The New York Times recently published a column about Charleston mayor Joe Riley. While reading it, I could not help but compare Charleston and Columbia. During Mayor Riley's tenure, Charleston flourished, while Columbia languished. The piece highlights a governance philosophy that partially explains the disparity.
According to Mayor Riley, citizens want concrete results from their government instead of lofty words. While not a groundbreaking concept, it is one Columbia's leaders have continually failed to grasp.
How many times have we heard lofty words like “vision” and “destiny” used to describe a new project certain to be a “game-changer” for our city? Regrettably, the results rarely match the rhetoric. Look no further than the failed Central Correctional Institution development as an example.
Too often our leaders have opted for grandeur while forsaking the basic functions of government. Are we safe? Are our taxes reasonable? Are our services sufficient to meet our daily needs? Until the citizens of Columbia can consistently answer yes to these questions, any discussion about “next-level,” “game-changing” projects is unwarranted. By focusing on core services, Columbia may actually produce the concrete results citizens want and need from their government.