Strong mayor supporters gathering petitions

ccope@thestate.comAugust 24, 2013 

Marcus Richardson and Wesley Butler, both resgistered voters in Columbia, listen to a woman explain she is collecting signatures to support putting a strong mayor referendum on the ballot. Supporters were at the Main Street Latin Festival Saturday.


— Supporters in favor of putting a referendum on the ballot for a strong-mayor form of government in Columbia collected signatures Saturday at the Main Street Latin Festival.

Those collecting signatures said they could not talk to the media and directed requests to

Wanda Pearson, a North Main Street resident, signed the petition.

“I just think the voters should be able to decide,” Pearson said.

If the referendum is put on the ballot, then she will take a look at both sides and decide which way she wants to vote, she said.

Columbia resident Danielle Schoffman said she was thinking about signing the petition but did not sign it Saturday.

She wants to read up on the petition before she signs it.

“I just like to be sure I know what I’m signing before I sign it,” Schoffman said.

City Council refused by a one-vote margin earlier this month to put the question before voters this fall. The only other option under the law is to mount a petition drive signed by 15 percent of registered voters that would force a referendum.

Critics call the current form of government ineffective, slow to respond and not accountable to voters, because the city manager is appointed by the elected council. Under the law, the manager is to make hiring and firing decisions and oversee day-to-day operations.

Under the strong-mayor form, an elected mayor would have those powers, plus be able to vote just as the other six council members do.

Richard Quinn Sr., owner of the political consulting firm Richard Quinn & Associates, said about 10 to 15 volunteers collected signatures Saturday. He said the majority, or about 80 percent, of signatures will be collected from going door-to-door. At public events, it is difficult to know whether people are city residents, he said.

He said they have help from a woman from Atlanta who has experience doing petition drives to help oversee the process.

"It's important that it be done right," Quinn said. 



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