Profiling Charleston's mayoral candidates: John Tecklenburg
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- ABC News 4's Stacy Jacobson asked each of the six Charleston mayoral candidates six questions about key issues facing the city. Today's candidate is John Tecklenburg, a businessman who was the city's director of economic development from 1995 through 1999. Coming up Wednesday: Maurice Washington.
Sergeant Jasper redevelopment project
We need to ensure (the Board of Architectural Review) stays in business. It's the oldest preservation ordinance in the country. The BAR is a part of that ordinance that dates back to the 1990s. It's part of what has preserved the historic nature of Charleston. That's part of why we're the No. 1 place to visit in America. We need to protect the BAR and its function. I'm not saying it doesn't need some improvement and reform but you don't throw out the baby in the bathwater. To question the constitutionality because it didn't get a favorable ruling is inappropriate for the Beach Company to do.
The city ought to move forward and take steps to do re-zoning and height restrictions for the property and make them commensurate with the plan. Then we need to sit down at the table with the Beach Company to redevelop the property in a way that's appropriate to where it is.
Handling the flooding issues in downtown Charleston
The city has big projects underway: the tunnel project that's underneath Septima Clark Parkway, the connection of the tunnel area to the existing tunnel system over by the aquarium. Those are great projects. They're very expensive, though. I think it's impractical to do tunnels under everywhere.
We've got to do a better job on everyday maintenance. This may sound corny, but in neighborhoods that have a history of flooding they may have in place a neighborhood crime watch. I want to establish in flood-prone areas a neighborhood gutter watch. I see it all the time going around the city: you'll have a gutter all clogged up. It can simply be removed but if it needs the truck to come out and have it checked after every major rainfall, have someone on the block who looks at the gutter. If they can, clean it out themselves or call the city.
Tidal flooding is a real issue in our city now. Sea level is rising. We are victims to high tides more than ever. That's documented. It's impacting our city. We have outlets that go out to the harbor. They let all this tidal water in high tide and it bubbles up through our storm drain system and floods streets.
When it's time to redo the Battery we need to raise Murray Boulevard 6 or 12 inches. It's time to be thinking of the incremental things we can do over the next few decades that will make a difference for water retention and protection in the long run as tidal and sea levels rise.
The Emanuel AME shooting
Charleston, through this incredible, terrible tragedy at Mother Emanuel, has shown the world an incredible example of how our community can come together and show love, compassion and forgiveness.
Taking a flag down from a flagpole is one thing, a good thing, long overdue. The more important, long-term thing: I view this as an opportunity, but more so a responsibility, given what happened in our history. Our whole economy when Charleston was founded as a colony was built on racism and slavery. Even though our Civil War ended, Jim Crow came back, a form of racism. We had the civil rights movement. We've been steeped in a history of racism and race relations that have been difficult. We need to acknowledge that history, be open and understand the effects of that are still at play in today's world.
The disparities we continue to see in our community from schools, housing opportunities, economic and job opportunities: often those disparities follow racial and income lines. We have to have the conversations about it and do something about it. I feel it's our responsibility. Our education system, housing, economic opportunities are the key facets that we need to work on. You've got schools in the city that are basically still segregated.
New cruise terminal
The whole issue is in the court now. In terms of moving forward, we're somewhat at the mercy of the court. We're going to see in the next year whether we will proceed or not. We have the cruise business now. I'm not looking to put anyone out of business. The things I like about the proposed plan of moving the terminal north is that it will allow the reopening of Concord Street. We badly need another north-south route for traffic in the city and to redevelop 30-35 acres of the southern part of Union Pier -- return to the fabric of city, some of the finest real estate, and the port authority could leverage funds from selling some of that property to some of the commercial needs in North Charleston, where they're building a new terminal. To have some of that waterfront reopened to the public is a great opportunity.
The most important thing we need to do is get our region together on a public transit plan and system that will be meaningful. CARTA has tried but we have to take things to a quantum step forward in improvement of service. It's not a city thing. It's a regional concern. So we have to work with the COG and they're in the midst of the study alternatives for I-26.
I believe in the next couple months they're going to make recommendations. I think they're going to recommend a bus rapid transit system. Whatever they come up with, we need to apply that same alternative to our region to go to East Cooper and West Ashley and James Island and price it out. We don't even have a plan priced out so we can go to Uncle Sam and say, "Uncle I have a plan, this is what the Charleston region wants, it's going to cost X dollars and we need to apply for federal help to make it happen." It's not going to be something we're able to fund on our own. Take the benefit of the tax dollars we send to DC to help pay for the upgrade to our transit system. We're going to be a million people, it's estimated in 15-20 years, and if we don't get a viable alternative to the automobile for folks to use it's going to get worse and worse.
It's a community thing. I certainly look to be a leader, try to push that along. The city has representatives on COG, as do the city of North Charleston and Summerville. All of our jurisdictions participate in the Council of Governments. That's one thing about this election about traffic and transportation and congestion that I think might be missing in the conversation -- is that the mayor of Charleston, even though he can be an invaluable leader in helping push public transit and the construction of new roads and bridges -- it's a regional function. The budget in the city government for building roads and bridges is practically zero. We do get matching funds, planning and help coordinate traffic and transportation, but it's not the job of city government to go build you a new bridge. It's controlled by where the funding comes from. The county has key role. We have a half-cent sales tax that goes to Roadwise, administered by the county, not the city. We have input but we don't run it. The DOT gets the gas tax and there's a formula for distribution as to where those projects and dollars get spent. That's done on a regional basis by CHATS - Charleston Area Transportation Study group. It's comprised not just of the city of Charleston and the mayor, but of our region. There's this, in my view, a misconception that the mayor is going to walk in and magically fund and fix road improvements, new bridges and roads. It doesn't work that way.
Affordable housing is a really important issue and it's one the city can be directly involved with. We have a situation in Charleston where we earn 80 percent of the national average income. We earn less than most places in the country but our housing costs are more like 120 percent more. That's our region as a whole. For the city, it's much higher. We have an affordability gap in basic economics of supply and demand. We need to increase our supply of affordable housing in the city and that's not just downtown but in other parts of the city as well.
We have in place already a workforce housing program where if you build a new apartment project, you get zoning that is supposed to supply the developer with so many units for workforce housing. In the past there have been time limits on there and I believe that program needs better monitoring to make sure those units are serving the people they should.
The Charleston Housing Authority has great real estate that can be redeveloped to include more density and more units. A lot of their product is 50 to 60 years old and really tired. The city is proceeding with a new development in the footprint of the old bridges. There's about 100 units built there. My thought is when that gets built, pick the worst of the Housing Authority properties and allow those folks to relocate to new units, then one-by-one re-develop the Housing Authority projects. This would take longer than I'd be serving as mayor.