Charleston Mayoral candidates square off in Mt. Pleasant

Charleston Mayoral candidates square off in Mt. Pleasant
August 19 15:47 2019 Print This Article

Four of the six Charleston Mayoral candidates participated in the East Cooper Republican Club forum Monday. Incumbent Mayor John Tecklenburg and late entrant Michelle Orth were not on-hand. The filing period ended at noon Monday. The candidates fielded different individual questions. The following is a synopsis of what the candidates said:

Councilman Mike Seekings. A three-term Councilman, Seekings represents a peninsular district mostly south of Calhoun Street. He supports sounder fiscal management, noting that Charleston’s 1800 employees greatly exceed the number employed by similar-sized cities. He expressed dismay at the Crosstown drainage project going $43 million over budget. He wants to merge the city departments of Traffic and Transportation and Planning. Seekings believes that the city seizes property through eminent domain far too often, citing the $3 million acquisition of the former Northwoods Piggly Wiggly as an egregious example. Seekings emphasized the important role Charleston plays in the Lowcountry and the state.

Sheri Irwin. A political newcomer, Irwin was inspired to run for Mayor after attending the monthly West Ashley Revitalization Commission meetings. She believes the West Ashley Master Plan violates private property rights and objects to the emphasis on building high-density apartment complexes with very limited frontage space. Irwin attributes the frequent flooding events in West Ashley’s Church Creek drainage basin to over-development. If elected, she would focus on obtaining federal grants for flooding mitigation.

Maurice Washington. A two-term City Councilman representing the peninsula and West Ashley in the 1990s, Washington wants to review and revise the city’s zoning ordinance and establish a requirement for determining how a new development would present risks for flooding or traffic congestion. He said he would have fired the employees responsible for the $43 million Crosstown drainage project cost overrun and cited his track record of rooting out corruption while serving as Chairman of the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees. Washington wants to prioritize the Calhoun West drainage project ahead of the proposed $64 million low battery wall project to prevent the peninsula from resembling a bathtub during heavy rains. He emphasized the importance of wetlands preservation.

Councilman Gary White. The three-term councilman represents Daniel Island, Cainhoy Peninsula and a piece of the Charleston peninsula. He cited public safety and economic development as top issues. White referred to Charleston’s business permitting process as “inept” and wants to create an Economic Development department to help applicants navigate the process. He asked the crowd of about 100 at the forum to raise their hands if they rode the bus to the meeting, and no hands went up. He said the CARTA mass transportation system is ineffective and that he would look for private sector transportation solutions. White said he was encouraged to run for Mayor by current and former City Council colleagues.

Elections for Charleston Mayor and six City Council seats will be held Tuesday, November 5. Mount Pleasant has four Town Council seats on the November ballot, elected on an at-large basis. All Mt. Pleasant Town Council candidates will be invited to participate in an East Cooper Republican Club forum on Monday, September 16.