- The fight for City Council seats: (from left) Dist. 2, Deb Morinelli (Incumbent) and Darrold Heyward; Dist. 8 Yvonne Evans (I) and David Ingle; and Dist. 12, Bob george (I) and Kathleen Wilson
As seven candidates duke it out for Kwadjo Campbell's District 4 City Council seat, six other candidates are competing for seats in districts 2, 8, and 12.
District 2 serves West Ashley, which desperately needs a leader who can figure out a way to manage growth and ease traffic congestion. During her four-year stint, incumbent Deb Morinelli says she's done good work on City Council, and points to a sidewalk connecting a senior citizen's home with a Magwood Drive shopping center and the formation of a West Ashley growth management meeting with fellow Councilmembers Larry Shirley, Paul Tinkler, and Anne Frances Bleecker as proof.
"We are desperate for traffic relief," acknowledges Morinelli, whose neighborhood lies in the middle of the early morning nightmare that is Glenn McConnell Parkway and S.C. Hwy. 61. "That's why I fought like hell to get CARTA to come up as far as Shadowmoss."
The buses won't come that far until January, which Morinelli's husband knows all too well after commuting to Citadel Mall last week in order to test out the transit authority's park-and-ride service. And with more than 2,650 housing units about to come on the market, a vast majority of which are located on the traffic-choked Hwy. 61, it's only going to get worse.
That's why Darrold Heyward, who finally signed-off on a new bus drivers' contract this past weekend after months of haggling, says he should be given a shot.
"She's my City Councilperson now, and I think I feel like most other people in the district when asked what she's done for them over the past four years," says Heyward, "and most answer, 'I don't know.'"
Heyward scoffs at the growth management meeting's role in "monitoring" growth. "What we need is someone to manage growth," he says. If elected, Heyward would try to bring satellite offices of City agencies to West Ashley where more citizens live. He'd also try to focus support for property tax relief.
Heyward, who serves on a Charleston County committee that oversees how funds from the half-cent sales tax are being spent on transportation, is a big supporter of completing the 526 inner loop, because it would lessen traffic in his district.
The completion of 526 may not have a bigger champion come this election than seated District 12 Councilman Bob George, a transportation engineer, who represents James Island.
"I've gone through the traffic study that goes through 2030 that looks at what roads on James Island and Johns Island will become without 526," says George, who pitches himself as the "conscience" of Council, "and all of the roads are purple -- and that's the level of traffic that basically would reduce most of our major roads to parking lots."
But this election is not about 526, claims George, who narrowly beat his competitor Kathleen Wilson four years ago. He describes Wilson, a harpist and long-distance swimmer, as a "surrogate" of the mayor.
"She smiles and looks cute, and would be there to cut ribbons and follow the mayor's orders," jabs George. "Well, I want to protect the city that I love, too, but I don't drink the Kool-Aid."
Wilson agrees that this election isn't all about traffic and 526 (which she supports completing) "but about reestablishing a relationship" with City Hall. "James Island has been hurt badly as it became the red-headed stepchild, which is due in large part to his inability to cultivate a relationship with City Council and the mayor, because Mr. George has been so busy fighting that he's gotten nothing done."
Wilson is referring to the ongoing battle between some James Islanders and Mayor Riley, who's fought the formation of a town of James Island through numerous lawsuits over the last decade. Because of the ongoing enmity among parts of the island, the district, and City Hall, Wilson, who recently swam the 17-mile length of Lake Zurich in Switzerland, sees a situation in the future where a third municipality could spring up on the fractured island thanks to a law state Sen. Glenn McConnell (R-Chas.) has pushed through the legislature, which drops the number of citizens required to form a town.
While not as petty as the contest between Wilson and George, realtor David Ingle seems to be invoking a schoolyard-like approach to his contest with incumbent Yvonne Evans for the District 8 race. After 16 years and four terms on Council, Ingle says Evans is "hogging" the seat representing a sliver of downtown and much of West Ashley's ritzier neighborhoods.
"There are a lot of citizens who care about civic responsibility, but who have been locked out of the process," says Ingle.
Younger and certainly more aggressive than the ladylike Evans, Ingle says he wouldn't be a vote in the pocket for Riley like Evans is, even though he agrees with 85 percent of the decisions "the nation's greatest mayor" has made.
Ingle, who, as a realtor and the vice president of the Wappoo Heights Neighborhood Association, knows full well how unpopular new fees and property taxes can be, would like to at least double each household's stormwater assessment fee from $4 to $8 and make a small adjustment to the millage rate to raise enough money to do something about his district's ongoing flooding issues.
"In 1984, the City completed a 20-year drainage plan, and yet it's only accomplished 10 percent of that plan," he says, adding that if "Evans hasn't done a good job in 16 years, it's time to give another citizen a chance."
While she might not be holding the trump card to Ingle's flooding salvos, Evans, an accountant who works with nonprofit organizations, says the City has permits in hand and more than $5 million to begin work on drainage problems West of the Ashley.
While not an immediate fan of doubling drainage fees, saying the issue needs more study, Evans is a staunch supporter of the idea of the state completely taking over funding for public K-12 education.
"That way, it removes the burden solely from homeowners taxes," she says, because the state has more options -- sales taxes, impact fees, etc. -- to raise money than do school districts.
The City Council races for these districts will be held this Tuesday, Nov. 1.