Tarnished Halo

Joe Riley, the celebrated mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, announced on Friday that he will seek a ninth term next year. Riley has been in ...
by | August 8, 2006

Riley Joe Riley, the celebrated mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, announced on Friday that he will seek a ninth term next year. Riley has been in office since 1975, meaning by the time his next term ends he'll have spent more than half his life in the job.

Under Riley's leadership, the city has parlayed its historic architecture into its current status as one of the nation's top tourist attractions. Its also been attracting major new employers such as Verizon and Boeing. Governing named Riley a Public Official of the Year in 2003.

For all these reasons and more, Riley is all but assured of reelection. But lest you think we're totally in the tank for him, we'll point out that he's been getting some unaccustomed bad press of late.

As a believer in urban planning, it's been a natural progression for Riley to talk about the importance of regional planning, as he did on Saturday at a session of the National Governors Association meeting in his city.

But some of the locals outside of Charleston aren't happy about his bare-knuckle tactics in pushing his views. It's one thing, after all, to foster regional cooperation. It's another to insist that your city should call all the shots.

James Island has been seeking to incorporate and Riley has been fighting the move for years. In June, residents there voted in favor of incorporation for a third time. Twice previously, Riley managed to block their wishes in court.

The Charleston Post and Courier has reported that a group opposing the recent effort was funded primarily by developers who had business with Charleston or its mayor and had been recruited to the cause by Riley.

"I still think Joe's vision is pure, but his methods have come under serious question," writes Will Moredock, editor of the Charleston City Paper. "He has begun to demonstrate the kind of arrogance of one who never has to explain or apologize, and his bare-knuckle tactics recently earned him some of the worst press of his long City Hall tenure."

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