With a new year, let’s double down on efforts to get real things done to make things better in the Charleston area. Here’s our new Charleston Checklist that we’ll bring up periodically to gauge how well local leaders are doing to meet outstanding needs:
Engage in real racial conciliation. Just think of all that has happened to bring race to the forefront over the last year: George Floyd’s choking death by Minneapolis police created global outrage as Black Lives Matter mushroomed into a national outcry and fueled local confrontations. The John C. Calhoun statue at Marion Square then quickly came down, after years of stalling. These days, more people are engaging about race, but more needs to be done in the city where the Civil War began. It’s time for all local governments to make significant strides in racial reconciliation, not just mumble more and avert gazes.
Be a national climate leader. There’s no reason why the city of Charleston and other local governments can’t become national leaders on climate change. Public officials need to spend less time quibbling and use the lessons of the Dutch Dialogues to make significant and real changes. They should also take a good look at whether a protective wall around the peninsula is really the smartest thing to do to shield downtown businesses and residences. (It seems fairly obvious to us that it’s not a complete barrier, as planned, which means water will get in and damaging floods will continue.)
Build the North Charleston library. County voters passed a referendum years ago to build five new libraries and renovate the others. So far, four have been built, but in North Charleston? There’s nothing but an empty field on Dorchester Road after years of neglect and an old library that’s aged past its expiration date. What’s mind-numbing is that the people in charge of county council in recent years have been from North Charleston! Let’s hope a refreshed Charleston County Council will be proactive in meeting its responsibilities and honoring the voters’ wishes.
Fund more transportation alternatives. County leaders should completely abandon the never-say-die attitude for extending Interstate 526, a too-costly, wasteful project that will be out of date as soon as it is built. Instead, they should collaborate and develop innovative solutions to reconfigure traffic flows and steer people in new directions. Go big on funding more mass transit options, including trying to finish the 22-mile Lowcountry Rapid Transit system early and expanding it into West Ashley.
Get along and get to work. Sometimes, it seems like various area governments compete for the title of being considered the most dysfunctional. For a while it was the school board, where bickering at endless meetings reached boiling points in recent years. Then came wasteful spending and coziness at county council. Interspersed have been elected officials not getting along in Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, North Charleston and Charleston. Enough! Public officials need to work together, compromise and make progress instead of spinning wheels and wasting time.