Columbia, SC — I was disappointed by The State’s Nov. 10 front-page editorial, “Strong mayor, strong city” — not by the editorial board’s support for a strong-mayor system, but by how weak its reasoning was.
The editorial said the 2-1 margin by which Mayor Steve Benjamin was re-elected was a sign that Columbia voters endorse his vision. Mr. Benjamin did receive 64 percent of the votes cast. But since 21 percent of eligible voters participated, fewer than 14 percent of eligible Columbia voters voted for Mr. Benjamin.
Second, the editorial states that voters think the mayor directs the city under the present system. If the editorial board believes that voters are unaware of the mayor’s lack of authority, then it may be reasonable to conclude that voters are not aware of his vision.
However, the board states that its support of a strong-mayor system is not about Mr. Benjamin or any future mayor but about having a system in which city government is “more accountable, effective and responsive,” not “inefficient and unaccountable” and “slow and plodding” as the board believes the current system to be.
This is the same board that criticized how quickly the mayor and several council members accepted the development contract for the Bull Street property. Does the editorial board want a strong-mayor system to move even faster on such matters?
Finally, the editorial states that the present system of governance is no way to run a city on the “cusp of tremendous growth.” But the city arrived at that cusp without the benefit of a strong-mayor system.
The State has advocated for a strong-mayor system for at least 15 years. Might its advocacy be more strongly reasoned and presented?