Steve Benjamin is getting ready to show off his city to about 60 of his closest mayor pals from around the country.
As president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Benjamin is hosting a three-day gathering of leaders from some of America’s largest cities, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the mayors of cities including Miami, Houston, Boston and Detroit, as well as mayors from across South Carolina next weekend in Columbia.
From Thursday to Saturday, they’ll talk policing, infrastructure, homelessness and downtown revitalization, among other topics.
Those are three days that Columbia will take to show those mayors what it’s doing right, Benjamin said.
“We go to these meetings regularly; we share best practices; we share ideas. But there’s nothing like being able to see hands-on what’s happening in your host city,” Benjamin said. “We’re bringing some of the most talented public-sector employees in the world and showing them what’s happening in Columbia.”
The Conference of Mayors is a national agenda-setting group whose opinions are regularly voiced to the president of the United States and national lawmakers. It consists of around 1,400 mayors representing cities with populations of 30,000 or more people.
While the leaders are here in Columbia, they will stay at the Hilton hotel in the Vista downtown, visit the Vulcan quarry in the Olympia neighborhood, walk together to the Saturday morning Soda City market, view an advanced screening of the highly anticipated movie “The Hate U Give” at The Nickelodeon theater and party on Main Street with what Benjamin hopes will be a few thousand Columbians.
Next week will be the first time the city has ever hosted a group of leaders such as this one.
“I love this city. I love Columbia,” Benjamin said. “This is a real opportunity to show off all the things and the people who make this city special. So, yeah, I take a great deal of personal pride in this.”
The people of Columbia are invited to “meet the mayors” at a street party in the 1600 block of Main Street next Friday, Sept. 28, from 6:30-10 p.m. It will feature live music by The Reggie Sullivan Band, FatRat Da Czar, Soda City Brass Band and Seventy Six and Sunny.
The 1600 block of Main was strategically chosen for the party, Benjamin said, to show off how the city leveraged public grant funding to preserve historic buildings and spur millions of dollars in private investment to open up vibrant new businesses — including Lula Drake wine parlor and The Grand bowling alley — in recent years.