Charleston City Councilwoman Deanna McKinney on Monday implored fellow city leaders to do more to address gun violence and other problems on the city’s West Side.
McKinney, who represents Ward 6 on the West Side, spoke to the City Council from the podium in the panel’s chambers usually reserved for outside speakers.
“I stand here as a resident of Charleston, because I don’t feel heard from my seat as a representative of Charleston,” McKinney said.
McKinney gave council members pictures of some of the gun violence victims on the West Side this year. Earlier this month, two women were gunned down in what police have called a double homicide.
“Just about every other night, we hear gunshots and get no emails, no phone calls, no meetings, no [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], nothing from no one from either side,” McKinney said. “What part of the mission am I missing? What about us?
“Where’s the outrage for the gun violence that’s changing lives forever, especially in the African American community?” McKinney said.
It’s irresponsible for city and state leaders to focus on substance abuse and not gun violence in communities, she said.
“Why are we not addressing the death rate or finding the funding to help stop the gun violence and other issues that African American citizens face?” McKinney said. “The same way there’s a drug epidemic in your community, we have a gun violence epidemic in our community.”
Charleston police say there have been nine homicides in the city in 2021.
McKinney has personally felt the effects of gun violence. Her son, Tymel, was shot to death at age 19 as he sat on his West Side porch in 2014.
Responding to McKinney’s comments after the meeting, Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said she sympathizes with what she and other mothers have gone through when losing a child.
“I’m completely with Councilwoman McKinney and every mother that’s had to go through these terrible, these terrible tragedies,” Goodwin said. “Because it’s what it is, it’s a tragedy. All I can speak to is what I know we have been doing.”
Goodwin pointed to increased funding and programming at city recreation centers, including free after-school programming at the Martin Luther King Center and the North Charleston Recreation Center. The city also offers free summer camps and started a youth jobs program, she said.
On Monday, the council approved a resolution to build a path between the public housing units at Orchard Manor and the North Charleston Community Center, to connect children there with the community center.
The city on Monday also opened new recreational space at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
“Can we do more? Absolutely. Can we do better? Absolutely,” Goodwin said. “Sit with us. Let’s talk about a plan moving forward. Because the plans that we have in place, we believe are working.”
McKinney has said the city should install better lighting on the West Side. After the double homicide on Oct. 8, one woman’s body lay in the backyard of a home for hours before being discovered around 8 a.m. Charleston resident Martec Washington echoed the call for better lighting as he spoke to council members during the meeting.
“I would really appreciate some lights on the West Side,” Washington said. “A man was just hit, could have died. There’s ongoing shootings.”
City officials say they are continuing to move forward with American Electric Power to improve lighting. Goodwin said police officers on patrol are asked to note where better lighting is needed.
In other business, the council also:
- Authorized the purchase of eight 2022 Ford Explorer SUVs to replace police and fire department vehicles. The vehicles will be purchased from Stephens Auto Center for a total of $225,328. City Manager Jonathan Storage said the city will pay for the vehicles with cash from its rainy day fund, rather than lease-purchase financing. In doing so, the city will save hundreds of thousands of dollars each fiscal year on charges and interest, Storage said.
- Authorized a contract for $157,975 with Mr. Asphalt Inc. to repave the parking lot and connect roadways to the North Charleston Community Center. Goodwin said part of that project will be a connection path between public housing units at Orchard Manor and the community center.
- Authorized a
- with Rock Forge Bridge Co. LLC for $110,800.00 to correct an embankment slip on Stone Road, about 200 feet from its intersection with Overbrook Road.
- of a Mercedes Sprinter 3500XD 4x4 from Alpine Armoring Inc. for $197,900 for use by the Charleston Police Department SWAT team. The vehicle will replace a SWAT van that’s 20 years old.