Warren’s absolutely right, Moe

What caused him to change his mind?/Photo by Brett Flashnick

I certainly hope Moe Baddourah read Warren Bolton’s column this morning, and took it to heart. Excerpts:

WHILE COLUMBIA City Councilman Moe Baddourah will take his first formal vote at today’s council meeting, it’s doubtful that many of his official votes loom as large as an unofficial decision he made following a May 8 public hearing.

That was the day he back-tracked on what had been a strong stance in favor of allowing voters to decide whether the city should change its form of government from council-manager to strong mayor. Up until then, it seemed evident that when Mr. Baddourah and Cameron Runyan joined the council — they both were sworn in last week — the seven-member body would have a majority in favor of putting strong mayor on the ballot.

As a matter of fact, some had questioned whether the council seated in May should even have voted, knowing that it could make a decision very different from what the new council that assembles today would make. It was generally thought that there was a 4-3 split against strong mayor at that time…

When Mr. Baddourah visited with our editorial board prior to the April city elections, he was emphatic in saying that Mayor Steve Benjamin needed more authority. “I think Columbia is ready for that,” he said.

“We need a (full-time) mayor for the city to bring business in,” Mr. Baddourah said. “I’d love for Benjamin to be a full-time mayor. I think he’s a really good face for the city.”

So, imagine my surprise as I watched the public hearing, held during a council meeting, live online only to see Mr. Baddourah do a 180 when he and Mr. Runyan were put on the spot as to how they might vote once they joined the council.

Maybe it was the pressure of the moment. Or maybe he genuinely changed his mind. Whatever the case, it was abrupt and damaging to the effort to allow voters to have a say as to what form of government they choose to live under…

I’m not much of one for campaign promises. I generally think candidates should keep their options open for what they encounter in office. I even think when they do make the mistake of promising something, they should be free to change their minds — as long as they can make a good case for it.

But come on. In this case, Moe had just been elected, and had been elected not only indicating he’d support letting voters decide, but asserting strongly that he favored a certain outcome from that public vote.

And then, without having been through any discussion or other discernment process that was visible to the voters, he announces that he won’t even let the voters themselves decide the issue, and does it before he even takes office? Really?

It’s as shocking and as sudden and as premature a turn-around as I’ve ever seen.

This is indeed a case in which a mind so easily changed should carefully consider changing back. And then he should explain fully to the people who elected him what caused him to make such a strange announcement between the election and taking office.

10 thoughts on “Warren’s absolutely right, Moe

  1. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    All new City Council members (if not all elected officials) have a lot to learn when they come on board–some more than others. Moe has been meeting with lots of his stakeholders, and I am heartened that he seems to have an open mind and be willing to learn as he goes along!

  2. Brad

    People, SAY something when I write something like “This is indeed a case in which a change so easily changed should carefully consider changing back.”

    What I MEANT was, “This is indeed a case in which a MIND so easily changed should carefully consider changing back.” It’s fixed now…

  3. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Sorry, Brad–I don’t read your text so closely. My mind made the jump to what you meant….

  4. bud

    There is nothing wrong with someone changing their mind. But when it becomes so flagrant, like in this example, it becomes very difficult for a voter to make a decision. Some core values are important.

  5. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Ideally, you wouldn’t vote for someone based on a single position he took, but rather, as best you can determine,an overall sense of who the person is and what s/he is likely to do.

  6. Brad

    Sorry. That should read, “any discussion OR discernment process.”

    And I wasn’t suggesting that his change of mind had any bearing on that vote that day. Obviously, he wasn’t on council.

    No, the important thing was that once the new members were on board, there was supposed to be a majority for putting the issue on the ballot. But Moe, before he even took office, was announcing that he had changed his mind from what he had said during the election…

  7. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Interesting, Tavis. I would have pegged Sam for a strong district council member/weak mayor sort.

  8. tavis micklash

    “And then, without having been through any discussion discernment process that was visible to the voters”

    I’m not quite sure what this means. I guess I don’t know what a discussion discernment process. Not trying to be a jackass just honestly don’t know what that means.

    I interviewed Moe after the Strong Mayor discussion. My story was as follows.


    I had forgotten but I even quoted Brad in the article.

    As far as Strong Mayor I think that the motion failed because Councilwoman Gergel pushed to have a vote that day. I think alot of people had questions (including myself) about what the strong measure even meant. I know I did TONS of research and did an entire series on Strong Mayor in Columbia.

    Shameless plug for series is here


    I understand WHY Belinda Gergel did what she did.

    I received from a third party source She knew if she left council there would be no one really pushing for it on council. Strong Mayor was something she thought after being inside the system during her terms that the city needed to break the stalemate between at large and district councilman. The strong Mayor would be an answer.

    Thats why the meeting was rushed. In my interview with the mayor post strong mayor http://www.columbiacents.com/home/2012/5/11/mayor-benjamin-on-future-of-strong-mayor.html

    He told me that he didn’t think strong mayor was dead.

    If a group really wants to get it on the ballot here is what it would take.

    – petition drive. Some members of council believe that The State was the major force pushing the referendum. That it wasn’t the people. By a coordinated petition/ letter/ phone call drive they could force the issue again.

    – Have a work meeting scheduled to support this. In the meeting council could get briefed on EXACTLY what they are buying into. Here is an example. There is no mayor veto in SC according to the municipal association. I couldn’t even find out this answer. In fact there is very little SC info on what Strong Mayor can really do.

    – Benchmark Charleston – Mayor Riley is a strong mayor down there. Find out the cost of strong mayor and what his duties are. Especially checks and balances

    – Bring all this info to council meeting – By then the council will have time to digest this information.

    I think if council know there is a real desire of the people they will approve it.

    Here is an example.

    Seth Rose of Richland County council didn’t really like the penny sales tax. He opposed it at the meeting. He still voted for the plan since the public demanded a referendum on it. I think the city would do that as well.

    One final word. Councilman Baddourah had no true vote. The REAL reason that the measure failed was because Councilman Davis went against it when most thought he would vote for it.

  9. tavis micklash

    “No, the important thing was that once the new members were on board, there was supposed to be a majority for putting the issue on the ballot. But Moe, before he even took office, was announcing that he had changed his mind from what he had said during the election…”

    He indicated to me that from the briefing of the Municipal association he had changed his opinion.

    I honestly don’t know what his opinion is now on it. I haven’t talked about it since the meeting as the issue is ATM currently dead.

    Interesting, Tavis. I would have pegged Sam for a strong district council member/weak mayor sort.”

    Full disclosure, I’ve never had a single discussion with Sam. He has never responded to any of my emails and I have never cornered him at a meeting. All indications are his is the quintessential district councilman. Meaning if money or something is being awarded he wants his district to have his share. He represents his districts interests first instead of the city as a whole. Not really criticizing this since he was elected to do just this.

    Saying this I totally agree with you Kathryn that based on this that he would be against strong mayor. Strong Mayor Dilutes to power of the district councilman to some extent.

    For example Cromartie viewed himself as the Mayor of his district. He was going to get his share even if that meant derailing efforts to improve the city as a whole.

    Saying that indications before were that he was going to support the Mayor’s push for strong mayor. He even indicated at the meeting he had changed his mind due to hearing concerns of the speakers and the briefing.

    I can’t tell you exactly what those concerns were since I’ve never gotten an interview with him and he has 0 web presence besides a picture and bio on the City’s webpage.

    Saying all this I’m sure strong mayor will come up again. If I had to guess it will come up in 2013 as part of the Mayors re-election bid.

    Steve is an excellent mayor, and will likely be a shoo in for relection due to his performance, campaigning and fundraising.

    Steves funds at end of 1st quarter.

    Saying that he could use the push for strong mayor as a plank to campaign on. The city is actually doing really well under his and Gantt’s watch. Roll that referendum on the same ballot as the mayors reelection and I think that could work for the efforts.

    That’s all contingent of course on Mayor Benjamin running for mayor again. State law allows candidates to take their funds with them they raised for local office to a state wide office. So I wouldn’t rule him out for anything if the correct seat was to open.

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