Group launches effort against strong mayor petition

cleblanc@thestate.comSeptember 17, 2013 

— A group of Columbia residents on Tuesday launched publicly what had been a whisper campaign to delay a vote on a change in city government.

In a statement that precedes a news conference in Eau Claire, the opponents called on City Council to postpone a scheduled final vote Wednesday. Council is posed to vote on a council-authorized referendum for the Nov. 5 election.

“People don’t seem to understand they are giving up professional management for political management,” said spokesperson Albert Reid. “We have an array of questions about whether or not neighborhoods will suffer when business and financial influence become stronger.

The leadership of the National Association of Colored People also opposes the change in form of government.

“We are concerned that the voice of the less powerful be heard in our City,” state NAACP director Lonnie Randolph said.

The opponents said the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is leading the strong-mayor campaign. The opponents questioned who is paying the "tens of thousands of dollars" being spent on the petition drive and campaign.

The chamber has not released the information, the opponents said.

Council might not have any choice but to hold a referendum within 90 days if Richland County election officials certify the petition that its backers say had more than 12,000 certifiable signatures. That, the backers say, is more than state law requires to mandate a referendum.

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