Columbia mayoral candidates outline top priorities with less than a month until election

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Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 9:11 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - There is less than a month to go until November’s mayoral election in the city of Columbia, and the candidates are continuing to pitch voters on their vision for the city going forward.

Each of them has a focus on improving public safety and bringing business to Columbia, but they each have different ideas about how to get these things done.

When asked about his top agenda items, Councilman Daniel Rickenmann didn’t hesitate: it’s public safety and investing in the city.

“My first inclination is one is to invest in the city,” he said. “We need to get the hurdles out of the way so we can really have an opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs to grow. And when I say that I’m really talking about working on our system so there’s not so much bureaucratic red tape.”

Rickenmann has staunch support from the business community in Columbia, including the political action committee of the Central Carolina Realtors Association. He believes he has their support because his experience in the business gives him the ability to recognize the “headaches and hurdles” that hold small business owners back, and says he knows how to fix them.

He said investments in public safety would include police and fire technology, equipment, and training, but also other areas.

“Also sidewalks and streets and lighting which is another form of safety for neighborhoods,” Rickenmann said. “We need to invest within our city so that we can benefit all people, and this will help us attract businesses as well because the cornerstone for economic is a clean, safe city.”

Sam Johnson detailed public health and public safety as his main agenda items. The former aide to current Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin said he aims to fill vacancies at the Columbia Police Department and Fire Department immediately.

RELATED | Benjamin endorses former aide for Mayor

“We’ve got to make sure that everyone in every community, no matter where you live in Columbia, you’re safe,” Johnson said. “So we’ll fill those vacancies immediately, we’ll make that a priority. We’ll make sure every community, every neighborhood has the safety that they need to live out their lives.”

He also has a detailed plan to retain firefighters and police officers.

“We’ve outlined a 10-year contract, a contract that allows for us to make a commitment at the very outset of our employment with our police officers and our firefighters where they know that from the start they’re going to get a base salary that’s competitive, years three, years five and years eight we’re going to make sure that they get a bump in pay, and then we’re also going to make sure that they get a retention bonus,” Johnson said.

He recently received the backing of the Columbia Firefighters Association. He believes this is because he has a relationship with firefighters built around trust and because he recognizes the “commitment that they need from the mayor to do that job.”

In addition, Johnson would establish a Chief Public Health Officer to help spearhead the city’s pandemic response.

Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine, who received the endorsement of Congressman Jim Clyburn on Monday, would install a Director of Diversity and Inclusion to ensure preventing crime and investments in infrastructure are doing through an equitable lens.

RELATED | Clyburn endorses Tameika Isaac Devine for Mayor of Columbia

“That Director of Diversity and Inclusion will help me assess the needs in Columbia, those that have been impacted by COVID but those that have existed in our community for so long, like racial wealth gap and lack of affordable housing,” she said.

Devine said it’s a focus of hers to meet the needs of people where they are, both those severely impacted by the pandemic and those suffering before the pandemic.

“That’s going to be my priority is having that person help me in the community every day, listening to the needs and then accessing these resources to address those needs in a way that really moves people out of poverty,” she said.

WIS reached out to Former District 3 Councilman Moe Baddourah, but he was not available to be interviewed for this story. His top issues include ending government corruption, improving the city’s infrastructure, fostering relationships between public safety officers and the community, and eliminating business license fees for small businesses.

Baddourah has also said he supports tax incentives for companies that bring jobs to the city.

Fundraising numbers for the third quarter have not yet been released, but Rickenmann topped fundraising in the first two quarters. In the second quarter, Rickenmann, Devine, and Johnson – who tripled his fundraising total from the first quarter – raised six figures worth of campaign fundraising.

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