Four “critical questions” were posed during Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg’s State of the City address Jan. 26 — queries that the city will face as a result of the “storms of 2020.”
Tecklenburg reflected on the past 12 months of “fierce crosscurrents of a global pandemic, a national reckoning on race and a sharp economic downturn.”
He elaborated on the following topics that he believes are most likely to shape the city’s “destiny for decades to come.”
Tecklenburg said the path to overcoming COVID-19 — and how Charleston can best defend itself healthwise and economically — is through the vaccine. He insisted that residents need to double down on hygiene and social distancing practices.
From a small business standpoint, Tecklenburg plans to support local entrepreneurs with the city’s new revolving loan fund, the Central Business District Improvement
Tecklenburg cited the city’s apology for its role in slavery since its founding three and a half centuries ago in April 1670. He noted the removal of the John C. Calhoun monument from Marion Square was a step forward from the city’s checkered past.
He also mentioned the reform work being done on the racial bias audit of the Charleston Police Department. Tecklenburg added that the International African American Museum, slated to open next year, will highlight the perseverance of a race and their fight for freedom and inclusion in society.
“…the problems of racial oppression and injustice have torn at our city’s soul,” Tecklenburg added. “And we know that to heal that breach, we must finally and fully eliminate the systemic barriers that continue to make the dream of racial equity a dream deferred.”
The mayor noted that there are several major projects coming down the pipeline this year regarding Charleston’s multimillion-dollar efforts toward flood protection.
The city will develop a comprehensive plan to make flooding the epicenter of future development decisions by implementing the land use recommendations of the Dutch Dialogues.
The Army Corps of Engineers also plans to build a sea wall around the peninsula. There is upside potential for approximately $1 billion in federal flooding assistance.
Additionally, the city’s Climate Action plan, which focuses around decreasing emissions, will be voted on later this year.
Tecklenburg said the city has a game plan to preserve affordability in Charleston’s housing market and ensure the city will remain a working city in the years to come.
City council plans to invest $50 million into affordable housing to grow 1,000 new units. Also, all large-scale mixed-use developments will be required to make 20% of their apartments affordable to pay a fee into the city’s housing fund.
Furthermore, the city has given the Housing Authority the go-ahead to work with the federal government to replace or rehabilitate every public housing project in the city.
“My fellow Charlestonians, as the coronavirus reminded us in 2020, tomorrow is always a mystery,” Tecklenburg continued. “…Whatever the challenge, whatever the test, we will not hide, we will not shrink, we will not fail. And, even more, we will not grow weary in doing good.”