RICHLAND County Council District 7 Democratic primary voters go to the polls on June 12 to choose between an experienced incumbent and a political newcomer who pledges to work hard, build positive relationships and be more accountable.
We give challenger Torrey Rush a slight edge over Councilwoman Gwendolyn Davis Kennedy. While inexperienced and perhaps a bit too reserved, Mr. Rush is smart and offers voters in District 7 a fresh start.
Ms. Kennedy, once ousted from the council because of complaints that she was a self-absorbed spendthrift, is her own worst enemy. Although she has acquitted herself fairly well during her second stint on the council, it’s not enough.
Ms. Kennedy has grown as a council member and no longer comes across as someone simply out to feed at the county trough. She clearly understands how the county works and the needs of her district and the county. She recognizes the need to put the county’s interests ahead of her district, embraces regional cooperation and supports improving the Midlands’ struggling bus system.
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That said, she did manage to overspend her expense account this fiscal year to the tune of about $950. Would this be like her previous tenure on the council in the ’90s, when she was one of two members who took a trip to Hawaii at taxpayers’ expense, with no credible explanation for how the junket served the interests of Richland County? Not at all. Ms. Kennedy said she notified county staff she had overspent and wisely plans to repay the county.
While we’re encouraged by Ms. Kennedy’s improved accountability, she often votes in ways that are not in the best interest of her district or the county. She supports a wasteful and unnecessary mega-sports complex in her district that will cost tens of millions of dollars in public funding to construct. She also supported the wasteful purchase of 44 acres along Garners Ferry Road for a pie-in-the-sky park project. It’s unclear who will manage these projects or what they ultimately will cost to operate; neither falls under control of the county’s recreation commission.
In addition, Ms. Kennedy inexplicably voted to extend the life of a landfill in Northeast Richland, invalidating the county’s agreement requiring the facility to close. She opposed a proposal to provide the public more access by broadcasting council meetings. And the list goes on.
Mr. Rush, who has served on the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals for seven years, doesn’t offer enough specifics about his vision, but he possesses a good knowledge of county government and is capable of growing into a good council member.
Mr. Rush genuinely wants to serve the county. He sees the county’s potential for economic development and improved quality of life. He says it’s key to develop positive relationships with other elected officials to improve regional cooperation and improve the Midlands, something he vows to do. He says he can’t support the mega-sports complex and that he would like to see a proposed penny sales tax focus on the bus system. He also pledges to be more accountable, something the council needs a heavy dose of.
Voters should choose Mr. Rush on June 12.