Virtual Front Page, Thursday, 12/27/12

Here’s your very first Virtual Front Page in the new blog format:

  1. House Set to Reconvene as ‘Cliff’ Looms (WSJ) — Not really. If they were “set to reconvene,” they’d be coming back this evening, not three days from now. Whatever. The leader of the Senate now says a deal is unlikely before the deadline. But apparently, the House coming back “early” was enough to reassure investors, as unlikely as that seems.
  2. Columbia offers assistant city manager top job ( — Anybody know much about Teresa Wilson (I figure Kathryn probably does)? Because I don’t. She may be great at the job, and this is no reflection on her (since I have nothing on which to base such reflections), but I remain uncomfortable with a system of government that allows voters no vetting of the chief executive before that person gets the job.
  3. Putin Says He Will Sign Law Barring U.S. Adoptions (NYT) — This has to be the weirdest, most esoteric way that one nation has found to slap at another one thus far in the 21st century.
  4. Winter storm claims more US lives (BBC) — Hard to imagine, with the mild weather we’ve had.
  5. Iran sacks only female minister (BBC) — Women: You can’t work with them, and you can’t work without them. If you’re Ahmadinejad.
  6. George Bush Sr in intensive care (The Guardian) — At 88, he’s the eldest of living former presidents.

63 thoughts on “Virtual Front Page, Thursday, 12/27/12

  1. Lynn

    Teresa is a graduate of the USC Law School (though I can find no record of her passing the Bar Exam) and she is Mayor Benjamin’s choice. She did gov’t relations (lobbying) work for the City before she was promoted to Ass’t City Manager. Not much experience in management but based on Richland County Election’s Office experience apparently in Columbia and Richland County who need experience!

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    I have never had dealings with her. The other assistant managers are great, though, and I might have chosen one of them. I wonder if this is a strong mayor play by Benjamin.

    1. Silence

      That was my first thought, Kathryn. I hope she’s loaded with integrity and competence, regardless of who her supporters are – because we can’t afford any more of the old way of doing business in Columbia. We are still paying for the mismanagement that occurred during the Coble/Austin regime.

        1. Steven Davis II

          Bob Coble was good at one thing… approving every request for funding that crossed his desk.

    2. tavis micklash

      “I wonder if this is a strong mayor play by Benjamin.”

      I’m trying to get someone to go on the record about this. Ive got several sources off the record but I wanted to get something more solid before I published.

      Here is what I got so far.

      I caught up with the mayor on twitter last night (see twitter is fantastic). He would only say that he has heard some discussion of a community led effort being considered.

      This in itself isn’t breaking news in itself.

      Councilwoman Devine said she hasn’t heard anything and restated what her opinion was last time.

      Mr. Runyan said he would support a measure if it was to come up, as he said last June.

      I’ve got a few calls/emails out and Ill do a full blog piece on it.

      If anyone cares I did an entire series on strong mayor earlier in the year. Here is the link.

      It has some compare contrast stuff and the wrap up of what happened at the council vote.

      As a close follower of metro politics the Teresa seems like a perfect fit for a city administrator under Steve.

      Send me your email/ FB /cell info Kathryn. Id love to get together to talk Columbia metro stuff with you sometime. My contact page is here.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    On reflection, it is of a piece with Steve Benjamin’s politics. She is all about economic and community (read North Columbia) development. She has no experience in the core functions like Public Works. I would have gone with Missy Gentry, who was apparently not under consideration, who has made the garbage trucks run on time, so to speak.

    She seems very intelligent and capable, and is well-liked, so she may do very well. She has also accomplished a fair amount in her current capacity, so….

    1. Steven Davis II

      So is city administration starting to look like the racial makeup of Columbia? Mayor, Chief of Police, Fire Chief, City Manager. Will Columbia become the next Detroit? Corruption is already evident… Fire Chief retires, then comes back to get his job back so he can collect his retirement and paycheck without a search for his replacement. You Columbia residents get what you deserve.

          1. Steven Davis II

            @Kathryn – So “retiring” but then coming back and applying and expecting to be handed your job back is playing by the rules? If that’s ethical, then the rules need to be changed. Will Columbia advertise the position and interview candidates? Did they for the Fire Chief or just hand him his job back? I can’t believe citizens of Columbia will stand for this. A 44 year old man retiring and the returning to work for another 20 years

    2. tavis micklash


      “So is city administration starting to look like the racial makeup of Columbia? Mayor, Chief of Police, Fire Chief, City Manager. ”

      Not sure what race has to do with it here.

      If you want to argue that liberals are trying to consolidate power by placing left leaning folks as Columbia department heads knock yourself out.

      The practice of allowing double dipping of drawing retirement while still being employed is asinine as well. That’s why the state finally is putting an end to it.

      Bringing race into it is trying to tap into peoples primal fears of being oppressed. If you vote for the black man they are going to funnel taxes in an income distribution scheme.

      Biden was wrong when he stirred up racist fears with his “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.” quote. Just like SDII is wrong for linking corruption and race together.

      Its encouraging the continuation of racism and prejudice which a lot of people have been fighting for decades in the south.

      You can say Columbia is becoming more and more liberal, just leave color out of it.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        More and more liberal? From where I stand, it is becoming more and more business focused. I don’t even understand how liberal and conservative enters into it.

        Moe is far more business-oriented than Belinda or Anne, and Steve is far more so than Bob. Cameron is theoretically more for the people, but seems to be Steve’s acolyte, so….Leona is less biz than Kirkman. Brian is more biz than EW Itsallaboutme.

        I think the split is between being pro-residents/neighborhoods or pro-biz. Residents have other concerns besides the bottom line.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I don’t know what you mean by pro-biz, but if you mean pro-economic development, that would seem to me to benefit “residents.”

          Seems like a false dichotomy to me.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            I mean letting developers do whatever they want to the detriment of people who have made a personal investment in the city.

          2. Silence

            Kathryn’s right about there being a divide between the pro-developer and pro-quality of life for existing resident members of council and city/county staff. Also, frequently what the business community supports is not in the best interests of the neighborhoods or the taxpayers.

        2. tavis micklash

          “I think the split is between being pro-residents/neighborhoods or pro-biz. Residents have other concerns besides the bottom line.”

          I think its more at large versus districts, but you are correct in saying that it has moved more towards the right than before.

          For example fiscal conservatives hate the way that the W & S has been milked dry. If these investments in the city had panned out we would shrug it off.

          They haven’t so we bitch. We don’t want to feel like we are paying for a crusade for H2 Fuel cells or other projects that the free market wont bear.

          1. Silence

            Most of the “investments” that our city makes are intended to enrich certain individuals – not the overall taxpayer rolls of Columbia.

        3. tavis micklash

          Here is another example of what your talking about Kathryn

          In rosewood they are trying to kick out the asphalt factory because it smells.

          They want them to move into someone elses backyard. Seaco says its not going to move unless the city gives up some $$$.

          To me that makes no sense at all. Why would you ever want to PAY money to kick a taxpayer out of town?

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Because it pollutes as well a “smells” and needs to go to an industrial district far away from residents. The neighborhood is changing.

            There are greater goods than tax base, sometimes. Respect for residents is one of them.

          2. tavis micklash

            I do live in rosewood so I am the said neighbor.

            I am not asking anyone to do anything I dont do myself.

            “The neighborhood is changing. ”

            I appreciate City Roots. Every business in Columbia can’t be a green and pretty.

            I do recognize that columbia doesn’t meet the typical model for industrial sites. It is better sutied for headquarters/cube jobs.

            Adding a question below…

      2. Mark Stewart

        There is no way the city of Columbia can rehire the fire and police chiefs and maintain any shred of credibility. Not unless the council can prove that these two jokers are the best that could be hired at 175% of their 2012 salaries.

        Otherwise, thank them for their service and hire someone younger.

        This retiring to be rehired is worse than 90% of the union featherbedding schemes of the 1970’s and 80’s. As I said, unbelievable. Of course, this is a city that has allowed the manager to do this for years. So what’s good for one is good for all. The city makes the state legislature look like rank amateurs when it comes to gross mismanagement and feeding from the public trough.

          1. tavis micklash

            I believe that one of the loftis reforms is to end this practice.

            The deal is getting a lot worse at the end of the year. That’s why everyone eligible is retiring and rehiring now.

            For a system that originally was meant as a way to keep teachers around as a stopgap measure its getting abused.

            In fairness this is state law and not city. The state retirement fund is the ones getting fleeced. The city is just paying their regular pay they made before.

            From a city’s perspective it makes perfect sense.

          2. Silence

            I believe that being police chief or even an officer generally requires a college degree – so more like 20 years of service, not 25.

          1. Mark Stewart

            I am sure that Columbia could do far better at his current salary plus full retirement. If they insist on playing this game, they ought to be compelled to reopen the hiring process.

            And Brad, I don’t hold this three card Monty against these guys personally, as ethically suspect as it is to engage in this (especially at 43 or so); my ire is directed at a manager and a council that would condone such behavior. It is easy to stop such actions – just don’t rehire them. Simple as that. The problem is, since the manager did it, it is fair game for everyone else. And this is corruption. It was corrupt of the council to condone it, and corrupt of the manager to take advantage of it. Precedent matters. So does leadership and accountability. None of these is showing well here.

            How many ranking civil servants could take advantage of this and have chosen not to do so? We should not punish (by comparison) the honorable by accepting this nonsense from these few.

            Council should leave both of these “leaders” on the bench.

          2. Steven Davis II

            2012 – 1987 = 25 years. Which is the minimum number of years to retire from the police and fire departments .

            What stinks here are the two individuals who are doing nothing but abusing the system. If you “retire”, that means you do not come back to work. And if you do, you do not come back into the top position. If Randy Scott wants to come back as a Jr. Fireman maybe I could agree with that as long as it doesn’t bump another candidate out of a job.

          3. Steven Davis II

            “Randy Scott is excellent. We could not do better.”

            And knowing Columbia administration, they won’t even bother trying to find out. I’m sure there are dozens of people out there who could do as well or better if given the chance.

          4. tavis micklash

            I would prefer that RichCo and the city combine under one umbrella organization. Its functional consolidation.

            Considering how long it took the fire service to get a deal done that would be rough.

            For the record Chief Scott is pretty short. Thought he was taller till I met him.

          5. Kathryn Fenner

            Randy Scott graduated from high school in 1987. He went to college. He is 44, according to The State.
            He is excellent and I doubt we could be so lucky to find another good chief who is liked by the cops, council and residents. Replacing Chief Austin has been a challenge. The previous two chiefs did not do well. Randy is doing an exceptional job.

          6. Steven Davis II

            If Randy Scott is so upset about “having to retire”, why is the 44 year old retiring? Will Columbia have a “retired Chief of Police” for the next 21 years? I don’t see where he’s being forced to retire? If anything, I’d say he’s at the middle of his career, not at the end.

  4. Phillip

    re #3: most striking to me was Putin’s frank comment (as quoted in the NYT piece) that “There are probably many places in the world where living standards are better than ours.”

    1. Steven Davis II

      It was just 70 years ago Germany decided to deport certain segments of their populations out of country.

  5. Mark Stewart

    Wow, SD2 and I agree on the flagrant inappropriateness of rehiring a “retired” leader; even when we have shared a similar viewpoint in the past it has hardly ever been with the same outlook. This time, on this issue of retirement, we seem to be seeing the same thing rotten in Columbia. Must be something to this…despite Kathryn’s protestations that these are good guys.

    One doesn’t even need to be a tax-payer to be outraged over this behavior and what it speaks of as far as leadership, priorities, dedication and commitment – let alone ethics and morals.

    This is as true of the Council as it is of these three fine fellows. Interestingly, this situation would never arise under a strong mayor system. This is, as Kathryn said, what you get when you have a system focused on serving neighborhood constituencies at the expense of the greater community. This is the very definition of local corruption.

    1. tavis micklash

      I disagree. Lets assume Steve wins relection and strong mayor passes.

      If he is still a Randy Scott guy he would reappoint him.

      Voters may not like that one point but a politician is a sum of his decisions, not just one.

      At best this is a small blurb at Christmas that will be forgotten in a few months.

  6. Chris Larsen

    Are you going to have a few remarks about the death of Jim Davenport, previously with The State?
    I hope so.

    1. Steven Davis II

      Who’s forcing him to retire? He’s 44 years old, when is he planning on stepping down? In 20 years? As a Columbia taxpayer I’d think you’d be outraged rather than praising him as if he were the 2nd coming of Charles Austin.

    2. tavis micklash

      No one is forcing him. Its to get grandfathered into the current system of double dipping.

      Question did the crazy good gravy train for legislatures get changed?

  7. Mark Stewart

    If development does not occur, the quality of life of the existing city residents can do nothing but decay. It still amazes me that people believe raising the portcullis is the path to Eden. It is not; stagnation leads to a downward spiral that negatively impacts everyone. Nobody “wins” from that. Lot’s of people invest in a city, its neighborhoods and its future in many different ways. Shaping new development to be better is a good thing; resisting change because is it is someone else’s change is close to foolhardy. Lot’s of specific development ideas are ham-handed, true. I accept that they should be resisted. But to think that there is some sort of existing neighborhood utopia that is in the best interests of the current residents – and the city as a whole – is not a vision that I support.

    Are we not all residents, business people and taxpayers?

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Well Mark, many business people are NOT residents. The developers who want to tear down the Palmetto Compress building and put up vinyl sided student slums are in Ohio, for just one example. Hughes is in Greenville, for another. Many live in Lexington or Ballantine or Blythewood.

      Those business people who actually do live in the city get it, for the most part.

      You can have a vibrant city with a vibrant economy without throwing residents under the bus.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    Who says Randy Scott is “so upset about having to retire”? He is just doing what a rational person would do. Given the difficulties we ha e had with finding a police chief as successful as he has been, why would we change horses now?

    1. tavis micklash

      If they don’t hire Randy Scott they are doing the city a disservice.

      Although i thought he should have given better oversight on the Hospitality administration suicide investigation. That all fell on the shoulders of minions. Also points remains a problem. Overall things are good though. You can’t bat a 1000.

      Yea hes doing a cash grab. I hate the game not the player though.

    2. Steven Davis II

      So he’s abusing the system. He knows he’s not ready to retire, but is doing this just because he can. The problem is he shouldn’t be allowed to “retire” and come back 15 days later into his same position. Quit trying to make him the victim, he’s far from that.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        No but you is victimizing him. He is NOT abusing the system. Is it abusing the system to take deduction for home mortgage loan interest? It certainly is not aligned with tax theory, which says personal expenses are not deductible.
        You are entitled to take advantage of whatever the law allows. It is not abuse!

  9. tavis micklash


    Totally off topic but you would know. A few months back the vista guild and some private residents were opposing the hotel they wanted to build across from the Hampton.

    The company withdrew their request if I remember.

    Does the Vista have developmental guidelines that cover the height of buildings or is that just a rumor?

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      The Vista has some height guidelines, but the hotel was within them I was at the D/DRC meeting where some residents, who were kind of confused, bless ’em, protested. The project was approved as I recall. A Hyatt?
      The height guidelines are like 50 feet, plus extra if the higher levels are stepped back. The hotel was within them, per Krista Hampton, who is excellent and impartial in my experience. There is some vague nonsense about not blocking anyone’s view of the State House, which simply is unworkable and means nothing could be built.

      1. tavis micklash

        Thanks Kathryn, I was pretty sure you would know.
        As far as the blocking the state house thing I can see them being pissed. If I paid 450K for those apartments in the vista I would want to see it too. Doesn’t mean the city should block progress.

        “The project was approved as I recall. A Hyatt?”
        I think it got approved at committee but it ran into opposition at council. The Hotel requested it removed from the agenda and I haven’t heard anything since.

        Appreciate it you saved me about an half hour of digging.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Everything you can put between x and the State House blocks the view of someone at street level at x.

  10. tavis micklash

    Bleh forgot to post this earlier.

    Here is my full story I released today on strong mayor.

    To summarize Strong Mayor is coming up again in in April. Mayor Benjamin told me the selection has nothing to do with strong mayor though. Teresa Wilson is simply in the majority of council opinion the best person for the job.

    Also he pointed out to me that a council vote is required for City Administrator. So If Strong Mayor was to pass there would have to be another vetting process. Council still gets a cut.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Steve says this, but Wilson has no admin experience of the core functions. How is she the most qualified? Allison Baker was also a candidate, and he knows what it takes to supervise parks workers, who are more challenging than, say, community development staff…..Steve Gantt was a construction site supervisor long before he became a city employee. I think that experience did him well.

      Wilson is impressive to watch, though. Not to say she isn’t going to do a great job. We just don’t know that yet.

  11. Doug Ross

    And now we learn that Columbia’s City Council broke the law by not releasing the names of the final three candidates before selecting Teresa Wilson. Just like the law was broken with the Richland County election by not having the required number of machines in place, it appears we have a government that simply decides which laws they want to follow.

    It’s too bad we can’t get some lawyers in office to help interpret these complex legal matters. Oh, wait..

    1. Steven Davis II

      “And now we learn that Columbia’s City Council broke the law by not releasing the names of the final three candidates before selecting Teresa Wilson.”

      Business as usual under the leadership of the City of Columbia and Richland/Lexington County. We’ll never hear the names of the other candidates because I seriously doubt they even interviewed anyone else.

      Fits News is reporting that Danny Frazier’s wife who was fired earlier from one of the surrounding city administrative positions for involvement in criminal activity is now working for the Lexington County Clerk of Court… how ironic that the position became available just in time for the Clerk to hire her friend. I wonder who else was interviewed for that opening? This state is so full of corruption that I doubt one enema would flush out all of the… well you know.

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