Monday, April 7, 2014
A standing-room only crowd attended a mayoral candidate question-and-answer session that, at times, became heated.
Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler and Councilman Jerry Tekac are running for mayor. They answered residents’ questions April 3 at the Berkeley Electric Co-op building on Springhall Drive.
The Goose Creek 9-12 group hosted. Former Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash was the moderator to ensure residents asked clear questions rather than just stating an opinion and that candidates could respond if their record was questioned.
The first question was directed at Tekac when a resident asked how many restaurants he has brought to the city.
Tekac said it is his job to finance restaurants. He said the mayors of North Charleston, Summerville and Charleston are bringing in restaurants but Goose Creek is not. Tekac said he has financed a number of restaurants with his banking job.
Heitzler said he has brought in hundreds of businesses in the last three decades, adding that businesses come to make money. He said he will bring more businesses.
Heitzler said he’s not going to be out there talking to “Mr. Applebee” because they’ll come here when they’re ready. He said they’ll invest in a business in an area they can trust. Heitzler said the city spent $5 million on streetscaping old downtown Goose Creek. He added that businesses are coming no matter who the mayor is.
A Hamlets resident asked why Tekac voted against the Crowfield Golf & Country Club deed restriction.
Heitzler answered first, saying a man told him he could put 22 homes over the driving range. Heitzler said he did not sleep that night. He added there could be future councils that see that dollar sign. He added all but two councilmembers did not vote yes for the deed restriction and one of those was absent that night.
Tekac said the deed restriction did nothing for the golf course and its operation. He said it only protects the land. He said he’s a member of the golf course.
Tekac said that, in 2008, Heitzler told him he’d rather turn the golf course into open space. Tekac added the golf course is an asset to the city and he is not against the deed restriction or the golf course.
Heitzler responded that what Tekac said is not true. Heitzler said he never in his life said he wants the golf course turned into passive space. He said he does not want the land built upon. It’s a simple concept, Heitzler said. The golf course was previously zoned as planned development, he said.
One issue the candidates agreed on is that annexation is difficult.
Heitzler said the only feasible annexation possibilities are the Okatee and Devon Forest neighborhoods.
Tekac said people outside the city really don’t trust government and the city needs to do a better job showing them the benefits of full-time firefighters and city police.
A citizen asked why the city needs a full-time mayor and what will they do to let her spend money in the city.
Tekac said the mayor’s job is part-time and the full-time city administrator runs the city on a daily basis. Tekac said the city needs to recruit more businesses. He added he drives to Charleston everyday for work. He said bringing new businesses isn’t an easy task, doesn’t happen overnight and businesses will have to take a gamble.
Hetizler said that, in 1976, council adopted the strong mayor form of government, which it still uses. He said the city had 8,000 residents when he became mayor 36 years ago.
It is a full-time job, he added. Heitzler said he lives and works in Goose Creek. He added he’s not in Charleston trying to run a city. When he was a school principal, he was in the city, he said. He retired eight years ago.
Heitzler said that, in 1981, the city devised its first comprehensive plan and the city now has two burgeoning commercial areas (downtown and Carnes Crossroads). He added that the Crowfield industrial park is full.
One citizen asked if Goose Creek is trying to be North Charleston or Summerville, adding that there’s a reason he lives in Goose Creek and he wondered why should Goose Creek compare itself to other places.
“I do not want to be Summerville,” Heitzler said. “I do not like it there.”
“The residents are coming,” Tekac said. “Single-family houses do not pay for police and fire protection.”
Tekac added he does not want to be Summerville or North Charleston. He said if the city doesn’t encourage businesses to come people will pay more taxes. He added he does not want a mall but wants a hospital and offices. Tekac said he loves the hometown feel.
A citizen asked Tekac if the city’s commercial growth needs present a conflict of interest.
Tekac said if his bank was to provide finance for that someone else at his bank would finance it. He added he refrained from voting on a fire station bid involving his bank. He said he wants to engage a commercial broker to sell the recently annexed Redbank Road property for a discount.
Hetizler said the city has no tools to give special discounts to businesses. He added he is not for selling city property at a reduced cost.
The final question was in regards to the smoking ban and the citizen asked candidates to justify regulations on businesses.
Heitzler said you have to have regulations but must avoid the long arm of government from reaching into businesses and telling their customers if they can smoke. He added other regulations have high hurdles. If you’re going to come to Goose Creek do it right, Heitzler said.
Tekac said he would vote for the smoking ban again. He said it’s a major health issue.