Now for my actual post based on my official interview with Tony Mizzell, who’s running against Leona Plaugh, Kevin Fisher, Mary Baskin Waters and Walter Powell Jr. for the 4th District city council seat being vacated by Kirkman Finlay III.
We talked about a lot of things, such as the fact that he really likes being able to run in a nonpartisan race for a change (he served on Richland County Council as a Democrat), his wish to try skydiving, the fact that his wife cried when he said he was going to run again (so would mine — either that, or slap me upside the head) and his regret that a picture I took of him once still pops up when you Google him.
Oh, we also got into the fact that we are sort of competitors, with him being a veep at Chernoff Newman and me working over at ADCO, which made his buying an ad from me even more interesting. By the way, he put some tracking code on the ad, and says he’s “real pleased” with the traffic he’s gotten from it — you other potential customers, take note.
But the core of our conversation at the Capital City Club (and if you ask why Tony got breakfast at the club when others didn’t, it’s because Leona wanted to meet out at Woodhill, and Kevin wanted to meet tomorrow kind of late for breakfast, and Mary Baskin Waters has yet another place she wants to meet — Tony left it up to me)….
Where was I? Oh, yes, the core of our conversation was his four-part platform. In the video above, you can see and hear him talking about the fourth point, which he considers (rightly, I think) the strongest argument for his candidacy. Here are all four:
- Rectifying the city’s fiscal train wreck. He said the people of his district don’t ask for a lot from city government — just common sense and financial responsibility (which is why it elected Hamilton Osborne, then Mr. Finlay). He notes that he left county council (which he served as chairman toward the end, 2005-06) in good shape financially — even though it had been in rocky condition when he got there. “I’ve managed complex budgets,” he said, and he’s confident he can manage this one out of the hole it’s been in. He could “hit the ground running,” rather than spend a year or two figuring out the spreadsheets.
- Public safety. Getting the funding back up to adequate levels. Morale is low, the police department is underfunded, he believes. “We have got to start the budgeting process with law enforcement, fire, public safety,” he said. “Pet projects” that council members have been funding have to wait until times are better.
- Economic development. “I am a supporter of the creative class, entrepreneurism, the knowledge economy. Working with USC — that’s our biggest untapped resource and asset that this city has, and I think we’ve made great strides, but this is not a four or five year investment, this is a 15 or 20-year investment… we need to really focus on our strengths.” He noted that he was “very influential” in getting the city and county to work together to provide $38 million for parking garages for Innovista. That was a hard sell at the time on the Richco council because of disagreement with the city over TIF accountability. (Speaking of TIFs, he’s very opposed to the city going into these two latest ones alone, without the county and school districts.)
- “Lastly, and most importantly,” he described his “key selling point:” He’s the only one who brings the experience and relationships to the table to bridge city and county interactions. “In a crowded field, one candidate stands out” on this point, he argues. You can hear him speak about this at some length on the video above.
That last point led to a discussion of consolidation — not just consolidation of various services (zoning and planning, he says, is a no-brainer), but total city and county government consolidation, which he (like Leona Plaugh) supports.
Here are some other things we talked about:
- The details of his ethics fine that opponent Kevin Fisher keeps bringing up. You can read the details of that on this earlier post.
- The challenge he sees of getting people out to vote in this race. He’s pulling out all the stops, though. Before his ads appeared on my blog, they were appearing (on the IP addresses in the appropriate areas) on the New York Times site and YouTube, and he’s planning on making heavy use of Facebook in the last days. We also talked, as media types, about how too many people didn’t use social media right.
- How much harder it is right now to raise money than it was when he last ran for office four years ago. “People who would normally give $500-$1,000” are only doing something like $250 — so you have to spend more time soliciting.
- While Leona Plaugh is getting her message out almost entirely door-to-door, Tony is working the phones. He did some door-to-door early, but then realized he could be more effective, reach more people, by phone.
- Unlike the mayoral race — which is grabbing all the attention — there haven’t been the multiple forums for readers to become familiar with the council candidates and their positions. He said there was one forum in North Columbia that he saw maybe two constituents at. This is particularly a disadvantage for him, he believes, as he thinks he does well in such venues, thanks to his local government experience. “I love forums,” he said.
- He said he heard that Mr. Finlay was thrilled to hear that he, Mr. Mizzell, was getting into the race, because of the mathematics. It nearly ensured a runoff in the 4th district, which would help turnout in that district for the runoff, which Kirkman sees as to his advantage, those being his people.
- The numbers in the district are more favorable to a (former) Democrat than you might suppose. His study of past elections suggests about a 45 percent Democratic constituency. He said John McCain and Barack Obama went 50-50 in the district in 2008.
There was more, but don’t you think that’s enough. I’m at the ADCO office — I came back here after Holy Thursday Mass — hours after everyone left.
Sorry I didn’t get to doing a Virtual Front Page today, but I’m bushed. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be interviewing Kevin Fisher at 9 and Mary Baskin Waters at 11:30. Then there’s Good Friday services at 3, so it might be Saturday before I get those posts up. But I’ll do it as soon as I can.