How Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin takes on national issues, locally

As part of our continuing series, American Voices, we look at Columbia, South Carolina, to see how national issues are playing out on the local level. Under the watch of Mayor Steve Benjamin, Columbia became the first city in the U.S. to outlaw the attachment of bump stock gun accessories last year.

Benjamin, the president of the non-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors, joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss how he’s tackling issues like infrastructure and climate change in his own city.

“Right now, the reality is that we’re building the vast majority of American infrastructure and 80 percent of all infrastructures is built by cities and state governments,” Benjamin said. “We have terra cotta pipes in the ground 200 years old in cities and towns across America. If we’re going to compete with our friends in Europe and Asia, and even some developing countries in other parts of the world, we’ve got to make sure we start investing in American infrastructure. It would be wonderful to have a partner in Washington D.C., but America’s cities are committed to leading even in spite of that.”

Earlier this month, Michael Bloomberg told “CBS This Morning” that despite President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, much can be accomplished at the city level. The former New York City mayor pledged $70 million to help 20 U.S. cities speed up their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Benjamin has committed Columbia to 100 percent clean energy by 2036 and said he focuses on how to reframe the issue for local residents.

“Mayors are important in this discussion because when you start talking to people about how do we stop the Earth from warming… people’s eyes glaze over. But the mayor can talk to someone and say, ‘OK, your child is suffering with asthma. Let me show you what we can do to help deal with that,'” he said. “If we put some solar panels on your roof, we can cut your bill by $200 and it helps with your income issues and this issue of income volatility that’s affecting families. We can have a real conversation with people.”

CBS News