Here’s what’s going to happen today

Since I’m not endorsing anybody in this Columbia city election, I need to have something to say about it. So I’ll do the most indiscreet, foolish thing anyone can do — make predictions.

Here’s what’s going to happen:

  • Brian DeQuincey Newman will be re-elected in District 2.
  • Cameron Runyan will be elected to the at-large seat, possibly even without a runoff (although it’s extra hard to make a prediction like that with turnout as low as it appears to be).
  • Daniel Coble will be in a runoff with Jenny Isgett in District 3. The runoff will break roughly along standard Coble/Gergel/Shandonista vs. Finlay/Rickenmann/Tomlin lines (except for Shandonista women who just vote for a woman), offering a re-run of the battle four years ago between Belinda Gergel and Brian Boyer.

And yeah, the only one I’m going out on a limb on is District 3. For all I know, Moe Baddourah could be the eventual winner. But I don’t think so.

All of it is hard to call because turnout is so light, making small fluctuations mean more than they otherwise would. I was talking thismorning with Sam Davis, who mentioned how light voting was so far. I said that was to be expected, and he didn’t agree. But he offered a possible explanation for it that would be good for him and the other incumbents — that city voters are pleased with the current direction of the council.

Maybe. We’ll see.

24 thoughts on “Here’s what’s going to happen today

  1. Silence Croce

    1) Brian Newman is effectively running unopposed.
    2) I think Cameron will probably win, but Joe Azar’s 10% might play spoiler and force a runoff.
    3) Runoff in the Coble/Isgett/Baddourah election as well.

    If Coble and Runyan lose, it will be a slap in the face to the Benjamin/Coble axis of council, and of course to Coble’s legacy of overspending, waste, fraud and abuse. With District 2 unopposed, and District 1 not up this time, it’ll be interesting to see how low turnout is in District 1 precincts like Meadowlake and Greenview that went 99-100% for Mayor Benjamin in the last election. I doubt Benjamin’s team is mustering their get out the vote efforts for Runyan like they did for the mayor. We’ll see.

  2. `Kathryn Fenner

    This city voter is pleased with the current direction of council. I think The State and other media stir the pot, and people who are not city residents, and not entitled to vote, don’t like the ways we have to try to get them to ante up for the benefits they receive. Most of the city that bothers to pay attention and vote is happy, and the greatly improved police profile is a great deal of it.

  3. Steven Davis II

    Silence, welcome aboard. Don’t mind the other sheep who stand around talking about how “all is well” in the city, county, state, country.

  4. Silence

    If by pleased and going well you mean:

    1) Transferring money from the water and sewer fund into wasteful pet projects while depriving the utility infrastructure of funds to upgrade?

    2) Making a (not so) secret agreement with the EPA to raise water and sewer rates by 5% a year for the next 5 years since it wasn’t properly maintained and now needs major work.

    3) Making insider loans to favored individuals and failed devlopment projects that never get paid back.

    4) Not adequately funding public transportation.

    5) Backdooring a cowardly tax increase by increasing the power franchise fee.

    6) Having a balanced budget by classifying IT procurement as a capital expenditure and paying for it through bond borrowing – that bond will be around a long time after the laptops and servers are gone.

    Then I guess we are doing great!

  5. Mark Stewart

    Doug, Doug, Doug … Of course “you” derive economic benefit from the public transit system as a resident of the greater Cola metro area – even if you only occassionally spy a bus in the distance.

  6. `Kathryn Fenner

    You derive value from the bus system if you eat in restaurants or use medical facilities whose employees depend on it.

  7. Doug Ross

    Haven’t used the medical facilities since 2001, rarely eat downtown… can I get a rebate? And the restaurant excuse is a perfect reason to use the hospitality tax to support the employees of those restaurants who need to get to work instead of paying for landscaping or other useless items.

    It SHOULD take someone about half a day to amend the law to allow the hospitality tax to be used for that purpose… but then that would take away a big slush fund used to pay for those who are well connected to the political process.

  8. Doug Ross


    I passed a bus on Bull Street last week in the middle of the day with not a single passenger on board. I’d say the return on my investment isn’t very good.

    What is the current ridership for this vital service? How many people use the system every day?

  9. Silence

    @ Doug – Here’s a few numbers:
    Dec. 16, 2011 The State newspaper reported annual ridership at 2.2M. I assume that’s the number of trips, and I take that number with a grain of salt.

    June 12, 2006 The State newspaper reported daily ridership at 10,000

    June 7, 2006 The State newspaper claimed weekly ridership of 40,000

    The best number in my opinion comes from the US Census Bureau – and that is that 3,517 people in the Columbia-Newberry CSA used public transportation to commute for work.

    Also according to the Census Bureau (2009 Public Transportation Fact Book) – Nationally, work commutes account for about 60% of public transportation trips. We can assume that the same folks who use public transportation for work also use it for shopping, errands, etc – so the total number of people who use public transit in the area is something less than 5,800 people, by the census’s logic.

    I did the long math, based on the CMRTA’s reported ridership & operating costs at the time and it worked out to about $5.29/passenger trip.

  10. Steven Davis II

    Doug, what you witnessed during the middle of the day is extremely common. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city bus with more than 4-5 people on it at one time.

    Liberals will spend $100,000 per rider if means not inconveniencing one person. It’s not my responsibility to make sure an employee gets to work.

  11. tired old man

    No one has addressed the 800 pound gorilla issue about public transit in general and the Columbia bus system in particular.

    Within a decade thousands of elderly citizens will no longer drive.

    This census showed a 15.3% statewide population increase — and a 40.1% jump in people 60+.

    Lexington County recorded a 56.9% increase in 60+ while Richland showed 34.9%. FYI, the state leaders were Beaufort (80.9%), Horry (64.2%), Lancaster (67.7%) and York (62.6%).

    Curiously, 12 of the 46 counties showed negative population gain but in every instance while they lost population overall, they gained double digit growth in 60+ — except for Union, which recorded a loss of -3.1% and a 60+ growth of just 9.4%.

    What this means is that transportation of any category — public, private, mass etc — is going to be a huge economic and social issue.

    And no one should expect a refund.

  12. Brad

    Stephen, it’s not that it’s your “responsibility to make sure an employee gets to work.” It’s that it’s in your interest (and everyone else’s in the community) to do so.

    But if you’re like Doug, I’ll probably never convince you of that. You either get it or you don’t.

    And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the biggest cognitive divide in politics. It’s not between “liberals” and “conservatives.” It’s between people who see the interconnectivity, and those who don’t.

    Note that I don’t say “believe in” interconnectivity, or “advocate” interconnectivity. It’s not a matter of “should” or “aught.” The interdependence, the complex ways in which our fates are intertwined in a modern economy, simply IS. And we either have policies and strategies that acknowledge the fact and address it effectively, or we don’t.

  13. Steven Davis II

    “Within a decade thousands of elderly citizens will no longer drive.”

    I think this is an excuse that’s used every decade since the 1940’s.

  14. Silence

    @ tired – I think the answer is that elderly people are going to continue to drive as long as they possibly can.

    They wouldn’t be good candidates for regular public transit. I live several blocks from Main St and that’s as close as the bus is going to come. I think it’s unreasonable to expect that an elderly person who is too infirm to drive is going to walk 3-4 blocks to catch a bus, wait for the bus, go downtown to the transfer station, wait for another bus and finally ride then walk to their destination.

    If they get too infirm or blind or whatnot, they’ll take the DART, which is still a part of CMRTA, but I think it is door to door service. Not sure what that costs.

    I know that various organizations around town also provide van service or pay cab fare for elderly folks to go to the doctor and that type of thing.

    My grandparents all drove into their 90’s. It’s tough to get them to give it up.

  15. Steven Davis II

    Actually Brad, what Doug and I see is that it’d be cheaper to have these people riding in cabs than it would be to continue having empty buses run around the city.

    For the ridership, the city could save money by replacing the big buses with minivans… or on some routes a motorcycle with a sidecar.

  16. Silence

    @ Brad & ‘Kathryn – I’ve said before that I’d be happy to support a public transit system that actually reduced the number of crappy cars on the road/relieved traffic congestion.

    Can I now amend that to say that if I pay for public transit that allows restaurant employees to get to work, I shouldn’t be expected to tip them? I hate tipping. It should just be included in the cost of my meal and adequate service should be standard.

  17. SusanG

    I was looking for somewhere that would show what the ridership actually is for our buses, but couldn’t find it. Does anyone happen to know where that information is available?
    (‘Cause all this anecdotal “I saw an empty bus” stuff isn’t doing it for me — I want to see real numbers).

  18. Greg

    No dog in this fight; I live in a rural part of the state. I’ll never use public transportation in SC (I have used it in Atlanta, DC, NYC and SF) because it doesn’t fit MY needs, BUT as a society, there are services that must be provided. Here in rural Hampton County, we have public transportation that takes workers to Beaufort County for their hospitality and cleaning jobs. Thank goodness we do. Otherwise those folks would have to leave Hampton County to get closer to their jobs, and we’d lose those citizens and tax revenues.

  19. Silence Davis II

    @ SusanG – I used data from the census and published in the newspaper. I don’t think that CMRTA makes their annual report available online (if they do one at all.)


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