Nicole Curtis from the Columbia Chamber just saved me a heap o’ typing by sending out this from the presser I attended at the Clarion Townhouse this morning:
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott officially endorsed the Transportation Penny Plan on Tuesday at a Unity Rally to demonstrate the strong and broad base of support for the countywide plan to improve roadways in the Midlands and save the area’s vital bus system.
“Passage of the penny will help protect public safety in Richland County,” Lott said in his endorsement of The Penny. “The penny will provide infrastructure that can be life-saving. It will pave hundreds of dirt roads across the country. This is about far more than convenience. When sheriff’s deputies and ambulances can’t get down a dirt road because it’s turned to mud, people can die.”
Other local leaders, including Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin joined Lott at the Rally, which was held at the Clarion Townhouse in downtown Columbia exactly one week before the crucial Nov. 6 vote on The Penny.
“Those who oppose this initiative say it costs too much. But it’s a no vote that costs too much,” said Benjamin. “It would mean the loss of over 16,500 new jobs and billions in new investments. It would mean continuing to pay the terrible cost of having the second most dangerous roads in the state. It would cost our community millions in federal matching funds for transforming our bus system. It would lead to fees that would cost our families twice as much as The Penny. It would put the entire burden of transportation costs on Richland County residents, rather than letting folks from outside share the load.”
The event represented a diverse cross-section of individuals, including business, community and faith leaders, elected officials and various activist organizations.
Others on hand at the rally included members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation, Columbia City Council and Richland County Council, representatives from the United Way of the Midlands, Sustainable Midlands, Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Eau Claire Community Council, River Alliance, League of Women Voters, Conservation Voters of South Carolina and the Midlands Business Leadership Group, and additional neighborhood, faith and community leaders.
“Today our answer is a resounding YES – YES we want more jobs, YES we want local control, YES we want a first class public transit system and YES we want safer roads,” said Bunnie Ward of the United Way of the Midlands. “By investing today and saying YES, we will ensure a successful future for our community for generations to come.”
The Penny is on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot as two separate “Sales and Use Tax” questions. If approved by voters, it would add one cent to the Richland County sales tax for a period of 22 years to raise funds for vital roadway improvements and to provide long-term support for the local bus system.
Citizens for a Greater Midlands, the group pushing passage of this referendum, has done quite a job of assembling a broad coalition, as evidenced in the third paragraph from the end.
Of course, as I’ve noted before, the other side has a lot of passion going for it. Or at least, I thought it did. I was a bit surprised that, unlike at the last one of these events I attended in the same location, there wasn’t a single “no” counterdemonstrator outside. And this event was publicized in advance. I don’t know what happened to them today…