But when Bob Aubin continued to see problems in his West Ashley community – problems that region’s city council representative has still failed to address, he finds – he decided to take a new method of response: become a representative, dammit, and address the problems himself.
Two weeks ago, Aubin officially entered the race for District 9 of Charleston’s city council. He’ll face incumbent Aubry Alexander in the November 8 election.
Aubin’s made a point of being politically active for some time now. He’s been a regional chair of DFA, a volunteer to the Obama campaign in ’08, and last year aided the races of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen.
But the political experience and insight he’s developed wasn’t what called him to enter the race. Instead, it was a very personal observation – one he’s made all too frequently in his neighborhood.
“I saw a woman running across Sam Rittenberg Blvd with her two young children to get to the bus stop across from the St Andrew’s library,” Aubin recalls. It made him recall a recent tragedy; a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and killed near that same location in April. Two other pedestrian fatalities occurred in the same West Ashley area in the last two years, as well.
“I wanted to be able to make a change,” he then determined, relieved to see the mom and kids eventually cross the large highway, “and I felt the City Government could do something about it.”
But it hasn’t, at least not on the incumbent’s watch. “While (these hazards) go on, Alexander's signature issue has been getting the city to put a kayak launch on the Ashley River.” Traffic safety remains unaddressed, even ignored, Aubin says, along with other vital issues.
Those topics of transportation and safety are focal points in Aubin’s campaign, too. More sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks are needed in the community, he says, along with additions of bicycle lanes and better public transportation offerings.
Such improvements could address specific needs in West Ashley, too, he says, noting Dist. 9’s high rates of bicyclists and bus travelers, as well as the poor conditions of CARTA bus stops in the area.
Other platform topics (which Aubin appropriately refers to on his website as “values”) include transparency and accountability, employment and education, and protection of the community’s environment.
That latter value was another point aiding his decision to run against Alexander, whose response to a particular environmental issue was … well, lacking in foundation, to say the least, according to Aubin.
When Mayor Riley introduced a plan to add charging stations for electric-powered automobiles in city parking garages, Alexander loudly opposed, calling the concept “green welfare.”
But the low-cost project was to be funded by the federal government at no cost to Charleston. Many in the city drive such vehicles. And the mayor thought it would be good for business, too. As for costs of operation, “(it) was figured to be $300 to $500 a year to the city,” Aubin says, “but Alexander was still totally opposed.”
That resistance to a cheap project that would produce high-value benefits was the final straw. “That term he used [“green welfare”] was a big factor in my choice to oppose him,” Aubin says.
Alexander first won the city council seat in 2007. He ran unopposed in the election, but about 18 percent of the Dist. 9 voters who went to the polls that day skipped that particular race, not bothering to cast a vote for him.
That apparent voter disinterest from four years ago could be cemented in 2011 due to Alexander’s failure to address issues that still hinder the district.
A real estate broker by trade, Alexander’s most news-catching accomplishment as councilman was his receipt of a Certificate of Achievement for taking some leadership courses through the National League of Cities. He lists the NLC credits along with other training seminars he completed on his city council website page.
But while Alexander only chose to learn from attending outside seminars, Aubin’s been learning first-hand, on the spot, and directly from the people in West Ashley.
He’s canvassing. Speaking with his neighbors. Learning of their needs. Telling of his goals. And, aided by his wife Courtney, he’s winning their votes in the process, too (along with a few campaign donations).
And you can speak with Aubin yourself next week. His official campaign kickoff is next Thursday, Sept. 8 (check his site’s calendar page for updates and details).
Until then, you can visit his website or his facebook page. You can send him an email if you have any questions. If you can’t make it next Monday, you just might see him personally over the next few weeks between now and election day (November 8), too.
But if you do see him, folks, remember to look out for him and other pedestrians when you’re driving through that West Ashley part of town. And unless you’re Aubry Alexander, don’t plan on using the kayak excuse.