Fit to Lead

Flooding

Flooding is the most critical threat we face as a city. It is a problem that has quickly become a crisis. If left unaddressed, floodwaters will devastate property, erase history, and threaten our quality of life. Sea level is rising. Stormwater is surging. Charleston must be on the forefront of confronting our flooding troubles before it is too late.

 

We have made progress on localized efforts, but now we need to turn our attention to large-scale projects. That takes a plan, leadership and regional cooperation.

 

While many standalone studies have been produced, we still lack a unifying plan and real progress. Such a roadmap for fully funding flooding relief efforts must begin with identifying projects in order of importance and magnitude. Here are my top five (with the estimated cost to implement or complete):

  • Calhoun West/Hospital District ($400 million)

  • Church Creek Drainage Basin Improvements, Rezoning and Water Management Infrastructure ($100 million)

  • West Ashley Drainage Easement Acquisition and Maintenance ($25 million)

  • King & Huger Flooding Relief ($30 million)

  • Johns Island Implementation of Dutch Dialogues Water Management Plan ($25 million-plus)

 

These are not prioritized to the exclusion of other projects but represent the most critical and
unfunded efforts. Our current sources of revenue are limited and primarily include our General
Fund, Drainage Fund and Stormwater fund, none of which produce the resources necessary to
tackle flooding infrastructure. We must, instead, look to effective leverage other sources,
including:

 

  • State Infrastructure Bank: On Day 1, I will have the City begin the application process for $200 million dollars to commence work in the Church Creek Basin and on the Calhoun West project. These efforts will both address flooding and critical mobility infrastructure. (The current administration already faltered here.)

  • Charleston County Half-Cent Sales Tax: These funds are largely derived from sales in the City and should be used for critical flooding infrastructure needs, all of which, when complete, will alleviate the problem of water collection in our roads.

  • Cruise Ship Passengers: Cruise lines currently pay ZERO dollars directly to the city -- and the mayor has never even asked. Consistent with the unanimous vote of Council in 2015, we must implement a $25 per head landing fee which, based on current size and frequency, will raise an annual revenue of $10 million.

Traffic

The current administration claims it has accomplished a lot when it comes to traffic. 

But just look around. Your commute is no better, and is probably worse, than four years ago.

Instead of talk, I am committed to building what we can now to alleviate traffic problems while also creating a long-term action plan to for a better future.

As our city grows, so do our infrastructure issues. There is no single solution, but there are many ways to make improvements, from major initiatives and small-scale projects to increasing alternative transportation options and embracing new technology.

Mobility in the city and region is a puzzle with many pieces that includes roads and bridges, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, modern mass transit and strategies like vanpool and flexible work hours.

 

Importantly, I will be a voice for the city on the county, state and federal level, effectively advocating for the funding we need. And I will use the City’s AAA bond rating to make every dollar count while exploring public-private partnerships that can move our region forward.

I will not, as the incumbent mayor did, go to the State Infrastructure Bank and suggest that the City of Charleston pay for roads with ... a bake sale.

 

My priority projects include (but aren't limited to):

  • US 17 & Main Road Flyover (West Ashley & Johns Island)

  • Southern Pitchfork (Johns Island)

  • James Island Connector Flyover at Folly Road (James Island)

  • Lowcountry Rapid Transit (Neck Area, Downtown, Medical District)

  • Maybank Highway Improvements, including a smart light at Maybank and River Road (Johns Island)

  • Central Park Road Improvements (James Island)

  • Installation of advanced traffic management technology throughout the city

  • Ashley River Bike/Ped Bridge

Attainable Housing

Major cities across America are facing housing markets that are becoming more expensive and less attainable for life long residents.

 

Sadly, Charleston is no different.

 

I will not be a mayor who makes lofty promises that I cannot keep, but I can tell you this: we are going to work to leverage a number of resources, including a voter-approved bond initiative and millions from a loan recently repaid to the city, to ensure that attainable housing is built in places where it’s needed and where there is access to food, healthcare, education and, importantly, transportation. The Lowcountry Rapid Transit project is a key to spurring attainable housing growth over the next decade.

Also note that the current administration claims it has "put together" $40 million for affordable housing. That money came from two sources: the aforementioned 30-year-old loan repaid to the city and a voter-approved bond issue in 2017 that nothing has been done with to date.

Meanwhile the administration has approved the most ever hotel rooms in a single term, 2,700, while 3,500 market-rate apartments have been constructed.

 

My priorities include:

  • Maximizing attainable housing funds

  • Delivering more attainable housing in connected locations

  • Establishing a regional attainable housing coalition that works closely with partners like Charleston County, Berkeley County and and the BCD Council of Governments.

  • Creating a vibrant, accessible city for Charlestonians to live, work and play 

Fiscal Responsibility

I have worked hard since I joined City Council a decade ago to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and responsibly. I have never voted for a general property tax increase and have helped balance nine straight budgets.

 

The challenges we face as a city are great and they are expensive. But the solution to every problem cannot and should not be tax and fee hikes on residents -- which our current mayor favors. (On his watch there has been  a property tax hike and stormwater fee increase, in addition to a sales tax increase and bond issue that the mayor has claimed credit for.)

 

Simply put, we must address issues in ways that do not hinder our ability to maintain our economic prosperity or put the entire burden on residents.

 

The truth is, the millions of visitors that Charleston hosts provide our city with many opportunities but they also create many of the challenges that we face year-round. I believe we should immediately take action on strategies to increase city revenues. Critical projects related to flooding, traffic and attainable housing can be within reach by requiring visitors to contribute more. 

 

My priorities include:

 

  • Generating city revenue via cruise ship landing fees

  • Applying for $200 million in State Infrastructure Bank funding to address large-scale projects in Church Creek and the Medical District

  • Maximizing other revenue opportunities created by tourism

Overdevelopment

The rapid growth we see has triggered a development boom across the entire city. Whether it is new hotels, massive apartment buildings or sprawling single-family home developments, it seems Charleston has become an endless construction site.

 

Far too often, our residents’ quality of life has suffered in the name of progress. Poor planning has worsened traffic and flooding problems and it is time for a mayor who can and will actually work effectively to develop a long-term plan for growth and development that puts residents first.

My priorities include:

  • Enacting extensive zoning changes: Starting Day 1 on Johns Island.

  • Allowing more density only where it benefits our residents: Along the Lowcountry Rapid Transit corridor, for instance, not in a West Ashley floodplain.

  • Ensuring infrastructure and transportation options are in place before approving development: A must-have.

  • Requiring more financial investment in the community from developers: Let's find creative ways for developers to bring benefits that offset impacts.

  • Combining city Planning and Transportation departments: These two go hand-in-hand but work in silos under the current administration. That changes on Day 1.

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