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 News Archive 2014

Columbia, South Carolina voters decided
not to expand their mayor’s powers
by Nathan'ette Burdine: January 31, 2014

Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, will not have the same chief executive officer (CEO) powers as the mayors in the cities of New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

There were 57% of Columbia, South Carolina, voters who voted “no” to expanding the mayor’s powers compared to 43% who voted “yes.”

Like the mayors of major cities, the city manager is the city’s CEO.  He appoints individuals to committees and he has the power to veto the city council’s legislation.

Before the vote on the strong mayor referendum, Mayor Benjamin was confident that the voters would give him the same powers that the mayors in major cities have.

After all, he had just won re-election by 30 percentage points.  According to the The State, Mayor Benjamin received bi-partisan support from Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), who is the assistant democratic leader in the House of Representatives, in changing the referendum.

The State reported that city council discussed changing the mayor’s start date from January 1, 2014, to July 1, 2014.  The change was meant to give everyone time to make changes to the laws that would move the city manager’s powers over to the mayor.

However, the bi-partisan support wasn’t enough to make up for the low voter turnout.  A total of 15,588 registered voters voted during the mayoral race compared to 11,740 registered voters who voted on the strong mayor referendum.

Mayor Benjamin issued a response to the referendum’s failure.  The State quoted him as saying, “It’s important to respect that vote.  We fought the good fight and came up short.  We’re going to have to work a little harder, and it’s going to take a little longer.”

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