- Fran Herne
What's the old saying? If you hear something from two people, it's a rumor; if you hear it from three, its a trend. Both challengers for the City of Charleston's District 7 race, Fran Herne and Willard Sheppard, called long-serving Councilman Louis Waring "The Invisible Man." After two weeks of trying to track down Waring, we're nearly ready to agree. We left several messages and actually caught him as he was heading out of the door more than a week ago, and he promised a call back, to no avail. Waring has served on the council since 1994 and chairs the council's Ways and Means Committee. He doesn't miss City Council meetings so we'll chalk up his elusiveness to an ambitious campaign schedule.
Both Herne and Sheppard are respectful in their critique of Waring, but they both agree change is needed for the West Ashley district.
"You need some fresh new blood," says Herne, who recently retired from her job as the city's recreation director after 30 years on city staff.
She's running as an advocate for West Ashley's underserved youth and seniors, noting a lack of recreational equipment for kids and a place to rest for active elders.
"We have a little bit of land and a big pond, but I'd like to see playground equipment in our community," she says. "We have a walking path, but we don't have any benches."
Sheppard, a long-time neighborhood leader, is critical of the lack of financial support the city has given to community programs, where he says a little money would go a long way to help residents.
Another issue for the community is safety.
"Seniors are afraid to leave their homes," Herne says. "Those people want their property back. They want their community back."
Like other council candidates, she is calling for a return to foot patrols in West Ashley to quell the criminal element.
"If you have a strong police presence, your drugs are going to move someplace else," she says.
- Willard Sheppard
But Sheppard says the key to combating crime is to reach the kids before they become criminals.
"Their idea is putting more police officers on the street and arresting more people," he says. "My answer is they should put more amenities in those communities. Put programs out there."
Businesses should also be encouraged to hire some high school graduates over college students to ensure a mixture of experiences in the workforce, he says.
Herne wants to see training and job shadowing to give troubled students a second chance. She also wants to see a parent patrol to keep kids in line and foster better communication from the school district.
"We need to go back to the basics," she says. "If you got in trouble in school, your parents knew before you got home."
Critics have called for fire Chief Rusty Thomas' ouster as reports highlight department deficiencies uncovered since the June 18 Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine firefighters. But both District 7 challengers want Chief Rusty to stay.
"The fact is, how many fires have we had like that?" says Sheppard. "With that type of fire, you can't determine what you'll need until after the fact. We shouldn't be faulting. We should be correcting."
While the city is still trying to purchase the site and has no plans for what to do with it, Herne would rather see a gym than a museum or park on the property.
- Louis Waring
"That should be an active, working tool," she says. "We don't have anything for the teenagers over there."
Not surprisingly, recreation is an important platform for Herne. She wants more developer contributions for facilities and more frequent ditch cleanup in the community.
"I will be the ideal person for voters if they want to enhance quality of life," she says. "If they're happy with what they have, they don't need to vote for me."
Two big issues for Sheppard have largely been resolved, but to ends he disagrees with. Four years ago, he believed the 2 a.m. bar closing was a bad idea. Now, the proud smoker is adding the city's recent smoking ban to the list of decisions the city is dictating to area business owners.
"That should be a businessman's decision and not the city's," he says.
He also supports increased communication with community members before City Council decisions and raising the salaries for public workers.
As for Waring, a look back to 2003 showed that he supported CARTA and traffic calming — both continuing concerns in West Ashley. He also said he supported former Police Chief Reuben Greenberg, but that problem took care of itself.