CityWatch: 2018 in the Rearview, Part 2

Kevin Fisher in 2018

Kevin Fisher

As 2018 rolled on, so did events in Columbia. Again, thanks for reading City Watch.

July 4: As for the steep and recurring water rate hikes, we’ve been left with no choice. So great was the city’s negligence for so long of its water and sewer system (including transferring over $100 million away from the water and sewer maintenance fund) that Columbia is now under a federal consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that requires $750 million in repairs and improvements. How did it come to this? Staggering incompetence and fiscal irresponsibility by Columbia City Council. Period.

July 11: Contrary to what SCE&G had said, the Army Corps of Engineers noted in their letter that they never came to the conclusion that putting a temporary coffer dam in the river just below the Gervais Street Bridge in order to remove the coal tar would be prohibited. You don't think anyone at SCANA would try to hustle us, do you?

July 18: Yet Columbia City Council does nothing about the late-night problems in Five Points. Or as next to nothing as it possibly can, even refusing to approve the proposal to make all bars close at 2 a.m., just as all bars do in Charleston and Greenville.

August 8: Unless he changes his strategy, James Smith is going to be little more than the third coming of Vincent Sheheen. Is that really what South Carolina Democrats want – another pyrrhic defeat?

August 15: The Tri-County Electric Co-op scandal shows that it’s not just the big boys in the big offices at the big utility company who can lose their way. Compared to SCANA’s troubles, Tri-County Electric is a sad tale of a similar pale, just on a smaller scale.

August 29: Ten years ago, Richard Burts and Robert Lewis set out to rescue the Pacific Mills Community Building. And against all odds, they did it. As we mark a decade of great arts events, political gatherings, weddings, parties and more at 701 Whaley, the historic and character-rich building stands as a monument to what visionary, dedicated people can achieve.

Sept. 5: As a recent visitor to Finlay Park said on TripAdvisor, “It’s the park from hell.” Now there’s a slogan for the Experience Columbia folks. City Council’s neglect of Finlay Park over the past decade has been shameful. Someone should check and see if the Kirk Finlay statue is crying.

Oct. 10: The State reported that “the grand jury report is said to contain possibly embarrassing disclosures about the way various businesses and public institutions did business with state lawmakers.”

But before anyone gets too excited, know that the Legislature protects itself and its friends. In South Carolina, quid pro quos done the right way are not illegal. They should be, but they’re not.

Oct. 17: Prisma. I suppose it’s the word prism with an “a” attached to the end. I’m not sure what that is supposed to imply, but it certainly doesn’t imply health care services. Or caring. Or sense of place. Or much of anything. Instead, it’s another example of the generic mumbo jumbo that has afflicted the health care industry in recent years as hospitals seek to be seen as corporate titans rather than community institutions.

Oct. 24: Yes, another anniversary of the 2015 Columbia flood is upon us, and no, local government still has not figured out how to remove the TitleMax ruins on Devine Street. Of course, it’s only a grotesque eyesore sitting on a main thoroughfare of the city, so what’s the rush?

Oct. 31: While Harpo is a tough pill to swallow for most Republicans and even some Democrats (see his list of insensitive quotes that would make Trump blush), it looks to me like he’s going to take a longtime GOP senate seat based on a combination of his own legal and political skills coupled with a pitifully weak Republican campaign.

Nov. 14: The best 2018 South Carolina political ad was “The Call,” from the James Smith for Governor campaign. Powerfully narrated by Smith’s wife Kirkland, it told the story of his close-call combat experience in Afghanistan and its aftermath. The ad was patriotic, nonpartisan, parental about their kids and personal about their relationship. A great spot.

Nov. 28: City Council’s failure to do its job on the Dreher High athletic facilities plan until sophomores became seniors was abysmal, creating prolonged and unnecessary tension between neighbors on opposite sides of the debate. Real leaders would have dealt with the proposal in a matter of months, not years. Dragging it out was a detriment to all involved.

And off we go into 2019 ...

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics.

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