2011 State of the City Address

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State of the City Address As Delivered by Mayor Steve Benjamin Coble Ballroom Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center Columbia, SC January 18, 2011

(WELCOME AND THANK YOU)

IF EVERY CITY OF COLUMBIA EMPLOYEE WHO IS HERE WOULD PLEASE STAND BRIEFLY, I WOULD LIKE TO BEGIN MY REMARKS BY TAKING A MOMENT TO SPEAK DIRECTLY TO YOU.

TOO OFTEN IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ONLY EVER HEAR FROM US WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG. IF THE WATER ISN’T WORKING OR THE TRASH NEEDS TO BE PICKED UP, IF THE POT-HOLE ISN’T FILLED OR THE WORK CREW FILLING IT INCONVENIENCES THE FLOW OF TRAFFIC.

TOO OFTEN IT SEEMS YOU ONLY EVER CATCH OUR CRITICISMS AND NOT OFTEN ENOUGH OUR CONGRATULATIONS.

LET ME FIX THAT RIGHT NOW. NOT ONE OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HEAR TONIGHT WOULD HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT YOUR HARD WORK, YOUR ENTERPRISING SPIRIT, AND YOUR TIRELESS DEVOTION TO SERVING THIS FINE CITY AND ALL OF HER CITIZENS.

WHILE OTHER CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY STRUGGLED TO DIG THEMSELVES OUT OF THE SNOW LAST WEEK, YOU HAD OUR STREETS CLEAR AND COLUMBIA READY TO HOST AN HISTORIC GUBERNATORIAL INAUGURATION.

THE STATE OF OUR CITY IS STRONG BECAUSE YOU ARE THE GREAT CITY OF COLUMBIA, THE CAPITAL OF SOUTH CAROLINA AND I AM SO PROUD TO BE YOUR MAYOR.

THANK YOU.

I ALSO WANT TO THANK THE MAYOR’S FELLOWS FOR PARTICIPATING IN TONIGHT’S PROGRAM SERVING AS OUR USHERS. I WANT YOU TO KNOW HOW HAPPY WE ARE TO HAVE YOU HERE AND HOW PROUD WE ARE TO HAVE YOU ENGAGED.

YESTERDAY SPEAKING AT THE URBAN LEAGUE’S MARTIN LUTHER KING BREAKFAST, I TALKED ABOUT THE NEED TO GET INVOLVED IN OUR YOUNG PEOPLE’S LIVES AND PROVIDE LEADERSHIP AND GUIDANCE THE SAME WAY MOSES DID FOR JOSHUA.

BUT WHILE IT IS OUR JOB TO TEACH YOU, YOU ARE THE ONES WHO MUST TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN

OUR COMMUNITY. KNOW THAT THIS IS YOUR CITY TOO, AND IT FALLS TO ALL OF US TO MAKE IT THE BEST CITY IT CAN BE.

WHETHER YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BASEBALL OR GAMEDAY FOOTBALL, PRESERVING THE CAROLIGHTING OR MISS SOUTH CAROLINA, 25 YEARS OF TRUSTUS THEATRE, 50 YEARS OF COLUMBIA CITY BALLET, OR THE RENOVATED TOWNSHIP; WHETHER IT’S THE COLUMBIA URBAN LEAGUE RECEIVING THE WHITNEY YOUNG AWARD OR THIS COLUMBIA METROPOLITAN CONVENTION CENTER RECEIVING ITS ONE MILLIONTH VISITOR – ONE THING IS CLEAR TO SEE AS I LOOK BACK OVER THE PAST YEAR: OUR CITY HAS A LOT TO CELEBRATE.

I SEE COLUMBIA CAPITALIZING ON OUR UNIQUE CULTURE, HISTORY, AND A NATURAL ENVIRONMENT SECOND TO NONE AND I SEE EXCITING NEW INITIATIVES HELPING US PROTECT THOSE RESOURCES.

I SEE THE SOUTHERN FRIED FUEL INITIATIVE RECYCLING NEARLY 400 GALLONS OF USED COOKING OIL AND THE E-WASTE RECYCLING PROGRAM KEEPING OVER 13 TONS OF ELECTRONICS OUT OF OUR LANDFILLS.

I SEE ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHTS ILLUMINATING OUR CITY BUILDINGS, INCLUDING CITY HALLAND 20 NEW ELECTRIC CAR CHARGING PODS TURNING OUR PARKING GARAGES FROM GRAY TO GREEN.

I SEE A NEW DEDICATION TO PROTECTING OUR WATERWAYS AND KEEPING OUR DRINKING WATER CLEAN WITH OVER $110 MILLION IN IMPROVEMENTS TO AND REHABILITATION OF OUR WATER, SEWER, AND STORMWATER SYSTEMS.

I SEE REASON TO CELEBRATE.

I SEE A CITY OF BEAUTY AND PRIDE THAT PROTECTS ITS NEIGHBORHOODS AS WELL AS ITS RIVERS.

I SEE 35 NEW POLICE CARS PATROLLING THE STREETS OF OUR NORTH, SOUTH, METRO, WEST, AND NEW EAST REGION WITH FUEL EFFICIENT ENGINES AND AUTOMATIC VEHICLE LOCATOR SYSTEMS.

I SEE AN ENFORCEABLE OPEN CONTAINER LAW, A BACK-UP WEAPON POLICY THAT MAKES SENSE AND OVER $2 MILLION IN FEDERAL GRANTS FOR PUBLIC SAFETY EQUIPMENT, TRAINING, AND PERSONNEL.

I SEE FULL INTEGRATION OF THE NEW COMPUTER AIDED DISPATCH SYSTEM AND I SEE FIRE ENGINE COMPANIES 8 AND 9 BACK UP AND RUNNING.

I SEE REASON TO CELEBRATE.

I SEE A NEW ERA OF REGIONAL COOPERATION WITH MAYORS FROM LEXINGTON, CAYCE, WEST COLUMBIA AND BLYTHEWOOD, FOREST ACRES, ARCADIA LAKES, IRMO AND CHAPIN, SUMTER, SPRINGDALE AND CAMDEN ALL COMING TO THE TABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH THE CHAIRMEN OF LEXINGTON AND RICHLAND’S COUNTY COUNCILS.

I SEE US TEARING DOWN THE WALLS THAT HAVE KEPT US ISOLATED FOR TOO LONG SO WE CAN FINALLY MEET CHALLENGES LIKE AIR QUALITY, TRANSPORTATION, INFRASTRUCTURE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND CRIME TOGETHER AS A REGION UNIFIED AND A PEOPLE UNITED.

I SEE REASON TO CELEBRATE

I SEE US TAKING ACTION LIKE NEVER BEFORE ON ISSUES THAT HAVE HUNG IN THE AIR UNDECIDED FOR YEARS.

I SEE US MOVING FORWARD SO LOWER RICHLAND RECEIVES THE WATER AND SEWER INFRASTRUCTURE IT NEEDS TO GROW.

I SEE US FINALLY ADOPTING A LOCAL PREFERENCE POLICY SO MORE OF OUR COLUMBIA’S DOLLARS STAY WITH OUR BUSINESSES IN COLUMBIA.

AND I SEE AN HONEST CONVERSATION STIRRING BETWEEN THIS CITY AND RICHLAND COUNTY ABOUT THE POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVING SERVICE AND REDUCING TAXPAYER BURDEN THROUGH COLLABORATION, COOPERATION, AND CONSOLIDATION; AND I’M PROUD TO BE A PART OF THAT.

I SEE REASON TO CELEBRATE.

I SEE A CITY LIVING UP TO ITS RESPONSIBILITY TO THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS BY GETTING INVOLVED IN THEIR LIVES SO THAT EVERY STUDENT, EVERY CHILD IN THIS CITY – REGARDLESS OF RACE, REGARDLESS OF CLASS, REGARDLESS OF HERITAGE OR PARENTAGE – EVERY CHILD CAN LIVE UP TO HIS OR HER GOD-GIVEN POTENTIAL.

I SEE THE EAU CLAIRE PROMISE ZONE, CITY YEAR AND DIPLOMAS NOW, DRILLS AND SKILLS, PRIME-TIME IN THE PARK, THE TALENTED TENTH, THE MAYOR’S FELLOWS, AND THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL INITIATIVE WHICH GAVE EVERY CITY EMPLOYEE TIME OFF TO TAKE THEIR SONS AND DAUGHTERS TO SCHOOL SO THOSE STUDENTS KNOW HOW IMPORTANT THEIR EDUCATION IS TO MOM AND DAD. AND SO MOM AND DAD KNOW HOW IMPORTANT THEY ARE TO THE CITY OF COLUMBIA.

I SEE US MAKING EDUCATION A PRIORITY AND I’M PROUD TO BE A PART OF THAT.

I SEE REASON TO CELEBRATE AND, AFTER A LONG PERIOD OF ECONOMIC HARDSHIP, I SEE PEOPLE GOING BACK TO WORK.

I SEE CICI’S PIZZA, HOUSTON’S LOWCOUNTRY GRILL. NATURAL ESCAPES DAY SPA, AND FIRST CHOICE REHABILITATION CENTER FILLING THE STOREFRONTS OF NORTH MAIN PLAZA AND I SEE 14 BRAND NEW COMPANIES ENTERING THE USC TECHNOLOGY INCUBATOR.

I SEE THE SCRA INNOVATIONS CENTER INVESTING OVER $6.7 MILLION AND TRANSFORMING AN EMPTY WAREHOUSE INTO A CENTER FOR GROWING TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES. I SEE THE MAIN AND GERVAIS TOWER FULLY OCCUPIED AND THE NICKELODEON BREAKING GROUND. AND WHILE BUSINESSES FALTER AND FAIL ALL ACROSS THE WORLD, HERE, IN COLUMBIA, I SEE THEM GROWING.

I SEE IMMEDION AND DENTAQUEST, DOVE TAIL INSURANCE AND REI, VERIZON AND AFLAC.

I SEE A KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY FUTURE THRIVING AT MIDLANDS TECH's ENTERPRISE CAMPUS AND A $3.6 MILLION DARPA GRANT FOR INNOVISTA.

I SEE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION IN THE CONSORTIUM FOR ENTERPRISE SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT, FUEL CELL DEVELOPMENT IN TRULITE AND THE FUTURE OF SOLAR PANEL MANUFACTURING ON IT IS WAY WITH 1,000 HIGH PAYING JOBS FROM AQT SOLAR.

I SEE A REBIRTH BEGINNING ON MAIN STREET WITH MAST GENERAL AND NEARLY 20 YEARS OF FRUSTRATION ENDING ON BULL AS THE LARGEST PIECE OF DOWNTOWN PROPERTY EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI IS FINALLY SOLD.

I SEE REASON TO CELEBRATE.

WE HAVE CHANGED CITY COUNCIL’S STRUCTURE WITH A MORE EFFECTIVE COMMITTEE SYSTEM AND AN EVENING MEETING TIME THAT ALLOWS MORE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION

WE HAVE LIMITED EXECUTIVE SESSIONS AND ENJOYED MORE PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF THE PEOPLE'S ISSUES.

WE HAVE LED BY EXAMPLE GIVING UP HALF OF MY SALARY TO CREATE NEW INCENTIVES FOR EFFICIENCY,

WE HAVE HELD THE LINE ON FUNDING PRIORITIES, REMOVED OVER 100 UNNECESSARY VACANCIES, AND ELIMINATED FURLOUGHS FOR ALL CITY

EMPLOYEES AND WE HAVE DONE IT WHILE LIVING UP TO OUR FISCAL RESPONSIBILITIES.

AND I AM PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE CITY OF COLUMBIA ENDED THE 2010 CALENDAR YEAR $4.8 MILLION UNDER BUDGET.

WE ARE IN THE BLACK AND THAT IS CERTAINLY SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE!

YOUR CITY HAS BEEN HARD AT WORK FOR YOU AND, WHEN YOU LOOK AT ALL THE PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHTS LIKE THIS, PILED ONE ON TOP OF ANOTHER, IT’S PRETTY HARD TO IGNORE.

NOW, DID EVERYBODY GET A GOOD LOOK?

GOOD, NOW PUT IT ASIDE.

WIPE IT AWAY BECAUSE THAT’S NOT WHAT TONIGHT IS ABOUT.

I DIDN’T COME HERE JUST TO WRITE UP EVERY ACCOMPLISHMENT WE COULD THINK OF AND LIST THEM END TO END TO SEE HOW LONG IT STRETCHED.

I DIDN’T COME HERE TO SMILE AND WAVE AND TELL YOU "EVERYTHING’S GREAT!" THEN TAKE A BOW.

I CAN’T DO THAT.

I WOULD LIKE TO STAND UP HERE AND ANNOUNCE THAT WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED ALL OF OUR GOALS, THAT OUR CITY IS PERFECT. BUT WE HAVE NOT AND IT IS NOT.

THAT IS THE SIMPLE TRUTH IS THAT IF THERE’S ONE THING YOU SHOULD EXPECT FROM YOUR GOVERNMENT IT’S THE TRUTH.

THE TRUTH IS EVERYTHING’S NOT GREAT.

THE TRUTH IS WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO.

THE TRUTH IS I'm NOT SATISFIED.

I’M NOT SATISFIED AND YOU SHOULDN’T BE EITHER.

ACCORDING TO THE FBI’S PRELIMINARY UNIFORM CRIME REPORT, THERE WERE 708 VIOLENT CRIMES COMMITTED IN COLUMBIA BETWEEN JANUARY AND JUNE OF 2010 COMPARED WITH 611 ONE YEAR EARLIER.

THAT’S NEARLY 100 MORE VIOLENT OFFENSES. 100 MORE VICTIMS AND FAMILIES.

HOW CAN I BE SATISFIED WITH THAT?

HOW CAN I BE SATISFIED WHEN I KNOW MANY OF OUR VETERAN FIREFIGHTERS COME OFF A 24 HOUR SHIFT OF SAVING LIVES AND GO HOME TO TAKE A QUICK SHOWER BEFORE IT’S OFF TO THEIR SECOND JOBS BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T GOTTEN A RAISE IN 3 YEARS.

WE’RE LOSING OUR HEROES TO DEPARTMENTS WITH BETTER PAY AND BETTER EQUIPMENT AND WE’RE TRAINING NEW RECRUITS IN A BURN HOUSE HELD TOGETHER WITH PATCHWORK AND PLYWOOD. HOW CAN I BE SATISFIED WITH THAT?

HOW CAN I BE SATISFIED WHEN I KNOW THAT EVERYTHING WE DO – EVERYTHING – BEGINS AND ENDS WITH PUBLIC SAFETY?

NEW INDUSTRIES AREN’T GOING TO COME TO COLUMBIA IF THEY DON’T THINK THEIR EMPLOYEES ARE GOING TO BE SAFE. LOCAL BUSINESSES CAN’T GROW IF THEIR PROFITS ARE EATEN UP BY RISING INSURANCE RATES. OUR CHILDREN CAN’T LEARN IF THEIR HOMEWORK IS INTERRUPTED BY GUNFIRE.

WE CAN’T FOCUS ON ALL THE OTHER THINGS WE WANT TO DO IF OUR NEIGHBORHOODS AREN’T SAFE.

DURING MY CAMPAIGN I PROMISED TO MAKE PUBLIC SAFETY OUR CITY’S TOP PRIORITY AND I INTEND TO SEE THAT PROMISE KEPT!

I SEE US STARTING BY GIVING OUR FIRST RESPONDERS THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO DO THEIR JOBS.

I SEE MORE PATROL CARS AND CUTTING EDGE EQUIPMENT. I SEE CONTINUOUS TRAINING AND RECERTIFICATION. AND I SEE NEW FACILITIES BECAUSE YOU CAN’T BE A FIRST-RATE SERVICE IF YOU TRAIN IN CUT-RATE CONDITIONS.

SO, FOR YOU FIREFIGHTERS OUT THERE, I SEE A NEW STATE OF THE ART BURN HOUSE DESIGNED FOR THE JOB AND BUILT FOR THE LONG HAUL.

BUT WHEN YOU’RE RISKING YOUR LIFE EVERY DAY, IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT BEING ABLE TO COUNT ON YOUR EQUIPMENT, FACILITIES, AND TRAINING.

IT’S ALSO ABOUT HAVING RELIABLE LEADERSHIP.

AFTER SIX POLICE CHIEFS IN FIVE YEARS, IT’S TIME TO BRING SOME STABILITY TO THE COLUMBIA POLICE DEPARTMENT.

IT IS TIME TO STOP THE REVOLVING DOOR AT NUMBER ONE JUSTICE SQUARE.

SINCE TAKING THE JOB AS INTERIM CHIEF OF POLICE THREE MONTHS AGO RANDY SCOTT HAS PUT 35 NEW POLICE CARS ON THE STREET, OPENED A BRAND NEW PATROL REGION, FORGED NEW PARTNERSHIPS WITH THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT, SLED, AND OUR NEIGHBORING JURISDICTIONS, AND BROUGHT IN A NEW CLASS OF RECRUITS THAT THIS MONTH RECEIVED EVERY SINGLE AWARD THE ACADEMY HAD TO OFFER.

I THINK THAT DESERVES SOME RECOGNITION.

WHEN I LOOK AT MEN LIKE CHIEF SCOTT, FIRE CHIEF AUBREY JENKINS, OR ANY OF OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM, I SEE THE SAME THING ALL OF US DO.

WE SEE WORDS LIKE SELFLESSNESS, RESPECT, HONOR, AND SACRIFICE. WE SEE TRUE AMERICAN HEROES EVEN THOUGH, MOST OF THE TIME, WE DON’T REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS.

BUT ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13TH, WE WERE ALL REMINDED WHEN A ROUTINE CALL TO A BRUSH FIRE OFF I-20 EASTBOUND MILE MARKER 81 TURNED TO TRAGEDY LEAVING ONE FIREFIGHTER, 30 YEAR OLD LARRY KEWON IRVIN, CRITICALLY INJURED AND CLINGING TO LIFE AND ANOTHER LOST TO US FOREVER.

THE GREAT AMERICAN AUTHOR HENRY MILLER FAMOUSLY WROTE: "THE ORDINARY MAN IS INVOLVED IN ACTION, BUT THE HERO ACTS. AND THERE IS AN IMMENSE DIFFERENCE."

23 YEAR OLD CHANCE HYATT ZOBEL IS A HERO NOT BECAUSE HE WAS WITHOUT FEAR BUT BECAUSE HE CHOSE TO ACT IN SPITE OF IT.

HE IS A HERO BECAUSE WHEN OTHERS HESITATED, HE RESPONDED WITHOUT THOUGHT FOR HIMSELF OR EXPECTATION OF REWARD, GIVING WHAT LINCOLN CALLED THE LAST FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION TO US.

CHANCE CHOSE TO ACT. LET US FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE.

FIVE YEARS AGO, THE CITY OF COLUMBIA OPTED OUT OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA RETIREMENT SYSTEM’S ACCIDENTAL DEATH INSURANCE PLAN FOR FIREFIGHTERS AND POLICE OFFICERS COSTING CHANCE ZOBEL’S FAMILY

POTENTIALLY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN LIFETIME BENEFITS.

I INTEND TO RECTIFY THAT MISTAKE. I INTEND TO SHOW OUR FIRST RESPONDERS THAT THIS CITY, YOUR CITY, STANDS WITH YOU, WE SUPPORT YOU, AND WE WILL STAND WITH YOUR FAMILY IF ANYTHING SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU.

NOW, I KNOW BURN HOUSES DON’T COME CHEAP AND THE BEST EQUIPMENT IS OFTEN THE MOST EXPENSIVE. BUT I WATCHED AS THIS CITY PUT TOGETHER A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BASEBALL PARADE IN TWO DAYS THAT DIDN’T COST THE TAXPAYER A DIME. I’VE SEEN WHAT WE CAN DO WHEN WE PUT OUR MINDS TO IT. I’VE SEEN WHAT IS POSSIBLE.

TWO YEARS AGO, THE SMART MONEY SAID THAT THE CITY OF COLUMBIA COULDN'T GET ITS ACT TOGETHER.

THE ECONOMY WAS TANKING AND OUR RESERVES WERE GONE PROMPTING ACROSS THE BOARD CUTS AND EMPLOYEE FURLOUGHS. BUT HERE WE ARE, JUST TWO YEARS LATER, WE’VE ELIMINATED THE FURLOUGHS ALONG WITH OVER $1 MILLION IN NON-ESSENTIAL, VACANT POSITIONS. EVERY

DEPARTMENT IS OPERATING IN THE BLACK AND THE GENERAL FUND IS $4.8 MILLION UNDER BUDGET.

AND WE’RE NOT DONE. NOW, AS A RULE, EVERY TIME A NON-PUBLIC SAFETY VACANCY OPENS UP, OUR CITY MANAGER EXAMINES THE POSITION, EVALUATES ITS VALUE, AND DECIDES WHETHER IT’S NECESSARY OR NOT.

IF IT’S NECESSARY, HE POSTS THE JOB AND FILLS THE POSITION. IF IT ISN’T NECESSARY, HE DOESN’T JUST LET IT STAY VACANT ... HE ELIMINATES IT ENTIRELY FREEING UP ROOM IN THE BUDGET FOR PRIORITIES LIKE PUBLIC SAFETY.

DECISIONS LIKE THOSE THAT HAVE HELPED COLUMBIA GET BACK ON ITS FEET. BUT WE NEED THIS CITY TO BE IN FIGHTING SHAPE AND I SEE A RENEWED SPIRIT OF REGIONALISM AS THE KEY.

I SEE THE FUTURE OF THIS CITY, THIS COUNTY, THIS ENTIRE REGION UNIFIED THROUGH SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. I SEE CONSOLIDATED SERVICES STREAMLINING AND AMPLIFYING OUR ABILITIES TO RECRUIT INDUSTRY AND PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT. I SEE COLUMBIA PROVING ONCE AND FOR ALL THAT WE CAN DO MORE FOR LESS BY DOING IT TOGETHER.

I SEE THIS CITY TAKING THE LEAD AND, WITH NEW VIGOR AND FISCAL VITALITY, REBUILDING A STRONG FOUNDATION OF PUBLIC TRUST.

TIME AND TIME AGAIN, IT ALWAYS COMES BACK TO TRUST.

NOT THE BLIND FAITH OF CHILDREN. NOT TRUST UNCONDITIONAL YIELDED WITHOUT QUESTION OR QUALIFICATION, BUT TRUST EARNED AND PROVEN. THE PUBLIC TRUST BASED IN MUTUAL RESPECT AND OPENNESS, VERIFIED AND TRANSPARENT.

WE HAVE ALREADY SET A SERIES OF GOOD GOVERNMENT REFORMS IN ACTION THAT INCLUDE MOVING COUNCIL TO EVENING MEETING AND LIMITING EXECUTIVE SESSION SO MORE OF THE PUBLIC’S BUSINESS IS DONE IN PUBLIC. BUT WE’RE NOT DONE. IN FACT, WE’RE JUST GETTING STARTED.

THE WHOLE WORLD CAN SEE TONIGHT’S EVENT BECAUSE IT’S STREAMING LIVE VIA THE INTERNET AND, STARTING NEXT WEEK, EVERY CITY COUNCIL MEETING WILL BE AS WELL SO EVEN THOSE WHO CAN’T MAKE THE MEETINGS CAN STILL STAY UP TO DATE WITH EVERY MOTION AND EVERY VOTE WITHOUT EVER HAVING TO LEAVE HOME.

BUT THAT’S JUST THE BEGINNING.

I SEE THIS CITY ESTABLISHING AN INDEPENDENT ETHICS COMMISSION, THE FIRST OF ITS KIND IN SOUTH CAROLINA. I SEE OUR CITY PRODUCING A LAYMAN’S BUDGET SO YOU CAN SEE EXACTLY WHERE YOUR TAX DOLLARS GO AND ESTABLISHING NEW GUIDELINES FOR CONFLICTSOF INTERESTS THAT REMOVE EVEN THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY. I SEE COLUMBIA RAISING THE STANDARD FOR CITIZEN DRIVEN GOOD GOVERNMENT NOT JUST IN SOUTH CAROLINA, BUT ACROSS THE NATION.

I SEE US ENGAGING OUR COMMUNITY ON A GRASSROOTS LEVEL ABOUT THE ISSUES IMPORTANT TO ALL OF US SO THAT WE CAN BE THE BEST, BRIGHTEST, AND HEALTHIEST CITY WE CAN BE.

JUST AS OUR STREETS MUST BE SAFE; OUR NEIGHBORHOODS CLEAN; AND OUR SCHOOLS FULL OF ENERGETIC AND TALENTED STUDENTS AND TEACHERS--OUR CITIZENS MUST BE HEALTHY. TO THAT END, MY WIFE, DEANDREA, AND I HAVE ADOPTED A SIGNATURE PROJECT, ALONG WITH COLUMBIA CITY COUNCIL, TO ENSURE ALL OF OUR FAMILIES HAVE ACCESS TO THE RIGHT RESOURCES TO ENCOURAGE HEALTHY LIFESTYLES.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA AND HER TEAM HAVE PROVIDED A BLUEPRINT FOR US AND COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE NATION TO FOLLOW IN AN EFFORT TO ERADICATE CHILDHOOD OBESITY IN OUR CITY AND OUR NATION -- THE LET'S MOVE INITIATIVE.

OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT SEVERAL MONTHS, WE WILL DEVELOP OUR OWN MOVEMENT IN COLUMBIA -- ONE IN WHICH WE WORK WITH OUR INTERNAL TEAM OF STAFF AND COMMUNITY PARTNERS TO DEVELOP A LONGTERM, SUSTAINABLE AND HOLISTIC APPROACH TO FIGHTING CHILDHOOD OBESITY IN OUR COMMUNITY AND SUPPORT HEALTHY LIVING THROUGH GRASSROOTS PROJECTS LIKE URBAN FARMING AND COMMUNITY GARDENS WHICH PROVIDE HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES FOR OUR FAMILIES.

THIS HOLISTIC APPROACH WILL ENCOMPASS INITIATIVES UNDER ALL FOUR PILLARS OF THE LET'S MOVE MODEL: HELPING PARENTS MAKE HEALTHY FAMILY CHOICES; IMPROVING THE HEALTH OF SCHOOLS; INCREASING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY OPPORTUNITIES; AND MAKING HEALTHY FOOD AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE.

I SEE A HEALTHIER, HAPPIER, AND MORE PROSPEROUS FUTURE FOR OUR CITY AS, FROM PUBLIC SAFETY TO FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, ETHICS REFORM TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; COLUMBIA LIVES UP TO ITS MANTLE AS A TRUE 21ST CENTURY CAPITAL CITY.

YES, I SEE COLUMBIA READY TO LEAD.

LOOK OUTSIDE THIS DOOR AND YOU’LL SEE IT TOO - THE SIGNS OF A $1 BILLION A YEAR TOURISM INDUSTRY THAT EMPLOYS ROUGHLY 65,000 PEOPLE RIGHT HERE IN THE METRO COLUMBIA AREA.

BUT THOSE SIGNS ARE ABOUT MORE THAN JUST DOLLARS AND CENTS, MORE THAN HOSPITALITY DISTRICTS AND TAX REVENUES. THEY’RE ABOUT OPEN SOURCE PROGRAMMING, SMALL MODULAR NUCLEAR REACTORS, HYDROGEN FUEL CELLS AND CYBER SECURITY. THEY’RE ABOUT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES, KNOWLEDGE ECONOMIES, AND A NEW GENERATION OF SUSTAINABLE ENERGY INDUSTRIES.

THEY’RE ABOUT POSITIONING COLUMBIA ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AND SECURING HIGH-PAYING JOBS FOR THIS REGION, NOT JUST FOR THE NEXT FOUR YEARS – BUT THE NEXT 40.

I’M PROUD OF THE WORK WE’VE DONE TOGETHERB

I’M PROUD OF A NEW MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA AND MIDLANDS TECH TO FOSTER KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND CREATE A NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED ENERGY RESEARCH HUB RIGHT HERE IN COLUMBIA.

I’M PROUD OF THE NEW PARTNERSHIP THE CITY HAS FORMED WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS IN THEIR NON-PAID WORK EXPERIENCE PROGRAM. THIS IMPORTANT INITIATIVE HELPS VETERANS GAIN VALUABLE EXPERIENCE WORKING FOR THE CITY OF COLUMBIA FOR SIX MONTHS PROVIDING CRITICAL CITY SERVICES AT NO COST TO THE TAXPAYER.

I’M PROUD OF WORKING WITH RICHLAND COUNTY, THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, AND THE CENTRAL SOUTH CAROLINA ALLIANCE TO BRING A SOLAR POWER LEADER LIKE AQT AND 1,000 HIGH PAYING JOBS TO THE MIDLANDS.

I’M PROUD, BUT I’M NOT SATISFIED.

I’M PROUD BECAUSE UNEMPLOYMENT IN RICHLAND COUNTY HAS DROPPED FROM 10.3% TO 9.3% IN THE PAST YEAR. BUT UNSATISFIED BECAUSE THAT’S STILL 16,772 PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE JOBS, WHO CAN’T PAY THEIR MORTGAGES, WHO ARE GETTING LEFT OUT OF ALL THE GREAT THINGS OUR CITY HAS TO OFFER.

WE MUST DO BETTER.

I SEE COLUMBIA STEPPING UP WITH A REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION TO HELP US BECOME TRULY BUSINESS FRIENDLY BY CUTTING

RED TAPE, LEVERAGING OUR INDIVIDUAL RESOURCES AND COORDINATING OUR INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS.

I SEE US FORMALIZING THE ALREADY EXCEPTIONAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OUR CITY, THE STATE CAPITAL, AND THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA, THE STATE’S FLAGSHIP UNIVERSITY BY JOINING THE INTERNATIONAL TOWN GOWN ASSOCIATION.

I SEE US INVESTING IN CREATIVITY TO JUMPSTART THE DOWNTOWN ARTISTIC COMMUNITY AND SECURING THE ONE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOL WE DON’T HAVE BY BUILDING A NEW INDUSTRIAL PARK.

I SEE US CONNECTING MAIN STREET, USC, FIVE POINTS, AND THE VISTA TOGETHER AS ONE POWERHOUSE BUSINESS AND ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT AND WORKING TOGETHER TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE LARGEST PARCEL OF UNDEVELOPED DOWNTOWN PROPERTY EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN A WAY THAT TRANSFORMS THE BULL STREET PROPERTY INTO A THOROUGHLY MODERN LANDSCAPE WHILE PRESERVING ITS UNIQUE HISTORY AND STRUCTURES.

I SEE US FINALLY UNLOCKING OUR RIVERFRONT’S POTENTIAL AND COMPLETING THE THREE RIVERS GREENWAY.

COLUMBIA IS READY.

BUT IF WE’RE GOING TO LEAD ON JOB CREATION, WE FIRST MUST LEAD ON TRANSPORTATION.

NOW, LET ME BE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR: EVERYONE RELIES ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.

WHETHER YOU’VE EVER SET FOOT ON A BUS OR NOT, WHETHER YOU KNOW WHAT CMRTA MEANS OR NOT, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT - YOU RELY ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.

THE LAB TECH THAT DREW YOUR BLOOD THE LAST TIME YOU WERE IN THE HOSPITAL, THE COLLEGE STUDENT THAT’S WORKING PART TIME WAITING TABLES IN YOUR RESTAURANT, THE SECURITY GUARD IN YOUR BUILDING – THEY ALL RIDE THE BUS.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM IF THERE ARE NO MORE BUSES TO RIDE? WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE BUSINESSES WHEN THE EMPLOYEES THEY RELY ON CAN’T GET TO WORK?

WE HAD A MEETING TODAY WITH LEADERS FROM ALL ACROSS THE REGION SO WE CAN START PREPARING OURSELVES FOR THE NEWEST ROUND OF BASE CLOSURES COMING DOWN THE PIPE ANY DAY NOW.

BETWEEN FORT JACKSON, MCENTIRE, AND SHAW AIR FORCE BASE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT $7.1BILLION A YEAR IN COMBINED ECONOMIC IMPACT. I’M NOT GOING TO PUT THAT AT RISK BECAUSE WE TAKE THE BUSES AWAY FROM THE 1,400 FORT JACKSON EMPLOYEES THAT RELY ON THEM TO GET TO AND FROM WORK EVERY DAY.

I DON’T THINK WE CAN CONVINCE THE BRAC COMMISSION THAT THIS CITY FULLY SUPPORTS THE MILITARY IF WE REFUSE TO MAKE SURE A SOLDIER ON LEAVE HAS A RIDE INTO TOWN OR WE STOP THEIR CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES FROM REPORTING TO WORK.

EVERY SINGLE STATE CAPITAL IN AMERICA HAS A VIABLE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM AND I’M NOT GOING TO LET COLUMBIA BE THE ONLY ONE LEFT BEHIND.

BUT THIS ISN’T ABOUT MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO. THIS ISN’T ABOUT SUBSIDIZING THE SAME OLD BUS SYSTEM. THIS IS ABOUT FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGING THE WAY WE LOOK AT PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.

IMAGINE A FLEET OF CLEAN, NEXT GENERATION, ENERGY-EFFICIENT BUSES, OUTFITTED WITH MOBILE BROADBAND SO COMMUTERS CAN WORK ON THEIR WAY TO WORK.

IMAGINE INCREASING RIDERSHIP BY TAPPING INTO THE ROUGHLY 50,000 STUDENTS FROM USC, BENEDICT, ALLEN, COLUMBIA COLLEGE, MIDLANDS TECH AND CIU.

IMAGINE INTER-MODAL, REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION HUBS THAT CONNECT USC WITH DOWNTOWN AND THE VISTA, CAYCE, WEST COLUMBIA, LEXINGTON AND BLYTHEWOOD – CENTERS OF ACTIVITY BRINGING BUS AND RAIL TOGETHER PROVIDING NEW OUTLETS FOR LOCAL MERCHANTS AND NEW CUSTOMERS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. IMAGINE MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE 1,400 WORKERS AT FORT JACKSON WHO RELY ON CMRTA BY CONNECTING THEM AND THOUSANDS MORE WITH ALL OF THE CENTERS OF CULTURE AND COMMERCE THROUGHOUT THE MIDLANDS

IMAGINE POSITIONING COLUMBIA AS A NEW, VIBRANT AND GREEN 21ST CENTURY METROPOLIS WITH PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AT ITS CORE.

THIS IS ABOUT A NEW VISION THAT SEES PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION NOT AS A BURDEN TO BE CARRIED BUT A BOON THAT CAN CARRY US INTO A BRIGHT NEW FUTURE TOGETHER.

WE HAVE A LOT TO CELEBRATE HERE IN COLUMBIA.

THE STATE OF OUR CITY IS STRONG - STRONG, BUT UNSATISFIED.

BECAUSE, AS PROUD AS WE ARE OF HOW FAR WE’VE COME, I LOOK OVER THE HORIZON TO WHERE WE’RE GOING AND I SEE A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY UNLIKE ANYTHING WE’VE EVER KNOWN AND WITH ALL OF US WORKING TOGETHER – EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM AND EVERYONE AT HOME DOING THEIR PART – I KNOW WE CAN GET THERE.

COLUMBIA IS A GREAT CITY. BUT WE CAN BE EVEN BETTER.

WE’RE READY TO GET STARTED.

WE’RE READY TO LEAD.

WE’RE READY TO BE ONE GREAT COLUMBIA!

THANK YOU. GOD BLESS YOU. AND GOD BLESS THE CITY OF COLUMBIA.

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