Choose Runyan for Columbia City Council

March 27, 2012 

WHILE Columbia voters won’t be able to replace the experience outgoing at-large Councilman Daniel Rickenmann takes with him, there are two capable candidates on the April 3 ballot who have the potential to become solid representatives.

Robert Bolchoz and Cameron Runyan could help lead the city as it tackles such issues as the development of the old State Hospital property on Bull Street, finding permanent funding for the bus system and building strong relationships with Richland County and other governments.

Joe Azar genuinely wants to serve, but he has never displayed the temperament or leadership needed to help steer the city.

Mr. Runyan and Mr. Bolchoz agree on many issues, including the need to make public safety a priority and to let voters decide whether the city should elect a strong mayor. But we give Mr. Runyan a slight edge.

Mr. Runyan has a firm grasp of how city government works. He talks with specificity and clarity about how to make a good capital city great. He displays energy and passion as he speaks of needing to plan for Columbia’s future not just two or 20 years down the road but 100. He asks questions such as: What is the city going to be like three generations from now?

He speaks in like manner about city-county cooperation, noting that the governments should consolidate every service possible: “For the next 50 years, collaboration will be one of the most important words stated in this city,” he said.

But while Mr. Runyan’s penchant for staking out strident, uncompromising positions can at times be an asset, it also could prove problematic if that prevents him from listening to sound reasoning and legitimate concerns. Compromise is key to governing, and he must be open to changing his mind when it’s in the best interest of the city. We are particularly concerned about his dogged support of using tax increment financing districts, which siphon new tax dollars away from basic services, to help fund the Bull Street project and other developments, and his assertion that adding yet another penny to the already-too-high sales tax is the only way to fund the bus system.

Mr. Bolchoz likely would bring a conservative perspective that would provide some balance on the council. He understands that finite finances require governments to prioritize and says there may be times when projects must be delayed and that the city might have to stop doing some things. His would be a practical approach, he said, adding the city “can’t give everybody everything.” He rightly questions whether the city should now — or ever — use tax increment financing.

But while we’re convinced he could serve effectively, we are surprised by Mr. Bolchoz’s lack of clarity and specificity on key issues. He opposes using a penny sales tax to fund buses but adds that you “can’t say never.” He says the bus system must be preserved but suggests that the woefully inadequate system could operate at an even smaller size.

Although Mr. Bolchoz touts his experience as a prosecutor and in the corporate arena as reasons to elect him, he has failed to adequately explain how that would translate into specific policy or positions that move the city forward. Frankly, he comes across as having put little thought into the broad issues facing the city.

Mr. Runyan’s goal-oriented, visionary approach makes him better prepared to serve Columbia. Voters should elect him.

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