But FIRST, come to tonight’s forum on the penny

Before you come to the library for tomorrow night’s panel discussion on the presidential election, come to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center this evening — actually, registration starts in just an hour as I hit the “publish” button — for this event:

The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council will host a civil, in-depth discussion of the transportation sales tax referendum at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 22.

The forum, to be moderated by veteran local broadcast newsman David Stanton, will begin at 6 p.m. Registration starts at 5:30 p.m.

The Community Relations Council is NOT taking a side on this issue, but intends for this event to provide a thorough and fair airing of the issue by all sides, to help Richland County voters be better informed.

There is more than one reason to be for the referendum, and more than one to be against. Consequently, CRC has invited four panelists each from both sides of the debate.

Presenting the case for a NO vote will be:

  • Don Weaver – Businessman and president of the South Carolina Association of Taxpayers.
  • Bishop Redfern II – The Ecumenical Church.
  • Michael Letts – Businessman and candidate for Richland County Council.
  • Daniel Rickenmann – Businessman and former Columbia city councilman.

Presenting the case for a YES vote will be:

  • Lee Bussell – Businessman and chair of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors.
  • Paul Livingston – Richland County Council member and Chair of the Richland County Transportation Study Commission.
  • Jennifer Harding – Businesswoman and member of the CMRTA board of directors.
  • Brian DeQuincy Newman – Attorney, Columbia City Council member and chairman, CMRTA board of directors.

“CRC believes that it is important to bring about frank and civil discussions of issues that affect the quality of life in the Midlands,” said Henri Etta Baskins, executive director of the Community Relations Council. “For that reason we are hosting the upcoming forum.”

The CRC intends to hold other such forums on important issues facing the community, in keeping with its mission to bring together differing views and opinions so that they may be heard “in a manner that aligns with our core values of mutual respect and equal access to opportunities for all,” said Ms. Baskins.

I will be there, as a member of the Community Relations Council, but will not be participating in the program. I had to tell my fellow board members early on in the planning for this that I couldn’t take a direct role in it, as I unquestionably favor one side of this debate — the yes side.

But I will be there and will watch with interest, because assuming we can successfully conduct a civil, fair discussion on this hot local issue, it could be a model for a new way for the CRC to serve this community.

I hope to see you there…

40 thoughts on “But FIRST, come to tonight’s forum on the penny

  1. Doug Ross

    I think the YES faction made a tactical mistake with their road signs. The signs simply say “Our Penny” and “Vote Yes”. I think there is a misguided assumption that the general public knows what the signs are talking about.

    I bet I could ask 100 people what they think the signs mean and 95 would have no idea.

    I voted absentee today and cast my vote against the 14% tax increase. Based on the comments I see on all the pro tax articles that have been in The State over the past few weeks, the feedback has been running strongly against the tax.

    I’ll be hoping the voters use common sense to understand that increasing taxes is always the easiest route taken by politicians without the ability to prioritize spending.

  2. Steven Davis II

    I think a more appropriate panelist for the YES side would be a Lexington County real estate agent. We in Lexington don’t have nearly the frequency in tax and fee increases compared to Columbia and Richland County.

  3. Brad

    As it happens, I live in Lexington County, and one reason I support this tax is that I will have to pay it. Since I make my living to a great extent from this city, I should be paying to support its fundamental infrastructure, and arbitrary jurisdiction lines prevent me from doing that currently.

  4. Silence

    I for one live in the city, but I don’t plan on paying the tax, should it pass. I already do a lot of shopping in Lexington County, and I can shift more of it there, or to Sumter County without any inconvenience. Sure, I’ll still hit the local Sonic for a slush, and get the occasional Pizza in Columbia, but Cayce/West Cola is just across the river. As SDII said, it’s just a matter of time before we end up over in LexCo. It’s not just the taxes or the poor city governance, or the wasted utility money, or the homeless in our neighborhood, or the packed congressional district that’s gonna drive us out.

    Ultimately it’s gonna be the god-awful Richland One school district that pushes us across the river. We are exactly the type of family that Columbia would like to keep, but for less than what private school costs, we can move out to the lake and use the public schools.

  5. Steven Davis II

    WIS just showed the discussion, showed the back of Brad’s head and it looks like they had nothing else to shoot because it looks like he was one of about a dozen people to show up for it.

  6. Brad

    More like a hundred or so. Most of the crowd had sort of jammed up in the seats to the left-hand side of the room. I was on the right, sort of by myself…

  7. Silence

    Obama talked about cuts in the numbers of bayonets – he must have missed the line training that I went through. I believe the M9 Bayonet is still standard issue for soldiers equipped with the M16…

  8. Steven Davis II

    @Silence – The pro-14% increasers in Richand County are going to be upset that you’re sending your kids to private school, you should be sending them to Columbia High School and Eau Claire High School, to do otherwise is just racist. Their agenda is don’t do what’s best for you and your kids, think of the community.

  9. Doug Ross

    Oddly (or not) the road signs that are “disappearing” more than any others are the Vote No signs. Takes a pretty slimy person to do that.

  10. Steven Davis II

    Poor, poor WIS, can’t even afford a tripod with a swivel head on it. Maybe they can take it out of the pathetic sports announcer salaries.

  11. Steven Davis II

    @Silence – Yet in Obama’s great military mind you don’t need bayonets if you have drones. We also don’t need horses because they’ve been replaced with “sumbarines”.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    @Silence– what are we supposed to do with the underprivileged children? Also, Hand Middle School was the top in the country in 2002, and Dreher and Flora are excellent.

  13. Silence

    @ Kathryn – You aren’t supposed to do anything with them! My point is that I can afford not to live in a crummy school district, and given a choice, I won’t. You live in one of the nicest neighborhoods in town instead of a slum – it’s no different than that.

    Hand, Flora and Dreher are execellent – Dreher’s probably better than any school in Richland 2. Unfortunately I’m zoned for Columbia HS and St. Andrew’s Middle. I don’t think we’ll utilize them. Either we’ll move, transfer or go to private school – assuming we have the means. I value education and life too much to send my sweet baby daughter to an inner city school.

    @ SDII – submarines are better than horses for water polo. Drones don’t risk the lives of soldiers. Inside of 3 feet I’ll take a bayonet. Fixed bayonets are also effective for crowd control.

  14. Doug Ross


    From the SC Dept of Ed website… here’s the rating for Columbia High School:

    Overall Weighted Points Total 56.9
    Overall Grade Conversion F

    For 2011, fewer than a third of students at St. Andres Middle scored Proficient or Advanced in English, Math, or Science.

    What’s odd is that St. Andrews spends $2000 more per student than Hand ($9500 vs $7500) and also spends $1000 more than comparable schools.

  15. Doug Ross

    And the district level summary for Richland one shows it is rated Below Average for 2011, 2010, and 2009.


    Dollars spent per pupil at the district level = $12,237. At similar high schools = $8822. An extra $4K PER STUDENT! and the results are consistently below average.

    How about picking some of those below average or worse schools and giving parents a voucher for $8822 (leaving the extra $4K to spend on those who stay in failing schools)? Surely there have to be options that won’t be any worse… and possibly better.

  16. Doug Ross

    I’m still waiting to see the first local candidate who will support merging Richland 1 and Richland 2. There is no logical reason to split that function within a county…

  17. Steven Davis II

    “Also, Hand Middle School was the top in the country in 2002”

    I remember that 99.9% white school in the high rent district of Shandon. One top level school, cross the river and the majority of them fall into this category.

  18. Silence

    @ Doug – 100% agree on merging Richland 1, 2 and the Richland portion of 5. The only reason not to merge is racism.

  19. Kathryn Fenner

    Agree with Doug on merging school districts,

    Silence, unfortunately my neighborhood is becoming more and more of a student slum…..

  20. Brad

    At the risk of sounding like Cliff Clavin…

    Uhhh, it’s a little-known fact that ALL candidates are for consolidating school districts. Everyone thinks it’s a wonderful idea, for the state as a whole. 46 counties, 46 districts.

    But it never happens, because when officeholders run into the fierce local opposition that SPECIFIC consolidations engender, they suddenly find other issues to worry about, ones where they have a chance to be more effective.

    I don’t think you’ll ever see Richland One and Two consolidated, EXCEPT as a part of a statewide plan in which everybody’s parochial little ox gets gored.

    That’s the sort of thing it would be really helpful for a GOVERNOR, who isn’t hampered by having a petty little district constituency, to lead on. Our recent governors have SAID they were for consolidation, but not been willing to put any political capital on the line to get it done. They’d rather yammer about “school choice” and other anti-public education nonsense that brings in campaign funds from out-of-state extremists.

    School consolidation has been a big issue for me, and one of the issues I bring up to pols whenever the subject is education, for over 20 years. To no avail.

  21. Doug Ross

    You would think the local politicians would be for it because it would theoretically free up more money to waste on other things…

  22. Doug Ross

    I don’t see how racism can have anything to do with at least merging Richland 1 and 2. Both districts are now majority minority.

    It would open up more in-district choice options as well.

  23. susanincola

    Crayton Middle School is also in Richland One, and my experience with a child attending there as been excellent.
    (I’d like to see the districts consolidate as well, for what it’s worth).

  24. Kathryn Fenner

    @SDII If I had kids, I would live exactly where I do, here in downtown. What better place to grow well-rounded kids?

  25. Silence

    @ Kathryn – well, you can thank the McMaster’s for that, at least in part.

    @ Doug – agreed, some of the biggest problem areas in the Columbia area are now in District 2.

  26. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – So what you’re saying is your kids would be home schooled or sent to private school.

  27. Kathryn Fenner

    Huh, SDII? My neighborhood is zoned for Hand and Dreher. Doesn’t get any better than that. I actually might have homeschooled my kid, because I truly doubt there is a better teacher than I. I think The Lord of the Flies socialization we subject our kids to in schools is more damaging than useful. I know it took me a while to overcome it.

  28. Kathryn Fenner

    I agree, Doug. Anywhere with supportive parents, if you factor in the ability to provide quality support. A high school drop- out who works two or three jobs may not be able to give that.

  29. Doug Ross


    I don’t think the children of the high school dropouts are getting a well rounded education. They are likely on the path to dropping out themselves… if you look at the data for schools like Columbia High, there’s not much to

    % of students scoring 70 or
    above on

    First column is Columbia High,
    second column is similar high schools in the state:

    Algebra 1 84.2 67.6
    English 1 58.8 53.3
    Biology 1 40.0 50.1
    Phys Sci 30.3 43.9
    US Hist 20.0 31.7
    All Tests 44.9 48.7

    This is just a bare minimum education… and more than half don’t make it. Dreher’s All Test score is 71%.

    If you can believe it, C.A. Johnson H.S. scores are even lower than Columbia H.S.

    These numbers don’t change no matter how much money is thrown at the schools. C.A. Johnson spends $5K more per student per year than the median high school in SC and fails. The public school system fails again and again… and yet vouchers for these kids in these schools are somehow going to make the system worse. It’s a travesty.

  30. Silence

    @ Kathryn “because I truly doubt there is a better teacher than I.” – nor is there a more modest teacher than you!

    Also, can I borrow your address for 8 years?

  31. Doug Ross

    All four high schools in Lexington 1 were rated Excellent according to the state’s rating system. Dreher is the only h.s. in Richland 1 rated Good. There are a couple Average ratings, one below average, and one At Risk (C.A. Johnson).

    When we moved to the Columbia area in 1990, the realtors made it clear that if schools were a priority (which they were) then the places to look for homes would be in Lexington 1 or Richland 2. Looks like Lexington 1 has held up over the past two decades while Richland 2 has slipped some due to the excessive growth that was allowed to occur without dealing with the infrastructure.

    This is why nobody should trust that the sales tax increase will be spent wisely. There’s no track record to support it.

  32. Kathryn Fenner

    False modesty is abhorrent. I am objectively very intelligent and well-educated. I’d be at least as committed as any teacher.

    Of course you may borrow my address. Richland One isn’t picky like Richland Two is.

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