If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I had the beginning of a conversation going about my thoughts on Daniel Coble's candidacy for the District III seat on the Columbia City Council. My thoughts are more than 140 characters, so I'm here to ramble:
First of all, I've never met Daniel Coble. I don't know a thing about him other than what is on his campaign website. Accordingly, I come into this without any preconceived ideas about him. All my information about him comes from his website. Also, I don't live in District III, so who cares what I think anyway, right?
Experience: Daniel Coble is a third year law student at USC Law. He's scheduled to graduate this May. I assume he'll sit for the bar this summer. If he passes, he'll be sworn in and admitted to the South Carolina Bar in the fall.
Here's the bio on the website:
I grew up in Shandon, attended Rosewood Elementary, Hand Middle School, Dreher High School, Clemson University (Dean’s List; Student Government; SAE Fraternity) and USC Law School (Journal of Law and Education, Phi Delta Phi, William T. Howell Scholarship), Community Relations Council Board Member. Clerked at Lewis & Babcock LLP and Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office; Law Clerk, SC House Judiciary Committee. USC Law School graduation, May, 2012.
Ok. I think he's about 24 years old, so that means he went straight from Clemson to USC Law School. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, that's exactly what I did, what my wife did, and what hundreds of other practicing lawyers did. It's evidence that he clearly wants to be a lawyer, and that's great. I'm a lawyer. Nothing wrong with that.
He lists his clerkship at a very well-respected local law firm, the local solicitor's office, and clerking for the SC House Judiciary Committee. If he did that during law school (as most students usually do) I assume he split a summer along the line, because that's three clerkships in two summers. Again, nothing wrong with that. It's a great resume for a 3L. It is certainly better than mine was when I was a 3L.
However, he's running for City Council - not head of the Student Bar Association. He's not even a baby-lawyer yet because he won't be a baby-lawyer until after he passes the Bar and is admitted in the fall. He hasn't even commenced his legal practice yet. I'm sure he'll find a job because he's a smart guy who has a sterling resume. However, he doesn't appear to have an offer yet (or he's not disclosing it on his website). Again, all I have to go by is the website.
On a visceral level, I have an objection to a 3L running for City Council. In my opinion, that's presumptuous. He's not yet complete with his education. He has not practiced for one day. If you're in favor of Daniel Coble, you're conceding that having the life experience of being employed (any any occupation) in a full-time position is irrelevant to qualification for City Council. If you're ok with that, great. I'm not.
Why Is He Running: Ok, so we have a 3L running for City Council. Why? What does he want to do? Per his website:
My generation is skeptical about government but not about public service. We know things must change. The old ways of governing no longer work. My approach to problems facing District 3 are based on having lived in the district all my life, knowing the neighborhoods and the people I want to serve and bringing fresh ideas to Columbia.”
Things must change? What things? The old ways of governing no longer work? What does that even mean? What is he talking about? His approach is based on living in the district "all my life"? You know, if I was only 24 and running for City Council, my main selling point wouldn't be Hey! I've lived here all my life! You know, since 1988!
Issues: (Public Safety) Hey! Coble is in favor of public safety. Me too. Is anyone in the race against public safety? If so, don't vote for them...unless you're a criminal. "Funding the police department is vital, but we must also remember that we live within realistic budgets." I agree with this 100%. Spending money is ok, but obviously, we don't have a bottomless pot of gold. So far, so good. What else?
Until we can expand the police budget over the long term, we have to focus on the short term and the resources we have at hand. This means investing in three specific areas:
Having a safe environment is the strongest selling point of any city. Chief Scott, along with many other officers, are turning the morale our department around and continuing to make our police force something to be proud of.
- Parks- Our parks bring our communities neighbors together, which means that they have to be a friendly and safe place to be. These parks must be properly patrolled at both day and night. Signage should be up showing the park rules and hours and also no profanity if that is the rule. I also want to make sure our park manager of each park is known in the community both by local leaders and local police officers.
- Pedestrians- Everyone should feel comfortable in their neighborhoods, whether they are walking around the block or walking to their car. I will work with local neighborhood leaders and police so that we know where the high crime areas are and will be able to focus our resources and energy in those areas.
- PACE- None of these ideas will work without full funding and support of our Pro Active Community Enforcement Team. The PACE Team fosters and grows community relationships between neighbors and community PACE officers. Over time, I would like to see more officers put on this team so that our current ones are not stretched thin.
Wait, what? We're just starting from the assumption that were going to expand the police department budget over the long term? I'm not necessarily against that, but I don't like that we're assuming that as our first principle. In any event, yes...patrol parks, keep people safe, and arrest the bad guys. It would be more helpful if Coble would identify the problems, rather than just say: Let's patrol more! More signs! It makes me feel like he doesn't really know what the problems are.
CMRTA: In any event, whether he was 24 or 84, here's why I won't be supporting Mr. Coble:
As the capital of South Carolina, it is imperative that Columbia have a fully functioning and modern public transportation system. [Actually, no it's not. Columbia is a sprawling city where the parking is plentiful, the roads are wide, and everything is spread out. Columbia isn't Chicago, or Manhattan. And that's good.] The CMRTA is essential to sustaining and growing our economy and making sure that Columbia is the leader of this state. [Essential? Hardly.]
It is essential that we have a long term funding source for the CMRTA, which is why I fully support the penny referendum. [We need to tax everyone more to pay for the bus system] The penny sales tax will allow for Columbia and other regional partners to fully invest [every time he says invest, he means spend money] in this system and let everyone see that we care about all of our residents. [What is this crap about showing people that we "care"? I care about not funding a bus system that cannot cover its own costs because of inherent flaws in the bus system model.] I will take a leadership position in pushing for this referendum and travel our city expressing some of the ideas I would like to see:
Passing this referendum will not be easy as we saw just a few years ago. [The people are against it, but I'll force it through, because I know what's best.] I will work with our County Council and well as the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce to express my support for this referendum and the benefits it can have for our city. A viable public transit system is critical for our city, and I will work as hard as I can to ensure CMRTA has the funds it needs. [I won't hesitate to spend as much of your money to keep the failed bus-system around for as long as possible.]
- Regional Cooperation- Our bus system will thrive as long as we continue to work together and share resources. [Share our resources? I think you mean spend more of our tax money.] We will have to work with the local governments on both sides of the river to ensure that everyone is chipping in and paying their fair share. [Fair share? Where have I heard that before? What if the "other sides of the river" don't want to pay for the bus system? Lexington has already said they don't want it.]
- Changing the Attitude- I want to see our bus system integrated with the University’s so that all of our citizens are sharing the same public transportation. I believe that this will not only change the attitude and vision of CMRTA but will help grow and shape our economy by allowing students to travel all around the city. [This is a HORRIBLE idea. I mean really bad. USC students aren't going to want to ride the bus "all around the city", especially, when you make them ride with other non-USC students.]
- Public Safety- Another way I believe we can change the view of our bus system is to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and safe when riding. This means have lit and properly patrolled bus stops. I would also like to invest in something similar to the “Yellow Shirts” that patrol the Main Street area. These men and women do a great job of creating a comfortable atmosphere of reassurance. [People don't ride the bus in large numbers because it's not practical in Columbia. The problem is not a lack of yellow-shirted bus-captains.]
After this, I won't fisk the rest of his "Issues", but they can be boiled down thusly:
- Spend money on "green energy".
- Spend more money to build walkways and paths along the river.
- Spend more money on the arts.
- Be exceptional.
MY THOUGHTS: Here's what Columbia City Council needs to do: Fund the police, fire, water, and the other municipal departments...you know the basics. Fill in the potholes, arrest the criminals, put out the fires, and keep the peace. It's not sexy, but it works.
I don't want Columbia to be "The greatest city in the Southeast". I'm fine to be Columbia. I don't want this to be Austin, TX. Austin's slogan is "Austin: Keep it weird". I'm comfortable with Columbia; we don't need to try to be some other place. I kinda get the feeling he doesn't like Columbia the way it is.
Columbia: Keep it Columbia.