Will Fisher run?

Businessman ought to run
against Coble to ‘raise issues’

Editorial Page Editor
THE DEADLINE to file to run against Mayor Bob Coble is a week from today, and so far the only challenger is perennial candidate Joe Azar.
    This could change.
    I asked Columbia ad man Kevin Fisher, president of Fisher Communications, about rumors that he may step in to provide an alternative to another lopsided Coble-Azar match-up.
    He didn’t say “yes,” but he hadn’t decided against it, either. If he goes for it, we could have the Fisherk_1first competitive contest since Mr. Coble toppled
incumbent Patton Adams in 1990. We could see, for the first time in 16 years, a lively debate about critical issues facing the city — and at a pivotal moment in its history. As a result, more than a few voters might actually turn out to participate for a change. (A record 14,035 voted in the 1990 election; in 2002, only 8,680 bothered.)
    That, said Mr. Fisher, would be his motivation if he does decide to go for it. “I would like to see a hot mayor’s race,” he said — one that engaged the community constructively.
    He said he doubts that he could win on April 4, saying he would likely be a “sacrificial lamb” against an incumbent with far more political experience and name recognition than he. He’s likely right about this.
    As he said, a lot of people in Columbia really like Mayor Bob. In fact, Mr. Fisher likes him: “He’s a really nice guy, and much nicer than me.”
    He thinks that’s part of the problem. He sees Mr. Coble as the sort of “nice guy” who “can’t say no” to bad ideas, and can’t get good ideas implemented.
    “Bob waits for consensus to build” rather than leading, Mr. Fisher said. Under the current weak-mayor, or council-manager, form of government, the citizens of Columbia “really do have seven little mayors,” he said.
    While he advocates changing to a strong-mayor form of government — a possibility that has been under study by a special commission that appears to be going nowhere — he said that even under the current system, the city “would have a stronger mayor” if he succeeded in replacing the current officeholder.
    He says he might have a chance to make a respectable showing against the incumbent if, as he suspects, voters’ liking for Mr. Coble is “mile-wide, inch-deep.”
    But in any case, he would see the race as worthwhile if he managed to “raise the issues” in a wayCoble_2 that engaged the community.
    And what are those issues? In our conversation Wednesday, Mr. Fisher cited a litany of bad decisions and missed opportunities, from AirSouth to the Three Rivers Festival to the city-owned convention hotel idea; from the deal to take over the bus system from SCANA (which he thinks could have been negotiated on terms much more favorable to the taxpayers) to the 10-year failure to get the Canalside project under way (which Mr. Fisher says ended with the city selling the prime property to a developer for less than taxpayers had invested in it).
    As a frequent contributor to our op-ed page, Mr. Fisher has aired his views on a number of other local issues. While I don’t necessarily agree with all his points, he usually presents them emphatically and persuasively — suggesting that he might do the same in a political campaign. Some of the views expressed in these columns:

  • The city shouldn’t
    have given $375,000 to Trelys, a venture capital firm started by entrepreneur Larry Wilson and other wealthy investors.
  • A new arts festival proposed by long-time ad executive Marvin Chernoff is a "boondoggle"
    that should not receive the $218,000 it is seeking from the city.
  • The commission charged with studying the city’s structure
    should dismiss the mayor’s “silly” proposal for a “hybrid” system that would call for a full-time mayor while keeping the city manager.
  • “The building of EdVenture in the State Museum parking lot represents the perfect storm
    of no vision, no leadership and no sense of aesthetics.”

    Mr. Fisher says he doesn’t understand why, “with a week to go,” he is the only viable challenger being mentioned. He thinks there are plenty of other strong potential candidates. In particular, “I… think it’s a great opportunity — but nobody’s doing it — for a minority.” (Mr. Fisher, by the way, is white.)
    So with only a week to go, what is keeping him from making up his mind whether to file? He says there’s only one factor in the way: He’s not sure he could run effectively for the part-time job — and if successful, do the job as well as he would want — and still make a living. He said his business makes it hard to delegate: “So much of it is about me…. I sell myself.”
    He said he has no big-time backers, although he has gained the impression that some might step forward if he filed and demonstrated that he was serious.
    But he won’t know unless he tries.
    Does my writing this column indicate that I would prefer Mr. Fisher to Mayor Coble? Nope. I really don’t know at this point. But I do know I’d like to see a lively, relevant and competitive campaign that fully engages the electorate. With everything happening and on the verge of happening right now, our capital city can’t afford another yawner.
    That’s why I hope Mr. Fisher goes for it.

4 thoughts on “Will Fisher run?

  1. Lee

    I doubt that anyone at The State wants to see regime change in Coble Village.
    Newspapers do like a horse race, so they have something to write about, and maybe sell some papers.

  2. Jason C. Woodley

    I just wanted to say that Joseph Azar is the best and most qualified person for the job. You must remember to Vote Azar April 4th.

  3. Ann

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Comments are closed.