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It is a well-known fact that the not-so-great state of South Carolina has only two things going for it: the coast and the city of Charleston.
The coast is there by the grace of God and the gifts of nature. But it turns out that much of what makes Charleston a great place – the arts, the historic preservation, the restaurants – is there thanks in part to a liberal Democrat who has been Mayor for nearly 40 years.
A New York Times column Sunday about Mayor Joe Riley called him “America’s Best-Loved Mayor.” He pushed for the Spoleto arts festival as a way of making the city aim higher, and he sees the arts as vital to a great city. He has concentrated on concrete accomplishments: public safety, parks, housing and the beauty and vibrancy of the city’s historic streets.
Most amazing, he stayed in office in South Carolina’s rabidly red-hot Republican politics despite being an early supporter of a Martin Luther King holiday, hiring a black police chief in 1982 and leading a five-day, 120-mile march to Columbia calling for removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol in 2000.
Maybe it’s that Riley is accessible and personable. Maybe it’s that he’s Old Charleston; he looks like we walked right out of the famous (and famously expensive) Ben Silver men’s store downtown.
Maybe it’s that some cities – like Raleigh with Mayors Meeker and McFarlane – take to progressive mayors who push policies that attract bright, creative people who transform the quality of life downtown. And maybe that’s a sign that government can work.


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3 comments on “Lessons From Charleston

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not sure the esteemed mayor would agree with you that South Carolina was a horrible state. Next he is probably rich and that disqualifies him from being a great person. Heaven help him if he gained his wealth from hard work in some business, and not all government service. I just wish I could come back as a liberal and love to force things on people they don’t want. It must be fun to force someone into something.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yep…Charleston is a great city only because of democrats and that applies of North Carolina/Raleigh as well. You betcha. Progressives are all about business and capitalism and achievement, don’t ya know. Can I give ya a “yeah right”?

    Like you said, South Carolina only has two thing going for it. Is South Carolina represented by only republicans? What the political history of South Carolina? Charleston is wonderful because of its capitalism. Go to and tell me that the radical left is all about capitalism. hahahaha…sure they are. They want everyone to be equal through government involvement…not through opportunity or achievement. Just making sure everyone has what everyone else has through give-aways by government. Socialism…better put, communism. That’s the Obama dream, the radical progressive dream. You know it, so do I. Your involvement, Gary, is all about getting money from the left-leaners for your “services” as a consultant and nothing more. You don’t care what happens 40-50 years from now in America…you care about YOU…today. Sad…just TOO sad.

  3. Anonymous says:

    First, would the person that wrote that column in the New York Times have called a republican mayor “America’s Best-Loved Mayor”? C’mon…you know not. Sheesh, Gary.

    Second….as I read this presentation you’ve put here, I couldn’t help but think that you are saying all these great things about this liberal/progressive mayor of Charleston because it’s such an oddity to see that from just so many other liberal/progressive mayors and you just wanted to say: “See? There ARE some good liberal/progressive mayors around”. Well, duh. We know that, Gary. But, ya kinda gotta wonder other than his beliefs on some of the social issues, is he REALLY all that progressive? I mean, is he all about more and more taxes for more and more government? Is he all about giving away tax dollars for everything and anything for everyone so as to get votes? I’m betting this guy is a fiscal conservative…or at least a fiscal moderate. I’m betting he keeps a tight budget and I’m betting he’s all about bringing in jobs and most other things most conservative/republican mayors are for and are doing..or at least trying to do. He has to deal with his city council and he has to deal with county government on many issues and I’m thinking they are mostly conservative. So, even though he has obviously done an excellent job and even though I admire him for his efforts (including his diversity efforts), me thinks there’s more to the whole story here than just this one guy….which is the case for every mayor (or any other public official) that has success in his/her town or county or state.

    Charleston has a wonderful history and it’s a favorite in our area for visitors. It gets a HUGE amount of tourism thus has a great tax base to draw from. Joe Riley has used those dollars wisely and with prudence and as such people love him there. Heck, I love him and I don’t even live in Charleston. Wish we had more like him…regardless their political affiliation.

    So, nice to see there are excellent liberal/progressive mayors out there. He could certainly teach many other liberal/progressive mayors a thing or two, that’s for sure.

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