COLUMBIA GOVERNMENT

Campaign opposing Columbia’s strong-mayor proposal launched

ccope@thestate.comNovember 12, 2013 

NAACP state president Lonnie Randolph addresses the Communities United for a Great Columbia, a group that opposes changing the city's form of government to strong mayor.

CASSIE COPE

— A group of Columbia neighborhood residents and political and civic leaders launched a campaign Tuesday against changing the city’s government to a strong mayor form.

Officially called Communities United for a Great Columbia, the group of more than 30 held signs that read “Professional Manager, Not a Politician” and “VOTE NO December 3,” outside of the Eau Claire Print Building.

The group wants to keep the 64-year-old form of government designed to be led by a professional manager who, on paper, is insulated from political pressure.

The campaign includes a grassroots effort to educate voters, including distributing signs across the city and having one-on-one conversations with residents.

“We are out-funded but not out-committed,” said Howard Duvall, the former executive director of the S.C. municipal association.

He described the organization as a group that cares about the city’s future.

Duvall said residents are concerned that the question of changing the form of government has been “one-sided and directed by well-meaning but self-interested parties.”

Lonnie Randolph, state president of the NAACP and a lifelong city resident, used the common expression “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely,” to make his point. He said the last thing the city needs is for absolute power to be given to anybody.

Ellen Cooper, from the Cottontown/Bellevue neighborhood, was not present, but Duvall read her remarks, which emphasized corruption in American cities that have had strong mayor forms of government throughout history.

Council members Leona Plaugh and Moe Baddourah were the only two present from City Council. Strong mayor opponent Tameika Isaac Devine was out of town, Plaugh said.

Plaugh, a former city manager, said she was thrilled with the diverse group of people that believes in the current form of government.

“This is not a statement about any mayor, this is a statement about how we take the city forward,” Plaugh said.

Reach Cope at 803-771-8657 or on Twitter @cassielcope.

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