To read my Thursday and Friday columns as well as other commentary on this topic, scan the code or go to thestate.com/endorsements.
WHILE OPPONENTS have raised some legitimate concerns about implementing strong mayor in Columbia, the upside of adopting a more efficient, accountable governing structure that would better serve citizens and help the city realize potential it has sat on for years far outweighs the possible drawbacks.
In two previous columns, which ran on Thursday and Friday, I explored the legitimate concerns raised about strong mayor as well as red herrings and misleading information that negatively portray that form of government. Today, let’s consider positive aspects of strong mayor that make it the better system for Columbia going forward.
A few months back, a Richland County Council member told me that top executives looking to move to the area don’t want to talk with city or county council members; they want to sit down with the mayor. While Columbia mayors over the years have been helpful in luring new industry to the Midlands, the fact is that they have had no real power to make decisions or even assure prospects that the city will be open to making a deal. Empowering Columbia’s mayor would greatly enhance his ability to market the city as well as the region.
Without a doubt, making this change would give mayors more power than most Columbians are used to. It’s understandable that this makes some people uncomfortable, even fearful. But that’s the risky and hopeful nature of our representative democracy: We choose leaders and then trust them to be good stewards of that trust that people have given him. If they’re not, voters can fire them at the ballot box.
I’m convinced Columbia would stand a better chance of reaching its potential if it is guided by a full-time elected executive. For that to happen, on Dec. 3, Columbia voters must empower the mayor to do what so many have thought he was able to do for years now: be the unequivocal, indisputable leader of this city.
Reach Mr. Bolton at (803) 771-8631 or email@example.com.