Columbia City Council will not allow a South Carolina pastors alliance to reserve a permanent position on a newly created citizens police advisory committee.
Tensions were visible between representatives of the Carolina Christian Leadership Alliance, which says it represents some 100,000 multi-denominational congregation members across the state, and Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine and Mayor Steve Benjamin.
Devine and Benjamin were among the four council members to vote against Councilman Cameron Runyan’s motion to create an 11th seat on the fledgling advisory committee that would be reserved in perpetuity for a representative recommended by the alliance.
Council voted last month to establish the 10-member citizens advisory committee to review how the Columbia Police Department handles complaints against officers, among other things.
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On Tuesday, Bishop Eric Davis of the pastors alliance argued that the committee never would have come to fruition if not for the recommendation and advocacy of his group. “This is the group that advocated for this, and yet we potentially might not have a delegate to sit on the board,” Davis said.
Benjamin argued that it is important that council have full responsibility over who is appointed to the committee. Devine said there is no other instance among city boards where any one group has a reserved seat.
“Next week you have someone else saying ... ‘We believe we should have an appointment on there,’” Devine said.
The group would have the same opportunity as any other group to make recommendations for representation to the council, Devine said.
Benjamin was open in saying he had reservations about allowing the pastors group permanent representation on the board after discussions earlier this year concerning the creation of a city human rights commission. The pastors group opposed creating the commission because it might examine whether city employees or policies are biased against gays and transgender people.
“One disruptive force can destroy this entire council,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin and Devine were joined by councilmen Sam Davis and Brian DeQuincey Newman in voting against reserving a position on the board for the alliance. Runyan, Councilman Moe Baddourah and Councilwoman Leona Plaugh were in favor.
Applications for the citizens advisory committee are being accepted until June 16. To apply, contact Connie Lucius at (803) 545-4268, or email a request to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete an application online at www.columbiasc.net/boards-commissions.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.
Council also decided to ...
▪ Reallocate $225,000 from jail funding in the 2015-16 budget to go toward the Columbia Urban League’s summer youth employment program. Another $22,500 will come from the city’s contingency funds and $22,500 from city savings for a total of $270,000. The goal is to place 1,000 youths between 14 and 19 in four-week jobs this summer.
▪ Permanently close the section of Greene Street in front of USC’s Russell House, making it pedestrian only at all hours. Council voted unanimously to allow the university to keep the gates closed, with access available to emergency vehicles. USC has kept the gates closed to cars at all hours since May 2014.