Mayoral candidates Tameika Isaac-Devine and Daniel Rickenmann shared their stances and policies on issues such as affordable housing, education and investing during a debate in Russell House Theater Monday night.
Isaac-Devine, current at-large city council member, and Rickenmann, current city councilman for District 4, are participating in the runoff mayoral election after no candidate was able to obtain more than 50% of the vote on Nov. 2.
Isaac-Devine said Columbia has a lack of inclusive, affordable housing options in response to statistics that show Columbia as falling behind other major cities in South Carolina in terms of growth.
"I know so many people who actually want to be in Columbia, but they can't afford to live here," Isaac-Devine said. "So, if we're going to have growth, we have to address the needs and make sure that we are going back to that inclusive growth. We need to make sure we have affordable housing, quality housing, for people of all income levels."
Rickenmann said it was important to expand affordable housing options, specifically to the downtown Columbia area.
"We need to make sure that affordable housing is available in every district. It cannot be concentrated in one area, and it doesn't need to be pushed to the outskirts," Rickenmann said. "It needs to be downtown, where people are available to get the services, get to work and their school or where their support system is."
Third-year broadcast journalism major Noah Yi attended the forum to hear Rickenmann discuss issues regarding the city and USC. Yi said he wanted to hear from Rickenmann about how he can help the Columbia economy, specifically Five Points, do better.
"(I) have a huge interest in Daniel and what he can do for the city as well as the university, because the mayoral seat has such an impact on the student body," Yi said. "There's, like, 27 open vacancies in Five Points right now, so that's a really big issue. So, just helping out the small businesses in the community would be great."
Isaac Devine said a focus on institutions of education is important to city growth and workforce building.
"My priority on growing is really looking at workforce development, making sure that we are investing in resources, whether it's partnering with our Midlands Tech and our institutions of higher (education), whether it's partnering with K through 12," Isaac-Devine said. "(So) that we're providing and training and building a skilled workforce."
Rickenmann said Columbia is not at the level it should be in terms of education.
"Dyslexia and learning disabilities are a huge problem in our school systems... There's been a lot of studies now showing that this is why there's more female(s) going to college than there is males," Rickenmann said. "So, we need to make sure that, one, we're addressing the issues. Number two, that we're working with the school board together to have a better standard of excellence."
Isaac-Devine said the issues Columbia children face require a mayor who meets with school districts on a regular basis and understands the challenges the school districts face.
"Our teachers are tasked with teaching kids who are coming in who did not sleep at night, who come to school hungry, who may have seen something out in the community and that they're bringing it into the school," Isaac-Devine said. "That is the mayor's issue to make sure that our kids are living in safe communities, so that they're not waking up to gunshots."
Rickenmann said working together with the school districts while also demanding more for the school system is necessary to the improvement of Columbia's education.
"Unfortunately, we're in a very interesting place in Columbia, because if you take high taxes, high crime and poor schools, that's what we're on the cusp of right now," Rickenmann said. "Not only do we need to work in unison with the school district, but we got to hold them accountable."
The runoff election for the mayor of the city of Columbia will be held on Nov. 16.