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Election vs. Reality

 Wanted: Charleston leaders who take their jobs seriously and do what’s necessary to take on the tough problems they’re elected to face. People-pleasers need not apply.

Winning elected office can be a high-profile, even glamorous, affair. But serving is tough work. It’s not for the faint of heart or the thin-skinned. It requires independence and instincts that can sort local priorities from individual gripes and grunts. If constituents come first and you earn their trust with results, you might get reelected. Seek the spotlight and you could be a one-term footnote.

Charleston City Councilman Harry Griffin’s most recent joyride through the spotlight is just the latest example of his signature brand of temper-tantrum policymaking. With an $18 million, pandemic-induced hole in the 2021 budget for Griffin and his colleagues to deal with, the West Ashley councilman all but refused to work on real solutions. Instead, he floated a foolhardy threat that he and his neighbors might break away to form a new town. Not surprisingly, most of his fellow members of council rejected the idea. Others didn’t even dignify Griffin’s folly with a reaction for local reporters.

Griffin doesn’t want to raise taxes, but cutting services appears off the table too. Therein lies the tough problem he and his colleagues were elected to solve.

No doubt, Charleston City Council has been dealt a tough hand this year. Its members, Griffin included, have been mostly attentive, forced to respond to the pandemic in frustrating Zoom meetings, even checking in nearly every day at its outset. But this is what they signed up for and what we elected them to do. Serious work.

A year after Charleston voters unseated some unproductive and bombastic members in favor of new voices, Griffin still has not realized that offering flamboyant critiques without alternatives is no way to lead.

Unfortunately, it looks like U.S. Rep.-elect Nancy Mace has a similar case of unfounded indignation.

In an interview with The State last week, Mace claimed an unnamed congressman told her she’d been “blacklisted” before a nameplate was mounted outside her Capitol Hill office. Mace attempted to hedge her argument a bit, admitting Republicans mounted silly games at times, too. After all, it was Mace who charged into her campaign vowing to “take back” the 1st District from Democrats. And weeks ago, it was Mace who cheered on Trump’s stubborn election challenges.

Mace won’t be blacklisted if she works in good faith to serve South Carolina residents, including Democrats. Inviting a reporter over and crying foul is not a great way to start.

Voters elected Mace, Griffin and other leaders because they trusted them to make their lives better. With more tough days ahead, it’s time for heads-down, serious work, not pandering, to make good on that promise.