2018 All-America City Finalist - Mount Pleasant, SC

Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:

The City of Mount Pleasant is working to ensure that equity and inclusion are more than an afterthought, but key factors in local decision-making.

Any new program or project is first reviewed for its impact on equity and inclusion. In selecting the Comprehensive Plan Forum – a group of 40 residents tasked with developing the 10-year comprehensive plan – the community did an inventory of community diversity, identifying gaps in representation and acting to fill those gaps to include all identities in the decision-making process. As a result, the group is actually more diverse than the overall community, ensuring myriad viewpoints will be represented in decisions about the community’s future.

Engagement is embedded in the way local government works in Mount Pleasant. The City routinely deploys engagement efforts such as online surveys, partnering with civic organizations and associations, using mobile apps, conducting online forums, and having one-on-on dialogues with the Mount Pleasant Town Administrator during Mobile Office Hours. One month, the town administrator rode a city bus route during his Mobile Office Hours, giving him an opportunity to meet with citizens on their way to work and even homeless citizens that had never been engaged.


Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues:

 

1.) Bridges, Not Walls
With rapid growth and changing demographics, the local police department has been challenged to meet new demands for service while still maintaining strong community policing programs that help to build and sustain relationships and trust. The Town of Mount Pleasant Police Department (MPPD) recognized the importance of these programs and prioritized community policing initiatives, enhancing existing programs while also developing new ones.

MPPD has a history of using community policing to promote civic engagement both through department-initiated programs as well as through initiatives of individual officers. MPPD has launched numerous programs tailored to different groups in the community, in addition to older traditional community programs, such as:

  • Citizens Police Academy,
  • Youth Court,
  • Bike Patrol, and
  • School Resource Officer programs,

MPPD has developed youth programming with numerous opportunities for officers and younger citizens to engage and build relationships.

  1. The Buddy Card program works by having children approach officers to talk with them and get the officer’s signature on a card; while
  2. the Gotcha! program encourages officers to recognize children with a “Gotcha!” card when they’re “caught” exhibiting positive behaviors.
  3. The MPPD Reading Patrol program brings officers and children together at a local Barnes and Noble store where officers read stories to the children. To date the effort has served more than 800 children over 38 reading events.

More information: The Town of Mount Pleasant Police Department (MPPD)

 

2.) Bridging the Gap
Mount Pleasant is experiencing explosive growth and has put several programs in place to help all stakeholders navigate the complex planning and zoning processes that govern development. Traditional efforts such as town hall meetings were simply not working. Members of the Mount Pleasant Planning Department staff recognized that the existing methods for sharing information and involving citizens in the decision-making process were impersonal and unappealing to most citizens and were no longer adequate.

The Planning Public Outreach Program started with a Meet and Greet. Beyond providing information, the goal of the Meet and Greet was to provide an opportunity to reconnect citizens with members of the staff. The event continues to grow and meeting locations for the annual event are changed every year. This year’s Meet and Greet included youth-focused activities where students could participate in a scavenger hunt to learn more about the choices facing the community.

The Meet and Greet provides a high-level review of planning but planners recognized the need for another level of engagement allowing citizens to dive deeper into the key issues. The Citizens Planning College offers weekly classes taught by planning staff and is designed for engaged citizens, topics include:

  • land development processes;
  • building codes; and
  • zoning districts.

Students even get a chance to take fictitious development projects through the public approval process.

Local engineers and architects are engaged through Code for Lunch where planning staff reviews new or pending regulation changes and the group shares innovative ideas, answers questions, and holds candid conversations about development standards and on-going projects.

More information: Mount Pleasant Planning Department 

 

3.) It’s More Than Just Water Under the Bridge
At the start of the millennium, Shem Creek, the iconic landmark and historic economic driver for the community, faced a bleak future. Properties along Shem Creek were dilapidated and unsightly, and pressure for re-development led to a growing fear that the public working waterfront would soon become entirely privately owned.

Faced with these challenges, the Town of Mount Pleasant – informed by numerous public and stakeholder conversations–supported a series of improvement projects and the development of the Shem Creek Park Master Plan. While sustaining the creek’s primary use as a working waterfront, the plan sought to ensure:

  • equitable access to the waterfront,
  • promote the local seafood industry,
  • support local businesses, and
  • enhance the overall health of the creek and its ecosystems.

Creekside development required the community to meet strict environmental requirements, but the Town went beyond these requirements and actively partnered with local environmental nonprofits to host a community-wide Shem Dig event. The event brought together leaders from environmental education and advocacy groups, local seafood purveyors and sustainable fishing instructors to share information, conduct demonstrations, and answer questions about how to protect the creek for generations to come.

The Shem Creek Park Phase 2 project also coincided with other community efforts to preserve and promote the local seafood industry. Community groups and organizations created campaigns (#JustAsk and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat Imported Shrimp”) to encourage patrons to support local seafood purveyors. And when the shrimping fleet lost the ability to sell their products on the docks, the Mount Pleasant Town Council unanimously approved a Saturday morning fish market at their farmers market facility.

More information: Shem Creek Park Master Plan

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