Chamber backs plan for Lott to run CPD, even while council gives it a cold shoulder

Most of city council has thoroughly dissed Cameron Runyan’s attempt to revive the idea of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott taking over the Columbia Police Department.

But the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is applauding. It sent out this statement yesterday:

“The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce fully endorses Columbia City Council member Cameron Runyan’s plan to contract Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott to manage the City of Columbia’s police department. Public safety, economic development and job creation are top priorities of the Chamber and our business community. Our neighbors and our business owners deserve the right to feel safe in their homes, on their streets and in our business districts. Public safety is critical to moving our city from good to great to achieve status as a world-class city.

We firmly believe Sheriff Lott, based on his past performance, has the credibility and proven results to bring about positive changes in the Columbia Police Department, which will benefit our entire community. Sheriff Lott is a well respected leader throughout Columbia, the state and law enforcement. We encourage our city council members to embrace this plan and help make it a reality.”

–  Holt Chetwood | Chair, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

It’s a bit surprising to me that council so categorically rejects the idea of the popular and competent Lott taking over the department, given that the CPD has in the last few years gone way beyond the point that the word “troubled” adequately described just how fouled up it is at the top. The same proposal lost by only one vote in council in 2010.

But it’s habit now with the council majority, I guess. If it comes from the Benjamin camp, and has business support, and might change the status quo in a way that makes sense, they’re against it.

23 thoughts on “Chamber backs plan for Lott to run CPD, even while council gives it a cold shoulder

  1. Silence

    I’ll go one further. The Sheriff already has a constitutional obligation to provide law enforcement countywide. Why don’t Cameron and co. just shutter the Columbia Police Department, save the city taxpayers some cash, and essentially let the county take over policing activities? Why does it need to be any type of a merger?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, the quick and easy answer as to why that doesn’t happen is that “Cameron and co.” seems to consist of Cameron and maybe the mayor, with the rest of council dead-set against the idea…

      1. Silence

        You say “Cameron and maybe the mayor” as if they are two separate people instead of two bodies sharing one mind…

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        Not actually. The truth is more complex that what council persons were willing to go on the record with last night.

        Also, special meeting tomorrow night to discuss

        1. Doug Ross

          ” The truth is more complex that what council persons were willing to go on the record with last night.”

          And therein lies the problem.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and thanks for commenting, Silence. I was starting to wonder if there was a comment boycott going on or something. Four posts so far today, and no comments yet — until now…

  2. Doug Ross

    And since you are his doppelgänger, he could put you in a uniform and make it appear that he’s in two places at once. You’d have to switch to cool shades though.

    These types of scenarios are why Columbia needed a strong mayor. The politics of trying to get 4 out of 7 people to give up some power is impossible.

    Like the strong mayor issue, these types of questions should be turned over to the ballot box. The people should decide how they want to be served by a police force. That decision shouldn’t belong to a few people.

        1. Silence

          I thought Brad’s Dopplegänger was sometime council candidate Mike Miller. I’d forgotten about Leon & Brad.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            No, Mike is my “identical cousin,” like on the Patty Duke show. Leon’s my fraternal twin. You know we’re not identical because no one can imagine ME winning a Miss Vista Queen drag pageant. Unlike someone ELSE born on Oct. 3, 1953…

          2. Silence

            Meet Bradley, who travelled with the Navy,
            From Panama to West Tennessee.
            But Mikey’s only seen the sights
            A guy can see from Shandon Heights –
            They look the same to me!

            But they’re cousins,
            Identical cousins all the way.
            One pair of matching bookends,
            Different as night and day.

            Where Mikey adores a minuet,
            The Ballet Russe, and Crêpe Suzette,
            Our Bradley loves old rock LP’s,
            And most foods give him allergies –
            What a wild duet!

            Still, they’re cousins,
            Identical cousins and you’ll find,
            They laugh alike, they walk alike,
            At times they even talk alike –

            You can lose your mind,
            When cousins are two of a kind

  3. Mark Stewart

    Columbia needs its own Police Department. It also needs a strong mayor.

    Is any one on city council in office to lead the city? Anyone? It’s a municipal Ginsu flail of eight chef’s who can’t seem to figure out that they all need to put the “I” back in chief (the Mayor that is, not the CPD). What a bloody mess.

        1. Silence

          Columbia does not need a police department. Basically, we could spin down the City of Columbia, turn the Columbia Water & Sewer System over to an independent board, cut the lights off at city hall, and call it a day. Let the county come in and take over providing law enforcement, waste pickup and other services.

          1. Mark Stewart

            If the citizens of Columbia were to do that, it would almost be like living in half of Lexington County.

            Of course, another civic option would be to follow the Town of Lexington’s model and permit only the most minimal residential inclusion in Town (and on the voter rolls) while annexing everything of commercial, or potential commercial value, for miles around. Wouldn’t that be an awesome way to run a local government?

          2. Silence

            I’d like to just make a quick personal point of pride here. Yesterday in The State newspaper, Terry Brown – head of Edens and Avant, the nation’s largest privately owned shopping center developer – said that the Kline Steel site would be a fantastic place to build the proposed baseball stadium. Which he probably read when I wrote it on here a few months ago.

          3. Mark Stewart

            Silence, I hope you are right. One little quibble – the new planetarium probably chokes this site down just where it needs its most width. But move the park a little north of the Gervais street corner and then you’re talking. The old bus barn site is perfect for a park – and the Owens site could be a nice, retail-lined entry to it.

  4. Silence

    And yet another “Finalist” for Columbia’s Police Chief withdraws… And then there were two.

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