Temple Ligon’s City Notebook Columbia City Council work session • February 23 • 9 am
City council convened for its work session this Wednesday morning at 9, third floor of City Hall. All council members were present: Tameika Isaac Devine, Hamilton Osborne, E. W. Cromartie, Mayor Bob Coble, Anne Sinclair, Sam Davis, and Daniel Rickenmann.
The week was declared Engineers’ Week for the City of Columbia.
Three Rivers shindig
Virginia Bedford , executive director, brought council up to date on the Three Rivers Music Festival. Over half of her budget is spent locally. Since November her website has had over 100,000 hits. The tickets this year will be practically non–duplicative, to discourage counterfeiters. Last year there were some duplicated tickets and lost revenues. Bedford was enthused with the quality of some of the lead acts such as Widespread Panic and Stretch Armstrong. She said 20–25 local groups would take the stages as warm–ups.
Tom Prioreschi , developer, asked council to delay his payment of $800,000 he borrowed to bridge his condominium conversion of the Barringer Building, 1338 Main Street. Prioreschi offered to pay interest (3%) and to forego the $40,000 assistance in his facades. Osborne cautiously accepted the proposal. Coble urged council to approve to move the project forward, as did Cromartie. Davis and Sinclair were opposed, wondering how and when the $800,000 would be repaid. Devine followed those sentiments. Prioreschi explained the $800,000 would be backed with tax credits, but the pessimism on council wasn’t altogether encouraging. Council and its city manager said it was a matter for executive session behind closed doors.
Jim Gambrell of the city’s office of economic development appealed to council to back the funding ($150,000) for a downtown wireless fidelity system to accommodate tourists. Dealing to attract tourists, the WiFi project would qualify for hospitality tax funds. Davis and Cromartie wondered why Allen, Benedict, and Columbia College weren’t included in the first wave of installations. After all, USC was. Sinclair asked about Midlands Tech. No one observed that the funding from hospitality taxes was based on tourism enhancement by law, not student subsidy. Rickenmann offered mixed priorities were not sensible, not when Columbia needed more police and other basics of government. Council passed approval with Osborne and Rickenmann voting against.
Funding for the Beth and Lou Holtz Emergency Shelter in the amount of $57,750 was requested by council member Sinclair. Osborne objected because he saw no sense in making Columbia so attractive to the homeless. In other words, if you build it, they will come. If you don’t, they won’t. Cromartie visits the shelter occasionally as he recognizes old classmates from C. A. Johnson, he said. Council approved with the exception of Osborne.
Council followed through with the approval of funds ($25,000) to help with the upcoming Blueprint to Address Homelessness in the Midlands.
Ordinances – second reading
#2005–005, annexing 1715 Broad River Road.
#2005–008, granting encroachment to Central Parking for installation and maintenance of three signs along Park Street at Richland Street and Park Street at Laurel Street.
#2005–014, authorizing conveyance of property known 513 South Pickens Street (former Naval Reserve Building).
#2005–016, granting a franchise to Sean Conzo for operation of a stationary sidewalk–vending cart at the northwest corner of Main Street and Gervais Street.
Ordinances – first reading
#2005–018, annexing parcel A, 7.9 acres, 6925 North Main Street.
Riverbanks Park Commission
Council is asked to approve the appointment of one individual to serve a six–year term. Cromartie pushed for diversity and council agreed. Appointment pending.
Council stepped down to convene in executive session behind closed doors.
Council meets again Wednesday (March 2) afternoon at 4 for its work session. The regular session is scheduled for 6 pm, all at council chambers, third floor, City Hall, corner of Laurel and Main.
Ten priorities for Columbia in 2005 No. 5: Get a sister city in China By John Temple Ligon
In the first issue of the Columbia Star this year, ten priorities for Columbia in 2005 were proposed. Number 5 was to get a Sister City partner in China. Greenville recently has partnered with the free–trade zone of Tianjin, near Beijing. Doug Stevens of Greenville runs their Sister City program, and he is available to help Columbia. He suggests a Sister City near Tianjin and near Beijing, like Greenville, building a position in China for SC.
Below is an excerpted op–ed piece Stevens wrote for the Greenville News.
In 1984 Greenville’s Mayor Bill Workman and the City Council issued a resolution endorsing the Sister City program. The agreement with our first sister, Bergamo, Italy, was signed in Greenville City Hall in October 1985. In 1991, a delegation from Kortrijk, Belgium, came to Greenville to formalize our second Sister City relationship. In February, 2002, a delegation of officials from Tianjin, China, visited City Hall to formalize our third official relationship with their Free Trade Zone. This relationship had been proposed to Mayor Knox White by Vivian Wong and her brother, Peter Kwan. Last year, a group of business people from Tianjin announced plans to invest in office facilities here in Greenville.
In addition to fostering commercial connections, these relationships have led to cultural, civic, sports, and educational exchanges. Over the past 11 years, students from the Catholic University of Leuven at Kortrijk (KULAK) have visited Furman University and our Furman students have visited KULAK. Many of our residents have hosted KULAK students during their visits, giving these young people a great impression of life in Greenville (and in the US). Over the years, we have exchanged musical groups, artists, basketball teams, teachers, law enforcement officers, and firemen.
Sister Cities in the US still follow President Eisenhower’s vision of citizens’ organizations. We are all community volunteers who fund these activities ourselves. In other countries, these activities normally are managed and funded by city governments. As these governments change, contacts must be renewed. A delegation from Greenville has recently returned from Kortrijk and Bergamo, where we were able to establish up–to–date contacts with their new administrations. We proposed some co–operative projects including art and artists exchanges, professional level photo exchanges, and co–operative educational projects.
We are currently exploring new Sister City relationships in Japan, Latin America, Germany, and the Ukraine. However, we must expand our volunteer base in order to handle additional commitments.
Now, what does all of this mean to Greenville? In the 33 years that our family has lived here, we have seen Greenville grow into a truly international city. Now the Upstate has more foreign investment per capita than any other region in the US. Our three grandchildren, along with many other children, are immersed in Spanish and French at Blythe Language Academy. There is a vibrant International Center located in City Hall.
Greenville Sister Cities International has opened face–to–face communication channels with three cities around the world and is seeking more. With much of the world in disagreement with America’s foreign policy, the need for personal diplomacy may never have been greater. Projects such as student and teacher exchanges can have wide, positive impact. Learning a few words in another language can enable our young people to exchange their thoughts and photos with children in another country by e–mail.
Last year, the board members personally donated the funds to send five wheelchairs to Moldavo, a country that emerged when the U.S.S.R. dissolved (this is a project of the Sister City organization in Greensboro, NC). I am convinced that there are opportunities all through the world to put the power of Greenville’s (and America’s) personal diplomacy into action.