Ahead of Charleston’s mayoral election on Nov. 5, Charleston City Paper has partnered with Lowcountry Local First to ask the six candidates running to be the city’s leader about specific policies that affect small businesses in our community. Each week through Oct. 16, we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to one of those questions — to read the rest of the answers, visit charlestoncitypaper.com/llfquestions.
Q: The current business permitting process is cumbersome and difficult to navigate. How will you improve the process to better serve small business owners? -Allyson Sutton, co-owner, Sightsee Shop
Sheri Irwin: I have to be honest, I don’t know enough at this time to say how I would improve it. Would love to talk with you directly and try to figure it out from there. Have sent an email and a note through Messenger. Would love to talk with you about this.
Renee Orth: Once we have adequately addressed the existential threat to Charleston — climate crisis and its symptom, flooding — we will look to technology to streamline all citizen-government interactions related to bureaucratic form filling. Government should bear the burden of making compliance with necessary regulations as simple as possible. We would begin this process by looking to what is working well in other municipalities and adapting those best practices to the needs of our citizens.
Mike Seekings: I often hear from frustrated business owners who deal with seemingly endless red tape and have no relief in sight. As mayor, I will combine a number of departments, including Planning and Traffic & Transportation, to streamline oversight activities. I will also institute internal permit approval deadlines, assign a staff member to each application to provide “concierge” services, develop an online platform to simplify the application process, and open the Permit Center on Saturdays.
John Tecklenburg: As mayor, one of my first acts was to hire a private firm to begin reviewing all city processes and procedures with an eye toward improving both efficiency and customer service. So far, that’s led to several major reforms throughout city government, from fleet management to the overhauling of our TRC process, to the creation of our Customer Service Desk, which can assist our citizens with any city-related issues, including business licenses, either online or with a simple phone call to 843.724.7311. Moving forward, we’ll continue to work with our outside firm to make further improvements to city procedures, including business permitting and services.
Maurice Washington: (no response)
Gary White: As a small business owner myself I have experienced the challenges first hand that exist with the business permitting process. As mayor, my plan is to improve this process in two ways. First, I will work with the city’s process improvement team to identify ways to use technology to streamline the process and find opportunities to become more efficient. Second, I will create an economic development department within the city that will be charged with helping businesses thrive in our city. Staff members within the department will act as liaisons for business owners to help them navigate through city departments, including permitting, to ensure businesses are provided an efficient means of doing business within the city.
To read the rest of the questions, visit charlestoncitypaper.com/llfquestions.
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