Mayor Tecklenburg delivers 'State of the City' address
In the centuries-old chamber of Charleston City Hall, members of city council halted their regular meeting to hear the annual “State of the City” address on Tuesday, Jan. 22. In his speech, Mayor John Tecklenburg offered a stark warning and a message of determined hope to the crowd of city officials and others gathered.
“If you combine the extreme weather that we’re seeing, the sea level rise that we know is coming, we have a situation that presents the existential threat to our city,” he told the audience. “If you look at generations to come, we must deal with our drainage and flooding issues and sea level rise for our city to survive, for our children and our grandchildren to be able to enjoy this city as we do today.”
The mayor recalled his State of the City address from the year prior, where he asked council members and citizens to come together around a positive plan to deal with flooding, traffic, affordable housing, and public safety. He took the opportunity to update the city on these initiatives.
“In the past 12 months, we’ve all had the honor of getting to know and beginning to serve with our city’s outstanding new public safety leaders, Police Chief Luther Reynolds and Fire Chief Dan Curia,” Tecklenburg said. “We’ve launched an ambitious affordable housing plan, working with builders now to create hundreds of new affordable units. And we’ve created a new city-wide transportation plan in conjunction with a regional council of governments that insures that projects will be in line with state and federal funding.”
After Mayor Tecklenburg stated that the progress has made the City of Charleston “hopeful and strong,” he turned his attention to the ubiquitous problem of flooding in the Holy City, which comprised the crux of his address.
“Relying on science, we now know that sea level is truly rising,” said Tecklenburg. “In the harbor of Charleston, it’s actually been documented over the last 100 years that the harbor of Charleston has risen nearly 18 inches. Very reliably, the city believes that in the next 50 years, there will be a sea level rise of two to three feet. That’s what we’re planning for.”
The blueprint that the Mayor laid out revolved around a more advanced tunnel drainage system and check valves that will be placed underneath the downtown area, along much broader topics such as resource management and outreach for citizens to get involved where they can.
“This flooding strategy is built on that clear vision of protecting our citizens’ lives and their property, of preserving economic vitality and opportunity, and improving the quality of life for our residents and our neighborhoods,” he said.
The address discussed plans for the peninsula, West Ashley, James Island, and John’s Island, but no mention of Daniel Island.
City of Charleston Planning, Preservation, and Sustainability Director Jacob Lindsey stated that, while it was not referenced directly in the speech, Daniel Island does have a role in the plan.
“Daniel Island is one of the best examples, nationally, of a planned community,” said Lindsey. “That extends to its stormwater system, which is very thoughtfully planned and managed, and overall works very well.”
“We think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from Daniel Island that can be applied to other parts of the city that are growing rapidly,” he added.
Lindsey said that the best way for an island citizen to help with the flooding plan is to stay vigilant towards their own local drainage systems, and alert the city when something is in need of repair.
As public outreach is part of the plan to keep Charleston above water, residents can always ask what they can do for their city.
“Next year, we’re going to have our 350th anniversary of the City of Charleston being founded,” the Mayor observed. “Don’t we all want to see our city be able to survive and be enjoyed by generations to come for at least another 350 years?”