5 Charleston Mayor Candidates Outline Climate Action Plans | Climate and Environment News SC

Five Charleston mayoral candidates outlined their plans to protect the city from climate change and growing water threats at an Oct. 12 forum co-hosted by several local environmental and civic engagement groups.

Participants included: Micah Gadsden, Clay Middleton, Peter Shahid, William Cogswell, and current president John Tecklenburg. Debra Gammons did not attend.

Five candidates have been confirmed for Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg as applications close

Micah Gadsden

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Charleston mayoral candidate Micah Gadsden. Ruta Smith / Introduction

Gadsden, a community activist, co-chairs the nonprofit Friends of Gadsden Creek. It focuses on the role of “green” infrastructure in mitigating the effects of floods and climate change. Green infrastructure uses organic elements such as vegetation to reduce the effects of climate change. She said it was important for the city to protect the green spaces it still had, while revitalizing some of the “gray” infrastructure like parking.

“The good thing about green infrastructure is that it has a renewable quality, so it gets better over time,” she said.

It supports enhancing access to public transportation and creating more protected intersections for cyclists and pedestrians to move the city away from car-dependent infrastructure.

In terms of strengthening building codes, Gadsden contends that the city, and specifically the Architectural Review Board, creates barriers to building more resilient and energy-efficient infrastructure. The BAR is charged with preserving and protecting buildings of historical and architectural significance in Charleston within historic districts.

“From what I hear anecdotally, it’s really difficult for people to adopt more sustainable solutions for their homes and businesses,” she said. “We have to make sure we relax regulations.”

The Gadsden Creek case was appealed in hopes of preserving the tidal channel

Clay Middleton

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Charleston mayoral candidate Clay Middleton. available

Middleton is a former aide to U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D.S.C.) and previously led the Charleston Office of Business Services. It calls for new building standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that apply to private and public buildings. He said the city should reject new developments that don’t meet those standards.

He added: “We do not have to say yes to every development.” “We want to work with developers who want to do well and do good at the same time.”

Middleton also wants to move Charleston away from car dependence by creating “10-minute communities” where residents are within a 10-minute walk of school, work, grocery stores and other essential services. As mayor, he will also create a Clean Energy and Environmental Justice Council that he said will provide the city with the technical and social expertise to deal with the threat of climate change. Middleton also supports partnering with local nonprofits and the private sector to preserve local green spaces and wetlands.

He wants to strengthen the city’s climate resilience by partnering with the federal government through grant programs and initiatives like the White House’s Justice40 program, which aims to provide assistance to historically underserved communities that have been disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Charleston Mayor's Forum: Tecklenburg defends record, candidates distinguish themselves

Peter is a martyr

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Charleston City Council member and mayoral candidate Peter Shahid. Mahmoud Fadl/ Introduction

Shahid has represented part of Northeast-West Ashley on the City Council since 2016. Like Gadsden, Shahid said the city’s zoning policies can hinder energy efficiency measures. He called for reevaluating zoning laws to make it easier for property owners to install energy-conserving technology and infrastructure.

“I look around my neighborhood in West Ashley, and I see solar panels on some homes. But a large number of neighborhoods have restrictions on the ability to install these types of panels,” he said. “So one of the things we’re doing is looking at some of the restrictions and removing some of the restrictions and eliminating some of that red tape.”

Shahid pointed to Charleston’s past as a walkable city and said he would like to see a return to denser neighborhood planning to reduce reliance on cars. It supports more bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly driving alternatives. Touting his support for a 2018 ban on certain single-use plastics, he said the city should look for similar small steps it can take to reduce pollution in local marshes and bodies of water.

Charleston bans plastic bags, straws and foam — but hesitantly

William Cogswell

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William Cogswell will be on the ballot for Charleston mayor in November. available

Cogswell is a real estate developer and former Republican state representative for the southern tip of the Charleston Peninsula and parts of Mount Pleasant. Many of Cogswell’s climate recommendations focus on energy efficiency and resilience in building design. It supports green infrastructure projects and has included it in previous projects. He added that it is important that the city does not bite off more than it can chew.

“I believe green infrastructure is a critical component of how we grow as a city,” he said. “But it’s also very important to maintain it. Time and time again we have projects that have good intentions, but if they’re not maintained properly, they can actually exacerbate the problem.”

Cogswell said Charleston needs talented workers to do that, and he will build relationships with local technical schools to help train the new climate change workforce. He said Charleston should team up with other South Carolina municipalities to lobby the Legislature for more help to create clean infrastructure. Cogswell supports expanding public transportation, highlighting his previous work’s planning and creation of “transportation-oriented development” — the redevelopment of the former Naval Hospital on Rivers Street.

The naval base is currently being redeveloped with apartments and restaurants in historic buildings

John Tecklenburg

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Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. available

Tecklenburg, the current mayor, has led the city since 2016. He spent much of the forum highlighting the clean energy and climate resilience efforts the city has made since he took office, from passing the Climate Action Plan to replacing street lights with LEDs . Most of its future resilience strategies will entail redoubling those efforts, many of which are ongoing.

Tecklenburg said he supports tightening building codes and development guidelines to ensure energy efficiency, though he noted that state and federal policies limit how stringent the city can go about achieving that. He supports partnering with local businesses and manufacturers to build clean energy infrastructure in the city.

“I have called for offshore wind leases to be opened up,” he said. “We need to continue to promote and advocate for that.”

In terms of conservation, Tecklenburg said the city already tracks the migration of marshes through the area, and the upcoming rewrite of Charleston’s zoning code will aim to not impede the natural movement of those wetlands.

Streetlights in Charleston will be replaced with LEDs to save energy and money

Every Friday, the Rising Waters newsletter provides insight into the latest environmental issues affecting the Lowcountry and the rest of the South.

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