Mayor Benjamin outlines achievements, challenges ahead

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- The Mayor of Columbia is speaking about the challenges ahead and the possible improvements to the area that will change the Capital City.

It's been just six months since Steve Benjamin took control of the Mayor's office in Columbia.

For the past several years, Columbia has been known for fiscal mismanagement that sent them deep into the red.

He says his proudest accomplishment to date is overseeing a city he says is operating in the black.

"We've been good stewards of taxpayer dollars that we are over $4 million under budget...every department in the city is under budget and that was important to us that we proved we could be fiscally responsible and handle taxpayer dollars properly," he says.

Money is coming to the Capital City from the recent Bull Street sale. The property was bought by Greenville's Bob Hughes. The Upstate developer paying $15 million for 165 acres in downtown Columbia currently owned by the State Department of Mental Health.

Benjamin says, "Those of us who care about parks, those who care about historic preservation, those who want to see quality development, I think will all be very happy at the end of the day at what we see at Bull Street."

He is optimistic about the positive change development there can bring, but Columbia is far from challenge free.

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The sputtering public transit system still needs a permanent funding solution. It's a roadblock local leaders have been trying to get by for years.

"We have got to aggressively seek partnerships with the business community with the universities with our neighboring communities in Richland county and Lexington," he says.

His search for solutions will take him out of state. Next month, the Mayor will travel by light rail from Charlotte to Raleigh to get input from the National League of Cities on transportation policies that worked elsewhere.

Also, Benjamin hopes to see increased attendance at City Council meetings. He adds they will start streaming online soon.

Check out part one of this series that ran Tuesday where Benjamin reviews his six months in office and discusses priority and direction.

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