NOW strong mayor may be on the Nov. 5 ballot (yeah, I’m confused, too)

This just in, from

COLUMBIA, SC — Backers of a referendum to change Columbia’s form of government on Tuesday afternoon will submit petitions with what they assert are sufficient signatures to force City Council to put a strong-mayor option to voters on Nov. 5.

The petition still must be certified by the Richland County Election Commission and the county elections and voter registration office…

Matthew Richardson, a Columbia attorney hired by a group of citizens and business leaders who organized the drive, said once the county certifies enough names on the petition, an election must be held no sooner than 30 days or longer than 90 days from certification, according to the state petition law.

“Obviously, November 5 is a viable date,” Richardson said…

Yeah, I’m confused, too. Didn’t The State tell us categorically just last week that “A massive drive to collect signatures to force a referendum on a strong-mayor form of government in Columbia won’t get the 11,000-plus signatures needed to put the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot.”

I think I may see the trouble. That earlier report was based, apparently, on this: “Friday at 5 p.m. is the deadline for submitting signatures to put a question on the Nov. 5 ballot, according to Richland County Elections director Howard Jackson.” That is to say, last Friday, Sept. 6.

So either he, or Matthew Richardson, is wrong.

I hope it’s Mr. Jackson who’s wrong, as I’d like to see this on the ballot…

37 thoughts on “NOW strong mayor may be on the Nov. 5 ballot (yeah, I’m confused, too)

  1. Doug Ross

    “I hope it’s Mr. Jackson who’s wrong, as I’d like to see this on the ballot…”

    Well, if he’s wrong, that would make his tenure consistent with his predecessor.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    But don’t worry, Doug: The signatures “still must be certified by the Richland County Election Commission.” I’m sure that inspires confidence.

    It’s a shame. Because no matter how good a job Rick Quinn and the others did gathering signatures, there will be people who call any certification by that commission illegitimate…

    1. Doug Ross

      “The signatures “still must be certified by the Richland County Election Commission.” I’m sure that inspires confidence.”

      I can visualize the process now:

      “Seymour Butts” Check!
      “I.P. Freely” Check!
      “Amanda Hugankiss” Check!

      1. Silence

        Ben Dover – check.
        Mike Hunt – check.
        Heywood Jablome – check.
        Harry Bawls – check.
        Dixie Recht – check.

        Yup, these all look legit.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    Well, you can’t vote on it, no matter, and I hope all the low knowledge voters who think this will “fix things” will just stay home.

    Matthew Richardson lives in my neighborhood, and he is notably not active in city affairs. His wife showed up for a couple of meetings with great ideas, but zero follow through…

        1. Mark Stewart

          Funny, I thought it the tyrrany of the self-appointed neighborhood “leaders” who are the boat anchors to progress in this City… Nott all, of course, but plenty enough to cause me to pretty much abandon doing business within the city limits.

          The. City, and the state as a whole, too, are moving in the wrong direction, economically. That leads to all sorts of turf wars over the diminishing pie. It’s still a twist of logic to hear people denounce the legislative state and then support the same structure at the local level. The same problems crop up in both, and hardly even to different degrees. What’s the harm in trying what the rest of America has found to be an advantageous division of power between the legislative and the executive?

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Not self-appointed….elected by those who show up, as is the case in democracies….

            The rest of America is not strong mayor!

            And “progress” in terms of development is not always such a hot thing. I don’t want the kind of progress that is Richland Northeast, or suburban Lexington!

          2. Kathryn Fenner

            Also, Henry “Slumlord” McMaster….the city with the neighborhood, whipped his butt in court, all the way to the Supremes, so now this is payback.

          3. Silence

            Definitely not self appointed. Being a neighborhood leader is a WHOLE LOT OF WORK, and you definitely have to care a lot about your neighborhood. By virtue of that, you have to care about how the city as a whole functions. I estimate that I spent about 20-40 hours a week on neighborhood business when I was president. It’s sort of like being a small-scale district councilman. You work with neighbors to help sort out their issues.

            You need to know who to email or call for each particular type of problem. Traffic, utilities, code enforcement, zoning, preservation and whatnot. You need to know when to involve council, what to work out with staff, and when to try to get the media involved. You get lots of emails and calls about issues from neighbors. You take time off from your job or family to attend BZA, DDRC, PC, Council meetings and work sessions. You don’t get paid, you end up spending a lot of your own money on stuff, and unless you are using it as a springboard to run for council, there’s absolutely no personal benefit.
            The only benefit is collective – you are working to improve the neighborhood where you live. Where you have invested in a home. Where you care for your family, kids, pets, aging parents or grandparents. It’s really very hard work for little accolade. When things go right, nobody cares enough to show up for neighborhood meetings. When things go wrong, you certainly hear about it!

          4. Silence

            What business were you doing that the boat anchor “leaders” opposed? Here’s a very generalized list of things I’ve opposed in and around my neighborhood. Kathryn (or any other current or former neighborhood leader) could put together a similar or identical list:

            Convenience stores (no gas pumps, just beer/cigs/drug paraphernalia)
            “Gentleman’s” club
            Tattoo studio
            Day labor business
            In-patient drug & alcohol rehab clinic
            Overnight semi-trailer storage
            More homeless shelters
            Federal halfway house
            Cell phone tower
            Private bus, taxi & limousine terminal
            Pornographic movie production studio
            Unlicensed boarding houses

            I’m sure there’s more but these are some of the standouts. So if you were proposing any of those uses adjacent to a residential neighborhood, I’m glad you gave up and went outside city limits!

          5. Mark Stewart


            People oppose bank branches, pharmacies and even, amazingly, warehouse and light manufacturing in industrial areas. You would be surprised how much some people simply FEAR change to their built environment – and unfortunately they are often the ones who are shrillest in broadcasting their inchoate psychological fears. I am sure you know exactly what I mean. That in no way says that neighborhood leaders, and the neighbors themselves, are not often reasonable, rational, and dedicated people. But there is always that bellicose group of the fearful tainting collaborative progress.

            My personal favorite was when a past chairman of the planning commission told me I had “perverted” & “exploited” the zoning code when I proposed a commercial development in the commercial area adjacent to his neighborhood. He just didn’t like the adjacency, or (probably even more) that he had had a hand in developing the ordinance that I sought to follow. That was typical; people personalize when they feel challenged by uncertainty.

            I am sure that you have had to battle tones of junk that simply doesn’t belong – just about anywhere. Unfortunately, a lot of that gets peddled.

            Also unfortunately, Columbia gets bypassed by a good bit of better quality development because it continues to earn a reputation as a very difficult, unneccessarily so, place to get commercial development approved and built in a timeframe and with an effort level commensurate with the economic value of the proposed project.

          6. Mark Stewart


            Of course there will be, the City will make sure of that. Worth more than a cursory read? Not likely…

          7. Doug Ross

            Not sure I understand what you mean by “Worth more than a cursory read? Not likely…”

            Do you mean there won’t be an acceptable/viable proposal? or that there is already a stacked deck for some entity to win?

            I’ve looked at the recent photos that The State published of the tour that Fred Delk did and I am at a loss to understand what could be done with the building that wouldn’t require extensive renovation. It’s dark and has all those wooden beams. I don’t have any insight about what modifications are allowed so maybe it can be retrofitted into SOMETHING…

          8. Mark Stewart

            Could be either. I personally wouldn’t bother responding to such an RFP, for quite a number of reasons.

            Is interesting how the purchase was sold to everyone as an interim financial float to save the structure while costing the City little in the end, when the RFP pretty much makes clear that the City does not expect this to be an economics-based resale.

          9. Silence

            Sounds like it’s whatever they want it to be based RFP. It’s just whichever one CDC likes the best, if any. Maybe I’ll submit one asking the city to pay me to take it.

          10. Mark Stewart

            This had to have been a crooked deal, right? There is no way that this happened just because a bunch of idealists thought saving the “largest cotton warehouse under one roof in the Carolinas” was worth the cost. Especially since the City paid well over three times the fair market value of the property – whatever other value is opined by those making, or backing, the purchase by the City.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    I believe the City was played by the powers at McNair, but I also believe y’all are wrong about the viability of PCW. We shall see.

    1. Silence

      Kathryn – care to put money on the viability of the PCW? Oh wait! You and all the rest of us taxpayers ALREADY HAVE!
      Personally, I think the PCW is about as viable as a first-trimester fetus. But yes, we shall see. I fully expect that whatever deal the CDC selects will carefully obfuscate financial losses to the city.

    2. Mark Stewart

      Unless the sellers’ misrepresented the quality of the title, the duty is on the buyer to strike a good deal.

      Kathryn, We all seem to agree that the buyers got played on this. That isn’t the sellers’ fault, it’s the buyer’s fault. When you buy badly, it’s hard to recover.

      Yes, Silence, clearly the CDC will be selecting for the deal which best camouflages the City’s investment. If I were a cynic I would look for Hughes Development to make some convoluted proposal which appears to make almost zero financial sense; but which will keep the building standing and under city landmark status. And everyone will cheer…

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    Actually, Silence, while there are plenty of shortcuts to getting things done.
    Libby Gober, and now Charmaine Clark, are useful one-stop people to getting things done. The district reps are the next stop, if you don’t know who’s the boss in the department you seek services from.
    What takes the most time is the wrong-headed zoning, planning and design review cases! I shudder how much time we will spend once the lobbyist crowd gets their strong mayor!

    Well, some people go bowling….

    1. Silence

      Kathryn – I don’t want to give away all my tricks! I know a lot of ways to get things done.
      But yes, the PC, DDRC, BZA meetings and council work sessions are endless.
      What’s all this about bowling?

      1. Doug Ross

        I believe the reference was to those people (like me) who don’t spend hours and hours attending endless government committee meetings and instead just expect the government to be efficient, fair, and ethical. We’re dumb enough to assume that elected and appointed officials paid by our tax dollars will do the right thing.

        I mean we all have ample free time to bowl, so why don’t we go figure out why the water department is a complete mess instead?

        1. Silence

          Many of us appointed/elected officials aren’t paid. In fact, we lose money or vacation time to serve. They used to feed us lunch, but the budget got cut and that went away…

        2. Brad Warthen

          Doug, you’ve made me smile. I certainly do not count you among those who “just expect the government to be efficient, fair, and ethical.” Nor do i think you are accurately described by, “We’re dumb enough to assume that elected and appointed officials paid by our tax dollars will do the right thing.”

          I see you as someone who pretty much always assumes the opposite…

          1. Doug Ross

            And there’s a key point I need to make – the reason I focus on government waste, fraud, inefficiency, and incompetence is because I don’t have any way to opt out of it (other than moving). When the Wendy’s in Blythewood screws up my order half the time, I stop going there and go to McDonalds instead where they greet me with a smile and get the order right. When I go to K-Mart and find lousy products, slow cashiers, and no price benfitt, I go to Wal Mart to get the price benefit and the slow cashiers. When my Ford truck breaks down too many times, I switch to Toyota.

            Monopolies naturally create an environment of lower performance and it is up to the public to apply as much pressure as possible to force them to perform better.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Joe Sapp, my mentor’s mentor, used to quip that when spending yet another evening in meetings. It is our hobby!

      1. Silence

        Warren Sapp, my mentor’s mentor was a Super Bowl champion and a seven time Pro-Bowler. He had 573 career tackles, and is credited with 96.5 career sacks.

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    I see in today’s paper that about 40% of the signatories to the petition don’t live in the city. Just the kind of low information people who should have no say in the matter!

    Also see where a Georgia firm was *hired* to collect the signatures. Just the kind of big money influence we should not have in the matter!

      1. Silence

        Yes Doug, the same people who are shoving “strong mayor” down our throats are the exact same folks who orchestrated the “Richland County Robbery” and took $1 billion dollars from us, a penny at a time.
        I personally blame the Chamber of Commerce and their allies.

        1. Mark Stewart

          15% plus of the voters in the CITY OF COLUMBIA signed to have the measure appear on the ballot.

          I would hardly say that the issue is being “shoved down your throats”. If I lived inside the city limits, I would sign, and vote, for a strong mayor for Columbia.

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