As some of you may know I serve on the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council. We’re about fostering constructive, civil conversations about issues facing the community. As you also may know, we’ve sponsored some forums over the years on such issues as the Penny Tax and strong mayor referenda, as well as candidate forums.
Lately, we’ve started a monthly series of informal discussions on “Hot Topics” that are current in the community.
This month, after reading Jeff Wilkinson’s recent story on how the Bull Street development was coming, we decided to sponsor a session on that, and it will be at noon tomorrow (Friday) at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices.
I’ll moderate the discussion. Panelists include:
- Howard Duvall – The city councilman who ran as a Bull Street skeptic, who is now invested in its success as chair of the Bull Street Commission.
- Jim Reid – I don’t have info on Jim, but am told he’s an active Columbia resident who has been interested in the project.
- Bill Leidinger- a former city councilman and city manager of Richmond, VA. Retired to Columbia. Helped build semipro stadium in Richmond with no tax dollars.
- Elizabeth Marks – VP of Columbia coalition of downtown neighborhoods.
- Rusty DePass – Everybody knows Rusty. Bull Street skeptic who, from what I hear, hasn’t converted — but I’ll find out tomorrow.
- Robert Hughes – President of Hughes Development of Greenville, master developer of the project.
- Chandler Thompson, also from Hughes Development.
I have no idea who, if anyone, will come out to hear the discussion or ask questions of the panel, but if you’re interested, come on out.
I’d tell you more, but I haven’t been the organizer — I’m just moderating. So this is all I know. I’ll show up and see how it goes.
Just be civil, just like on the blog…
That’s just two blocks from my new office. I’m at 1116 Blanding Street. I may try to drop by.
And indeed, Bryan DID drop by, as did enough folks to more or less fill the seats we had available.
Still, that was a small group. I’m guessing that, aside from the panelists, we had about 20 people. They included a couple of reporters from The State (Jeff Wilkinson and Sarah Ellis), a couple of county councilmen (Paul Livingston and Jim Manning), a couple of folks whose businesses have located in the development, the realtor recently hired to coordinate sales in the neighborhood, and a few other folks.
I let the Hughes folks lead off because they had a prepared presentation, and I figured if folks were going to debate a thing, you might as well start out with the basic proposition being discussed.
Then I turned to Howard Duvall, as the elected official charged with overseeing the project, and then to the rest of the folks above — all of whom were in varying degrees skeptics of the project, and none having been converted the way Howard has.
And that took up almost all our time, which I regretted because I’d wanted more time for questions and comments from non-panelists, but since (some of) the invited folks had presentations they’d prepared, I didn’t want to cut them off.
On the whole, it was a frank and civil exchange of views.
I think in the future, though, if we have that many people speaking, I’ll have to limit their time the way we do with debates, so more folks can be heard from…
It was pretty good. I’m sorry I had to leave early, but I had a client’s real estate transaction to close.
My favorite bit from the discussion was early on when one guy described himself as “a retired taxpayer”. I know he meant he we just a regular retiree, but it sort of sounded like he had retired from paying taxes.
I quietly joked to the guy sitting next to me: “I didn’t know you could retire from paying taxes. Maybe we should look into that.”
From the article in The State it sounded like it went well… for a drive-by shooting. It sounds like the people against this taxpayer funded project aren’t too happy… nor should they be. But I’ve moved out of Richland County and it’s no longer my problem.