The Daily Gamecock

In Our Opinion: Weak-mayor system takes power from voters

When you vote for mayor in Columbia, do you realize that you aren’t deciding who really runs the city?
Instead, what you get to do when you go to the voting booths is an opportunity to vote for a part-time politician who has little control of city government.

The mayor you vote for won’t have the ability to set City Council’s agenda, won’t be able to appoint or dismiss important employees or really anything you would expect a mayor to do.

You’re not alone if you’re surprised to find out this is how our weak-mayor city government works. But if a mayor doesn’t get to make all of these big-time decisions, then who does?

Turns out, all of the duties people usually associate with a mayor goes instead to a city manager. It’s a position that appointed by the City Council at large, which means voters don’t get to directly choose who they think best represents the interests of our city.

Who would think in a rapidly growing capital city like Columbia could still is stuck under a form of government that’s more common to small towns like Gaston where pretty much everybody knows each other’s name.

And yeah, we have to admit it’s kind of weird to watch Mayor Steve Benjamin back an effort to expand his own powers, but can anyone really blame him?

While we’ve come so far with the system we’ve got, imagine how much further we could go if the mayor’s position was strengthened.

An effort to get a strong-mayor referendum on November’s ballot isn’t likely to succeed before today’s deadline, but we hope organizers will give it another shot.

Columbia’s in need of an update, and making our city government more in line with similar-sized cities could only serve us in the long run.

Besides, it’s not fair for voters to not have some say in the day-to-day operation of the city they live, work and play in.

It should be a given that strong mayors make for strong cities. After all, how can we expect to move forward as a city without a clear and effective leader at the helm?


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