Columbia, SC — THERE ARE a number of local elections across the Midlands today. Here’s a recap of The State’s endorsements in contests for mayor and three council seats in Columbia as well as a Richland County bond referendum that would allow the public library to borrow money to improve existing branches and build two new ones.
Mayor. We haven’t always agreed with Mayor Steve Benjamin, but he has been an effective leader who has helped position Columbia to meet his bold vision of becoming “the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in the Southeast.” Voters should give him the responsibility of helping the city capitalize on the many opportunities before it.
At-large Council seat. Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine has proven to be an independent, reasoned representative during her nearly 12 years in office. While we have questioned some of her positions, more often than not, the seasoned council member is on the right side of issues and plays a key role in helping the council pursue common ground and solutions. Voters should re-elect her.
Council District 1. Incumbent Sam Davis has been mostly a caretaker who has kept a close eye on his district during his 15-year tenure, but his opponent hasn’t made a case that suggests he would be much different. Voters should re-elect Mr. Davis, who should focus more on the big picture and helping forge a vision for the city as a whole.
Council District 4. Given first-term Councilwoman Leona Plaugh’s wealth of knowledge about how the capital city’s government operates, it has been disappointing that she hasn’t been more of a problem solver. While her opponent suggests he would be more oriented toward finding solutions than simply voting “no,” he doesn’t make a strong enough case to replace the incumbent. Voters should re-elect Ms. Plaugh, a former city manager, with the expectation that she will use her experience to have a meaningful impact on the policies, projects and planning that will shape Columbia’s future.
Library bond. The award-winning Richland Library is a resource of endless information, an economic engine, a gathering place, a remedy to the digital divide and the place where the young and old still can experience the pleasures of reading. Named National Library of the Year in 2001 by the Library Journal and the Gale Group, it is in serious need of upgrades that would be much cheaper to undertake now — when the costs of borrowing money and building are low — than later.
The system is overdue for a large-scale makeover to transform its main location and branches into the high-tech, information-rich meeting places needed to serve this community well into the 21st century. Richland County voters should vote “ yes” to a proposed $59 million bond issue that would allow the system to remain the jewel that it is.
To read our complete endorsements, go to thestate.com/endorsements.