95
      Saturday
      87 / 70
      Sunday
      85 / 70
      Monday
      86 / 71

      Voters to decide future of Columbia's government

      "Simple accountability you know, elect a mayor who is in charge, who has the power to be in charge but is also held accountable for what is done," said State Representative James Smith.

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Columbia voters go back to the ballot box Tuesday to decide which form of government should run the capital city.

      Under the current council manager system the mayor and council have the same policy making and voting power.

      A city manager oversees administrative operations - including hiring and firing, budgeting, finance and day to day operations.

      A change to a mayor-council form of government would put those duties in the hands of the mayor.

      "Simple accountability you know, elect a mayor who is in charge, who has the power to be in charge but is also held accountable for what is done," said State Representative James Smith.

      "The mayor's job ought to be to set the vision and the goals for the city, working collectively with all the other city council members so that we know exactly where we're going and how we're going to get there," said Kit Smith.

      Smith is with the Communities United For A Great Columbia and argues a professional manager should implement the direction city leaders have for the capital city.

      She points out under a strong mayor instead of reaching out to your representative for help, everything would go through the mayor.

      "If you want a pot hole fixed or your garbage collection is late, you can't call your representative, you've got to call the mayor's office, so the mayor gradually accumulates more and more power and the neighborhoods lose power," adds Smith .

      The Municipal Association of South Carolina says even with ten cities in South Carolina using Columbia's current form of government, the strong mayor system is the most widely used in the Palmetto State.

      Representative James Smith argues one size doesn't fit all in government and while a city like Greenville is flourishing under a council-manger system, Charleston is thriving with a strong mayor and could do the same for Columbia.

      "It will begin to help us move forward, help us move forward on critical issues on some neighborhood issues, development concerns, on some of the long-standing infrastructure issues, on having a police chief that has a clear direction," concludes Smith.

      If voters approve a strong mayor on Tuesday, the city will change to a mayor-council form of government starting in July, then city council members will decide if they're going to hire an administrator that reports directly to the mayor.