COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Steve Morrison has lived in Columbia since 1970. He earned a law degree from USC in 1975, and attended a management program at the Harvard Graduate School of Business in 1997.
Morrison is a partner of the law firm Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, as well as an adjunct professor at the USC School of Law. He has argued before the United States Supreme Court.
Morrison also has served on the boards of Benedict College, Central Carolina Community Foundation, the Foundation for Columbia's Future, Allen University, Homeworks, the South Carolina Humanities Council, the Richland-Lexington Cultural Council, and the Palmetto Health Foundation.
Below are some questions WIS sent to all candidates for Mayor of Columbia. We'll add the responses to the questions below as we receive them. Be sure to check back soon!
Name: Steve Morrison
Education: Business Administration Degree, University of Michigan, Law Degree, University of South Carolina School of Law, Advance Management Program, Harvard Graduate
Marital status/children: Married to Dr. Gail M. Morrison for 38 years. One son, Gregory who is a junior at Duke University.
Political experience: Never ran for political office before.
Hobbies: Good books, good friends, good music, good art, bad golf, fishing, and getting away to the mountains
Favorite food: Fresh shrimp, warm dark bread, vanilla ice cream and brownies.
Pets: Two cats: Hector (white rag doll) and Julianna (Gail's grandmother's cat), One dog: Nadege (border collie)
QUESTIONS (word limit per answer: 300 words)
Q: Why are you running for mayor?
A) I am running to offer my experience and leadership abilities in business, law and community service to our city government. I am not a career politician and have no interest in seeking higher office. I have contributed nearly 1000 hours of community service annually in various community service projects including leadership positions on the boards of the Columbia Museum of Art, the Historic Columbia Foundation, the Columbia Urban League, Allen University and Benedict College. I will bring nonpartisanship and sound management experience to city government.
Q: What is the most important issue facing Columbia right now? How do you intend to address it?
A) The financial mess at City Hall must be straightened out and never repeated. Our city needs an office of integrity, a business code of ethical conduct, and an end to executive sessions except to receive legal advice or handle personnel matters. We must end self-dealing, scandal and embarrassment at City Hall.
Q: What mistake in your life do you hope others, especially young people, will learn from?
A) Nearly 20 years ago, I got sideways with a judge who, as far as I know, is still mad at me. I regret that episode. My counsel to young people would be: courage, honor, and respect for all. Never become enemy centered. Always seek to serve others with honor and courage. Always respect the dignity of each human being – even when you think they are wrong.
Q: In 2009, the City of Columbia made millions of dollars in cuts to both the police and fire departments. If elected, would you work to restore those jobs or are the departments fully equipped to keep the city safe as they are staffed currently?
A) As I understand the financial mess at City Hall, these budget cuts cannot be immediately restored. I would work to incrementally restore these cuts and to build even greater police and fire protection capacity in future budgets. I would also seek to establish greater consolidation of police and fire services on a regional and countywide basis.
Q: (Viewer submitted) Earlier this month, there were several reports that the City of Columbia and Richland County Unified Fire Service contract might be in jeopardy. However, an independent study conducted by the University of South Carolina titled, "The impact of improved public protection classification ratings on homeowners' insurance rates in Richland County," has shown that taxpayers save upwards of $5.5 million annually due to lower homeowner's insurance rates each and every year as a result of having the city and county fire service combined. Do you support that the city and county work to continue this public safety agreement?
A) Yes. I strongly support regional inter-governmental agreements that transparently deliver services to our citizens with greater efficiency at a lower cost.
Q: What is your detailed plan to make Columbia a safer place to live? Give specifics. Where can we improve? Where are we already strong in public safety?
A) We can improve safety with smart technology, smart deployment and smart career paths for our officers. Smart technology means more cameras, automatic vehicle locators, consolidated 911 services and regional response to send the closest units regardless of political boundaries. Smart deployment means more boots on the street in high crime areas at specific times. For example, we know which neighborhoods are most vulnerable to youth crime and we know that crime is most likely to take place between 3 and 6 p.m. in the afternoon. More police should be deployed to those areas at those times. But, we must also realize that we cannot arrest our way out of a crime problem. We must also provide educational, job, and recreational opportunities for our youth giving them pathways to productive citizenship. Smart career paths mean that we must provide professional and economic advancement opportunities for our officers as they gain experience and knowledge about our neighborhoods and city.
Q: (Viewer submitted) Over the past several years, the city has lost jobs due to several companies moving to its neighboring communities. What is your plan to retain the existing employment opportunities and expand upon them?
A) City Hall must become more service oriented. We need to cut red tape, speed approvals, streamline procedures and create a City Hall that helps small business succeed and stop acting like a regulator of business. Business thrives when government functions like a well run business itself.
Q: What will you do to balance preservation with progress in Columbia's historic business district and neighborhoods?
A) The wonderful character of our tree-lined streets and historic neighborhoods make Columbia a special city. We are a city of people, places, and progress. We are able to share experiences with others across the barriers of time when we preserve special places and honor our built history. Historic districts have higher real estate values and great livability. Gail and I live in a historic home in a historic neighborhood. We know that the choice between preservation and progress is a false choice.
Q: What commitment are you willing to make to the people of Columbia on reviewing and balancing the finances of the city under your watch?
A) We will have a balanced budget, arrived at in open council sessions and we will report to the public with timely and accurate financial statements, online records, and annual timely audits.
Q: Columbia's arts groups are desperate for additional city funding. Would you support increasing the hospitality tax to help these groups?
A) No. But I would support allocating all of the existing hospitality tax revenues to those groups as the law intends. We must stop siphoning off hospitality tax revenues for other purposes.
Q: How do you plan to keep the CMTRA funded and solvent in the coming years? Does it include increasing ridership among young professionals?
A) Economic justice requires that we must have a dedicated source of funding for an excellent regional transit system. We should consider a one cent sales tax dedicated to transit, greenways and bikeways. In great cities, everyone rides the transit system and, of course, young professionals are included.
Q: Your potential successor served more than 20 years as mayor. Should there be term limits for the position? Why or why not?
A) I am philosophically opposed to term limits because I trust the people to turn a bad leader out and keep a good leader in office. For myself, if I am privileged to serve you, two four year terms would be plenty.
Q: Do you support a plan to give Columbia a strong mayor government? Should the mayor have more power and what good would it do for the city?
A) We have been unsuccessful in reaching our potential as a city with the weak mayor form of government and I would, therefore, support a change. A strong mayor would be directly accountable to the people for the day-to-day execution of the city's policies. We must not, however, implement a strong mayor form of government if it is perceived as a step backward on the road to racial equality. We need to put it on the ballot for November, have a good community discussion and then vote.
Q: What is your plan to reduce crime and increase confidence in the City of Columbia Police Department?
A) We must increase our force over time, retain our best officers, focus on detailed neighborhood knowledge, fully equip each officer to meet the daily challenges, and incrementally increase the "knock and talk" time our officers have to get to know citizens personally
Q: (Viewer submitted) How would you change the city's culture of spending and prioritize projects? How would you change this spending culture on all levels of city government?
A) No time is better than now to look at all forms of spending and all opportunities to consolidate services regionally. Zero based budgeting in the sunshine of open council sessions is the best discipline possible.
Q: Do you support investing more money into the revitalization of the north main street corridor? Why or why not?
A) As I understand the financial mess at City Hall, there is no more money to invest in revitalization of any part of the city right now. Our top priorities must be public safety and repairing our crumbling water and sewer infrastructure.
Q: What's the best thing about living in Columbia?
A) Fantastic caring people with the energy and drive to solve any problem, meet any challenge and reach any dream.
Q: What's one thing that voters may not know about you?
A) I am a financial conservative with an abiding belief in the dignity of every person. I have been a top officer in a Fortune 1000 public company doing business in 34 countries. I can work across cultural lines. I have served justice all my life and seek to create a community of opportunity of all.