September 5, 2013

In Our Opinion: Weak-mayor system takes power from voters

Columbia, SC - When you vote for mayor in Columbia, do you realize that you arenít deciding who really runs the city?

Instead, what you get to do when you go to the voting booths is an opportunity to vote for a part-time politician who has little control of city government.

The mayor you vote for wonít have the ability to set City Councilís agenda, wonít be able to appoint or dismiss important employees or really anything you would expect a mayor to do.

Youíre not alone if youíre surprised to find out this is how our weak-mayor city government works. But if a mayor doesnít get to make all of these big-time decisions, then who does?

Turns out, all of the duties people usually associate with a mayor goes instead to a city manager. Itís a position that appointed by the City Council at large, which means voters donít get to directly choose who they think best represents the interests of our city.

Who would think in a rapidly growing capital city like Columbia could still is stuck under a form of government thatís more common to small towns like Gaston where pretty much everybody knows each otherís name.

And yeah, we have to admit itís kind of weird to watch Mayor Steve Benjamin back an effort to expand his own powers, but can anyone really blame him?

While weíve come so far with the system weíve got, imagine how much further we could go if the mayorís position was strengthened.

An effort to get a strong-mayor referendum on Novemberís ballot isnít likely to succeed before todayís deadline, but we hope organizers will give it another shot.

Columbiaís in need of an update, and making our city government more in line with similar-sized cities could only serve us in the long run.

Besides, itís not fair for voters to not have some say in the day-to-day operation of the city they live, work and play in.

It should be a given that strong mayors make for strong cities. After all, how can we expect to move forward as a city without a clear and effective leader at the helm?

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