The Daily Gamecock

In Our Opinion: Benjamin can't afford to get too comfortable

Columbia residents clearly support Mayor Steve Benjamin and the rest of the city’s leadership, considering they all won convincing re-election bids Tuesday. While these votes of confidence show that Benjamin and his colleagues have broad support, they should not lull leaders into complacency; the city needs strong decision-makers more than ever.

In that regard, it’s good that a man with whom we’re familiar is maintaining his position, and, should the strong-mayor referendum pass next month, adopt the role of the city’s top executive.
Benjamin, not the city manager, would have the power to hire and fire department heads and run the city’s day-to-day operations, and he would be empowered to set the city’s vision without the typical infighting that City Council approval too often presents.
This strong-mayor system may help the government combat the issues that have historically plagued Columbia and have recently grown in fervor.

Crime and business come to mind immediately. Violence in Five Points, for example, has grown to a fever pitch, culminating in the shooting of a USC freshman last month. While security in the area has been built up, this is an issue that police presence can combat, but proper municipal action could vanquish.

Cultivating and fostering Columbia’s economic growth is another issue of huge importance to the city.

We’ve written before about our concerns with Benjamin and his style, especially his handling of the ambitious Bull Street redevelopment project earlier this year. We still have those concerns as he enters his second term.

But Columbia voters have shown that he has their trust and their support for his ambitious vision for the city.
In his next term — and, potentially, his new role — he must be certain he doesn’t lose them.