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City Council Elections

Disappointing League Forum
“No shows” by candidates Waring and Mallard
Warwick Jones

Arguably, those held by the League of Women Voters are the most important of all forums relating to City Council elections. Considering their prominence, last night’s forum, for contenders in the District 7 and District 11 races, was particularly disappointing. Council member Waring (District 7) and contender Tim Mallard (District 11) were absent. Their absence begs the question as to whether the forum was a waste of time. We hope the poor weather and not disinterest on the part of citizens, was the cause of the small audience, which numbered about 10.

Reputation for avoiding debates
No doubt the absent candidates had excuses. But we note that Council member Waring has a reputation for avoiding debates. We also note in an article about the election in The City paper, the Council member was described as the “invisible man”. Despite many calls, he has not granted an interview. Was he nervous or apprehensive? We don’t know but as a Council member for 12 years he should have learned to deal with such feelings. We think that all candidates for Council have an obligation to make their views known. To do otherwise, is dismissive of the constituents. Voters may judge harshly for this seeming indifference.

Council member gives short speech and leaves
Council member Bleeker (District 11) had the floor to herself for a few minutes at the opening of the forum. With her opponent absent she simply commented on her contributions to Council and departed. She mentioned her role in creating the Department of Aging and the work done in shaping the Johns Island growth plan. She also noted her support of the City’s plan for the St Andrews Center development. Her opponent Tim Mallard opposes this plan.

Only two candidates participate in forum
The two aspirants for District 7 that were present, Ms. Francina Herne and Mr.Willard Sheppard subsequently had the floor to themselves. They followed the tried procedures of the League - 90 second for an opening remark, 90 seconds to answer questions from the League and the audience, and 90 seconds for closing remarks. Given the absence of candidates, the League was appropriately lax in applying its time restraints.

Both candidates were dignified in their presentations and in the case of Ms.Herne, very gracious. There was no “slogging it out”. And indeed on most issues, the two candidates held similar positions. Ms. Herne worked for the City for 30 year before retiring and claimed to know many in the administration. Mr. Sheppard is retired from the air force and has been active in the community, serving on some boards. Both candidates are active in their neighborhood associations. But it did seem to us that Mr. Sheppard had a fuller grasp of the workings of the City than Ms. Herne.

Focus on immediate community
Ms. Herne was focused particularly on her own immediate community. She was concerned about drug dealing, the indifference of the police who must know of its existence, and the number of derelict houses that created a refuge for criminals and criminal activity. She also spoke of the need for better education for youth. As a single parent, she was conscious of the pitfalls in front of children. Perhaps reflecting her role in the City’s Recreation Department, she also said there was need for more playing fields in the community. All neighborhoods should have playing fields nearby. Not everybody has a car to drive long distances.

Mr. Sheppard said that he particularly wanted to look out for the youth and the elderly. Those in between are better able to look after themselves. He wanted more police but better distributed. Why on Friday night are 16 police located near the Custom House downtown? They needed to be dispersed. But the key to reducing crime was education. A better focus was needed. He also said the City needs to listen to it citizens and particularly the neighborhood associations.

Accountability for the Fire Department?
Mr. Sheppard defended Chief Rusty Thomas as head of the City’s Fire department and suggested that accountability for the department’s shortcomings lay with the Mayor. Ms. Herne did not go so far but said somebody needs to be held accountable. Mr. Sheppard also said that the Mark Clark expressway should be completed. Ms. Herne said that something needed to be done about the traffic. Both agreed that the City had done a questionable job in relation to Planning.