Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg at Tuesday night’s city council meeting gave the annual State of the City address, and used the first few minutes of time to disparage radical, political thinking and celebrate “common-sense” thinking on four of the city’s biggest goals moving forward.
This stands in stark contrast to what Tecklenburg said he has seen in the last couple years at Charleston City Hall.
“Too often, and in too many places, grace in all its forms is being cast aside by those who would have us believe that half our friends and neighbors are wild-eyed socialists, or that the other half are crazed insurrectionists,” he said. “And too often, and in too many places, the voice of the common-sense majority is being shouted down by small groups of loud people who think there’s only one right way to say or do anything: their way.”
Tecklenburg asserted the city’s “common-sense majority” share in his concerns: fixing flooding, fighting crime, building affordable housing, and expanding opportunity for residents and business owners in Charleston. “We can still hear the voice of the common-sense majority as it rings strong and true across our city and within the walls of this council chamber,” he said.
Tecklenburg lauded water as the greatest asset and biggest challenge
With the changing climate bringing rising sea levels and more extreme weather more often, he said the challenges brought on by water have become existential.
“Today, we face a stark choice: keep moving forward with our comprehensive plan to protect the city from flooding, or begin moving away to higher ground,” he said. “And on that point, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did not become the mayor of Charleston in order to sound the retreat from America’s most beautiful and historic city.”
Tecklenburg committed the city to spending $100 million to move flooding and drainage plans forward, as well as breaking ground on more than a dozen flood-protection projects in West Ashley and on the sea islands. On the peninsula, the new Low Battery toward King Street will be extended, and the final phase of the Spring-Fishburne drainage project is expected to begin.
Even more, Tecklenburg said, is the continuation of the work with the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a physical barrier around the peninsula to block floodwaters, a plan that some advocates and local leaders are growing more skeptical of.
Tecklenburg also praised the city’s approach to crime in 2021
On public safety and crime, Tecklenburg said he will be requesting $1 million be set aside from the city’s federal relief funds to finance a new police department program to expand and improve camera coverage across Charleston. And council members will be lobbying state legislators for the bail and sentencing reform bill to “close the revolving door at our jailhouse.”
The city has bolstered police funding and investing in recruitment and retention, he said, despite calls from advocacy groups to allocate funding to programs outside of policing and for criminal justice reform as a whole.
“We’ve worked in partnership with our officers to make enforcement more fair, more accountable and more effective for all our residents, regardless of race or walk of life,” he said. “And we’ve done all that while increasing police patrols and improving community relations in the areas of our city where our officers are needed most.”
Tecklenburg touted the city’s efforts toward affordable housing
Over the last six years, the City of Charleston has invested $50 million in affordable housing funds and new laws requiring every large development to provide affordable housing or contribute an equivalent dollar amount to the city’s housing fund.
“As a result, there are already thousands of new affordable homes and apartments in the pipeline, with more being planned every day,” he said.
The recently adopted Charleston comprehensive plan dealt heavily with the issue as well, indicating a need for 16,351 new affordable housing units by 2030, a mark Charleston City Councilman Ross Appel said would be difficult to reach.
“Never before has our future been brighter,” Tecklenburg said
Tecklenburg said the Keep Charleston Beautiful program, alongside Operation Neighborhood and Adopt-A-Block, would be expanded in order to bolster quality of life for those living in Charleston. In addition, Tecklenburg said he would be asking council to appropriate another $1 million from federal relief funds to build new and repair existing sidewalks in residential areas throughout thee city.
In addition, the city will be working directly with federal, state and regional governments to widen Glenn McConnell Parkway in West Ashley and replace the Beresford Creek Bridge on Daniel Island, among other projects, in order to alleviate traffic and improve safety on our streets.
“While we know there will always be challenges, we also know that as long as we remain true to the ideals that brought us to this point, there will never be a problem we can’t overcome together–and our best days will always still be ahead.”