(Editor’s note: While The State Opinion page will not make endorsements in the Nov. 5 Columbia City Council races, we have asked all of the candidates to provide replies to a candidate questionnaire.)
Name: Catherine Fleming Bruce (District 2 candidate).
1. Please provide some brief biographical information — including some detail on why you are running for this office.
Just as the nation is at a crossroads, Columbia is as well.
We can either have a government that works for the people or one that works for the well-connected. It really is up to those who come out to vote on Nov. 5. My charge as a candidate is to make the case for my vision of government for the many.
If I win, it will because Columbia voters accept that vision rather than the comfort of the status quo.
Thankfully, I have had people near me my entire life who have stoked my interest in politics and taught me not to look away from injustice.
My influence and role models are my late father, Louis Fleming (who served as Sumter County Council chairman and worked with many of today’s politicians, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and state Sen. Darrell Jackson) and my mother, Emma R. Fleming (who taught school and served in leadership positions in many community organizations).
Studies at Agnes Scott College, a woman’s college, heightened my power to build, collaborate and lead. Advanced degree work at the University of South Carolina strengthened my ability to analyze, organize and innovate.
Community work through Tnovsa Global Commons has led to the preservation of structures connected to leaders and change agents like Modjeska Monteith Simkins and Dr. Cyril O. Spann (permanently cementing important legacies of our community).
A two-year term as the foreperson for the public corruption state grand jury helped to identify and root out networks of corruption.
My book on the social justice aspect of saving historical civil rights sites won national recognition and is a model for current and future developers.
My decision to run for this office came after the deaths of Derrick Roper and Calvin Witherspoon — both residents of Allen Benedict Court — and the displacement of the entire community (Allen Benedict Court is in District 2).
This situation was totally avoidable, but it was not avoided due to an attitude — and lack of proactive leadership — that is evidence that not all persons in our city are valued.
This incident and others like it show that a better form of governance — one that sees, hears and forms policy that considers impacts on the vulnerable — is badly needed.
I am offering to run to provide an alternative by providing the accountability and transparency practices to ensure that Columbia residents have safety.
2. What are the three biggest issues facing the city?
The three biggest issues that I see in the city generally are:
▪ The infrastructure issues that hamper the provision of clean water.
▪ The challenge and increasing scarcity of affordable housing.
▪ The cronyism and favoritism that rejects accountability, creates inequity, squelches opportunity and creates a lower quality of life and standard of living for many residents.
3. What are the three biggest issues facing your district?
The three biggest issues facing my district are:
▪ Maintaining a culturally and racially diverse district.
▪ Providing economic opportunity, upward mobility and inclusion for all.
▪ The need to attract and develop all sectors of the district into safe, lively areas with basic needs that are met through planning, inclusive economic development and cultural tourism.
4. At the end of your term, what is one major accomplishment you want to be able to point to as your crowning achievement — a policy change, local project, etc. that you played a major role in bringing about?
During the forum hosted by the Chamber, there was a question raised about the social contract. Between a community’s members and the government those members set up, the social contract is an agreement for the community to live under the rules they create through their government — and that government providing core services to the community in return. I was the only candidate who gave an answer that was informed by understanding of the term and its meaning.
To support a social contract between the city and its people, at the end of my term I would like to leave in place a Human Rights Commission. Its role will be to review past and future ordinances and policies, ensuring that they do not produce disproportionate harm to segments of our population.
5. What do you want your legacy to be as a public official?
I do not want my legacy as a public official to be based on being able to point to any single building or structure.
Rather I want my legacy to be:
▪ Replacing our current system of decision-making by a powerful few with a much broader public participation in our city’s politics.
▪ Ensuring that all levels of public decision-making take place in an accountable, transparent way with two-way communication with voters.
The result will be in an improved quality of life for all citizens in the district and in our city.