By Kyra Morris, contributing editor | “Coming Together” is the theme of Charleston’s newly-elected mayor, John Tecklenburg. Charleston does not just represent the formal city of Charleston but the whole tri-county area, and coming together in Charleston is not new.
In 2015, we experienced a unified community. Our community demonstrated to the world what coming together really means by the way we handled the tragic incidents that occurred with the shooting of Walter Scott in the spring and the horrific massacre at a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in June. In both cases, Charleston reacted with a voice of forgiveness, love and harmony. This could not have happened if the foundation for a culture of coming together were not already laid. We have been building this foundation for a long time. Coming together for us is our heritage. It is our hope, and it continues to be our challenge.
Over the past 40 years, Charleston grew and evolved into what is now a world-class metropolis. Our economic base and diversity is a model to others. We have preserved and showcased our history. Foodies from all over the world come to Charleston to savor our culinary delights. Fortune 500 companies settle here, and start-up technology companies choose Charleston as their place to incubate and launch. These are not occurrences that happened overnight. There were several visions that culminated in this beautiful menagerie. A lot of forethought is to be credited.
Now is the time for more reflection and visioning. We must come together to acknowledge what we have become and to project thoughtfully as a whole community where we are going. With all the wonderful things that can be said about Charleston, there are also the hurdles. To sustain what we have now attained, we need many things that we do not yet have. We need sufficient and expedient infrastructure to allow transportation to flow about our area. We need drainage systems that protect us from unnecessary flooding. We need an education system that continuously provides an educated, trainable workforce. We need affordable housing available in every area so that the police, firemen and sanitation workers can actually live in the areas they serve. We need to protect and preserve our beaches, our green spaces and our natural resources so that future generations can enjoy them also.
Each of the above-mentioned needs has its own diversity. If you gather members of our community together to discuss these topics and to attempt to decide on the solutions, you will find, though we may love each other, we do not all agree with the answers. There are inherent, obvious conflicts. We have beautiful wetlands and wildlife. How do we build the infrastructure and preserve these at the same time? It takes ongoing commitment and continuous funding to improve our education. Who is going to provide and pay for it? Affordable, sustainable housing appears to be synonymous with urban infill. That brings visions of high rises and congestion. Do we want that?
These are very difficult topics. They need to be dealt with if we want our children and our children’s children to enjoy Charleston as we have. There are no easy answers. Now is the time to come together as a community – public and private along with all of our municipalities and address these issues. The next ideal is for 40 years from now to look back and be able to say, “Wow! Thank you everyone who came together to get us where we are today.” Our vision must not just be for ourselves and the next five to 10 years.
We have demonstrated the ability to plan, project and build. It is not over, and it may now be harder. The future of Charleston does depend on us coming together. Coming together is demonstrated by our heritage. It is our hope, and now let’s stand on what we’ve built and continue coming together to address the challenges of our future.