District 3 candidates Moe Baddourah and Daniel Coble face each other in a run-off election April 17th. Earlier in the campaign, they both answered questions from The State about how they would approach some of the major issues facing Columbia. Here are their answers:
QUESTION: Plans for a Walmart-based shopping center near Olympia have focused attention on flooding and water quality issues. What is your solution to these environmental concerns and how would you pay for it?
We must strike a balance between allowing desirable growth and safeguarding our community against flooding and run-off pollution. New developments should include protection against run-off pollution (berms, green space, etc.) and builders should include them in their development plans. I support retention ponds, rain barrel system and incentives to encourage re-use of vacant “big-box” stores. Also worth noting: Charleston recently received funding from the State Infrastructure Bank to build the underground drainage infrastructure necessary to alleviate flooding.
I support the Rocky Branch Watershed Alliance that has been formed to preserve the watershed and to address the root causes of drainage problems. Major drainage improvement projects like the Five Points streetscaping project and MLK Park improvements require long-term planning and funding from a variety of sources. Maintenance and cleaning out the drainage system is as important as the capacity of the system. I support maintenance and cleaning crews for the city’s drainage system.
QUESTION: The community continues to struggle to find a way to have an efficient, well-run bus system. Do you support adding a penny to the local sales tax to finance the bus system? If not, what funding source would you suggest?
I strongly support the buses, but the 2010 referendum failed because they sought a full 1 percent increase and less than half was for the bus system. The buses could have been funded with a half-percent increase. I support a half-penny increase. Non-bus-related projects should be considered separately, not lumped in with our all-important buses. Also, let’s consider using existing revenue (such as the hospitality tax). And county government should pick up its fair share.
I strongly support the penny sales tax referendum. It is critical for the future of Columbia that we have a permanent funding source for the bus system. A first class public transit system is important not only for those who rely on the system to get to work and the doctor, but a vibrant transit system is important to our economy and our environment.
QUESTION: What do you propose as a means to better ensure public safety and how would you pay for it? Would you support new fees, assessments or a tax increase to make residents feel safer?
Columbia has much-needed revenue going toward nonessential costs. I’d like to see some of it used for crime-surveillance cameras throughout the city and an increased police presence. And let’s direct police resources where they are needed — protecting us from crime. Speeding enforcement serves a purpose, but not at the expense of protecting families against violent crime. We must ensure police are well-paid and have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively — and safely.
I support hiring more police, the curfew and the 2 a.m. bar closing in Five Points, security cameras, and strengthening our PACE program. In our budgeting process, funding public safety must be our top priority with our existing tax revenues. I would support using the millage increase allowed by state law for population growth and inflation to go toward law enforcement. Also, I would support using hospitality taxes for cameras.
QUESTION: How would you vote on the need for corridor master development plans and how would you pay to carry out what the plans call for?
Long-range planning is important, as has been underscored by the recent fiasco involving the adult video store on Devine Street, near my business. As a businessman, I want to make it easier for businesses to grow and prosper, which includes such things as reducing the “red tape” required to get a business license. So, I’d support master development plans as long as they’re not overly restrictive and don’t deter desirable new businesses.
City Council authorized $200,000 earlier this year for four corridor studies including Millwood Avenue and South Assembly Street. I support those studies. The recommendations from those studies will undoubtedly require long-term planning and funding that must be prioritized. Additionally, many of the recommendations undoubtedly would suggest existing city resources and staff be used to implement the plans. Long-term planning and vision is essential for the improvement of our city.