Category Archives: 2015 City Council

Columbians, did you vote today?

forum four

The candidates at last week’s Community Relations Council meeting, apparently listening to one of my questions.

And if you did vote and don’t mind sharing, how did you vote, and why?

And if you think such questions are none of my or anyone else’s business, fair enough. What can you share. Any trouble voting? Were you alone at the polling place, or was the turnout better than anyone expected?

And regardless of how you voted, or would vote if you could (since the political entity of Columbia encompasses a much smaller area than the economic community, many of us lack the franchise), who do you think will win, and why? And is that a good or bad thing?

In other words, this is an Open Thread on the municipal runoff today…

Glad to see The State endorsing in city council runoff

I was really glad this morning to see The State endorsing in the District 2 race. That causes me to expect an endorsement Sunday in the at-large runoff.

These are the first endorsements I’ve seen since the editorial department was reduced to one, which I was worried would mean no more endorsements. While the editorial board has always consisted of more than the editorial department (the publisher in my day, the publisher and the executive editor and I think at least one other today), the actual legwork necessary to an endorsement was always done by those of us in the department.

So I was glad to see such a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of the District 2 race, ending in an endorsement of Aaron Bishop. Personally, I had no idea which of those guys I would have endorsed. I haven’t done the legwork. So I got a lot of food for thought out of what The State said — which, after all, is the purpose of an endorsement. As I’ve said so many times over the years, an endorsement is less about the who than about the why.

I look forward to the Sunday piece. I have a pretty good idea which way they’ll go, but I’m not at all convinced I would go that way — so I look forward to the seeing the arguments advanced.

The CRC forum went well. Y’all shoulda been there

CRC forum

The city council runoff candidate’s forum sponsored by the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council went pretty well. We had a full house, and we had pretty good coverage from The State, WIS, WACH, ABC Columbia and Free Times. Follow the links for their coverage.

The coverage sort of seized on the “jabs” and “barbs” the candidates aimed at each other. There was plenty of that, in part stimulated by some of my questions. And while I had worried that it would be funky doing one forum with people running for two offices, it sort of worked, largely because these guys have split up into tag teams: Howard Duvall and Ed McDowell vs. Andy Smith and Aaron Bishop.

I wasn’t just going for pointless conflict, but I made sure to ask at least one question of each candidate that required him to address a perceived problem or weakness — not just to put them on the spot, but to give them a chance to address, before an audience, these things that people have been saying about them. (And in the case of Duvall and Smith, based on my interviews, I already knew that they had pretty good answers for the questions. People deserved to hear those answers.)

After a softball question or two to all (“What is Columbia’s greatest need, and how will electing you help achieve it?”), I asked one “edgy” question of each. That was really all I had time for in the hour before we went to closing remarks, because I let them go back and forth — response, rebuttal, then (if new allegations came up in the rebuttal, which happened often) another round. I wanted them to say all they had to say, as long as it didn’t drag — and it didn’t.

Here were the individualized questions:

  • To McDowell: “Mayor Steve Benjamin has criticized your ties with former councilman E.W. Cromartie. Please describe your relationship with Mr. Cromartie, and talk about why that is not a problem in your mind.”
  • To Bishop: “We don’t have parties in the usual sense in city elections, but you and Mr. Smith have both been endorsed by Mayor Steve Benjamin, while your opponents seem to be running against him. What should voters think about your ties to the mayor?”
  • To Duvall: “A few years back, we had a city councilman who was known as “Councilman No” (I didn’t say so at the forum, but I meant Hamilton Osborne) – whatever it was, he was against it, or at least that was his reputation. You have presented yourself as a needed obstacle to things the mayor wants to do. Will you be a new Councilman No, or do you have a positive vision for the city’s future?”
  • To Smith: “You are up against a candidate with an intimidating resume. Mr. Duvall is a professional at municipal government. Why should voters choose you, a political novice, over someone who has helped run cities for as long as you’ve been alive?”

I was far too busy to take notes, so go look at The State‘s or the TV coverage to see how they replied. Most of the quotes you see arose from those questions.

forum crowd

Come to the city council candidates’ forum tonight!

Notice how I threw in that exclamation point to get y’all excited? Is it working?

I hope so, because I’d like some of y’all to turn out. The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council will host a candidates’ forum tonight feature all four of the Columbia City Council candidates who are in next week’s runoff: At-large candidates Howard Duvall and Andy Smith, and District 2 candidates Ed McDowell and Aaron Bishop.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

It will be at 7 p.m. at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices at 930 Richland Street.

How are we having a forum for two different offices? Like this: We’ll ask a question of the candidates for one office, then ask another question of both candidates for the other. Not perfect, perhaps, but it seemed the simplest way of handling it without trying to schedule two separate events in a tight time frame.

Originally, this was to have been televised live, but that fell through at the last minute. So instead of this being moderated by a smooth broadcast professional, the questioners will be CRC Executive Director Henri Baskins (who’s pretty smooth in her own right) and yours truly. If you come, don’t boo us too much — we’re last-minute substitutes, doing our best. (See how I lowered expectations there, despite the fact that I’ve moderated debates in the past and been paid for it? If candidates can play that game, so can moderators.)

Those of you who can vote in this election should come on out. This might be your last chance to compare the candidates in person…

Andy Smith says his campaign is about Columbia’s future

Andy Smith


Andy Smith came in second behind Howard Duvall in Tuesday’s voting, but “we had such enthusiastic voters” that he’s optimistic about his ability to come out on top on Nov. 17.

The key, he said, is “keeping our base engaged,” and turning out people who maybe didn’t get out on Tuesday.

I asked him how he defined that base, and he said it included LGBT voters, the arts community, those 50 and under and young professionals. At this point, I told him, I was feeling a bit left out. Just kidding. (In fact, I should disclose that Andy and his wife, Kimi Maeda, are friends with my elder son and daughter-in-law.)ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

Since he mentioned LGBT folks first, I wondered — would his base be less motivated now that Cameron Runyan was out of it? He said he didn’t think so.

In fact, he emphasized that his campaign was far less about what this or that person had done in the past, and more about what Columbians together could do in the future.

“We’re the only campaign talking about ideas for the future,” he said. “We’re not negatively motivated; we’re actually the reverse.”

What does he mean by that? He cites the prediction by the Urban Land Institute — he was involved in ULI’s Reality Check two years ago — that the Midlands would grow by 500,000 people over the next three decades. He’s among those convinced that the way for that bigger city to be the kind we want to live in, it needs to attract both talented workers and successful entrepreneurs.

Although he didn’t put it this way, to some extent he meant people like himself.

Andy Smith grew up in Columbia, the son of a retired two-star Army general and the grandson of a brigadier. He went away to Swarthmore for his undergraduate degree, and did graduate work at UCLA. He came back home after an epiphany following the 2004 presidential election.

At the time, he was one of many “young, progressive people from the South” who “had all moved to the blue states.” After the election, he was looking at a map showing which states had gone for Bush and which for Kerry, and was struck by how divided the country was.

He decided he would no longer surround himself only with people who saw the world the way he did. He came home. “Places like Columbia are very special,” he said. Someone like him is “forced to interact with people who disagree with you all the time.” And he sees that as a good thing. “I moved back here determined that I’m just going to change the world.

Five years ago he became executive director of Nickelodeon Theater. The bio on his campaign website describes his tenure thusly:

Under his leadership, the Nickelodeon moved to the renovated Fox Theater in the heart of Columbia’s burgeoning Main Street, doubling its annual attendance and growing its budget to over $1 Million annually. Andy is also the founder and co-director of the Indie Grits Festival, named twice by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the “20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.” Columbia Business Monthly named Andy to its 2014 “50 Most Influential People” list and Free Times named him one of “50 People who Get Things Done” in 2015.

He sees his candidacy as a logical next step in helping build and maintain a livable community.

Some other things we talked about during our interview today at the Vista Starbucks:

  • What about his relationship with the mayor, since this runoff is being described as the Benjamin team (Smith and Bishop) versus the mayor’s detractors (Duvall and McDowell)? He sort of laughed as he said “The mayor is one of many people who have offered advice.” He has found that when you’re running for public office, a lot of people come out of the woodwork to offer such advice and aid, both “solicited and unsolicited.”
  • One of the key issues that has divided the mayor and Howard Duvall was the strong mayor initiative, which Duvall was instrumental in scuttling. He said that while be believes a community needs “strong leaders,” he doesn’t have strong opinions regarding what the best form of government might be. He did vote for the proposal, but he sees the form as less important than the quality of individual leaders.
  • Smith is half the age of Duvall, who is also a retired professional at running municipalities. Smith is unfazed by his opponent’s resume. Sure, Duvall is an expert on the nuts and bolts of running a town, but “We have a philosophical difference about the proper role of a council person.” Smith doesn’t think an elected councilman should be “getting involved in the nitty-gritty that you want staff to do.” A member of council should “think big,” concerning himself with policy rather than the minutiae of administration. “Retain talented people; let them do their jobs.” For his part, speaking of the Nickelodeon’s key role in transforming Main Street, “I have 10 years of experience actually turning our city around, and that’s the kind of experience we actually need on council.”
  • He noted that he was “talking about water and sewer before the flood,” based on personal experience. He and his wife live in the Earlwood neighborhood, and their tap water was brown, forcing them to drink bottled water from the grocery.
  • Like his opponent, he sees crime as a big issue, especially since he and his wife have been “awakened by gunshots” in their neighborhood. “Not feeling safe in your home is just terrible.” He believes it is essential to hire and retain the best people as first-responders.
  • He says the city has not done enough to take care of the good “things that make us unique — such as “our rivers, which we continue to dump sewage into.”
  • He sees the need for a citywide comprehensive cultural plan, which would help Columbia obtain grant money that would further develop the arts, making the city that much more attractive to the “creative class” that Richard Florida speaks of.

“I think we have all the pieces we need to be successful. So much has happened almost despite city council in the past.” He believes he can help provide the right leadership to keep the community moving forward.

Andy Smith 2

Howard Duvall: Now the donors are calling HIM

Hal with Howard

Hal Stevenson talks with Howard Duvall at the Starbucks on Gervais.

I found Howard Duvall Thursday on the sidewalk in front of the Vista Starbucks, talking on his cell phone.

Afterwards, he tells me there’s been a change since he was the top vote-getter in his bid for the at-large seat on Columbia City Council Tuesday. He still spends much of the day trying to raise money, but he doesn’t have to call them so much as “People are calling me now.” He has no illusions as to the source of his new popularity: “They want my ear later on.”

Some of those donors may assume he’ll win the runoff on Nov. 17, but he’s being careful not to jinx himself. “It’s a brand new election,” he said. “If they’d let you bank that 15 percent” he’d feel more like the winner, a reference to the fact that he received just under 40 percent of the meager vote Tuesday, while his runoff opponent got 25 percent.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

I saw evidence that he’s picking up at least some support from third-place finisher Cameron Runyan, who lost his seat on Tuesday: Hal Stevenson, who recently had a fund-raiser at his home for Runyan, plans to back Duvall now. Hal owns the building in which the Starbucks is located, and the offices of his Grace Outdoor billboard company are right upstairs, so you can find him there with coffee in hand a lot. And before Mr. Duvall and I sit down for an interview, Hal promises to send him a check.

Then we sit down to talk — me with a tall, black Gold Coast, him with one of the fancier drinks — and the first thing I ask him about is his alliance with District 2 candidate Ed McDowell against Mayor Steve Benjamin’s preferred candidates, Andy Smith and Aaron Bishop.

Duvall sort of downplays that, saying that he’s become friends with McDowell after meeting him at the kickoff for National Night Out at the end of July. For that matter, he says he’s even gotten to be friendly with his opponent Andy Smith, from running into him on the campaign trail.

And he doesn’t like to be described as anti-Steve Benjamin: “I like Steve Benjamin. We’ve been friends for years. We have a long and pleasant history.”

“I’m not anti Benjamin; I’m just pro fiscal responsibility” — the implication, of course, being that he doesn’t think the mayor always is.

As for McDowell’s connection to E.W. Cromartie, which the mayor loves to mention, “Cromartie has served his time,” and “is well respected” by a lot of people in the community. For those who forget Mr. Cromartie, The State provided this primer:

But McDowell has said previously that he has accepted campaign contributions and political advice from E.W. Cromartie. The controversial former District 2 political powerhouse is more of an adviser than a contributor, McDowell said in a previous interview. Cromartie lost his seat after a federal conviction for tax evasion and for trying to hide what he was doing from the Internal Revenue Service. He served about a year in prison and is back home….

Here are some other things we talked about:

  • I forget how it came up — it may have been a segue from Duvall’s conversation with Hal Stevenson and his support for Runyan — but the candidate urged me to check out this clip from the GOP-sponsored debate at Doc’s Barbecue, in which Duvall told voters “I’m not running to be your priest.”
  • He hasn’t spoken to incumbent Runyan since he and Smith outpolled him Tuesday, although he tried: “I called him; he didn’t answer his cell phone.” He says he left a message in which “I thanked him for his service.”
  • I asked what he was hearing from voters as he knocked on doors across the city. He said the thing that has struck him the most is that crime is seen as a problem in every neighborhood in the city. He was surprised to learn that there had been three recent drive-by shootings in the Melrose area.
  • When he spoke about his opposition to a development that he feared would be harmful to the Gills Creek watershed, I noted that between that and his opposition to the ballpark, some might think of him as anti-development. I asked whether that bothered him, and he said “I love to build things,” but again, “My main concern is the financial management.” He’s worried that Columbia has maxed out its capacity for general obligation bond, and has turned to the “payday lender” of municipal financing — installment purchase bonds. This was followed by an explanation of how such bonds work that was over my head. The upshot was that they are expensive, risky instruments. If y’all must know how they work and why they concern him in detail, I’ll track him down and get the explanation on video or something. I am not a good vessel for relaying such information.
  • And his problems with the Bull Street project extend beyond the financing. He says the project has morphed from a good plan for a mixed-use urban village to an “entertainment district that will cannibalize the Vista and Five Points.
  • He said he’s raised about $80,000 for his campaign and has about $9,000 left. By the time the runoff is over, he expects to have spent $100,000, which is what he had planned to spend.

I then asked him whether there was anything he thought the mayor and present council had done that was good. And he didn’t have to think hard to come up with examples:

  • The ongoing redevelopment of Main Street. The Nickelodeon and Mast General, to be more specific.
  • The hiring of Police Chief Skip Holbrook after a nightmarish period of instability. “They hired a pro” who has done a lot of good for the city.
  • A reduction in transfers from water and sewer to use as general funding.

He said they’ve done good on “a lot of basic things.” So he’s not against everything that’s happened during Steve Benjamin’s tenure. But he does think the city needs him as a check on some of the “undebated projects that the mayor brings up.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have an interview with Andy Smith set up for Saturday afternoon, so I should have a post from that sometime over the weekend.

Howard at Starbucks

Y’all, an endorsement involves CHOOSING…

And sometimes, the hardest choices are when you like everybody.

You saw the other day that Steve Benjamin endorsed Andy Smith to replace his erstwhile protege Cameron Runyan.

Well, SC Equality PAC set out to do endorsement interviews, and couldn’t choose between the two candidates they talked to:

SC Equality PAC’s Endorsement for the Columbia City Council At-Large Member Election

Columbia, SC.  The mission of the South Carolina Equality Political Action Committee (PAC) is to elect fair-minded people to public office who oppose all forms of discrimination but especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.

We have had an opportunity to personally and rigorously interview two (2) candidates who are running to be the next at-large member of the City of Columbia City Council. We invited all persons who are running for this at-large seat to interview with us but only two candidates responded – Howard Duvall and Andy Smith.

We asked both Duvall and Smith their overall vision if elected, plans for campaigning, and how strongly, if at all, they support the rights of LGBT communities and citizens across a wide range of issues from marriage equality to transgender identity rights.

We were very pleasantly surprised that both candidates demonstrated a genuine, personal commitment to upholding and further advancing the rights of all LGBT citizens in the City of Columbia across various dimensions of quality of life and citizenship.  We also were quite pleased that both candidates articulated a strong vision of progress for the City of Columbia and the equal seat at the table that LGBT citizens must occupy as part of that progress.  They bring unique talents, experiences, and deep ties to Columbia communities and would be outstanding public servants.

Therefore, we are taking the unique step of endorsing both Andy Smith and Howard Duvall for this city council race; for they are both candidates who meet all of our criteria for endorsement and thus we urge the LGBT community and our many allies to see either of their candidacies as in the best interest of LGBT communities.

Andy Smith is well-known by many LGBT leaders in Columbia given his leadership as the Executive Director of the nationally-recognized Nickelodeon Theater on the city’s downtown Main Street.  Andy has experience in electoral politics for in 2006 he served as the campaign manager for Robert Barber’s run for SC Lieutenant Governor.  As a native of South Carolina, Andy has deep ties to this state and the City of Columbia.  He has a very progressive vision about serving the needs of LGBT citizens in Columbia including the city and its Police Department having an LGBT Ombudsman as modeled after the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.  Andy also wants to ensure that the city do all it can to expand ordinances that protect the rights of LGBT citizens while serving as a faithful ally while SC Equality and others lobby the General Assembly to enact Hate Crimes legislation among other measures.  Andy has both a deep and abiding commitment to the LGBT community and a love for the city of Columbia.  He wants Columbia to continue to advance as a not only a progressive city but as an attractive and affordable city where balanced job creation and economic development occur.  He has demonstrated his commitment to such via the Nickelodeon Theater.  In the past ten years, the Nickelodeon has grown from a several hundred thousand dollar operation to a now $5 million organization that has spurred economic development, commercial investment, and patronage in and around its mainstream corridor to the tune of about $1 million. It also has demonstrated that it is a good neighbor in many ways, including it’s media education program with C.A. Johnson High School, it’s outreach program to LGBT youth, and it’s working with local homeless shelters to create an inclusive downtown neighborhood.

Howard Duvall has been described by the Free Times newspaper as, “a candidate with a wealth of experience in dealing with municipal government.”  For 20 years, Duvall served as the Executive Director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina; the state’s premiere organization for advising and researching issues related to the best governance of cities and towns.  He also has direct experience serving in elected office for he has both served as a member of the City Council and as the Mayor of the Town of Cheraw.  But in our extensive interviews we also discovered that Howard has a deep commitment to fairness and equality for all citizens, most especially LGBT Citizens.  Along with the heartfelt story that Howard shared with us about seeing the unjust personal battles persons in his family had to wage because they were LGBT, he has worked within the Episcopalian Church to expand its welcoming of not only lesbian, gay, and bisexual parishioners but transgender persons as well.  He is genuinely committed to maintaining Columbia’s image as a progressive and inclusive city by upholding and further expanding city ordinances that protect LGBT employees and other citizens.  Howard wants to bring his wealth of insights about the best practices of municipal government to the Columbia City Council to ensure even-handed job creation and economic development; the further development of a progressive tax system; and creative ideas about updating the aging infrastructure of the city.

In the wake of the terrible storms and great floods of 2015, we join with both Andy and Howard to encourage persons to get involved to aid families and businesses who are in great need as well as to assist in efforts at recovery and rebuilding.

It is for all of these reasons that we take this unique opportunity to strongly endorse these two leaders who will be good for the LGBT community and good for the City of Columbia overall.

The mission of the South Carolina Equality Political Action Committee (PAC) is to elect fair-minded people to public office who oppose all forms of discrimination but especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. 


Come on, y’all! Belly up and choose! Sheesh. Amateurs…

Howard Duvall, opposing Cameron Runyan for city council

Howard Duvall

Howard Duvall

Y’all remember several months ago when I interviewed Tige Watts, who was running against Cameron Runyan in this year’s election for at-large Columbia City Council member?

Well, if you’ll recall, a couple of months later Tige dropped out, to be replaced by his political ally Howard Duvall, whom most folks know as the longtime director of the South Carolina municipal association, now retired.

Well, here’s how all that happened, according to Howard, whom I interviewed this morning:

Howard and Tige are both involved with a group that concerns itself with good local government as they see it, along with Kit Smith, Candy Waites, Ginny Grose and several others.

Back last November, they decided to do a poll to examine the feasibility of one of them challenging Cameron Runyan for his at-large seat on City Council. This was close to the time when the incumbent was taking his lonesome stance against benefits for same-sex partners of city employees. And sure, there was a good bit of bitterness out there on account of his having been elected with gay community help, before his big conversion experience.

But Howard says that was not the impetus. The members of his Good Government Group were united in opposing him because he supported the deal for the baseball park at the Bull Street development. The Triple-G had thought he was on their side after they had presented him with facts and figures that they thought made an overwhelming case against the deal, and when he voted the other way, giving the proposal a 4-3 victory, they decided they had had enough of Cameron Runyan.

They did ask a question on their poll as to whether voters could support an openly gay candidate, and 70 percent responded affirmatively. That and the rest of the poll persuaded Tige Watts, a political consultant, that he should be the one to run. The rest of the group agreed, and he started talking up his candidacy.

But as time passed, others in the group began to have their doubts. They were worried that Tige wasn’t raising enough money, and that he was having trouble balancing his work with the time that such a candidacy demanded. Other members of the group got together and decided that Mr. Duvall, who is retired, would be able to commit the kind of time and effort that success would demand.

So he approached Mr. Watts, who initially responded by proposing that both run, and promise each other that if either got into a runoff, the other would endorse him. That was on a Monday. By Friday, he had thought better of that, and said he would drop out and endorse Howard.

Since then, the Duvall campaign has been fairly active, with the candidate spending several hours a day on the phone either raising money (he’s shooting for $100,000) or seeking other forms of support. And yet the campaign hasn’t been officially launched. That is set to happen on September 9. Tonight, one of the Republican members of Duvall’s backer group is hosting him at a reception at which about 100 Republicans — not the usual allies for him, or for Kit or Candy — are expected.

With Duvall, you have a great believer in professionalism in local government, and someone who could reasonably claim to be as well qualified as anyone you can imagine. He was a several-term councilman and then mayor of Cheraw, his hometown, before he become head of the Municipal Association in 1987. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from USC.

In other words, he’s a pretty logical replacement for Tige Watts, who is a national leader in neighborhood associations.

I have a lot of respect for Howard, and for the folks in his group, even though they were the cabal behind defeating the strong-mayor initiative, with Howard being the guy who managed to get the vote separated from the mayoral election, which is what did the proposal in.

See, that’s what Howard means by professionalism in government — that it should be run by an unelected, professional manager instead of an elected mayor.

I’m not going to get into all the reasons he’s wrong about that at the moment. For now, I’ll just say that his long experience and dedication to municipal government in this state makes him a very strong candidate.

He’s running on a platform of improving public safety and updating infrastructure, by which he means water and sewer.

Meanwhile it appears that Runyan is still in it, based on an email I got today inviting me to this page.

And I believe John Adams, son of ex-mayor Patton, is still in it as well — although I haven’t heard anything about it since March, which was back before Tige Watts dropped out.

I guess I’ll need to run him down next.

Meanwhile, dig Howard’s wild campaign poster and logo. He says it’s Ginny Grose’s design. The little triangle in the D is supposed to look like a fast-forward button, he says. Some GOP allies thought it looked too much like the arrow in Hillary Clinton’s logo, but they went with it anyway.

It looks to me like a title page for a cartoon — more like Howard the Duck (who, you will recall, ran for office on the ticket of the All-Night Party in 1976 — campaign slogan, “Get Down, America!”) than Howard the Duvall. But I’ve got to say, it’s distinctive.


Tige Watts drops out of Columbia city council race

Well, I was surprised, and sorry, to see this:

Tige Watts Ends Campaign for Columbia City Council, Endorses Howard Duvall in Election for At-Large Seat
COLUMBIA – Neighborhood leader Tige Watts announced today he will not file to run for Columbia City Council and will instead support Howard Duvall, who recently declared his candidacy for the At-Large seat that will be on the ballot Nov. 3.Watts mug
  “Since I kicked off my campaign 8 weeks ago I have found it very difficult, sometimes impossible, for me to balance all the demands of my professional, personal, civic and family obligations. This has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make because our city truly needs new leadership in the seat that’s up for election this year,” Watts said. “So, when I learned of Howard’s interest to run for this seat and serve the citizens of Columbia, it made this decision much easier for me because we share so many values and positions on the important issues facing our Capital City.”
  Watts is a small business owner and the President of Neighborhoods USA, the Richland County Neighborhood Council, and his neighborhood Brandon Acres/Cedar Terrace. He is also the chairman of the city’s Citizen Advisory Committee over Community Development and a past president of the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods.
  “I can’t thank everyone who has supported my campaign enough. Your words of encouragement, your financial contributions and your shared desire to make our city better have fueled me and this campaign. I am sorry I’m letting you down by not being on the ballot this Fall,” Watts said. “However, I encourage all of my supporters to join the effort to elect Howard Duvall this November. He is a man with great integrity, unmatched experience and the passion to create the change Columbia needs at this time.”
  Duvall said he was honored by Watts’ decision to support his candidacy for the At-Large Seat. “This is a double bonus for my campaign. Not only do I have Tige’s personal endorsement but I look forward to working with him professionally as we go forward in this campaign,” Duvall said.

I say “surprised” because I thought he was really committed to this. So surprised that I checked around to see whether others had reported it before posting, i the hope that this release was a hoax. And I say “sorry” because I thought he made a good candidate, and I thought he and Cameron Runyan offered voters a clear set of choices.

And… well… while I’ve always gotten along fine with Howard and respected his dedication to municipal government, I was pretty disturbed by his successful effort to set up the strong-mayor vote for a loss, by having an unnecessary extra election weeks after the mayoral one. I thought that was wrong, and even kinda shifty. The claim that voters needed those extra days to make up their about something we’d been discussing for years and years was absurd. He and the other defenders of the status quo seemed to make a hard-eyed political calculation that separating it from Steve Benjamin’s re-elected decreased the chances of passage, and they were right.

So I don’t see this as an ideal substitution. At least not at this point. Maybe Howard can win me over; we’ll have to see how his campaign progresses.

Tige Watts announces he’ll announce Monday

I think I mentioned this before, but here’s an actual release about it:

For immediate release:
Feb. 12, 2015
Tige Watts to Announce City Council Candidacy Monday
COLUMBIA – Tige Watts, a neighborhood leader in Columbia and Richland County, will announce his candidacy for an at-large seat on Columbia City Council on Monday, Feb. 16.Watts,Tige croppedl
The announcement will begin at 12 noon in front of City Hall, located at the corner of Main and Laurel streets in downtown Columbia.
“As a neighborhood president, I help people every day with their problems. Some are simple, others can be more complex,” said Watts, the president of the Richland County Neighborhood Council and the Brandon Acres/ Cedar Terrace Neighborhood. “I’m ready to take my experience, dedication, and record of service to the next level by working for all citizens of Columbia and make our city one we’re proud to pass along to future generations.”
A small business owner, Watts is also the president of Neighborhoods, USA and a past president of the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods. He is also the chairman of the city’s Citizen Advisory Committee over Community Development, which makes spending recommendations over federal entitlement funds.
Watts has served on the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council, the chamber of commerce’s board of advisors, and numerous special committees and task forces. He is also a graduate of Leadership Columbia and Richland 101.
Watts will run for the at-large seat on City Council currently held by Cameron Runyan. The municipal election will be held on Nov. 3.