How did YOU vote on strong mayor, and why?

This is just for our de jure city dwellers, as opposed to those of us who live in the de facto city, but don’t get to vote on its governance. (Or pay the taxes. Or get the services.)

So how did y’all vote? I’d like to compare my readership to the actual citywide vote.

Don’t tell us if you don’t want to. But if you don’t mind being up-front about it, unburden thyself: How did you vote, and why?

46 thoughts on “How did YOU vote on strong mayor, and why?

  1. Phillip

    We voted no. Was on the fence, but Mayor Benjamin’s statement about strong-mayor being a successful system for NY, Chicago, Atlanta, pushed me over the edge against. This is not a big city, and while some growth is good, some of our leaders including the mayor may be so focused on it (or just have delusions of grandeur) that they fail to grasp some very essential aspects of what gives Columbia its unique character. At least the character that I perceive and that keeps this an appealing place.

      1. Phillip

        But wait…under which circumstances are the merits (or lack thereof) of the question more thoroughly scrutinized? Linked directly and simultaneously to the certain re-election of a fairly popular mayor, or decoupled from the “centrifugal force” of his popularity and examined on its own? Obviously a fair number of Benjamin supporters voted no today.

        Who I do feel bad for, though, are Brad’s friends at his former employer. If The State runs something like 30 editorials pushing a Yes vote and they can’t move the needle at all, one wonders if A) anybody is reading them at all, and/or B) if their persistence amounted to overkill and actually pushed some votes into the No column. I respected the opinions of those who advocated Yes votes, but in the end I just didn’t have a good feeling about the change (plus growing up in a city 95 miles north of here that has generally flourished under a manager-council system probably has influenced my thinking).

        1. Doug Ross

          It’s A… combined with the fact that newspaper editorials have little power to “move the needle” any more.

        2. William

          I don’t know one person who still subscribes to The State newspaper. I walk around my neighborhood and only see a handful of those paperboxes on the mailboxes. I haven’t subscribed to a physical newspaper in nearly ten years.

          1. Silence

            William, you are correct. We don’t have curbside mailboxes or paperboxes in my ‘hood, but I haven’t seen any copies of “The State” laying around on people’s walkways, porches or steps. First off, why buy what you can read online for free? Secondly, why give money to an editorial board that I almost ALWAYS disagree with? We used to take the paper for the coupons, but now we don’t even do that.

        3. William

          How about WIS taking 10-15 minutes of the 11:00 news interviewing Benjamin sitting at the anchor desk? After I saw it was going past 4-5 minutes I turned to WLTX. I don’t live in Columbia, and tuned in to hear the news, not a political endorsement.

        4. Mark Stewart

          And there you have it, Phillip. This was not a referendum on Benjamin. This vote was about Columbia’s future 20, 30 even 50 years into the future.

          It appears most people just can’t make that kind of leap. And so Columbia will remain mired, as does the state as a whole. Both mean a lot to me and they are worth cherishing – but they deserve to be unshackled. It is disheartening to see so many people stay so focused on resisting change and clearly fearful of the future – and of uncertainty.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Whoa! Columbia is not “mired.” It is a damn fine place to live and businesses are opening up all around me! Crime is way down! People who visit from Chicago and Boston are impressed.

  2. Doug Ross

    Good. Now Columbia (the city) can get back to having an inadequate police force, maintaining an understaffed fire department, robbing the water department, and buying old buildings… but at least there’s an ice rink.

      1. Doug Ross

        That wasn’t me talking, that was the Sheriff and police organizations, the fireman’s association, the editorial board of the local newspaper, the governor, the mayor, and other local politicians. I’m just repeating what they said.

  3. William

    So how much money did Benjamin lose by not getting the big raise had the measure passed?

    These types of votes should never be voted on in a non-mayoral election. This was nothing more than Benjamin trying to gain power and a huge raise is salary.

  4. Silence

    We voted “NO” for reasons that I have stated numerous times here. I agree with Kathryn, things are going pretty well in town. Of course they could always be better, but having a strong mayor wouldn’t improve the situation. Glad things went my way this time!

      1. Silence

        As opposed to the bigger checks we’d be writing under the strong mayor/political patronage system.

  5. Libb

    Voted no…because the moon is in the 11th house of Sagitarius and Jupiter was not aligned with Mars.

  6. Brad Warthen

    Nothing like watching defenders of the status quo — and their own power — high-fiving each other for having defeated reform, yet again.

    Yes, Dorothy, we’re still in SC…

      1. Mark Stewart

        Lexington, in particular (and the other suburbs as well) needs to “grow up” as much as Columbia itself does.

    1. Leon

      Perfect caption for that picture…….Well, Tameika, we sure snookered those voters again, didn’t we?

  7. W Benson

    Voted “No”. There is nothing inherently wrong with our current system. If its broken, then the people we elected have broken it. We can fix that by a: demanding better from our city council and b: vote the rascals out if we don’t get it.

    If the water/sewer fund is raided- make sure your elected representative hears about it from you. If they attempt to buy another run down “historic” warehouse- let your displeasure be heard. Most of all.. elect better people who have the welfare of the whole city at heart. Get your councilman’s email, their phone number, and use them. Don’t forget to pat them on the back if they actually do something good. Attend neighborhood meetings and actually talk to a council member face to face. Local issues are the place where you can actually have the most impact.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    Brad, how come we don’t need outsiders calling our governor a clown, but it is okay for all you outsiders to throw shade at Columbia?

    1. Mark Stewart

      Because we are all “insiders” here.

      If you miss that, that is part of the problem. And, yes, that cuts both ways – the suburbs need to realize that the city carries many burdens that implicitly benefit the suburbs – especially Forest Acres, Irmo, Lexington, West Cola and Cayce.

      If you ask me; Columbia should extend from Lexington to Elgin, Blythewood to Gaston/Horrell Hill. I don’t look at the metropolitan region as a series of fiefdoms, however. You can say that’s because I am not a local; and you would be right.

      1. Silence

        Mark, don’t you live in Boston or something? I realize that I’m only a geographer, but how is that part of Metro Columbia?

        I do agree though, that we need city/county consolidation and that we’d all benefit from having a few (many) less incorporated microtowns in the area.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Absolutely agreed, but until I get to vote on what happens in Lexington County and they help with our tax burden, I will thank Lexington County residents for staying out of our affairs!

  9. Phillip

    You should be happy, Brad. The State’s article today alluded to the “unusual bedfellows” who were joined in opposition to this measure, it crossed all sorts of party/ideology lines. (For that matter, so did the Yes side). I’m hardly a defender of the status quo, but I wasn’t sold on this as the solution. I think it’s a category error to conflate whatever problems/challenges Columbia city faces as structural parallels to the problems SC faces as a state, which is what Ms. Scoppe did in her editorial(s) and what Mark seems to be saying above.

    In fairness to the mayor, he was in a delicate position. In hindsight he could have stumped harder to link this to his popularity, but that could have backfired more and been seen as a power grab for himself. In any case, the turnout was minuscule, so the whole question was decided by a fraction of registered voters, thus ensuring that the issue was decided by the more motivated side. My wife and I constituted 1.4% of our precinct’s votes, which is not right (even though things turned out the way we hoped this time).

    1. Doug Ross

      Ignorance is bliss in Columbia. I know the hip term these days is “low information voters” but I prefer the old standby: “morons”.

      1. tired old man

        Me? I opt for the term citizens, which is a constitutional guarantee for which I are most grateful for, especially in certain discussions with certain people.

    2. Mark Stewart

      I think The State was right in that characterization, Phillip. But what has gone unsaid is what lies at the heart of this debate.

      Tiptoe all anyone wants, but the debate about which of these two forms of government to select from (since SC only permits these as realistic options) boils down to two things: i) race and ii) upper middle class privilege. There, I said it. Somebody should.

      Columbia switched to the current system it is (dys)functioning under in 1949. Why? Because the then voting citizens saw the writing on the wall; Jim Crow was under attack and the post-war allure of the suburbs was reordering the socio-economic order (the rise of Forest Acres). So the city voted to abolish the strong mayor form and go with the model that had proven in SC to best protect a privileged minority. And so we have Columbia’s system of council manager with 4 districts and 3 at-large reps. Columbia’s election of this structure in 1949 had nothing to do with progressive reform in the face of Boss Tweed political corruption. That is a red herring – both of timing and of this area’s specific experiences. Columbia made it’s choice as a strategic move to control the future that it foresaw (racial integration and the suburbanization of the upper middle class). In typical SC fashion, it did what it could to hold back time.

      That same impulse lead to the push to hold the vote on Dec. 3rd.

      I’m not calling people racist by any means – but I am absolutely taking the position that this “no” vote was a reflection by a block of two forces (white, upper middle class privilege and those who are deeply, personally entrenched in the spoils of this diffuse, unaccountable system) of their fearfulness of an unknown future. And, to me, in 2013 that’s just sad.

      I wanted to see the people in Districts 3 & 4 show the type of leadership that will drive the city, and metro area as a whole, to a better, more prosperous and forward-looking future. Instead, we got a circling of the wagons. This was not a vote about forms of governance; this was a vote about perspective. And I believe on that point Columbia showed a side of itself that people ought to give more conscious thought.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      To use a word used above, this was defeated by “insiders.” And I just wrote a whole screed on that, which I’m now going to turn into a separate post…

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    Another term for the sort of “insiders” who defeated it is “involved citizens.” I came here with no special influence and bought a $200 K house that while above average price, is hardly out of reach of most anyone on this blog. Many activists live in far more modest homes. I developed what little influence I have by becoming informed and showing up at countless meetings. I should have more say than, say, a developer from Greenville who shows up with his checkbook, not that he’s exactly written many checks….or someone who is employed by a newspaper that isn’t even inside the city limits.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You say “a developer from Greenville who shows up with his checkbook” as though corruption were involved.

      But I take it to mean that you feel that sometimes, things move too fast, even under the current cumbersome system.

      Which is just the way a lot of folks feel about the move to buy the cotton warehouse.

      But in both cases, if I recall correctly, the council had to be won over — and that would still be the case under a strong-mayor system.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Speaking of which, whatever happened to that supposed purchase offer?

        Everyone seems to be running for cover now after campaigning so hard to have the city bail out (at a huge premium to true value) some well-heeled investors to save such a fine specimen of Columbia history.

        Accountability appears as lacking as leadership – or public information – on this.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          PCW is proceeding apace.

          That was my first unease with the strong mayor. We got played by the now former owners, major contributors to the mayor’s Mini Me. The mayor bulldozed that through, as well as Bull Street. As Tameika queried of the so-called weak mayor, ” What have you NOT been able to accomplish? “

          1. Mark Stewart

            Gee, I remember it a bit differently – that it was “community” support backing the city as a way to avoid approving the student housing proposal (which admittedly sucked). I wouldn’t want to say preservationists; because I don’t want to give that positive ideal a bad name.

            The Palmetto Compress was a half-baked idea – from all quarters.

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