Columbia election notes: Rickenmann talks rescue money; candidates stump in Earlewood

·3 min read

Columbia is getting set to decide how it will spend more than $27 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding, and at least one mayoral candidate recently shared his ideas for the money with members of the community.

District 4 Columbia City Councilman Daniel Rickenmann, who is running for mayor this year, spoke Tuesday to the Columbia Capital Rotary Club, and he specifically focused on how he thinks some of the funding the city will receive from the American Rescue Plan should be utilized. The capital city is set to get about $27.5 million from the plan.

Rickenmann is one of three people running for mayor in Columbia. At-large Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine and Sam Johnson, a former top aide to current Mayor Steve Benjamin, also are seeking the seat. Benjamin announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t be running for a fourth term.

Rickenmann said he’s hopeful that some of the funding can be used for retention programs for first responders, upgraded body cameras for the police department, an expansion of ShotSpotter gunfire detection technology in the city and additional turnout gear for the fire department.

He also said the city needs more security cameras.

“Those are important to help prevent crimes and allow us to follow up on crimes,” Rickenmann said.

Columbia City Council has started talks on how it might use the rescue plan money, and received a presentation on the matter Tuesday from city budget director Missy Caughman. Rickenmann told the Rotarians he thinks the city should be deliberate in making sure the funding goes to the right projects, noting the city has until the end of 2024 to use the money.

“We have an opportunity here to take our time and look at it and decide what’s best for our community,” he said.

•The Earlewood Neighborhood Association met in-person for the first time in a year on July 15, and that return meeting had a healthy dose of city political fanfare.

The association’s meeting at Earlewood Park featured appearances from candidates in the at-large Columbia City Council race, as well as hopefuls in the District 1 council race. Earlewood is in District 1.

The five at-large candidates who spoke at the event were attorney Tyler Bailey, business owner Heather Bauer, public health researcher Dr. Aditi Bussells, environmental lobbyist Deitra Matthews and activist John Tyler. Since the Earlewood gathering, a sixth at-large candidate, photographer and studio owner Aaron Smalls, has confirmed his intention to seek the citywide seat.

The District 1 candidates who addressed the neighbors were attorney Tina Herbert and Department of Corrections employee Christa Williams.

Earlewood neighborhood president Emily Burn said the first in-person neighborhood gathering since the global pandemic began was intended to bring residents up to speed on local elections.

“We knew we wanted to have a big meeting and invite as much of the neighborhood as possible, and it just so happened that this is an election year and we have a bunch of great candidates, a bunch of whom are from this area,” Burn told The State after the meeting. “I think it was important for people to get out and safely meet the candidates.”

•The Columbia Urban League Young Professionals group is set to host a mayoral candidate forum. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at Allen University’s Chappelle Auditorium.

“Civic engagement extends far beyond the presidential election,” Columbia Urban League Young Professionals president Elána R. Frazier said in a release. “It’s important for us, as a civil rights organization, urban advocacy organization, and social justice organization to provide opportunities that engage the people of Columbia.”

Registration is required to attend the debate. Those wishing to register can go to columbiamayoralcandidatesforum.eventbrite.com.

•The 2021 Columbia elections will be on Nov. 2, with runoffs on Nov. 16, if necessary. Seats up for election include mayor, an at-large post, District 4 and District 1. Filing for the races opens at noon Aug. 2 and closes at noon Aug. 13. Filing fees are $530 for council races and $1,000 for mayor.

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