The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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City Council. May 11

Mayor again gets his way
No new Fair Housing ordinance
Marc Knapp

The Mayor did it again. At the meeting two weeks ago, he failed to stop Council voting in favor of adopting a Fair Housing ordinance similar to that of HUD. But at last night’s meeting and the second reading of the proposed ordinance, he got his way, just! Council members Seekings and .Alexander reversed their earlier stance and voted against the measure. The final 7-5 vote was along racial lines with all the African American members voting for the ordinance, and joined by Council member Mallard.

The discussion was on the proposed ordinance was opened by Council member Seekings. With many numerical references to particular paragraphs in the existing ordinance, we found it hard to follow much of what he said. But the gist was that he thought that the existing ordinance could be amended to do much of what the proposed ordinance would do; that the cost of implementing the new ordinance was hard to determine but could be costly to administer and enforce; would triplicate the Fair Housing efforts in place, in effect adding the City’s to those of the State and Federal.

Most of what followed was a rehash of what we heard at the previous Council meeting. Understandably, Council member Gregorie was the most vocal, denying that the City’s effort would triplicate efforts as the State was not involved. He also noted that HUD would pay significantly to the cost of meeting the requirements of the new ordinance. And there were other HUD funds available that the City could apply for.

Most interesting was the Council member’s reference to comments made by the Mayor (we think in the City’s last annual Housing Report) on the City’s Fair Housing Ordinance and the need to give it more teeth. The Mayor was silent on the obvious challenge.

The Mayor continued his opposition, arguing for amending the existing ordinance and supporting for Trident Urban League in its efforts to educate citizens in respect to Fair Housing Laws. He thought that the money spent on meeting the requirements of the proposed ordinance would be better directed to affordable housing.

Our reading is that some of the Council members that voted again the proposed ordinance were daunted by the possible high cost of implementation and nothing else. Council member Alexander who last night voted against the proposed ordinance but for it earlier, had previously noted that the State and Federal Agencies had done a “crappy job”. Council member Riegel also registered anguish over making a decision as to how to vote.

We think that considering the fiscal tightness of the times, the decision to stay with the existing ordinance was right. But we are troubled by the fact that the City’s Community Development Committee proposed the new ordinance and has been doing do for some time. Council always has the right to over ride a decision by one of its committees. Overriding a decision of such a Committee should only come after considerable debate. But we can only approvingly observe, there was no lack of debate on the Fair Housing Issue.

There was nothing much else of substance on last night’s agenda.

  1. A reevaluation of the Ordinance relating to the use of bicycles and skateboards and toy vehicles on City roads and sidewalks was deferred to allow further study.

  2. The Town and Gown Committee was expanded to 19 members from the present 12. The new members would represent – a manager of a rental property in the College of Charleston “impact zone”; an owner/occupier of property in Elliottborough/Cannonborough; King Street businesses; the pedestrian and bicycle community; and the local churches. .The three representatives from City staff would become directors, but would have no vote.

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