg: “When the Post and Courier endorsed me for this election, I’m thankful they recognized that we’ve done what we could as a municipality to alleviate traffic. But there’s more work to do with our regional partners, like the completion of 526, major road improvements on Daniel Island, the installation of the southern and northern pitchforks on Johns Island, and more. Also, I’m thankful that I was able to play in a role in keeping 526 alive earlier this year, and I hope we’re able to bring that decades-long project to fruition as soon as possible.”

Maurice Washington: “It is imperative that government coordinate transportation infrastructure investments with local land-use plans, manager our transportation systems well, and honest new technology to control traffic.”

Councilman Gary White: He did not respond to my specific questions. But on his website, he says he wants to establish a new Economic Development Department to help create business centers across the city. He says that it will encourage employees to live and work in the same area.

Flooding

Sheri Irwin: She did not respond to our specific questions. On her website she says “enough with doing studies – it’s time to start doing something about the flooding.” She wants to create a department that cleans out the drainage system and also put in proper drainage along Bees Ferry Road.

Renee Orth: She did not respond to my specific questions. On her website, she says there should be no development of wetlands. There also should be no filling of lowland areas that will contribute to the flooding of neighboring property. She says green infrastructure that uses the force of nature to deal with water is a proven approach to flooding and water pollution.

Councilman Mike Seekings: “Flooding is our city's most important issue. Our work with the Dutch Dialogues has provided tremendous insights into how we can turn water from a threat to asset. Now it's time for a leader in the mayor's office who can deliver a prioritized plan and results.”

Mayor John Tecklenburg: “Combatting flooding and sea-level rise has been my top priority, and I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made in my first term. The strategy and plan that the City adopted this year and the final report from the Dutch Dialogues provide us with the most comprehensive plan, and a path forward, in Charleston’s history. We are already enacting new flooding and drainage regulations and we will continue to do so in my second term, as well as getting the resources we need to fund major drainage projects.”

Maurice Washington: “Floods are increasingly affecting everyday life in Charleston. Charleston must develop a more aggressive, comprehensive flooding and drainage long-range plan. To ensure the effectiveness of the plan, it must be scientifically engineered by a knowledgeable team of hydrologists and expert infrastructure specialists.”

Councilman Gary White: He did not respond to my questions. On his website, he says a 20-year strategic plan is necessary to address Charleston’s immediate to long-term issues of flooding and drainage. He says maintenance easements must be identified.

What makes you different than the other candidates?

Sheri Irwin: Did not respond.

Renee Orth: Did not respond.

Councilman Mike Seekings: “My track record is filled with consensus-building and delivering results, whether in my Council district or regional transportation projects. Charleston needs a serious leader who gets the job when the challenges are the biggest.”

Mayor John Tecklenburg: “Well, to start, I have four years of experience as Mayor, and, humbly, I believe I’ve done a good job. I obviously had some pretty big shoes to fill, and I’m proud of the high marks we’ve received for improving and managing the City. Beyond my experience in office, I have a clear vision for One Charleston that works for and with each citizen to improve our quality of life. While some of those running for Mayor have chosen to embrace a negative outlook on our future, I truly believe that our best days are ahead.”

Maurice Washington: “My diverse background, focus on education as an essential-component to quality-of-life in Charleston, and my commitment to making Charleston a better place for all of its citizens.”

Councilman Gary White: Did not respond.

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