This week marks the latest installment in City Paper's ongoing series "After Riley" presented in conjunction with Lowcountry Local First, Preservation Society of Charleston, S.C. Community Loan Fund, Coastal Conservation League, and IfYouWereMayor.com. In it, candidates have been asked to answer a series of questions regarding culture, commerce, and livability. Candidates have responded with no knowledge of any other participant's answers.
The series will culminate on Sept. 30 with a forum put on by these organizations. The forum is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending can RSVP at YourCharleston.org.
Charleston is an international tourist destination, regularly winning awards largely because of our walkable, compact central business district filled with unique stores and restaurants. As more and more national chains come to the city, and population increases, would you advocate new regulations to ensure Charleston remains a unique and livable city for residents and visitors alike?
We love our city and we do not want it to turn into a national shopping mall. As mayor, I'll protect and preserve the Charleston we love, on the peninsula, West Ashley, Daniel Island, James Island, and Johns Island. Supporting local businesses is imperative to keep Charleston an interesting, diverse, and economically strong city. Local businesses can bring three times more money back to Charleston versus national chains. The city should partner with organizations like Lowcountry Local First to advocate the importance of buying local. I have a history of bringing diverse coalitions together to solve problems — this issue is no different. Education and public awareness are paramount for the success of local businesses. For small businesses especially, time is money. That's why as mayor I will renew our efforts to make it quick and easy to get permits and approvals from the city. And we'll step up our efforts to provide consulting and guidance to small businesses. Our state and region give tax breaks and amenities to large businesses to show that we value them; it's time to give small local businesses the love they deserve. After all, the love we feel for our city is all about them.
William Dudley Gregorie
As mayor, I will continue to implement the vision, community, and heritage policies contained in the 2007 40-year preservation plan adopted by the city which suggest updates to the city's preservation ordinance to reflect contemporary concepts of preservation. In addition I will implement the goals and objectives of the 2015 Tourism Management Plan to "maintain the critical balance between Charleston's residential quality of life and the tourism economy, while preserving Charleston's authenticity and sense of place, especially its architectural and cultural heritage." However, if implementations of these plans require codification, I will. But more importantly we have to decrease the barriers for entry of our small boutiques and mom-and-pop type stores. If we lose them, we lose our uniqueness, and we'll end up looking like Every Other City USA. As mayor, I pledge that I will be a responsible steward and not allow that to happen to Charleston. We must offer tax incentives to those locally owned businesses that will keep them in their locations and allow them to continue to have a seat at the table of prosperity.
- Jonathan Boncek
Balance and community input are the keys on this question. But as I consider this within the context of gentrification and the loss of black folks on the peninsula, I would like to see more diversity. I don't know if you remember the bookstore, Mirror Images. It was a wonderful place to find supportive materials for children of color, parenting materials, and educational supports. It was so unique and welcoming. I was very sorry to see it go. Many people wondered if it would have done better downtown. Gallery Chuma has done well over the years, as has Edna's. So as mayor, I would keep an eye on diversity and watch and listen for signs of public discontent.
The growth Charleston has seen in the last few years has been exciting, and the city should embrace and adapt to the changes growth brings. We should not discourage new industries and businesses with unnecessary, burdensome regulations. The growth of Upper King and Midtown has revitalized an area that was in much need of improvement. We're seeing restaurants and businesses open in the NoMo (North Morrison) district, which is long overdue. The brownfield remediation projects in the Neck area are an exciting opportunity for residential and commercial expansion in what was previously an environmental wasteland. As mayor, I will encourage effective growth management to ensure that Charleston remains a unique and livable city for everyone. While we grow, however, I will maintain a sharp focus on maintaining our city's unique cultural diversity and a rich quality of life.
I think we're all proud that Charleston has become a No. 1 tourist destination. But my goal as mayor will be to make Charleston No. 1 in quality of life for our citizens. That's why I've put forward a comprehensive livability plan, which includes the following: neighborhood-appropriate development that's sensitive to the needs of the area and the quality of life of local residents; revitalization of West Ashley with a strategic plan that addresses both economic redevelopment and traffic congestion, similar to the work we did on Upper King Street when I was the city's director of economic development; full implementation of the Tourism Management Committee plan that calls for better cruise ship regulation, a review of carriage and tour bus activities, improved coordination of special events, better signage, additional parking further up the peninsula, and more; action on the plan to modify the Board of Architectural Review to emphasize the most historic areas; a plan to ensure that the arts are accessible to all our citizens; and a commitment to conservation, including green space protection, the creation of public transportation alternatives, and continued opposition to oil and natural gas drilling off the Charleston coast.
- Jonathan Boncek
My goal as mayor is to ensure that Charleston remains a great place to visit, but an even better place to live. I would do my utmost to ensure the unique and livable nature of Charleston.
I would not favor new regulations on commercial and retail businesses. However, the city can encourage new and existing local businesses to start up and grow by expanding existing small business support programs and promoting new ones. The city can also continue to work with citizens and local organizations to ensure that we protect our uniqueness and livability.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Responses have been placed in alphabetical order.
Your Charleston: A Mayoral Forum exploring quality of life
and quality of place
Wed. Sept. 30, 5:30 p.m. | Charleston Music Hall. 37 John St. Downtown
Free but registration is requested