The year has finally come to an end, but before you go on making ambitious plans for the next one, let’s take one last gander at 365 days that brought more good news than bad. Though we’re not qualified enough to predict the future, we can make superficial assessments based on the recent past. With that said, in the immortal words of Kylie Jenner: 2019, looking good.
Death of Muhiyidin d’Baha awakens Charleston’s
The death of social justice activist Muhiyidin d’Baha inspired a wellspring of emotional support from activists in Charleston and beyond. His unexpected passing in February, from a gunshot wound in the middle of the night in New Orleans, left us thinking about the often-short lives of divisive activists, the legacies of Black Lives Matter figureheads, and the state of gun violence in America. D’Baha, born Muhiyidin Moye, was best known for leaping to tear down a Confederate flag from a protester’s hands outside of a College of Charleston talk. Locally, he was already an inescapable figure in the Black Lives Matter movement. Whether he was calling for police oversight in front of North Charleston City Council or drumming away for one cause or another, his presence was obvious to anyone fighting to make Charleston a more just and equitable place. “I think it’s ironic,” said Kim Duncan, d’Baha’s sister, after learning that his death may have been a case of mistaken identity. “Because he was always out there trying to help others, and he took a bullet for another.”
North Charleston March for Our Lives draws parents, students concerned about gun violence
A seemingly never-ending parade of Charlestonians made their voices heard and their concerns seen, after a former student shot and killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla. in February. The North Charleston March for Our Lives, a sister march to the main demonstration in Washington, D.C., drew parents, students, and teachers to Riverfront Park on March 24. The Charleston crowd was likely energized from their own experience with mass shootings, as detailed by several signs recalling the 2015 tragedy at Emanuel AME in downtown Charleston. The march was put together by high school students, who went on to form the Lowcountry Students for Political Action, a group that remains active and now lobbies state leaders for common sense gun reform. Young people held up macabre, but necessary, signs, including a particularly frightful one: “Am I next?”
Hospitality park-and-ride alleviates commute
for downtown workers
Downtown workers now have another option to get to work, and it’s actually pretty helpful. The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority opened a park-and-ride lot on city-owned property at 999 Morrison Drive. For $5 per day, commuters can park their cars in the expansive parking lot and ride one of the “HoP” (Hospitality on Peninsula) shuttles, which comes by every 15 minutes, to any one of the eight designated stops in the city’s busy hospitality sector. The lot debuted on April 15 amid fanfare from area officials, a month after Charleston City Hall was surrounded by angry hospitality workers decrying the city’s decision to double the price of metered parking, which many workers relied on. The HoP shuttles are new, clean, and efficient, and the ridership numbers keep growing, reaching a record high of 12,106 in November, according to CARTA.
City of Charleston passes,
and begins enforcing,
a short-term rental law
If 2017 was a year of rumination, 2018 was a year of action. At least when it comes to Charleston’s short-term rentals. After much discussion, the city finally passed a law curtailing the widespread, and sometimes disruptive, use of private homes as short term rentals, not to be confused with the previously legal bed-and-breakfasts in Cannonborough-Elliotborough. It’s all pretty confusing, but basically, there are rules in place if you want to rent out your home on Airbnb. As it stands, a private contractor is pouring over the personal information of short-term renters and ratting out any suspicious listings to the city. If you plan on making money off a spare bedroom, you’re better off checking out the rules online (on our website, preferably) unless you can afford a $1,000 fine courtesy of the fine folks at the city’s Livability Department.
Mark Sanford loses his first election ever to a Trump cyborg
In June, former South Carolina governor and current Congressman Mark Sanford lost his first election ever, falling in the GOP primary to Katie Arrington, a fiery freshman state representative from Summerville who ran on Trump’s playbook, insults and all (see: Pelosi Joe). The momentous primary loss was prefaced by a last-minute Election Day tweet from President Donald Trump, in which he called Sanford “nothing but trouble,” recalled the congressman’s 2009 cheating scandal with an Argentine woman, and endorsed Arrington. Was her ultimate win a rebuke of politicians who stand up to the president? Maybe among Republicans.
Trump cyborg loses election to a Democrat, a first since 1981
As it turns out, South Carolina’s First Congressional District is a bit more complex than that. In November, Arrington ended up losing the U.S. House seat to Democrat Joe Cunningham, a construction attorney from West Ashley who has never held elected office. Media coverage after the election attributed the upset to a variety of factors: the changing demographics of the coastal district, Arrington’s off-putting Trumpian tactics, and Cunningham’s firm focus on local issues like offshore drilling. One thing’s for sure: SC-1 is the bluest it’s been in four decades.
College of Charleston gets a new, non-controversial president
The year-long search for a new, and hopefully less controversial, leader of the 248-year-old liberal arts college came to a close in November, when the College of Charleston’s board of trustees announced the selection of Andrew Hsu, a 62-year-old former aerospace engineer. Hsu is currently the provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at the University of Toledo. His backstory is what American dreams are made of. A Chinese native who got his first two degrees from Tsinghua University in Beijing, Hsu said he never got the liberal arts education he wanted as a child, partly because of the decidedly anti-intellectual Cultural Revolution of the late ’60s and ’70s, which sought to re-educate many youth in agrarianism. The College’s smooth selection process was a marked difference from 2014, when longtime Republican politician Glenn McConnell rose to the post amid student protests and questions of racial insensitivity.
City of Charleston takes steps to ban plastic bags, straws, and foam containers
(and maybe, possibly help save the environment)
Though we probably won’t notice a change until late 2019, Charleston’s restaurants and supermarkets are about to look a lot different. In November, Charleston City Council voted to ban single-use plastic bags, straws, and foam containers come Jan. 1, 2020. City staff cited a lot of reasons why council members should go through with the ban. For one, Folly Beach recently saw an 80 percent reduction in the number of plastic bags collected in sweeps since 2016, when the city implemented its ban. Most alarmingly, microplastics — the small particles left over after plastic degrades — make it into marine life and, by extension, into us. That means we’ll be seeing more paper bags, paper straws, and new to-go boxes as the 2020 deadline approaches. All in all, it was an inevitable move. Charleston joins Mt. Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Surfside Beach, and all of Beaufort County in banning plastic bags, and as of this printing, the Town of James Island is also considering a plastic bag ban.