Editorial: Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis should be re-elected, needs to refocus

10/31/2013 12:00 AM

02/26/2014 9:19 PM

WHILE Tuesday’s election to fill the Columbia City Council District 1 seat pits a 15-year incumbent against a challenger who has never served in an elected office, neither candidate stands out as a clear choice.

That’s because both veteran Councilman Sam Davis and challenger Bruce Trezevant come across as caretakers who would fare well in terms of constituent service, particularly in their own district, but who exhibit only limited interest in or ability to forge a vision for the city as a whole.

As is so often the case when it comes to elected officials who represent districts, Mr. Davis and Mr. Trezevant are far more familiar with and focused on District 1. While that is understandable, the fact is that all council members — yes, even those elected from districts — are obligated to look first at the big picture, which calls for setting budgets and policies, passing ordinances and devising plans aimed at governing and improving the entire city.

Although both candidates say they believe what’s good for the city is good for their district, it was clear in endorsement interviews that their focus is District 1.

During his lengthy tenure on the council, Mr. Davis has done little to distinguish himself outside of his district. When he has stood out, he has too often been on the wrong side of issues. For example, he sided with the majority that stonewalled efforts to let voters decide whether to make the city’s mayor a full-time, empowered executive. He relented only after a petition campaign garnered enough voters’ signatures to force a referendum, which will be held Dec. 3. He also sided with the majority that rushed the approval of an agreement that will govern how the old State Hospital on Bull Street will be developed. In the process, they ignored legitimate requests to slow down so the deal could be adequately vetted and the city could identify how it would pay for the millions of dollars in infrastructure commitments made to the developer.

When asked to talk about why he should be re-elected, Mr. Davis gave a lengthy, rambling answer that focused on making sure people who don’t have a voice have representation, making sure the system works for those people and being accessible. When asked about his accomplishments, he talked almost exclusively — and in detail — about drainage and other infrastructure improvements in his district, including the ongoing streetscaping of North Main. He also stressed the need for the city to make improvements in the district to bring in more economic development. Those are all worthy improvements, but Mr. Davis shared little about citywide issues.

Mr. Trezevant is even more focused on District 1, and the former law enforcement officer is largely a single-issue candidate, who talks almost exclusively about the need to improve public safety, from hiring a police chief to addressing high-crime areas to erecting cameras in neighborhoods.

Mr. Trezevant also talks a lot about the need to spend more time and money on programs to keep young people out of trouble. Since 2006, he has headed a community organization called Project Unity USA, which seeks to help law enforcement understand black and high-crime areas and get those areas more familiar with police and what they do. That is a worthy pursuit, but ultimately, Mr. Trezevant provides little reason for voters to remove an incumbent.

Mr. Davis should be re-elected.

To see our other endorsements, go to thestate.com/endorsements.

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