Riley and Charleston: Sinking together?

In the last month, two events have turned out to be major moments in the direction of the City of Charleston: Boeing's decision to go to the Lowcountry, and the city elections.

In colonial times, Charleston was the dominant political force in the state. After the Revolution, Upstate rural residents, resenting Charleston's arrogance and willingness to accomodate the British occupiers, moved the capital to Columbia and stripped the city of its power over the rest of South Carolina.

Since then, Charleston was, like most center cities of metropolitan areas, the dominant economic and political force in its region. But in recent years, its relevance has dwindled - once more at the hands of those outside the city. This time it wasn't at the hands of a Upstate farmers and hunters, but rather long string of economic development coups - most notably Nucor Steel and Boeing - that went elsewhere in the Lowcountry.

While Joe Riley - Charleston's Mayor - has presided over the city's declining importance, his administration has lost steam from within. Three major embarassments have rocked his adminstration in recent years: the resignation of Police Chief Reuben Greenberg after a highly-publicized outburst in traffic, the arrest of a long-time family friend who embezzled $400K from his city position, and the death of nine firefighters while the former fire chief blustered "we do things OUR way".

After years of trying to get non-partisan City elections, allegedly to neutralize the vocal and growing Republican opposition in the city, Riley got his wish. Since then, all four of Riley's major allies who represented West Ashley districts - Bleecker, Evans, Morinelli, and Tinkler - are gone, replaced by council members with ties to the GOP. With another council member from solidly-Republican Daniel Island and other council member a past Riley challenger, prospects of Riley being able to push his initiatives through council with large majorities and few questions seem a lot tougher than in years past.

These recent shifts highlight the reality that neither Charleston nor Riley command the influence or respect they once did.

In the early 1990s, John Bourne, North Charleston's founding mayor was toppled by an electorate much different than the one which first seated him and established the city. Likewise, Charleston's voters and issues have changed greatly and seem far less friendly to Riley and his allies. These changed realities could create opportunities for those who have been waiting for a chance to topple Riley and could make the 2011 mayoral election one to watch.

5 Response to "Riley and Charleston: Sinking together?"

  1. Calhoun Fawls 24/11/09 07:38
    My guess is Mr. Joe Riley will retire. I don't see him running again if the running is tough. He is smart, like Coble. Take the bows, take the accolades, and retire.
  2. west_rhino 24/11/09 10:08
    Little Joe is likewise egotistical and as long as those with too much dirt that could be uncovered, the dichotomously filthy rich Dems will prop him up. Pull him out of office and I predict he would expire within two years.

    One hears speculation that Stavarnakis is being positioned to succeed Joe, though I'd prefer Kwadjo.
  3. mg 25/11/09 15:04
    He needs to quit eating at Applebees downtown.
  4. Anonymous 30/11/09 09:38
    Dean Riegel adds a another coffin nail, succeeding Larry Shirley as a bona fide conservative.

    To his credit, Dean is perhaps a bit more subtle and polished than Larry, but no less one to take teh annointed Riley to task.
  5. Tim Mallard 30/11/09 20:04
    Thanks for regonizing the riley machine is now a "cash for clunker." January will be fun after my new colleagues come on board.
    I am just trying to get this 2010budget disected right now. Riley doesn't want it debated. "Sunshine is the best dissinfectent"
    Tim Mallard
    Councilman, City of Charleston
    District 11

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