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Entries in columbia sc (19)

Monday
Jan142013

More Columbia Tax Dollars Going to Waste on Supermarkets?

Proposed Site of Farrow Road Shopping CenterColumbia City Council has a new plan for sparking life into one of NoCo traditionally troubled community, The Farrow Road area. The new beacon of hope? An unnamed Grocery store and Shopping plaza.

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Thursday
Jan102013

Goals for Teresa Wilson's First year

Our new City Manager. Photo from Fox Midlands ConnectLets face it. It got ugly at Columbia City Council on Tuesday.

The dissention over the appointment of Mayor Benjamin's ally Teresa Wilson spilled into the adoption of the salary. Mayor Benjamin felt the need to respond to a State Paper's article that the posting was changed to fit Ms. Wilson's resume. I know Councilman Plaugh felt blindsided by it and responded. This is what happens when you have to judge the future of people you are very close too.

This is all behind us now.

Rather than focus on the past appointment lets focus on the future. For the city manager to succeed they need guidance on just what council wants and finds most important.

I recommend that council give her measurable goals to all areas of city development. For example

  • Improving Water and Sewer maintenance backlog
  • Obtaining Federal and State Grants development grants
  • Improving city roads
  • Implementing the Chamber of Commerce recommendations on Initial Business Licensing
  • Continue to cut excess positions by allowing retiring positions to be eliminated where possible.

Teresa Wilson is qualified and more importantly she is the future of the city. Lets give her some goals and hope she continues in the tradition of Steve Gantt's as a great city manager.

Friday
Jan042013

Steve Benjamin Quietly Helps Neighbors at West Ave Apartments

I came upon a story on twitter about a woman whose heat was out in New Jersey.

 

 

 

It got me thinking. Why can't stuff like that happen here in Columbia? Mayor Booker is just using social media to answer community requests and respond to concerns. I want MY mayor

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Wednesday
Jun132012

Why I support of Assembly Street Walmart

I admit it. I was initially against selling the stadium to Walmart. I really didn't care much about the Rocky Branch flooding issues. To me it was about the traffic issues and the effect it would have on small business in Rosewood.

I've come around though. No small part was due to an excellent article written by Kevin Fisher in the Free Times.

The flooding issues I think can be handled through engineering. In the end a private business will be responsible to protect their investment. While it was great to have the idea of a green space you have to have businesses somewhere. The city has enough parks. We need revenue generators.

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Tuesday
Jun052012

Cautionary Tale of KickballGate 

ColumbiaCents editorial. It is not written from an unbiased perspective.

In the past I've talked about my efforts to be a fiscal activist. At the end of April I put in a bunch of Freedom of Information Requests with the city. I basically skimmed the Truth in Spending reports and flagged expenses that I deemed questionable. Part of this was to find out exactly what I got when my information request came in.

I came to a check written for $1162.50 from the Recreational Athletics Department. Flipping through the invoice I was shocked. The bill was for referee services for ADULT KICKBALL.

The invoice laid out in detail how on just 2 days the city spent over 1,100 dollars in Beer League Kickball.

In my mind at the time I had my smoking gun. I was already planning my expose' on how I was uncovering waste, fraud and abuse in Columbia. It was easy to find people who agreed at work. After all Columbia has a reputation (deserved or undeserved) for boondoggles and poor spending practices.

Only one guy said it looked reasonable to him. He was a former soccer ref that got paid 25 bucks a game to ref. I quickly dismissed him as crazy since I OBVIOUSLY could not be jumping to conclusions.

Well I did slow my roll enough to want to dig for more facts to present a full story. You know, "Follow the Money."

I contacted both Parks and recreation and the vendor.

The Vendor was a little confused on why I was calling but answered my questions anyways. He explained that each unit was a game and the $46.50 was to cover ref fees, setup turning on lights and his fee in booking the events. Now I had him on record. The invoice showed 25 units total. There was no way that there was actually playing 25 games in 2 days during the week.

I wanted to roll the presses. Still I had to find out the number of games to blow this thing up completely.

Parks and Rec did their best to fuel my conspiracy theories at first. The director refused to talk about the Invoice without the FOI request. I couldn't just bring it to her. I had to have Public Relations send it. This phone tag went on for over a week still not getting an explanation.

Finally I had the bright idea. Just ask for the schedule. Duh. This they happily provided since after all its a kickball schedule.

This was the ahh ha moment at last. Only I found

I was completely and totally wrong!

Turns out they were NOT padding an invoice or spending 100s of dollars on a single kickball game. They indeed had 25 games in 2 days.

The fields and days matched up exactly like they were on the invoice. Digging around I also found that each team has a $300 registration cost. Over a 10 game schedule this has the league paying for all but about $16 dollars a game.

The cost to the city turned out to be very little. For this the were supporting the Mayor's "Let's Move!" Campaign and efficiently using the cities parks instead of just letting them sit idle. It also is a way to encourage people to get out and enjoy their neighborhoods. This has tons of intangibles. It can cut out obesity, promote our park structure and make the surrounding area more community oriented.

It can even positively effect crime rates. After all if people are getting to know their neighbors they are more likely to look out for them. That's pretty much the basis of a community watch organization.

Studies have been done that suggest youth sports can be a factor in reducing the youth crime rate.

In the end I'm glad I got the full story. If I had reported early I would have wasted peoples time from solving real problems in the city. I would have also tainted the reputation for fairness I'm trying to earn.

FOI can be a great tool. You can get a lot of information on what is happening in the city just by looking around the website. It is our responsibility to use the "sunshine" we are granted by the city properly though.