To capture all of District 3 in the City of Charleston, you start on the upper Peninsula and head down toward the College of Charleston, then hang a right and keep going till you get to the Ashley River. The racial make-up, annual income, and, not surprisingly, the most important concerns in the latest race for City Council teeter-totter every step of the way. While some neighborhoods worry about crime and resources, others fret over traffic and tourism.
Erika Harrison, a downtown lawyer and member of the city’s Board of Architectural Review, and Luqman Rasheed, a business owner, North Central neighborhood leader, and member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, will take on Councilman James Lewis for his District 3 City Council seat in the Nov. 6 elections.
In his 12 years on City Council, Lewis says he’s been a strong advocate for affordable housing, helping create an emergency fund to assist homeowners and help seniors with repairs to their homes. He also pressed for codes enforcement officers that led to the city’s livability court.
On both of these issues, challenger Erika Harrison says more needs to be done. Residents have been sending her pictures of trash littering the street. A major issue for District 3 residents is getting the same resources that are provided further downtown, Harrison says, and that includes regular street sweeping.
“Neighbors need to see results,” she says. “They want the resource that are downtown in their own communities.”
Lewis praises the initiatives of new Police Chief Greg Mullen, including his power shift that provides additional manpower for police units during peak hours.
“The most important thing for me is that he’s put more officers on the street, especially at night,” Lewis says.
Harrison wants to see foot patrols return to the city’s streets, along with keeping residents informed on police efforts and providing incentives for officers to live in the community they protect.
“There’s a great investment in that as a deterrent,” she says.
Rasheed wants to see the police more involved with residents, but he also notes that young people need alternatives to crime.
“We need more jobs and trades in this city to teach the young people standing on the streets,” he says.
These types of trade programs should be available in every district, not just in one or two remote schools, Rasheed says, along with equitable resources for every school countywide so there’s no incentive for students to leave the peninsula.
Each candidate is waiting until all the studies are released on the Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine firefighters before discussing specifically how the department should change.
Harrison says the fire hasn’t been a particular issue in the campaign, but it has shown how the department needs to constantly improve.
Lewis says that some of the recommendations should have been in place years ago.
“They weren’t important to them then, but now, after we’ve lost nine lives, it’s a different story,” he says.
Regardless of the outcome, Chief Rusty Thomas shouldn’t be fired, Rasheed says.
“It’s not time to point fingers … but let’s correct the situation and move forward,” he says.
Returning two-way traffic to several busy downtown streets is a priority for the candidates, along with fixing long-standing drainage problems (recently bolstered by $4 million in federal aid Lewis says he helped to secure), and insuring affordable housing on the few remaining acres available on the peninsula.
Rasheed is pressing for a skate park downtown after the infamous YouTube video that showed an officer pushing a skater who was violating city rules on skating, but Lewis says the West Ashley skate park is sufficient.
“We don’t need to spend taxpayer money on another one,” Lewis says. “If we had extra money, we need to update the parks we have in the city.”
Rasheed also says that existing parks facilities need to be rehabbed or replaced.
Lewis’ biggest complaint is that the mayor has too much power. For years, the mayor’s authority has left many council members in the dark on city plans until days before issues are voted on, Lewis says.
“Nine out of 10 times, we don’t have any idea of the decisions he’s going to make until he makes them,” Lewis says of Mayor Joseph Riley. The councilman is calling for reshaping the government to add a city manager to run the city’s day-to-day operations who would answer to the full council.
Harrison is calling for increased codes enforcement around the College of Charleston along with establishing a collegiate neighborhood association to get students invested in their community. She also wants tax assistance for the elderly.
Though she has been in the district for less than a year, Harrison says that she wants to provide new leadership to the evolving district.
“We need to create our own agenda,” she says. “District 3 could be left behind or we could move forward.”
Rasheed says his campaign is about establishing a safer, progressive, and morally sound community, through partnerships with failing schools and getting businesses invested in their community
“Every four years, we talk about this stuff,” he says. “Rarely do we talk about lifting up those people who have fallen through the cracks.”
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