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City Council Election Debate - District 8

Experience of Council member Evans shows through
But some answers were hardly credible
Warwick Jones, Editor

In terms of performance, City Council member Yvonne Evans probably was the winner. She was never at a loss for an answer and gave a polished delivery particularly in answering some arcane questions which we suspect she anticipated and for which she was fully prepared. But in our view, some of her answers lacked credibility. Challenger David Ingle exuded charm and serious intent. He spoke well about the issues of the district but barely trod water on some other issues. Too often did he agree with the policies of his opponent and in his concluding statement said he looked forward to working with the Mayor who has "done a good job". As one observer remarked, if this is his view, why do we wish to replace Councilmember Evans? Considering his political platform, critical of both Councilmember Evans and the Mayor, we can only conclude that Mr. Ingle was bending over backwards last night to be gracious and polite.

The debate was one in a series sponsored by the League of Women Voters. District 4 encompasses part of the Peninsula and West Ashley. Council member Evans has been the incumbent for 16 years and has been a solid supporter of Mayor Riley. Mr. Ingle is a realtor and a long time resident of the City. In their opening statements, both spoke of their long time residencies. Council member Evans also spoke of her past Presidency of the League of Women Voters, her work on City Council, and close association with the College of Charleston, Mr. Ingle, noted his relationship with neighborhood associations and particularly at Wappoo Heights.

As is custom in the League debates, candidates were asked to name, in their opinion, the three most important issues facing the district. Mr. Ingle was succinct in his answer - property taxes, drainage and crime. He noted that there was little that Council could do about property taxes but he thought that grass-roots action could have an impact where it counts. As far as drainage was concerned, the problem had been around for years and had not gotten better on the watch of Council member Evans. Presumably because of the lack of time, he gave no opinion as to the alleviation of crime. Council member Evans was not so succinct in her answers. She referred to the tremendous problem of growth with the ensuing traffic and the increase in the cost of housing. She also mentioned the problem of property taxes and drainage. As far as the latter, she said it was costly and complex. She claimed that the $5 million Byrnes Down project was about to start and waited only on the provision of easements.

Mr. Ingle took issue with her statement on drainage. He said the drainage plan was originated in 1984 and now, more than 20 years later, only 10% had been "accomplished". Why has the council not raised the storm water fee or upped the millage? In a not very effective refutation, Council member Evans said that 10% had been completed and another 29% was "in process".

Drainage lingered as an issue with a question relating to the repair of drainage in sections of Harleston Village. Council member Evans said that a project in the Village was next on the City's list and could benefit from an increase in the storm water fee. Mr. Ingle noted the power of elections, and how truck-bearing equipment to clear drains shows up just before elections and at no other time. He was also glad to hear that the Village was on the list though he was not privy to this information. Council member Evans also referred to some sidewalk construction that had alleviated the flooding problem though Mr. Ingle stated that it was not enough, and that the elevation of the whole street should have been raised.

Other written questions taken from the audience, and answers were:

Recent robberies near the College of Charleston?
Evans: These crimes upset all of us. 14 officers have been added to the police watch about the College and some officers are under cover. As well, Safe Ride has been introduced, a program that allows College students a free ride by taxi between the College and home in certain hours. Crime around the Robert Mills Manor project was also a problem. Foot patrols have been added and are paid for by the Housing Authority.
Ingle: Agree with the introduction of Safe Ride. Need for coordination between City and College police.

Should the initiative to find a new police chief be shared with Council, or as is now, be at the sole discretion of the Mayor?
Evans. Leave it to the Mayor. She has sat on a number if selection committees and it has always been a problem, with each member having a different agenda. Keep politics out of the choice. Mayor Riley made a good choice in Chief Greenberg; he should be able to do a good job again.
Ingle. Council should be involved. Chief Greenberg was a good choice but nevertheless, the Chief is part of the community and community should be involved.

What one thing would you change on Council?
Evans: "Couldn't imagine what should be changed on City Council", said without a tinge of humor. There are good people on Council and good department heads. Took issue with Mr. Ingle's comment about not enough communication between council members.
Ingle. According to a Council member to whom he had spoken, there is little discussion between Council members except at Council meetings. This should change. Need more meetings with representatives of neighborhood communities and more discussions between Council members.

Tourists?
Evans: The interest of people who live in Charleston must come first. A Tourist Management Plan is in place, and Council takes it seriously and tries to balance interests of locals and visitors. Like all good plans, it has to be revisited and reevaluated periodically.
Ingle: Citizens must come first. Tourist related problems have been prominent in Charleston and tourist related traffic - buses and carriages - has often been too high and adversely impacted the quality of life of citizens.

Large developments west of the Ashley?
Evans: Growth is an issue particularly on Highway 17 and on Folly Road. We need to constantly look and reevaluate the plans of the City.
Ingle: City needs to tighten zoning. Citizens come first, each rezoning needs to be considered.

Major projects in West Ashley have taken a back seat to those on Peninsula?
Evans: Disagree
Ingle: Hopes not. But some projects on the Peninsula are suspect.

Mc Leod Plantation?
Evans: School of Building Arts (SOBA) is "perfect partner". Historic Charleston Foundation looked at a number of alternatives and chose SOBA. The development planned will scarcely be seen and will be used to educate people in arts that have almost be lost and which are so important to the City. The plan is "beautiful".
Ingle: Against. The sale to SOBA and subsequent development goes against the will of the last member of the McLeod family. There will be traffic problems on Dogwood Drive and the buildings proposed will be very obvious and not "scarcely seen".

City Council elections should be partisan?
Evans: Should not be. Party affiliation should make no difference to trash collection or police for example. Being non-partisan should allow people to come out and speak on issues without fear of offending a political party. The Mayor is the chief executive officer. He explains issues and allows discussion. "Nothing is rubber stamped!"
Ingle: Should be partisan. In a sense, it is already with 8 members essentially Democrat, all voting on the side of Mayor Riley who is also a Democrat. The remaining 4 members are essentially Republican.

Why vote for change?
Evans. Change is a wonderful thing - but must be good change. She has worked hard in district and people are happy.
Ingle. People in district feel they are locked out of local politics. Council member Evans agrees with everything that the Mayor says and he noted that the Mayor is campaigning for her. The Mayor should stand aside in the elections of Council members. If elected, he will serve a maximum of 2 terms.

How to improve neighborhoods without displacing citizens (Gentrification)?
Evans: Noted the problem of speculators gambling on increases in house values. Pointed to the City's efforts to provide more "affordable housing" for its citizens
Ingle: No opinion

College of Charleston expansion?
Evans: College population has exploded over last 15 years but in recent years has leveled off and expansion likely to be no more than about 100 students a year. We have to keep growth under control.
Ingle: Agree and need to keep students' cars out of town.

How to maintain City's high bond rating?
Evans: Noted the City has the highest rating of any City in the State. We have to guard this carefully. We are fiscally conservative and debt is relatively low. High bond ratings save the City residents tax dollars
Ingle: Need to scrutinize reasons for borrowing money.

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