Some local elected officials seem to have decided that the people’s voice doesn’t count for much.
The elected members of Charleston City Council have twice voted in support of converting one lane of the northbound Ashley River Bridge for a bike/pedestrian path. But some members have continued trying to undermine the project. It’s time for them to abandon their unseemly efforts.
Charleston County Council has five times voted in favor of funding for the project. But some County Council members, also elected to represent the public, are threatening to pull the legs out from under the plan, too.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilman Bill Moody argued that a June vote to reaffirm the city’s support for the project wasn’t binding because councilman Rodney Williams voted by telephone, even though it is a long-accepted procedure declared legal by the city attorney. As Councilman Mike Seekings said, denying Mr. Williams that vote would be nothing short of disenfranchising him.
Mr. Moody clearly holds the bike lane project in disdain. At the council meeting, he said of it: “We’ve just been handed a crap sandwich and told, ‘Go eat it.’ ”
City Councilman Keith Waring, who stands with Mr. Moody on the subject, sent a troubling message by saying that given the risks of bicycling, “bikers, in some cases, have to die.” But he also said that it would be unacceptable for an ambulance to be delayed even by a matter of a few minutes en route to a hospital.
Mr. Seekings, an avid advocate for the bike lane, said council’s behavior has gone “beyond ugly to the theater of the absurd.”
Then on Thursday, County Council was expected to weigh in by reopening the subject of the bike lane. Reports were that it might vote — again — on the bike lane project. But discussion was deferred for the purpose of getting legal advice. It will be on the agenda for the next meeting on Sept. 1.
Members of County Council — including chairman Elliott Summey — have voiced their opposition to the bike lane, despite the county having approved using half-cent sales tax money for the project. The county has already spent $1.2 million, and county staff has spent a year and a half testing and designing the lane. A key part of the plan — adding a lane from the bridge to Bee Street — has been completed.
Further, in June, Mr. Summey himself wrote to Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg that the bike lane project “is not a County of Charleston project but a City of Charleston project.”
He also wrote that the county would like to re-allocate dedicated funds “if the City opts not to proceed with the project.”
Well, the city didn’t opt out, and Mr. Summey’s words indicate that the city’s decision would get the project going.
Were County Council to try to pull out at this point, it would be a breach of good faith, as well as an affront to those city council members who have already voted — twice — in favor of the bike lane.
Government can’t allow for do-overs at the whim of unhappy elected officials — particularly do-overs that would derail a thoroughly vetted project already under way.
And if County Council were to find a loophole for an end run around its responsibility, using it would be contrary to the spirit of the county’s agreement with the city.