Category Archives: Community

Kevin Fisher missing Mayor Bob. Really.

Mayor Bob, during an editorial board interview in 2008.

Mayor Bob, during an editorial board interview in 2008.

This was published several days ago, but I just saw it, so I’m sharing with others among you who are just as slow on the uptake.

I enjoyed this column by Kevin Fisher in the Free Times. An excerpt:

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….

Those of you who remember Kevin running against Bob several years back may be surprised at these comments, but you shouldn’t be. Kevin can be an irascible critic — and has gotten under Mayor Bob’s skin a little over the years — but he’s fair-minded, and he’s given former Mayor Bob his due before. Back at the outset of that 2006 campaign, he said of the mayor, “He’s a really nice guy, and much nicer than me.”

But he also saw that as a weakness. He criticized Coble for “waiting for consensus” to lead, and for not being tough enough to say “no” to bad ideas.

Now, Kevin — and probably others — are missing that “waiting for consensus” stuff. That’s not Mayor Benjamin’s style.

Basically, the two mayors have complementary upsides and downsides. With Bob, you really could go nuts waiting for him to step out ahead of the rest of council. He really wanted that consensus. Steve is too impatient for that, so you get a lot of action. But after four years of his impatience, he’s created enough irritation on council that the action is increasingly one-sided, and little gets done.

Although it does seem like the ballpark’s going to go through, it will do so at serious cost to the mayor’s remaining political capital. There are more rough waters ahead — waters upon which Bob Coble would have poured oil…

How Benjamin, et al., are selling Bull St. ballpark

bull street

In case you don’t get these emails, I thought I’d share. The image above shows what the top of the e-blast looks like. Here’s the text:

In case you missed it, Sunday’s Op-Ed in The State made it clear that there WILL be a vote on the Bull Street baseball stadium this Tuesday evening. This vote will set the future direction of our city – survive or thrive!
Please share this article with your respective networks, post it on social media, and like it on the Building Bull Street page. WE NEED TO SHOW OUR GROWING VOICE OF SUPPORT!!!
Once you’ve read the article, please take a moment to contact Mayor Benjamin and Council members Cameron Runyan, Sam Davis and Brian DeQuincey Newman to thank them for their leadership.
The important final vote will take place this Tuesday, April 8th at 6pm. Plan on joining us at City Hall for this very important moment in our citys future.

That’s followed by the text of the op-ed that was in The State over the weekend, which you can read here.

The vote is supposed to come today.

ALL of Richland Election Commission should be replaced

This morning, when I read that there was the potential for every member of the Richland County election commission to be replaced, I wrote on Twitter, “And all five SHOULD be replaced.”

Rep. Nathan Ballentine both favorited and reTweeted my post, so I know I have at least one member of the delegation agreeing with me.

This afternoon, when I got back into town from a business trip to Greenwood, I got a call from a friend, a local businessman who is at the point of retirement, who said he was interested in serving if the delegation was interested in having him. He’s a man who has had a certain success in business, and has been very active in the community. He has no political interests or ambition, and doesn’t want to start playing political games at this stage in life. He’s just concerned about this problem in his community, and is willing to pitch in and help if anyone thinks he can.

In other words, he’s just the kind of person we need serving on the commission.

I called James Smith and asked what the procedure was. I was told he should call the delegation office and get a form to fill out. I passed on the information.

There are at this point about 40 names in the hopper. Here’s hoping that out of the 40, plus the additional ones that will come in now that they’re starting a new filing period, the delegation will find five people willing and able to fix this problem. And that the delegation will actually choose those five…

I was at St. Pat’s in Five Points. Where were y’all?


Late in the afternoon Saturday, I sent out the above picture with the challenge,

My HQ today is @yesterdayssc in case any of my blog peeps care to join me. And if ye don’t, yer an eejit…

But none of y’all showed. At least not immediately. I only waited about another half-hour.

Sorry about the “eejit” thing. It was the only Irish-sounding put down I could think of. I get it from Roddy Doyle.

Saturday was a quick-in, quick-out deal for me, compared to my usual habits on this day. I had been uncertain that I would attend at all. My son’s band was going to play at Henry’s up the street, but one of his bandmates had a death in the family the night before and they had to cancel the gig. I did run into a couple of his present and former bandmates — these guys have played in a lot of bands together over the years — at Yesterday’s, sans instruments.

It was a beautiful day for it. Sorry I missed y’all.

My grandson, waving to a tractor in the parade. You have to understand, that tractor was The Most Important Thing in the parade...

My grandson, waving to a tractor in the parade. You have to understand, that tractor was The Most Important Thing in the parade…

I thought it very Hemingwayan to celebrate standing in one spot, foot propped on bar.

I thought it very Hemingwayan to celebrate standing in one spot, foot propped on bar.


When I arrived for the party in mid- to late afternoon, things had already reached this stage…

That's Laura and Brooke, moving at blurry speed behind the bar at Yesterday's/

That’s Laura and Brooke, moving at blurry speed behind the bar at Yesterday’s/

Troy Thames and Adam Jones, two of my son's past and present bandmates.

Troy Thames and Adam Jones, two of my son’s past and present bandmates.

This table at Yesterday's kept breaking out into wild cheering, for no apparent reason.

This table at Yesterday’s kept breaking out into wild cheering, for no apparent reason.

Kept trying to get a decent panoramic photo. Kept failing...

Kept trying to get a decent panoramic photo. Kept failing…

Best costume. This guy was all like "I'm going to be a James Joyce character today."

Best costume. This guy was all like “I’m going to be a James Joyce character today.”

Pay AGAIN? Sure and ye must be after takin’ me for an eejit

How many of these people do you think would pay TWICE?

How many of these people do you think would pay TWICE?

That’s what I expect a lot of people to say when they leave the St. Pat’s celebration in Five Points this Saturday and try to come back in — assuming, of course, that they’ve learned a cheesy Irish accent from the same dialect coach who trained the “Lucky Charms” guy in “Austin Powers.”

Expect a few donnybrooks over that.

I don’t know what I think. On the one hand, it seems reasonable to me, as it has seemed reasonable to the organizers of this annual festival from time immemorial (this never happened in Jack Van Loan’s day!), to allow people to come back in if they’ve paid once. I mean, when you’ve paid for an all-day event, I can think of all sorts of reasons (say, for instance, you are constitutionally incapable of taking advantage of a port-o-john) why you might need to leave briefly and come back — and you DID pay for the whole day.

On the other hand, the public safety argument has some force on its side, although I’m not entirely devastated by the logic:

But the new policy will allow police and private security to better monitor who is coming and going.

In the past, people were screened the first time they went through the festival gates but not necessarily when they came back, interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago said. Instead, those returning just showed an arm band and walked in.

Now, everyone inside will have been screened, eliminating the risk of bringing contraband, Santiago said. The policy also keeps people from leaving so they can drink more or use drugs before coming back, he said.

“We know that everybody who is in there has been through security,” he said.

Franks also hopes the no re-entry policy curbs some of the disturbances the festival causes in surrounding neighborhoods. There should be fewer people walking through yards and less trash…

What do y’all think?

Chamber backs plan for Lott to run CPD, even while council gives it a cold shoulder

Most of city council has thoroughly dissed Cameron Runyan’s attempt to revive the idea of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott taking over the Columbia Police Department.

But the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is applauding. It sent out this statement yesterday:

“The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce fully endorses Columbia City Council member Cameron Runyan’s plan to contract Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott to manage the City of Columbia’s police department. Public safety, economic development and job creation are top priorities of the Chamber and our business community. Our neighbors and our business owners deserve the right to feel safe in their homes, on their streets and in our business districts. Public safety is critical to moving our city from good to great to achieve status as a world-class city.

We firmly believe Sheriff Lott, based on his past performance, has the credibility and proven results to bring about positive changes in the Columbia Police Department, which will benefit our entire community. Sheriff Lott is a well respected leader throughout Columbia, the state and law enforcement. We encourage our city council members to embrace this plan and help make it a reality.”

-  Holt Chetwood | Chair, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

It’s a bit surprising to me that council so categorically rejects the idea of the popular and competent Lott taking over the department, given that the CPD has in the last few years gone way beyond the point that the word “troubled” adequately described just how fouled up it is at the top. The same proposal lost by only one vote in council in 2010.

But it’s habit now with the council majority, I guess. If it comes from the Benjamin camp, and has business support, and might change the status quo in a way that makes sense, they’re against it.

The local messes are really piling up, feeding on each other, with no solutions in sight

There are several festering issues on the metro front that I have neglected to write about in the last few days, probably because of an old prejudice of mine: I don’t like to write about problems for which I can’t think of a good solution.

But at least I can take a moment to catalog the local snafus, and note the way I think they all add to a general lack of confidence in local government, even a feeling of hopelessness on the part of those who wish for something better in the Midlands.

Let’s start with a few points about the Richland County election commission — which, of course, is not a county board at all, since it derives its authority from state legislators who represent portions of the county (but who have rendered themselves powerless to guide the board), something that no doubt confuses folks from more sensible parts of the country, and still makes us South Carolinians, as used to it as we are, want to bang our heads against something. Some of the recent developments on this mess that keeps on giving:

  • The board chose one of its own to be the new interim director — which one wag on Facebook described as “Selph-serving.”
  • The firing of the theoretically permanent director, apparently for, among other things, firing employees he deemed incompetent.
  • The ex-director’s claim that he was warned not to fire an employee because said employee was the brother-in-law of Sen. Joel Lourie.
  • The ex-director’s claim that when he tried to hire a replacement for that employee, the board’s first question about his choice for the job was about the candidate’s race. He also said the board didn’t want to hire a black candidate for the position — which would be a twist on the perception among some in the county that the agency is a sort of black patronage mill.
  • The fact that Lillian McBride still has a job with this public body. Unless I missed some startling news.

OK, I’m running short of time. So instead of doing similar lists of developments on the other local problems, I’ll just list the other local problems:

  • The ongoing mess that is the Columbia Police Department. There will be no charges filed after the lengthy corruption investigation. There will also, apparently, be no answers as to what really happened among ranking cops to lead to the bizarre allegations to begin with.
  • The fact that the process to hire a new chief is sufficiently embroiled in discontent and multidirectional accusations that we hold out little hope of a new broom setting things right any time soon.
  • The possible cost to taxpayers resulting from city Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine’s handling of a federally funded loan.
  • The continuing fallout from Richland County Council’s mishandling of the awarding of a contract to manage the roadwork to be funded by the new penny tax. The council seems to have gone out of its way to maximize public distrust on an issue where public trust most needed to be courted and reinforced.
  • All the hoo-hah over Bull Street and the ball park, which… well, I’ve lost track of where all that is. I just know that something that should be about a big shot in the arm for the community seems to be leaving a bad taste in more and more local mouths.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things. But this list will do for starters.

Any thoughts about a way out of this thicket?

Fisher ticked off about the wrong end of the penny tax contracting debacle

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

In Kevin Fisher’s latest column, he expresses ire over the episode in which Richland County Council first gave the contract for managing hundreds of millions worth of roadwork to the out-of-state contractor ICA Engineering, then yanked it back.

But instead of being indignant that in initially awarding the contract, the council utterly blew off the concerns of the citizen panel appointed to be a watchdog over the spending of the penny tax, Kevin is mad that council responded to public outrage by calling for a do-over:

Indeed, while our local government is now conducting the people’s business in a manner that would make Vladimir Putin proud, the citizens of Richland County, S.C., USA should be ashamed.


I’d like to say we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but we always take it. I don’t know why that is, but it is. It’s an unusual civic tradition.

In the case of the award/unaward of that $50 million engineering and construction contract, I would love to have seen the winner/non-winner (ICA Engineering) take Richland County straight to court. However, the company has instead chosen to swallow hard and bid again, and if that is their business judgment I respect it and wish them well.

But I can assure County Council that if they had done the same thing to me, aggressive attorneys would have already been hired, a massive lawsuit filed and a legal colonoscopy would be underway on them both individually and as a public body….

First, an aside… I have to confess that I’m sort of unclear about what Peter Finch’s character was so mad about, or why it struck such a chord among the viewing public, in “Network.” Maybe it was clear to me when I saw it back in 1976, but I never liked the film enough to see it again, and it’s slipped my mind…

End of digression…

I’ll agree with Kevin that this is not the way public contracting usually goes. But then, public bodies seldom act with such disregard to a body created to make sure the public will is followed. Frankly, I don’t think the creation of such a body should have been necessary. But it was part of the deal that gave the council these funds to disburse, and a deal is a deal, as Kevin would apparently agree.

Kevin’s column was brought to my attention by Luther Battiste, who had a strong interest in having the bidding process start over, as a member of the local team that had scored higher than ICA, but didn’t get the contract. He wrote this to Kevin:

Mr. Fisher : I  read with great interest your column particularly because of my 15 years on Columbia City Council.  I actually agree with you much of the time and believe you raise the issues that need to be contemplated and discussed. I am part of the team that finished second in the voting for the contract to manage the ” penny tax” funds.  Our prime contractor is local and our team was local, diverse and extremely qualified. I think you missed the ” issue” in your recent column.  CECS followed the dictates of the Request for Proposal and was rated number  one by staff in their rating of the groups. ICA which is actually and out of state firm was rated third thirty points below CECS.  Richland County Council after receiving legal advice decided that there were problems with the process of awarding the contract.  I think you probably did not have all the facts when you reached the conclusion that ICA was mistreated and should pursue legal action. I hope you take my comments as constructive.  I look forward to reading future columns.




Open Thread for Tuesday, February 18, 2014

This promises to be another busy day on my end, so I thought one of these would be in order.

Possible topics, both on the metro front:

  1. New police chiefOur own Kathryn was quoted in the paper as saying, in advocating for Rub.en Santiago, “If you’ve got a horse that’s winning the race, why do you want to change horses?” Meanwhile, some want to scrap the whole process, just as the five finalists prepare to go before the public.
  2. Bull Street/ballpark — There’s a lot going on with regard to that this week as well. Here’s a story from The State today.

Of course, y’all can talk about whatever. Just be civil…

Barry’s thoughts on police chief candidates

A couple of days ago, our own Barry emailed me his thoughts about the finalists for the job of Columbia police chief. I just now noticed that he said “yes” to my request for permission to post his observations here. He based these thoughts on this story from WIS:

Tony Fisher looks like a good choice- but he’s 64 years old and he retired last year after a long career in Spartanburg.   Not sure someone that age needs to be brought in to head up a headache of a job in Columbia.

William Holbrook –   Columbia is almost 3 times bigger than Huntington, West Virginia.   Huntington is 90% white.  Columbia is 51% per 2012 estimated census data.  Doesn’t look like a great fit.

Bryan Norwood – resigned as Richmond Police Chief amid pressure. For some reason, he also personally supervised the probation conditions of R & B Singer Chris Brown. (Very odd that a police chief would do that – and folks were very critical of it).      We really don’t need someone that just had to quit somewhere else because of problems.

Charles Rapp-  very impressive credentials (Baltimore police department veteran, hostage negotition team leader, training academy director, led 2 precincts, has a masters from Johns Hopkins) – but same thing as Tony Fisher- looks like someone that would only be able to serve a few years due to his age- which I couldn’t find.

Gregory Reese –  Air Force experience- but hasn’t led a city department.  He led a large group  - 1600 people- but I see not having led a city department as something that would hurt him.

For further info, here’s the story that ran in The State.

Nasty weather leads to blood shortage — so GIVE!

Got a call last week saying the Red Cross particularly needed my blood, because the bad weather across the country had led to shortages.

I gave on Thursday — my usual double-red cells donation, so I can’t give again for 16 weeks.

So it’s now up to y’all. Here’s a release making the same pitch that worked so well on me. Not that I wouldn’t have given anyway, as I do every 16 weeks when they call to tell me it’s time:

Red Cross calls for blood and platelet donations after severe winter weather impacts collections

Urgent need for blood donors with types O, A negative and B negative

COLUMBIA, S.C., Jan. 31, 2014 — As severe winter weather begins to subside, the American Red Cross is asking all eligible blood and platelet donors to help offset a weather-related shortfall in donations.


Since the beginning of January, winter storms and freezing temperatures have resulted in more than 600 Red Cross blood drive cancellations and nearly 20,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations. In the South Carolina Blood Services Region, severe winter weather forced the cancellation of 27 Red Cross blood drives, resulting in about 1,200 fewer than expected blood and platelet donations over the past four days.

“It’s the blood products already on the shelves that help save lives when severe weather hits,” said Ryan Corcoran, Community CEO of the Red Cross South Carolina Blood Services Region. “Thanks to generous Red Cross blood and platelet donors, blood products were available for patients who still needed transfusions despite the weather. Now we invite those previously ‘frozen out’ from giving blood or platelets to come in soon.”

Platelet donors, as well as blood donors with the most in-demand blood types — O positive and negative, A negative and B negative — are urgently needed to give blood in the days and weeks ahead to offset the shortfall.

Platelets, a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients, must be transfused within five days of donation, so donations are constantly needed. Red blood cells, the oxygen carrying component of blood, are the most widely transfused blood product and must be transfused within 42 days.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities:


Feb. 1

9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Jack Oliver’s Pool and Patio3303 Forest Dr.Columbia, SC 29204

Feb. 4

11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.

University of South Carolina-College of NursingRussell HouseColumbia, SC 29208

Feb. 5

7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Palmetto Health Richland Medical Center3301 Harden St.Columbia, SC 29203

Feb. 5

10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Meadow Glen Elementary School510 Ginny LaneLexington, SC 29072

Feb. 5

10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Department of Motor Vehicles10311 Wilson Blvd.Blythewood, SC 29016

Feb. 6

10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Palmetto Health Home Care1400 Pickens St.Columbia, SC 29202

Feb. 6

9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Dreher High School701 Adger RoadColumbia, SC 29205

Feb. 7

8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Pelion High School600 Lydia Dr.Pelion, SC 29123

Feb. 10

4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

County Emergency Medical SVC407 Ball Park RoadLexington, SC 29073


Columbia Donation Center
2751 Bull St., Columbia, S.C. 29201

Blood donations:

Monday-Wednesday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Thursday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 6 a.m.- 2 p.m.

Platelet donations:

Monday-Wednesday: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Thursday: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 6 a.m.-1 p.m.

How to donate blood

Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit to make an appointment or for more information. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.orgor visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.                    


Other side heard from: ICA says they’re local, too…

Apparently, ICA — which won the nod of Richland County Council to manage the penny sales tax construction projects — is concerned about the protests over their getting the job. They’ve sent out a mailer to some local folks, including our own Silence Dogood, protesting that they, too, are local folks. An excerpt:

In fact, ICA Engineering, formerly known as Florence & Hutcheson, has been a part of – and grown with – Columbia and Richland County for the last 30 years. From five employees in downtown Columbia in 1984, we now have 30 professionals who live, work, invest and raise their families right here. All work for the Penny Sales Tax contract will be performed in Richland County. For the past 30 years, ICA Engineering and its employees have paid state, county and city taxes here. We are also proud of the fact that the vast majority of these local employees are graduates of engineering programs at The Citadel, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.
We also support many local charities and community organizations. We actively serve in our community through homeowners associations, churches and professional societies. I recently served as chair of the Issues Committee for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. We have supported organizations such as Epworth Children’s Home and the Special Olympics. Many of us have served on School Improvement Councils and have been a part of Leadership Columbia as well. We also support and are active in local economic development agencies, like the Central SC Alliance, that focus on growing the area’s economy and creating jobs….

You can read the whole letter here. Yeah, I’ve been rooting for the team that was rated No. 1 and didn’t get the job, CECS. But never let it be said that I don’t give you everybody’s point of view. Within reason, of course.

Yeah, y’all had BETTER go hide in Clemson…

When I saw this in the paper the other day:

CLEMSON — Drivers in Richland County could see the first road improvement projects funded by a local sales tax completed by year’s end.

Meeting in Clemson for a two-day planning retreat, Richland County Council members seemed eager to get started on six intersection improvement projects outlined by transportation director Rob Perry.

The $15 million in construction could involve enhancements for pedestrians and cyclists at the intersections as well, said Perry and his deputy, Chris Gossett.

“I’m ready,” several members chimed in after Perry asked for an endorsement….

My first thought was, Yeah, Richland County Council, you’d better go hide in Clemson if you want to talk about penny-tax roads

I say that because of what was mentioned in the next paragraph of the story:

First, the county must resolve a protest over the hiring of a project management firm brought by the second-place finisher. Chairman Norman Jackson said he’s hopeful there will be a resolution soon…

I don’t see how there would be a “resolution” unless Council opens the process back up and reconsiders its decision.

Not because it’s what I want them to do. After all, as I said before, ADCO did some work (a brochure) for the group that scored higher in the bidding process, but didn’t get the contract. We’re not doing any work for them now, but I was impressed by the team CECS had assembled. Of course, I haven’t heard presentations from the other groups.

But as I said, don’t go by me. I’m not the problem. The problem is that the penny tax watchdog group is mad at you for not picking CECS. You know, the group that was created in order to assure the public that everything would be on the up-and-up as the billion dollars from the new tax is spent.

And they’ve got a big problem with the very first big decision you made — perhaps the biggest decision you will ever make — with regard to spending the money.

So yeah, I believe I’d want to discuss it out of town, too.

By the way, here’s a copy of the CECS protest. To quote from it:

As you know, the TPAC is a Citizen Advisory Committee. They are not employees of the County, they are citizens chosen for their wide range of expertise, serving in a voluntary capacity. Their mission is to provide advice and transparency to the program. The Selection Committee was a group of Richland County employees – professionals, who were empaneled to evaluate and rank the proposals submitted as a result of the solicitation for the Richland County Transportation Penny Program Development Team. The Selection Committee and scoring will reveal this once it is made public as required by law. Once County Council entered the process, the very problems that the TPAC and Selection Committee were designed to prevent arose, and an inferior, lower ranked, out of state firm was selected. Council ignored and overrode the scoring and results of the Professional Staff comprising the Selection Committee, the established selection criteria, the Small and Local Business Enterprise Ordinances which were designed to favor businesses with a local headquarters, the desires of the TPAC and the overall intent of the Transportation Penny Program as authorized by the voters of Richland County….

Yes, exactly. And here is the relief CECS seeks:

The damage done by Council’s mishandling and deviation from published RFP processes can only be undone by a cancellation of the Notice of Intent to Award to ICA and an award to the top ranked vendor, CECS – the locally headquartered company that offered the most advantage to the County by offering the best combination of quality, cost, local ownership, minority ownership, local participation and employment. Under the applicable protest Ordinances, as Procurement Director, you have the power and the duty to correct these violations of law by re-awarding the contract to CECS.

CECS requests that the notice of intent to award to ICA be stayed, that the County employees make prompt production of all requested public records, that an appropriate Due Process and FOIA complaint public hearing be held in connection with this protest. CECS further asks that all of the decisions and actions that resulted in the notice of intent to award to ICA be reversed, and that the notice of intent to award be issued forthwith to the local Richland County vendor, CECS, which was legitimately chosen by the team of qualified evaluators chosen by the County as the best proposal….

This document has not been filed in court. In accordance with procedure, it has been filed with Rodolfo Callwood, director of procurement with the county. It will be interesting to see what Mr. Callwood does, since the council has spoken…

City shouldn’t shoulder the burden for Bull Street ballpark

photo posted on

As The State said, ‘The Columbia City Council seems to have been seduced by a voice very similar to the one that enticed Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, with its promise that “If you build it, he will come…”‘

Mark Stewart suggests this topic:

How about discussing how and why the City of Columbia is staking its future viability on the development of publicly fianced minor league baseball (and, frankly, private retail, commercial and residential development) at the Bull Street boondoggle?

I find this situation to be absolutely stunning myself.

And since he’s a good friend to the blog, and adds much to the quality of civil discourse here, I decided to start a separate post on the topic.

Also, it’s a big local issue that I’ve been remiss in not blogging about.

The thing is, I haven’t really been passionate on the subject. See, on the one hand, I really, really want to see professional baseball come back to the city. Not because I’ll personally go to the games, but then, I’m not someone who goes out and spends money to be entertained. No, my motivation is vaguer and more abstract than that. You know how the Godfather said, “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man?” Well, I have this idea that a city that doesn’t have a pro ball club can never be a real city. There it is. Not really an argument worth blogging about, is it?

And in the end, I probably reluctantly end up taking the position Warren and Cindi have taken, which is consistent with the positions we took on such things in the past:

A MINOR league ballpark would be a nice complement to the mega-development planned at the old State Hospital site on Bull Street. As a matter of fact, it would be nice to have a minor league team move back to Columbia as well.

But, as we have said in the past, any baseball park that can’t be built without Columbia taxpayers shouldering the load should not be built. If Greenville developer Bob Hughes wants a ballpark, he should lure private investors — including the team — to the table to finance it.

That’s not to say Columbia can’t participate in some limited way. The city already is on the hook to provide the development with infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads, which would include that needed to support a minor league ballpark. And we can see the city providing limited incentives beyond that to help lure a team to town, but only after the club puts its own skin in the game by making financial commitments toward building a stadium, which would reduce the chance that it would up and leave as soon as it gets a more lucrative offer from another city….

Already, the Bull Street redevelopment is costing the city more than anticipated (a bunch more — I don’t know about you, but $23 million is more than I make in a year). So the city shouldn’t be a spendthrift when it comes to something as nonessential as a sporting venue.

Basically, footing the lion’s share of the cost with public money violates the “Publix Rule” we set on the editorial board a number of years ago. The city put up about $300,000 to help a Publix come into the old Confederate printing press building. The store was a success, and has had a salutary effect on fostering the whole live-work-play dynamic in the city center, and been a plus to the local economy. We regarded that 300k as a good investment.

With baseball as with other things, the city should generally confine itself to Publix-sized incentives.

First Barnes & Noble, now Sears: What’s happening in Harbison?

This just came in a little while ago:

Just In: The Sears store & auto center on Harbison Blvd. in the Columbiana area will permanently close in Early March.

So, what’s up in Harbison? First Barnes & Noble, now this…

Yeah, I know. It’d not about Harbison. It’s about Barnes & Noble and Sears specifically. It would be more logical to say, “First the Sears catalog (back in 1993), now this.”

What went wrong with Sears? I mean, yeah, it had taken on a sort of anachronistic feel, a sense that it was big back in the ’50s because that was its time, but how does that happen, and could Sears have done anything — other than stop being Sears — to reverse the process?

Of course, maybe looking at this as a Sears story is as off-base as seeing it as a Harbison story. But it’s hard to imagine this store closing back in the day when Sears played a much bigger role in the retail universe…

Chamber seeking successor for Ike McLeese

The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce sent this out today:

Columbia Chamber Now Seeking Applicants for New CEO and President 

The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is now seeking applicants to fill the position of CEO and president for the organization. The CEO and president will be responsible for developing and maintaining a collaborative relationship between the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and key businesses, government, education, public policy organizations, regional chambers, the U.S. Chamber and other regional organizations to foster a nurturing business environment for members.

He or she will also ultimately be responsible for all operations of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and serves as the primary point of contact for the organization’s officers, the Board of Directors, elected officials and community leaders. The CEO and president plans, organizes, directs and controls the Chamber’s services, products and public policy activities for the Chamber’s members and responds to the needs of its members.

To view the full job description, click

The deadline to submit applications is January 31, 2014.

Ike McLeese left a big void in community leadership; it will be hard to fill…

Your thoughts on pro baseball in Columbia?

Cropped from an image by Tage Olsin,

Cropped from an image by Tage Olsin,

You probably saw the news today:

Minor league baseball at a new stadium on the former site of the S.C. State Hospital on Bull Street wouldn’t adversely impact the two-time national champion University of South Carolina Gamecocks baseball team, experts who conducted a feasibility study for the city told council Tuesday….

My first reaction to that was, “of course it wouldn’t ‘adversely impact’ the Gamecocks, because ‘impact’ isn’t a verb.”

My second reaction was, “Nor would it adversely affect the Gamecocks, a team that was national champion two out of the past four years.”

My third was, “Why did we need a study in order to realize that?” And then I figured that people would make that bogus argument whether it made sense or not, so something was need to move past that objection.

Now that common sense has been seconded, what do y’all think about this plan to bring minor-league ball back to Columbia?

As you may recall, I was really disappointed when USC refused to share its new park — there was a AAA team interested at the time — but there’s no undoing that. I still think the best spot for a minor-league club would have been down by the river, but now that that’s out, the Bull Street location seems an OK second choice.

But no better than just OK. It would be better in a location that’s easier to walk to from the heart of downtown. Greenville has that; why shouldn’t we?

But if we have to settle, this plan’s OK. I guess…

Famously Hot New Year, 2013-2014

A video, some Tweets and images from last night…

Watching the @FamouslyHotNYE festivities from @CapCityClubCola, going to descend for some music on the street… #fhny

Digging some Z. Z. Ward down on the street @FamouslyHotNYE. Very bluesy at the moment… #FHNY

Z. Z. Ward singing a song called “Cryin’ Wolf.” Says it’s about drinking. Very popular selection with the crowd @FamouslyHotNYE#FHNY

Discreetly in the background @FamouslyHotNYE, like a roadie backstage, lurks the State House itself, beating heart of power in SC… #FHNY

Your correspondent, on the scene.

Your correspondent, on the scene.


Oops; forgot to show you the State House… See it back there? #FHNY

Z. Z. Ward favoring the appreciative crowd with one more number before Kool and the Gang… #FHNY

A quick glimpse of the swelling, surging throng @FamouslyHotNYE#FHNY

Brad Warthen ‏@BradWarthen21h
So jealous of this item @pushdigital, overlooking @FamouslyHotNYE.  needs one of these.

Kool & the Gang in tha house! Or on the street. Whatever… #FHNY

Kool & the Gang kooling off the Famously Hot Columbia, SC, crowd in front of State House @FamouslyHotNYE#FHNY

One lone, Famously Hot soul boogeying at the top of the State House steps to Kool and the Gang… #FHNY

Kool and the Gang schooling the young folk of Famously Hot Columbia, SC, as to what FUNK sounds like… #FHNY

Love the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band jacket on Kool and the Gang’s trombonist! #FHNY

Am I the only one who finds it a bit odd that the most active live tweeter at Columbia SC’s Famously Hot New Year’s is @BradWarthen? #fhny

@DanCookSC Hey, @FreeTimesSC didn’t name me one of the Twitterati for nothing… #FHNY

I’m doing a Nerd Dance on Gervais, like Dick at the end of “High Fidelity.” Sorry. Obscure pop culture reference there… #FHNY

And… a big finish with fireworks… #FHNY



Saying goodbye to my very favorite store, Barnes & Noble on Harbison

The purists who didn't like the floor space that Toys & Games took over in recent years may be gratified to see that area as one of the first cleared out.

The purists who didn’t like the floor space that Toys & Games took over in recent years may be gratified to see that area as one of the first cleared out.

Here we are in the very last days of my very favorite store on Earth, the Barnes & Noble on Harbison.

Its last day of operation is Tuesday… Dec. 31.

The Harbison B&N is more than a store to me. Or perhaps I should say, something other than a store. I certainly made far more purchases at other stores over the years — Food Lion, Publix, Walmart and the like.

But for me, this store was the ultimate “third place.” That’s a term I knew nothing about until recently, when I was getting ready to help conduct a brand workshop for an ADCO client, and I happened to read up on the branding strategy of Starbucks, which has from the start striven to be a “place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.”

I enjoy both of those places, but between the two, I prefer B&N. There’s only so much you can do in a Starbucks. Noise is often a factor in the coffee shops, while B&N had a more library-like feel to it, except right around the cafe portion, where the sound of the grinder could be intrusive. And then there are all the books to browse through, which to me has always been a sort of foretaste of heaven.

I loved browsing in B&N even before I started drinking coffee in 2004. (Long story behind that. From the time I turned 30 until my 50th year, caffeine drove me nuts. Then, when I was at the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, I started drinking coffee to deal with the 20-hour days — there was, after all, a Starbucks on every corner. And I found that it didn’t bother me anymore. In fact, it did what it was supposed to do, keeping me from dozing off and creating a nice, creative buzz.)

But to browse through those books for a couple of hours on a Saturday, enjoying my first (and second) coffees of the day — that was awesome. And if I took along my laptop and did a little blogging while I was there, well, all the better.

And yes, I did occasionally buy something. In fact, I buy most gifts there. I find it easier to imagine what sort of book someone will like than any other sort of gift, and I make a point of buying them at the actual store to show my appreciation for all the good times it affords me. Buying the gift also makes me feel less of a self-indulgent sensualist as I browse.

Anyway, I was there a couple of times over the last week or so before Christmas. The first time, I bought a book for my Dad — a biography of Omar Bradley. When I got to the counter to pay for it, the clerk asked whether I was a member. I said yes, and offered my card. It had expired (yeah, I think it was around the holidays when I renewed last year). She asked whether I wanted to renew. No, I said sadly, thinking, What would be the point?

The second time, on Christmas Eve, I found myself in Harbison with a little time on my hands, and just went in to browse once more. For nostalgia’s sake, I even put sugar in my coffee, even though I’ve been drinking it black for years. I used to use a lot of sugar back in the day, such as when I wrote this.

I was wandering through the DVD section, seeing if there were any last-minute gifts that would strike me, when one of the booksellers asked whether I needed help. I said no, but as he turned away, I asked him to wait.

I asked when the store would close. He told me — New Year’s Eve.

I asked why it was closing. He said because B&N couldn’t afford the lease, and the new tenant, Nordstrom, could.

Apologizing for intruding, I asked what he, who had worked at B&N quite a few years, was going to do. He said he might be working at the store at Richland Fashion Mall, and he urged me to come there. I said yeah, that store was OK, but it had no audio/video section. He noted pragmatically that that was the first part of the store he would expect to close, since everyone downloads music now and streams movies online.

But, feeling like an advocate trying to save a client’s life in a hopeless trial, I argued that Netflix didn’t have the high-quality, hard-to-find movies that you could buy at B&N, such as the Criterion collection of fine films. He pointed out there were other places you could get those, although no local, bricks-and-mortar location had as large a Criterion selection as B&N did.


I got a B&N gift card for Christmas, so I’ll probably be in their one more time before it closes for good. Maybe I’ll see you there. Maybe we can have a coffee together, with several sugars to counteract the bitterness…

Katie Madonna

Katy Madonna

OK, OK, I take it back.

I was complaining about the pop-ups I get at when I click in the search field, and then I got this video of the Lexington Medical Center ad, with all the doctors and nurses et al. singing “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”

I like that one, not least because it features fellow local thespian Katie Mixon, in what one might term the starring role. She appears at the start, arriving in labor, and at the end is handed her baby. One immediately thinks, “This is a way better place to give birth than in a stable in the West Bank.”

Those of you who came to see the SC Shakespeare Company’s production of “Pride and Prejudice” saw Katie in the lead role, as Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

Now, you might call her Katie Madonna. If you were given to Beatle puns.