Category Archives: Midlands

Howard Duvall, opposing Cameron Runyan for city council

Howard Duvall

Howard Duvall

Y’all remember several months ago when I interviewed Tige Watts, who was running against Cameron Runyan in this year’s election for at-large Columbia City Council member?

Well, if you’ll recall, a couple of months later Tige dropped out, to be replaced by his political ally Howard Duvall, whom most folks know as the longtime director of the South Carolina municipal association, now retired.

Well, here’s how all that happened, according to Howard, whom I interviewed this morning:

Howard and Tige are both involved with a group that concerns itself with good local government as they see it, along with Kit Smith, Candy Waites, Ginny Grose and several others.

Back last November, they decided to do a poll to examine the feasibility of one of them challenging Cameron Runyan for his at-large seat on City Council. This was close to the time when the incumbent was taking his lonesome stance against benefits for same-sex partners of city employees. And sure, there was a good bit of bitterness out there on account of his having been elected with gay community help, before his big conversion experience.

But Howard says that was not the impetus. The members of his Good Government Group were united in opposing him because he supported the deal for the baseball park at the Bull Street development. The Triple-G had thought he was on their side after they had presented him with facts and figures that they thought made an overwhelming case against the deal, and when he voted the other way, giving the proposal a 4-3 victory, they decided they had had enough of Cameron Runyan.

They did ask a question on their poll as to whether voters could support an openly gay candidate, and 70 percent responded affirmatively. That and the rest of the poll persuaded Tige Watts, a political consultant, that he should be the one to run. The rest of the group agreed, and he started talking up his candidacy.

But as time passed, others in the group began to have their doubts. They were worried that Tige wasn’t raising enough money, and that he was having trouble balancing his work with the time that such a candidacy demanded. Other members of the group got together and decided that Mr. Duvall, who is retired, would be able to commit the kind of time and effort that success would demand.

So he approached Mr. Watts, who initially responded by proposing that both run, and promise each other that if either got into a runoff, the other would endorse him. That was on a Monday. By Friday, he had thought better of that, and said he would drop out and endorse Howard.

Since then, the Duvall campaign has been fairly active, with the candidate spending several hours a day on the phone either raising money (he’s shooting for $100,000) or seeking other forms of support. And yet the campaign hasn’t been officially launched. That is set to happen on September 9. Tonight, one of the Republican members of Duvall’s backer group is hosting him at a reception at which about 100 Republicans — not the usual allies for him, or for Kit or Candy — are expected.

With Duvall, you have a great believer in professionalism in local government, and someone who could reasonably claim to be as well qualified as anyone you can imagine. He was a several-term councilman and then mayor of Cheraw, his hometown, before he become head of the Municipal Association in 1987. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from USC.

In other words, he’s a pretty logical replacement for Tige Watts, who is a national leader in neighborhood associations.

I have a lot of respect for Howard, and for the folks in his group, even though they were the cabal behind defeating the strong-mayor initiative, with Howard being the guy who managed to get the vote separated from the mayoral election, which is what did the proposal in.

See, that’s what Howard means by professionalism in government — that it should be run by an unelected, professional manager instead of an elected mayor.

I’m not going to get into all the reasons he’s wrong about that at the moment. For now, I’ll just say that his long experience and dedication to municipal government in this state makes him a very strong candidate.

He’s running on a platform of improving public safety and updating infrastructure, by which he means water and sewer.

Meanwhile it appears that Runyan is still in it, based on an email I got today inviting me to this Rally.org page.

And I believe John Adams, son of ex-mayor Patton, is still in it as well — although I haven’t heard anything about it since March, which was back before Tige Watts dropped out.

I guess I’ll need to run him down next.

Meanwhile, dig Howard’s wild campaign poster and logo. He says it’s Ginny Grose’s design. The little triangle in the D is supposed to look like a fast-forward button, he says. Some GOP allies thought it looked too much like the arrow in Hillary Clinton’s logo, but they went with it anyway.

It looks to me like a title page for a cartoon — more like Howard the Duck (who, you will recall, ran for office on the ticket of the All-Night Party in 1976 — campaign slogan, “Get Down, America!”) than Howard the Duvall. But I’ve got to say, it’s distinctive.

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The confusing knot of jurisdiction lines around Columbiana

CKDuZ3sWUAguyzXRemember the post last week about the confusion of county and city boundaries around Columbiana Mall, which speculated about how that might have contributed to the mixup that allowed Dylann Roof to get a gun?

At the time, I bemoaned the fact that I was unable to find a map showing those jurisdiction lines.

Alert reader George Chisenhall, who uses Google Maps Pro, came to the rescue over the weekend. As he explained, yellow lines are city/town limits, while the light green ones show county boundaries.

Thanks for helping out, George!

closeup

Walid Hakim sticks to his guns

Just another one of those guys Obama spoke of, clinging to his guns.

Just another one of those guys Obama spoke of, clinging to his guns.

We last saw Walid Hakim suing the state — successfully — for throwing him and his fellow Occupy Columbia off the State House grounds.

As the best-known unleader of that movement, Walid looked and acted the part — Central Casting might have sent him over to play a part in a flick about the Days of Rage, or perhaps one of the lesser-known of the Chicago Seven.

Now, he’s suing the city of Columbia for trying to pry his gun from his warm, live hands.

So… the city is concerned about a bunch of redneck yahoos bringing guns to the city center in a tense moment, and the guy who sues is… Walid?

He just refuses to be typecast, doesn’t he?

He could be on his way to another victory in court, although I do have a question about one of his assertions:

As a lawful concealed weapons permit holder, he won’t be able to protect himself when he is near the State House if danger arises, his affidavit said.

“Unless prohibited by a valid law, I always carry at least one firearm on my person or in my car,” Hakim said. “I had planned to be near the State House for various lawful activities. Based on the ‘emergency ordinance,’ I am forced to change my plans.”…

Walid doesn’t go near the State House unless he’s packing? Really? His assertion seems to go beyond the feared danger of this Saturday — except that he says he doesn’t carry when “prohibited by a valid law,” which would mean he wasn’t armed while on the State House grounds.

Interesting.

Walid in the role we usually think of.

Walid in the role we usually think of.

Did shoestring annexation bring down the Confederate flag?

Y'all, I'm sorry I was unable to find a map that shows how crazy the jurisdiction lines are in this area. Anyone know where I can find something like that online?

Y’all, I’m sorry I was unable to find a map that shows how crazy the jurisdiction lines are in this area. Anyone know where I can find something like that online?

Or, far more horrifically and directly, did Columbia’s shoestring annexation lead to the murders of the Emanuel 9?

This is Kathryn Fenner’s assertion, which she sketched out in an email:

Roof was arrested at Columbiana, by Columbia Police, in Columbia, but in Lexington County. When he went to buy a gun at Shooter’s Choice, the background check was done by calling Lexington County, who sent the checker to the police–the checker called the West Columbia Police, who had no record, instead of Columbia–because unless you are a wonk like me, you might not realize that Columbiana is in the city limits–shoestring annexation, just like Woodcreek Farms where the Mayor lives.
If Roof had not been able to buy the gun….

You’ve read about all the confusion over the jurisdiction in which Dylann Roof was charged. And you’ve probably been confused yourself passing in and out of jurisdictions in the Columbiana/Harbison area.

At least some of this confusion was caused by the shoestring annexation of Columbiana in 1989, as a way of grabbing those expected tax revenues.

Hence the connection that Kathryn has drawn.

Happy Fourth! See you (I hope) at the flag rally

flag rally FB

Just a reminder that the Unity rally for taking down the flag — and for celebrating and supporting the fantastic consensus in the State House to do so — is at 4 p.m. today.

I hope to see you there.

And I hope it will be an event that looks and sounds like South Carolina, which is something I’m always jittery about. Just as I did two weeks ago, I’ve been communicating this week with the organizers, fretting about whether the speakers and the visuals will help cement this miraculous consensus and not weaken it. I won’t go into all that. I just hope this is at least as positive an event as the one two weeks ago turned out to be, only with even more people.

I’ll try to post something about the rally tonight. I say “try,” because I’ll be hanging out with two, and possibly four, grandchildren tonight, and playing with them comes first.

And just because I’m proud of it, I’ll post again the video my son did based on the last one. It tells you a little about the origins of that event, and therefore this one, since it has the same initial organizers:

Video reminder to come to the flag rally Saturday

Take The Flag Down: SC Unity Rally from Brian Harmon on Vimeo.

Remember the short video that my son Matt made about the flag rally Saturday before last?

Well, a friend of his has made another one to promote the rally coming up this Saturday, July 4th.

This one has a slightly better-known narrator. I’m not sure he’s the best narrator for persuading any Republicans who are still on the fence on this issue, but hey: It’s effective.

‘The Taming of the Shrew’ at Finlay Park tonight!

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Y’all, I’m planning to take in some Shakespeare in the park this evening, assuming I can stay up that late. I hope I see you there.

I had had no idea this was coming up before my wife mentioned it last night, e’en tho’ (you like that touch?), as a former cast member, you’d think I’d be in the loop. But I wasn’t.

They should ask me to do the publicity next time. I’d give ’em a real rip-snorter, along the lines of:

Shaksperean Revival!!!

Wonderful Attraction!

For One Night Only! The world renowned tragedians,

David Garrick the younger, of Drury Lane Theatre, London,

and

Edmund Kean the elder, of the Royal Haymarket Theatre, Whitechapel,
Pudding Lane, Piccadilly, London, and the Royal Continental Theatres, in
their sublime Shaksperean Spectacle entitled The Balcony Scene in

Romeo and Juliet!!!…

also:

(by special request,)

Hamlet’s Immortal Soliloquy!!

By the Illustrious Kean!

Done by him 300 consecutive nights in Paris!

For One Night Only,

On account of imperative European engagements!

Admission 25 cents; children and servants, 10 cents.

You know, full of sound and fury, signifying standing room only. That’s the way the Duke and the Dolphin did it — slap out a handbill and dare ’em to come on!

Of course, as good as those rates sound, tonight’s performance is even better: There’s no charge, although a hat is generally passed during intermission.

Mayor Bob alert after being rushed to hospital

Here’s hoping Mayor Bob gets better quickly:

Doctors are performing tests, including a catheterization, to check for heart blockages after former Columbia Mayor Bob Cable was rushed to a local hospital Wednesday afternoon.

Coble was alert and in good spirits, with family and friends by his side, about 4:30 p.m., said Kevin Floyd, communications manager with the Nexsen Pruet law firm, where Coble works.

John Sowards, the firm’s chairman, said Coble was “feeling poorly in the morning at some committee hearings and that did not get better.” As the day went on, he checked in with State House healthcare staff and, as a precaution, they summoned an ambulance.

That was about 2 p.m.

Former lawmaker McMaster charged with burglary

I’m seeing several news reports out there about Joe McMaster, brother of Henry, being arrested and charged with burglary.

Joe McMaster

Joe McMaster

Here’s The State‘s version.

I was struck by the fact that none of the reports so far have mentioned that Joe is not just the brother of a politician. Joe himself served in the Legislature a few years back. He briefly held a House seat — I want to say just one term — before being defeated for re-election by Joel Lourie in 1998.

He represented District 78, the same seat held today by Beth Bernstein.

I wasn’t positive at first that he was the McMaster brother who held the House seat until I saw the mug shot released by the county jail, and thought, yep, that’s Joe. A little worse for wear, mind you, but that’s Joe. (In his defense, I should probably say what the character Ives said when a German remarked negatively on a POW ID photo of him: “I’d like to see one of you under similar circumstances.”)

Anyway, I thought that detail was worth taking note of…

Sale of Palmetto Compress Warehouse to Close this Week

To quote John “Hannibal” Smith from “The A-Team”, I love it when a plan comes together.

Columbia businesswoman Rosie Craig is partnering with deep-pocketed Philadelphia developer Ron Caplan to purchase the historic Palmetto Compress Warehouse building from the city of Columbia.

The developers plan to convert the 320,000-square-foot structure into apartments, retail and possibly a hotel, sources close to the project said.

The purchase, expected to close this week, is for approximately $6 million.

“We, as a company, are very excited about the project,” said Dan Rothschild, of Caplan’s PMC Property Group.

You can count me as one of the people who were against the City of Columbia buying this building. As a fundamental rule, I don’t like the City government being in the real estate business. However, it looks like they didn’t mess this up. I’m looking forward to seeing this development take shape.

A second bank has been robbed on Two Notch Road

I didn’t really pay much attention to the fact that someone robbed a Wells Fargo on Two Notch Road yesterday. I did see the headline, and I remember thinking something like A bank robbery, huh? Don’t really see much of those anymore these days.

But now, there’s been another bank robbery, and again it’s on Two Notch, and again, the bank robber is at large.

What’s going on here?

Cameron Runyan gets another opponent

You might have already seen this, but on Friday, the Free Times reported that John Adams has officially thrown his hat into the ring for the Columbia City Council seat currently held by Cameron Runyan.

The field for November’s election for an at-large seat on Columbia City Council continues to swell.

On Wednesday, John Adams, son of former Columbia Mayor T. Patton Adams, told Free Times he intends to run for the at-large seat currently occupied by Cameron Runyan.

With Adams in the race, the current field of contenders now likely stands at four. Runyan says he plans to seek re-election. Longtime political consultant Tige Watts has announced he is running for the seat and local hip-hop artist Preach Jacobs has said he is strongly considering a run.

Having this many candidates at least means that the voters will get choices, so that’s a plus when it seems like so many elections in South Carolina are uncontested. I’m hoping that competition will produce good ideas.

Steve Benjamin’s new look

Since relatively few of y’all follow me on Twitter (which you should, because that’s kind of where I’m blogging when I’m not here), I thought I’d share this Tweet from last night:

This was taken as the mayor was leaving a reception honoring local attorney and former city councilman Luther Battiste, upon the addition of his papers to the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at USC. Luther is a notorious packrat. Like me. But unlike me, he has managed to save some pretty interesting stuff from over the years.

And truth be told, this isn’t really a “new look.” He hasn’t turned a sartorial page, as it were. The mayor explained that he’d been home all day, and this was his first event outside of the house, so he just didn’t bother to get all gussied up.

His second event of the day was the Solomon-Tenenbaum lecture, which I also attended.

Robbery this morning at Sylvan’s

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I was deciding whether I should start following the Columbia PD’s Twitter feed, and checking to see if they were posting readily, and bang! Within the past hour, they’d been on the scene of a robbery at Sylvan’s.

So I decided to start following…

No details yet on the robbery. Except that no one was hurt, and they apparently got some good stuff off the surveillance cameras.

Tige Watts: Coming up through the neighborhoods

Tige Watts at the Five Points Starbucks, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.

Tige Watts at the Five Points Starbucks, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.

To begin with, Tige Watts isn’t just running against Cameron Runyan because of the incumbent’s solitary stance in November against providing same-sex couples with marriage-related benefits.

The 42-year-old Watts says that actually, his interest in running for council has been “bubbling up for awhile.”

As he sees it, he started on this path 13 years ago when he bought a home — in the neighborhood across Garner’s Ferry from the V.A. hospital — and started getting involved with his neighborhood.

And boy, did he get involved. He not even rose to leadership in his own neighborhood, but became president of the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods. When he entered that office, there were 81 neighborhood associations on the council. He resolved to grow it to 100, and reached the 104 mark before he left office.

He says his name was first mentioned for city council in 2010, but that was a bad time for him. He was about to become president of Neighborhoods USA, the national group of such associations. He is now serving his second term in that position, after a brief hiatus required by the organization’s rules.

Through his involvement in such groups, he says, he’s learned a lot about how local government should function, and how it can function.

“I see what people go through every day,” he said. The things that matter are basic — ensuring that “homes are safe, trash is picked up, water lines are running.” It’s “what really impacts people on a daily basis.”

He sees running for council as a “natural progression… City council is the next stop.”

He foresees his campaign focusing mainly on three things: Public safety, financial stewardship and the younger generation.

On public safety, he says it’s “easy to pick on” flashpoints such as Five Points, but he sees the challenge more holistically. He likes what Chief Holbrook has been doing in his brief time in office, and sees him as a welcome addition after the turmoil in police leadership the last few years.

Mr. Watts is a believer in the “broken windows” school of community policing, and believes that ultimately, “Prosperity is the best deterrent.”

On financial stewardship, “I worry about some of the commitments we’ve taken on.” He was very much against the city exposing itself so far on the Bull Street development, but now that Columbia is committed, “We’ve got to make that a success.”

He worries that Columbia relies far too much on government for jobs.

As for youth, he is concerned that too many are at risk, and we may be “losing a generation” to crime, gangs, and a lack of good job opportunities. As with so many things, he says this is something he has seen up close “in our neighborhoods.”

In our conversation at the Five Points Starbucks Friday, he sounded communitarian themes so often that I began to wonder who might have coached him for this interview. (Not that he couldn’t have coached himself — he is, after all, a political consultant, one who does “everything but raise money.”) He talked about the need to get people back out on their front porches, and get to know their neighbors. “Neighbors watch out for each other.”

Mr. Watts showed little interest in talking about Mr. Runyan’s vote on the benefits issue. When I noted that some people believed that was why he was running, he responded, “The only thing I’ll say is… If he can discriminate against one type of person, he can discriminate against others.”

And he changed the subject. The biggest thing he seems to take issue with the incumbent over is Bull Street. “I don’t thing that was a good risk” for the city. But again he stressed, “Now that it’s done… we’ve got to make sure it is a success.” He says he’s “dying to see the letters of intent” from prospective business tenants that the developer is said to have.

He plans to launch his campaign two weeks from today, on Feb. 16.

Where Cameron Runyan is coming from

File photo of Cameron Runyan in 2011.

File photo of Cameron Runyan in 2011.

Earlier this month, Cameron Runyan happened to run across my blog post from November, when I shared with y’all his written explanation of his lone vote against same-sex benefits.

He wanted to get together and “catch up,” so I met him for breakfast on Jan. 23.

At that time, he shared with me some of the story about how he came to be a lone culture warrior on Columbia City Council, among other things. I wasn’t sure at the time that I was going to write anything about the conversation, and took few notes (so Cameron, if I remember anything wrong, please let me know and I’ll correct it). Then I decided that I would write about it, but only after talking with his likely opponent in this year’s election, Tige Watts. I spoke with Mr. Watts Friday, making a point of taking more notes this time.

But first, the incumbent, starting with his conversion experience…

Cameron Runyan’s grandparents were missionaries, but he didn’t really get deeply into religion until just over three years ago.

He and his extended family were spending the Christmas holidays in the Caribbean. On Boxing Day 2011, he and a couple of other family members went out for a run (if you recall from something I wrote earlier that year, he had “disgustingly healthy habits”).

Suddenly, he could not go on. His muscles were seizing up, and he could hardly breathe. Apparently, it was a matter of dehydration or something of that sort — in any case, his electrolytes (which plants crave) were all out of whack. “The point of dehydration where I was is 50-60% fatal,” he added in a text to me today. “You more often die than live at that point. It was extremely dire and painful.” He thought this was it; he was dying. And as he lay more or less helpless on a bed in a medical facility later, trying to recover, he concluded that he was not happy with how he had lived his life thus far. He felt himself to be lacking the proper connection to something greater than himself.

Over the coming months, he plunged into a new sort of relationship with God, one with an evangelical flavor. For a time, his wife had a hard time dealing with the new Cameron. Then one day, he came home and she had undergone a conversion of her own. From then on, the Runyans were on the same journey, bringing their kids along with them.

For a good while, they attended services presided over by Det Bowers. Det was from Hampton County, where Cameron had grown up. And his life had followed in some ways a similar trajectory. Bowers was an attorney who managed Michael Dukakis’ campaign in South Carolina in 1988, and went on to become a preacher who would run to the right of Lindsey Graham in last year’s GOP primary.

But when Mr. Bowers gave up preaching, the Runyans ended up at Columbia’s First Presbyterian Church, well known as one of the most conservative large, brand-name congregations in the city. I showed my ignorance by saying that while I knew First Pres was pretty conservative, it wasn’t as conservative as A.R.P. Cameron said it is A.R.P. (which I think maybe I once knew, but had forgotten), and in fact the biggest Associate Reform Presbyterian church around.

A word or two about the A.R.P. denomination… While the only time I can recall entering an A.R.P. church was for Lee Bandy’s funeral, it looms large in my family tree. Look up the church’s history, and you see among the founders such names as Moffatt and Pressly, which are kin to my father’s mother. Erskine College is A.R.P., as was Erskine Caldwell, in spite of the sexually titillating books for which he became famous. In the years before my grandfather died in 1957, he and my grandmother had been living in a house on the edge of Due West owned by the president of Erskine. Billy Graham was brought up in an A.R.P. church, although he was later ordained as a Southern Baptist.

Among other things, Wikipedia notes that the denomination officially calls homosexuals “to repentance, cleansing, and deliverance in the saving power of Jesus Christ.”

So it is not surprising that when Cameron Runyan gets onto the subject of same-sex marriage, there is a good bit of talk about God’s will along with his objections to moral relativism, postmodernism and so forth.

I think I’ve fairly brought you up to date on that. Some other items from our conversation:

  • When he voted as he did on the benefits issue, I recall that a number of people expressed disappointment in him as a Democrat. Well, he doesn’t consider himself to be a Democrat any longer. (Remember, city council elections are nonpartisan.) As evidence of that, he pointed to his support of Mr. Bowers in last year’s Senate primary.
  • He didn’t want to talk about his relationship with Steve Benjamin who endorsed his candidacy last time around, and with whom he has been so closely allied for quite some time thereafter. But there are indications that that relationship is at best strained, compared to what it was.
  • While he is running for re-election in November, he says he won’t run again for this seat, after this time. I did not gather from that that he was retiring from politics; he just doesn’t want to hold this seat past one more term.
  • When I mentioned that it looked as though he had opposition, he said that yes, he’d heard that Joe Azar might run against him. He did not mention Tige Watts, whose yet-to-be-official candidacy has actually been the subject of some talk in the community.

Speaking of Mr. Watts, I’d best turn to my post about him…

 

Update on the Richland Penny, tonight

I’ve had this on my calendar, and had thought about going, but I don’t think I’m going to make it.

But if you’d like to know what’s happening with the projects and programs that the one-cent sales tax hike in Richland County is supposed to pay for, you might want to attend:

penny

Today is not as great a day in SC as yesterday was: Bose shutting Blythewood plant

Nikki Haley’s is lucky this didn’t break a day earlier. It would have taken some of the shine off her State of the State address…