Columbia election column

Fisher has given Coble the
kind of race Columbia needed

By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor
WHEN KEVIN Fisher had left after energetically making his case in an endorsement interview, I said this to fellow editor Warren Bolton: “You see why I wanted him to run?”
    He nodded.
    A few minutes later, we decided to recommend the board endorse Mayor Bob Coble again.
Sound contradictory? Well, it makes sense to me. I’ll explain.
    A week before the filing deadline, I used this space to urge Mr. Fisher to challenge the mayor. After a lunch during which he had passionately expressed one point of disagreement after another with the mayor, I thought it was high time such criticism was actually aired before the voters.
    Bob Coble has some of the world’s most passive-aggressive critics. They gripe and snipe, but not one who had a chance of unseating him had tried in 16 years.
    I knew Mr. Fisher could make up for that.
    After I wrote that column, a lot of people thought I was backing Mr. Fisher. Then I wrote another column in which I said Columbia voters had a clear choice before them: Mr. Fisher, who tries hard to convince everyone he’s right; or Mr. Coble, who is happy to be seen as self-effacing but effective. That muddied the waters. Some thought at that point that I was declaring for the incumbent, but that wasn’t my intent.
    Mr. Fisher is a very effective critic of the present administration. There’s a lot he doesn’t like, and he expresses eloquently why you shouldn’t like it either. He writes a whale of a good op-ed piece; I hope he keeps them coming.
    But he’s too much like me. I’m a professional critic, and sometimes I write a marginally readable piece lambasting this or that. But I haven’t seen any groundswell of people out there demanding that I run for mayor.
    And I think I understand why. When I look at Columbia’s city council, and imagine myself trying to get that bunch of independently elected prima donnas (no offense) to do what I know good and well they ought to do… well, I reflect that I’ve picked the right line of work — one in which it’s more important to be right than to be effective. I’ll just keep on being a voice crying in the wilderness.
    Mr. Fisher should, too. He’s good at it.
    So why did I want him to run? This city is in the middle of rapid, dramatic, multidirectional change, and it would be a travesty not to have a full, lively debate about its course. I didn’t think the city could afford another mayoral election like the ones it has had the last 16 years.
    The mayor needed challenging. He’s far from perfect. Mr. Fisher is right in many ways. He has a point when he says that “Mayor Bob” is perhaps too affable and, as a result, often isn’t forceful enough to overcome the limitations of his office in this form of government.
    Mr. Fisher is plenty forceful. But he is not affable enough to get things done. There’s a delicate balance involved in working with six council members who are each as powerful as you. Mr. Coble doesn’t always strike that balance, but often does. Mr. Fisher seldom would.
    A lot of good things have happened in the last few years in Columbia, and while the mayor isn’t always the loudest voice in the room, he pushes as hard as anyone. The Vista booms; Main Street is revitalized; old enmities are set aside; strategic partnerships envision a dynamic future for the city, and make it happen.
    Mayor Coble doesn’t shout, but he testifies convincingly to his effectiveness in the past, present and future. Mr. Fisher is great at pointing out the mayor’s failings. But he doesn’t make the case for himself nearly as well.
    In the end, the mayor has risen to his first real challenge, and has defended well his claim to four more years.
    While I’m all for saying who should be elected, I stay clear of predicting who will win. But I will say this: On Tuesday, more people will turn out to vote in Columbia than in a decade of mayoral elections. Whether they favor Mr. Fisher or the mayor, they know that this time, their votes are likely to make a difference.
    If that happens, the winner will be the city of Columbia.

18 thoughts on “Columbia election column

  1. Lee

    Supporters of honest government don’t want a mayor who will get things done with the same crowd of insiders.
    We want an honest government, with open books, and projects that are necessary, server the general public, completed on time, and for a reasonable price.

  2. Brian

    Even though The State came out and endorsed Bob Coble for mayor you don’t seem too confident in his ability to actually win the election. (“I stay clear of predicting who will win.”) If Bob Coble presided over all of this economic growth why is he being challenged harder now then ever before? Wouldn’t his past achievements assure him another 4 year term? I don’t care if Bob Coble is an affable guy, hell I was friends with his kids! I look at other more important things like his environmental record (Green Diamond), his donor list (big developers) and I also look at the millions drained because of poor planning and a fiscally inept mayor. I believe that Fisher has tapped into a voter dissent that has not been opened in 16 years. We have even seen Republicans and Democrats in vast numbers come out in support for Mr. Fisher even though he clearly states his independence from the two parties. I think he represents the people of Columbia not the rich contractors and developers. We have seen how the tides of change have swept over the city council because of a voter discord and I hope that the voters vote wisely on Tuesday in support of Mr. Fisher.

  3. Dave

    Brad, While putting off much needed yardwork on Sunday morning, I picked up on the WIS program where the 3 candidates responded to questions etc. Coble smiles a lot more than Fisher does (Fisher needs a Karl Rove coach for sure to at least make sure he is looking INTO the camera, not sideways). Azar was fairly negative overall but pretty subdued compared to what I had read here about him. After watching the show I think Coble and Fisher should do what I do when playing poker in a low and high game and only two players left, we amicably split the pot. How about these two as co-Mayors? I think this could work. Coble pulls in the real estate experts and builders and Fisher keeps the books straight and on the up and up. How about it?

  4. Brian

    Dave, You’ve got a good idea but we need to have Coble take a remedial math class and have Fisher attend an acting class before they take office. If I had to choose between adding and subtracting and public speaking skills, I’ll take the one that doesn’t always look into the camera.

  5. Brian

    Dave, You’ve got a good idea but we need to have Coble take a remedial math class and have Fisher attend an acting class before they take office! If I had to choose between adding and subtracting and public speaking skills, I’ll take the one that doesn’t always look into the camera.

  6. Brad Warthen

    Actually, that line, “I stay clear of predicting who will win,” was pure boilerplate. That’s my regular policy. Editorial endorsements are about who SHOULD win, not who WILL win, and I like to remind people of that frequently. Also, it was just a device to set up my ending, which was to say that if there’s a big turnout for a change, the CITY wins.
    The discontent that Brian says has come out in this election is always there. It’s just that this time, a high-profile candidate emerged to articulate it. That’s what’s good about Kevin Fisher running. He gets all the cards out on the table, and gives the city a clear choice.
    If I WERE to make predictions in the paper, I would say Mayor Bob wins, but with a big caveat: Elections such as this one, in which there has been no publicly available polling, and the past turnout has been so small, is really hard to predict. If Kevin stirs up the people who have always been unhappy, but didn’t turn out to vote before because they didn’t have a candidate, and the mayor doesn’t get his base out in a big way, Kevin wins.
    There’s no way to tell which of those happens at this point.

  7. Lee

    Close your eyes and try to imagine Columbia without a mayor who was a puppet of developers getting rich off taxpayer subsidies.

  8. Lee

    It is so hard to dislodge incumbents that most people don’t even bother to vote. That’s a shame, but a fact.

  9. Dave

    Amazing, the total number of actual voters could fit in a small baseball stadium. Maybe Brad could have won as a write-in after all.

  10. bob

    I lived in Cola for four years and did not even notice local government. The trash got picked up, and and the police came when you called. What more could one ask for? I do recall, however, Brad Warthen’s emphatically pandering endorsement for George Bush in 2000. So, why the hell would anyone take his analysis on any political candidate — be it president or dog catcher–seriously. Anyway, I thought Andrew Sorenson was mayor of Cola.

  11. Dave

    I find it interesting that a major tax increase for Cola. is under discussion right after the election is over. Intentional?

  12. Lee

    The tax increase was in discussion long before the election – just behing closed doors, in the home of politicians and their owners, out of the light of day, and unreported by the Compliant Media.

  13. Lee

    Coble is busy announcing all the back room deals he had cooked up before the election, but had kept from the voters.
    * $105,000,000 subsidy to some rich families to develop downtown
    * Another sewer project started before the others are finished
    Kevin Fisher had it right: the most disturbing thing about Brad Warthen and DER STADT is their comfort level with the corruption in Columbia government.

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