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City Council, March 26

Council refutes criticism of police force
Harsher limit to vagrancy on King and Market Streets

Marc Knapp

Compared with meetings earlier this year, last night’s was short. There was nothing controversial on the agenda that provoked long debate though many of the items were of interest. However, a comment in Citizens Participation spurred some heated and lengthy responses from Council members.

Mr. Jason Taylor rose in Citizens Participation and made critical comments about the City’s police force, alleging that it was ignoring community needs. He also cited police reports on robberies in his community. As Council member Waring stated, Mr. Taylor had the right to free speech but Council members had the right of rebuttal. And indeed, a number of the Councilmembers, and the Mayor took offence at Mr. Taylor’s comments.

Council members Mitchell and Lewis applauded the response of police to their calls as did other members. Council member Moody emphasized that the public needed to respect the police and the job they do. He also added that citizens could help if they took more care, such as locking doors, or removing valuable items from cars. The Mayor noted that a number of community meetings with the police were being held this week, as part of an audit agreed to last year. And he applauded the efforts of Chief Luther Reynolds. The Chief concluded the discussion and said that to do its job properly, the police needed the support of citizens. He conceded there was room for improvement though did not say where this might be. But he opined that the force was pointed in the right direction.

We applaud the response of Council and the efforts of the City’s police. But we have to ask as to where were the Mayor and Council last year when the police force came under attack for racial bias by members of the Charleston Area Justice Ministries. It took some months before the Mayor stepped up to refute the criticism. It may well have been a coincidence, but Chief Mullen resigned shortly thereafter.

Some of the other items that were approved included:

  • Amendment of the law to expand the areas along King Street and Market Street where sitting or sleeping is prohibited from 8 am to 2 am. The amendment is clearly aimed to force the homeless and panhandlers off the main retail corridors in the City. The prohibition will stretch along King Street from Broad to Line Streets and will extend one block in both directions on streets that cross King Street. Similarly, the prohibition will extend along Market Street from King to East Bay Streets and a block in each direction on streets that intersect Market Street.

  • Approval of parking in residential and conservation zoned areas for those attending church. This was a particular issue for many downtown churches which had little or no parking spaces to accommodate their congregations, and who were confined by the City’s parking regulations.

  • Amending the zoning code to allow greater provision of Workforce (WF) Housing. Previously developers providing rental housing in the WF Housing and Mixed Use 2 WF Housing Districts could pay a fee to the City to avoid having to provide WF housing. Developers will now be obliged to pay a fee on “for sale” units if they do not provided WF housing. As well, all residential construction on the Upper Peninsula that utilizes height and density bonuses and exceeds 4 stories, shall make 10% of the total units Work Force Housing.

  • Approval of appointments to Board and Commissions. This in itself was uneventful but the approval was delayed until the Mayor provided Council with the attendance record of sitting members and those who sought reappointment. The record was provided and will be in future.

  • A resolution relating to the re interment of the body remains unearthed in the construction of the Gaillard Center. The remains will be buried on a site at the corner of Anson and George Streets, in front of the Gaillard Center. There will be an accompanying service on May 4.

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