Where have you gone, former Mayor Bob? A city turns its troubled eyes to you, woo, woo, woo. What’s that you say, Cola Citizen? Gentle Bob has left and gone away, hey, hey, hey …hey, hey, hey.
First, my apologies to Simon and Garfunkel. And also to Mayor Bob, if he’s offended. I hope not, because it’s meant as a compliment.
Indeed, we could use a little Mayor Bob about now. Can you imagine him fighting with council members in public? With concerned citizens? With anyone?
Of course not. As I wrote about Bob upon his retirement: “Coble was eminently approachable as mayor, making each person feel worthy in their opinions and welcome to share them.”
While I disagreed mightily with him on a wide range of policy and management decisions (or the lack thereof), I always liked the way Bob conducted himself both personally and in his role as the city’s elected leader. Council followed suit, as the mayor sets the tone. And therein lies a lesson that Steve Benjamin needs to learn.
Perhaps he has. He did issue his “Let Us Choose Civility” op-ed piece, and though it was a bit bizarre (“there is a battle between two wolves raging inside all of us”), I’ll give him credit for taking the initiative. But the fable-based, rhetoric-laced, consultant-faced nature of the column came across more as posturing than peacemaking.
Moreover, nowhere in that statement was there any acknowledgement of him having contributed to the problem, much less any apology for having done so. The whole thing had kind of a junior-high feel to it. As does City Council.
Whether its members are fighting publicly with the mayor, with each other or with concerned citizens, the lack of decorum at council meetings falls well short of the distinguished environment of the newly restored Council chambers. If nothing else, they should live up to the room.
Their failure to do so brings to mind another slightly modified verse of “Mrs. Robinson”:
Sitting at a meeting on a Tuesday afternoon / listen to the Council folks debate. Laugh about it, shout about it, when you’ve got to choose / every way you look at it, you lose.
An increasing number of citizens seem to feel that way, regardless of who they supported for mayor or Council seats. While some may favor any given issue and some oppose it, I think they all want a more professional environment when it comes to politicians making public policy.
And again, Benjamin must lead the way. There is only one mayor, and he should act like it. In fact, he should act like it even when his colleagues on Council or citizens on the opposite side of an issue are making life tough for him politically.
Failure to take the high road will lead to failure on policy initiatives. Indeed, I think Benjamin’s combative personal style was a major factor in the landslide defeat of the strong mayor proposal. Voters — even many who supported him for mayor — just didn’t feel comfortable giving him more power.
But while I favor decorum and civility, none of this should be taken to mean I don’t think Mayor Benjamin, members of Council or concerned citizens should not make their points, rally their troops and fight to win. I try to do that in this column every week, and urge everyone else to do the same. Healthy debate leads to wise decisions. Just fight fair, and keep it down in there.
But if Benjamin and Council fail to straighten up and fly right, here’s another modified verse of the song to comfort us in our time of need:
And here’s to you Cola Citizen, Jesus loves you more than you will know, whoa, whoa, whoa. God bless you please, Cola Citizen, heaven holds a place for those who pray, hey, hey, hey … hey, hey, hey.
Accepting Applications for Shakespeare’s Kidz!
Students ages 10-16 are invited to join South Carolina Shakespeare’s new youth company, with classes running September 20th-December 11th followed by a final performance. Contact Katie Mixon with questions about scholarships and applications: PKatieMixon@gmail.com.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Brew Pub Site Available
3520 Augusta Road, West Columbia. Click for more information.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Wing Zone is now hiring for experienced delivery drivers, cooks & cashiers. Apply in person @ 132 Assembly St. or call 803-933-9464.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Free Times is looking for a highly organized, detail-oriented self-starter to assist in gathering material from advertisers, coordinating between the sales and production departments, and handling routine clerical tasks. Must be proficient on a Mac, able to conduct business via phone, email, text, Dropbox, social media platforms and face to face while under deadline in a fast-paced, sometimes distracting work environment. The position requires the ability to multitask, excellent oral and written communication skills, and solid experience in quickly learning new computer programs. This is a full time position with benefits. Send a cover letter, resume and salary expectation to email@example.com.
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com