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.
I will work to increase the number of officers on patrol, replace our aging fleet of police and fire vehicles, and allow more officers who live in the city to take vehicles home to improve neighborhood safety. Columbia has the highest municipal tax rate of any city in South Carolina. We cannot keep raising taxes on our residents. However, I would prioritize spending and go after federal grants to pay for those needs.
Public safety has long been a primary issue in local elections. If citizens don’t feel safe, other less-pressing issues pale in importance. Columbia’s police department is stronger than it was two years ago. However, there are needs. Starting salaries must be increased to compete with other departments. Substations should be created in high-crime areas. We need more and better-paid dispatchers. Tighten nondepartmental expenditures and increase the portion of the General Fund that goes to CPD.