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Stephen Wukela: the city's growth not a 'zero-sum game'
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Stephen Wukela: the city's growth not a 'zero-sum game'

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Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela speaks Monday to the Florence Rotary Club at Victors.

FLORENCE, S.C. — The cooperation that helped the city of Florence revitalize its downtown area needs to continue when the next mayor takes office, Mayor Stephen J. Wukela said Monday. 

Wukela spoke at the weekly meeting of the Florence Rotary Club at Victors. 

"We have spent conservatively about $250 million in downtown Florence over the last decade," said Wukela, who is finishing his third term as mayor but is not running for reelection. "The [Francis Marion University] Performing Arts Center, the [Francis Marion University Luther F. Carter] Health Sciences facility, the museum, the Little Theater, the Waters building, the Kress building, the Hyatt, University Place, Rainwater building, Carolina Bank, you just continue to go down the list." 

Wukela then turned to recreation, saying the city had spent at least $50 million on recreation in the past decade including the Pearl Moore Basketball Center, the Dr. Eddie Floyd Tennis Center, the soccer complex, a planned baseball complex and community centers at Dr. Iola Jones and Maple Parks. 

He then said the city has spent more than $100 million on infrastructure improvements, including water, sewer and waste water. He also added that the city is going to construct a new waste water plant on the west side of the city. 

"I've just ticked off $450 million in expenditures by this city and its partners, the state, the university, the [Drs. Bruce and Lee] Foundation and others have made in this community in a relatively short period of time," Wukela said. 

Wukela said he's been asked why this happened during his tenure as mayor. 

"It's not because of me, I can assure you," Wukela said. "It was because of the partnerships that were formed in this community. It's because − not just because we're good friends, although we are −but because all the members of these partnerships recognized that the city's not a zero-sum game." 

Zero-sum games are those games in which when one player wins, the other players lose. 

Wukela used a South Carolina-Clemson football game and checkers as examples. 

"The reality of life is that most things are not," Wukela said. "Most things are more complicated. Most things are not for me to win you must lose." 

Wukela then referenced two versions of the Prisoner's Dilemma. 

The dilemma is classically defined as two suspects being arrested by police and charged with two crimes: a lesser charge and a more serious charge. The police, without enough evidence to convict both on the more serious charge, isolate the two and tell each that the person who cooperates won't be charged but if both cooperate each will be charged.

Thus, each suspect faces three choices: cooperate with the police and hope the other person doesn't, say nothing and face the lesser charge if the other person doesn't say anything or the more serious charge if the other person says something. 

Most people choose to talk to the police and tell them about the other person and end up facing more time in jail. 

"The point I'm trying to make here is not only is cooperation beneficial, not only is cooperation important, not only is cooperation equitable, it is essential from an economic perspective," Wukela said. "If we don't cooperate, we both lose." 

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Wukela said it was distrust, fear, isolation, greed and human instincts that caused people not to cooperate. 

"What we've seen in this community in this decade is a realization that was not always there before. ... We came to the realization, some very important leaders, me not among them − Chairman [Hugh K.] Leatherman [Sr.], Dr. [Fred] Carter, Dr. [Eddie] Floyd, Judge [Haigh] Porter, Drew Griffin − who understood that if we don't cooperate, we all will fail," Wukela said. "If we do cooperate, we can all win. It's not a zero sum game." 

Wukela used the Hotel Florence and Victors building as an example. Prior to its redevelopment into a hotel, the building was an eyesore downtown and generating about $500 per year in property taxes. 

With cooperation between the investors and governmental officials from all levels, the hotel and restaurant were opened, kicking off the downtown redevelopment. 

Wukela said it was amazing the amount of money and effort that had gone on in the past decade from private citizens, nonprofit entities and governmental entities. 

Wukela also spoke about three upcoming projects: the new baseball and track complex, Project Urban Square and the redevelopment of the former Circle School location. 

He spoke about the $15 million baseball complex first. Wukela called the gift of land from the old Clemson tract by Floyd a "tremendous gift." He said the new collegiate-level track will give the city's track athletes a chance to demonstrate their skills. He added that the new baseball fields will not replace existing fields at other parks but will supplement them. 

Wukela spoke about the timing of the construction on Project Urban Square. 

That project is to be located across West Evans Street from the City Center. 

The apartment complex and parking deck will be constructed first. He said the apartment complex will be four or five stories with around 150 units. He said the parking deck would be around 300 parking spaces.

Wukela estimated construction on these subparts will begin in about the next six months. 

He said the hotel probably will be four stories with approximately 100 rooms. 

The townhomes and office space will follow. 

Wukela also showed renderings of what the project will look like when completed. 

Wukela also spoke about the city's purchase of the former Circle School and providing that facility to Francis Marion University for development into a medical education facility to accompany the medical buildings already downtown. 

He said the project would tie in Cheves Street and help redevelop the neighborhoods around the former school. 

He said he did not know if the building would remain standing or not. 

"The city is going to be very busy for the next two or three years with those three projects alone, notwithstanding all of the other things that are going on," Wukela said. 'I leave knowing that we've got a lot on our plate. We've done the initial work to make sure those things are ready to go and move forward." 

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Government and Politics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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