July 27, 2006

State of the City Series:
Joe Riley Speaks to Rotarians on the State of Charleston

July 25, 2006: Mayor Joe Riley was introduced by Amy Riley as a "visionary, leader and statesman". Lately, the Mayor has assumed another role to which he has already demonstrated great commitment and devotion- that of grandfather to his new baby granddaughter!

Mayor Riley has served the city of Charleston for eight consecutive terms of office during which Charleston has become a major vacation destination now ranking as the fourth most desirable city to visit in North America according to Travel and Leisure Magazine. Mayor Riley stated that a continuing goal for him at this point is to establish the means and methods by which we can maintain and secure the beauty and integrity not only of Charleston but also of the entire surrounding region long into the future.

Clearly, the city of Charleston is not just affected by issues and concerns that arise within the city limits. The decisions made here in Charleston and by nearby cities and counties have impact all over the low country. Mayor Riley spoke in terms of "corridors" like the Ashley River Road/Highway 61 corridor and the digital corridor of knowledge-based businesses which have been attracted to the low country. The term "corridor" paints a picture of shared concerns and purposes with interests that now overlap and cross established boundaries which previously were thought to be rather separate and distinct. Because our issues and interests are now so interrelated, it is imperative that we work together to formulate a single, comprehensive long range plan which will serve to guide and direct the growth and development of this region long into the future.

In order to shape and mold this long-term future , Mayor Riley suggests we first begin thinking of ourselves as a regional entity and consequently to assume a sense of ownership for creating an integrated public policy which will benefit everyone both singularly and as a whole.

The next step is for a business-led, private, non-government group, much like Historic Charleston Foundation was when it began in 1947, to step up and take the reigns of responsibility for spearheading efforts to establish such a regional plan .

Mayor Riley also addressed other concerns that matter to those of us who enjoy life here in the low country. The park and ride commuter rail transportation system is due to start up in October. While the cost sounds inordinately expensive is substantially less than a fixed rail system because it utilizes infrastructure already in place. These efforts are going to have considerable impact on traffic congestion by providing park and ride services for commuters.

Mayor Riley spoke of his concern about crime and about the need to put repeat offenders into the jails and to keep them there. The systemic challenges in the judicial system are many and Mayor Riley has been working closely with police and judges to find ways to address these challenges to put and keep criminals in jail.

Finally, Mayor Riley told Rotarians about the anticipated uses for certain sections within the city such as the Federal building on Marion square, the section where the old cooper river bridge began, and land in the Calhoun and Concord streets area. Most will reflect some combination of residential and commercial use with ample parking and green spaces.

At the conclusion of Mayor Riley's talk, President Amy thanked him and presented a certificate for a book purchased in his name for the new library at Warren Easton High School in New Orleans, LA.

Reported by Helen Reynolds, Keyway Committee

July 23, 2006

State of the City Series:
North Charleston is Booming

July 18, 2006: Today, Mayor Keith Summey, told Rotarians how pleased he was to come to "south Charleston" to speak. He was more pleased to report on the astounding growth experienced by North Charleston in recent years, especially in the retail sector. Although Mayor Summey said the Governor does not share his beliefs that retail is an "industry", the Mayor begs to differ, and the $6 billion in retail sales last year is his proof. In fact, North Charleston saw a 15% increase in retail sales last year, and that's even before Tanger Outlets opens in August!

Mayor Summey also discussed the increased population growth experienced by the City in recent years, especially in the Dorchester Road and Ladson Road corridors, and Deer Park. The question remains: how do we control this growth and handle it so that we provide proper planning for the City and provide the necessary infrastructure to serve future generations? The Mayor stressed that we need to take a regional approach to planning and growth management. We need to create inner city density to abate sprawl and create communities that enhance our quality of life. Living in a place that you can afford, where you can walk or ride a bike, or just have a shorter commute to work, will help us enhance our quality of life, and we need to create these places because they haven't happened in the past. He pointed to Hilton Head Island as an example of needing to plan for the future of the whole community. Hilton Head did not include "workforce housing" in its long-term planning, and as a result, no one who services the Island can afford to live there, and must drive many miles from Bluffton and beyond to go to work on Hilton Head. Which led us to another issue: traffic and transportation.

Traffic has gotten so bad in the region that we have to work together regionally to solve the issues. Mayor Summey was quick to point out that "while he was no engineer, he knew a four-foot pipe would quickly back up when dumped into a two-foot pipe." We should support a sales tax referendum in all three counties to support regional infrastructure to support all those moving to our region.

Reported by Amy Riley, Keyway Committee

July 13, 2006

Charleston Air Force Pilot Moves Issues on the Ground
Getting past the obstacles of life with grace and spirit

July 11, 2006: In 1969, Tom Mikolajcik graduated from the Air Force Academy and embarked on a military career as a pilot and a tour as Charleston base commander when the new C17 came into being. In 2003, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Schlerosis (ALS) and told he had from 1 to 3 years to live. Fortunately, his affliction has progressed more slowly and he is handling it as the General that he is. Instead of giving up, he is driven to teach all who will listen about the disease.

In the USA, there are only 30,000 cases and a huge number of these are military, especially pilots and also many civilian pilots. Why? Is it stress, it is toxins present in aircraft or in military life? No one knows, but veterans are hit hard.

At this time, Tom has lost the use of his hands. He requires help to eat and to dress. He is losing his voice but determine to use computers to tell his story. The VA is getting better all of the time in helping provide for ALS sufferers. The good news, according to Tom, is that you have time to get your affairs in order, to provide for family and indeed say goodbye.

His fine neighbors recently came to him and demanded that he tell them how they can help and he now recognizes that when you allow others to help you, they are helping themselves to become better citizens. Tom noted that Johns Hopkins University and Medical Center has assumed a leadership role. MUSC has now opened a ALS chapter in Charleston. His immediate goal is to see that a nation registry of persons with ALS becomes a reality. He urged all to contact their local congressional leaders to see that Charleston and South Carolina do its share in this venture.

Reported by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

July 7, 2006

Charleston Moves:
Getting around the City quickly and safely without your car

June 27, 2006: In a growing region which has become stifled by traffic congestion, we need to become more aware of other ways to get around. That was the message conveyed to Rotarians by speakers Don Sparks and Benjamin Leigh of Charleston Moves, a non-profit organization advocating active lifestyles and active communities through walking, biking and transit. Sparks, President of Charleston Moves, gave some general tips for walking and biking safety, and debunked a few myths including which way to ride your bike in traffic (with traffic, not against!). He was also asked to identify the best places in Charleston to ride your bike, but was quick to point out that the natural landscape lends itself to ride anywhere with Charleston's flat terrain (with the exception of a few major arterials and collector streets).

Next, Benjamin Leigh spoke about a project he is developing with a grant from the BCDCOG's Active Living by Design program. Leigh is developing a map showing Bicycle Levels of Service (BLOS) and their ratings. BLOS is similar in nature to a standard road Level of Service, but is designed to assist cyclists in planning a commute, assist city planners with determining streets needing bike paths, and make walking and biking better for all of us overall. He plans to rank the levels of service and assign safety ratings, as well as include a bridge-crossing guide and electronic atlas for CARTA.

This project is important for many reasons: first, demographics show that many residents of the region do not have access to cars, so integrating bicycling and walking with public transportation is crucial for people to simply get where they need to go. This map will allow them to do it safely by identifying safe areas to bike and walk, as well as where transit could be accessed to cross busy or dangerous intersections and bridges. Second, the project has health implications to encourage our population to choose healthier transportation alternatives and fight obesity from sedentary travel. Third, there are environmental concerns as well, including oil and energy costs. With rising gas costs, we could all appreciate having an alternative to driving. And besides, as Sparks pointed out, it takes him less time to ride his bike downtown than to drive and find a parking place!

Benjamin Leigh's BLOS map will be available in a few weeks, so keep checking the Charleston Moves website for more details (charlestonmoves.org). For more information on other cycling resources: Coastalcyclists.org

Submitted by Amy Riley, Keyway Committee