Mayorhood Tax Hike: All About Basketball Bid

STEVE BENJAMIN RAISING TAXES TO GET “LEVERAGE” IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH CHARLOTTE HORNETS || By FITSNEWS || This website long ago left the high-tax haven of Columbia, S.C. behind for more hospitable economic climates, but we continue to keep tabs on various fiscal misdeeds in the Palmetto State’s capital. The latest…


|| By FITSNEWS || This website long ago left the high-tax haven of Columbia, S.C. behind for more hospitable economic climates, but we continue to keep tabs on various fiscal misdeeds in the Palmetto State’s capital.

The latest such misdeed? A $3.7 million annual tax hike being pushed by Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin (a.k.a. “Mayorhood“).

We wrote on this not-so-cleverly disguised tax hike last month, but we weren’t exactly sure of the motivation behind it until now.

According to our sources, the new levy is all about providing the mayor with leverage as he participates in secret negotiations to bring an NBA developmental league franchise to Columbia.  Why does he need leverage?  Because math doesn’t appear to be Mayorhood’s strong suit – especially not when athletic venues are involved.

Benjamin has been involved in one scandal after another since the day he was elected – most recently as the champion of government-subsidized minor league baseball stadium that’s currently way over budget.

Benjamin’s struggles on the stadium project are said to have caused considerable consternation among executives with the Charlotte Hornets – who are looking at Columbia as a possible location for a “D-league” franchise.

According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the Hornets were “worried about the Mayor’s promise to build them a new basketball arena because the City still doesn’t know how it’s going to pay for the $37 million baseball stadium they are in the process of building right now.”

Enter the proposed tax hike … which Benjamin is reportedly trying to ram through prior to submitting Columbia’s official bid to the Hornets in late June.

Crazy …

As we noted in this piece criticizing GOP presidential contender Scott Walker (who is backing government funding for a new NBA arena in Milwaukee) funding for stadiums and sports arenas should never be put on taxpayers.  It’s simply not a core function of government.

And it’s sure as hell not something that warrants a tax hike …

Benjamin has proven he cannot be trusted.  Hell, his tax hike was actually pitched as a “property tax relief” proposal – one that would require a new “franchise fee” in electricity to provide.  He’s also shot down three attempts by fiscally conservative council members to cut the tax hike out of the city’s budget.


Related posts


Missing Macaque Captured

Will Folks

Missing Macaque Wanders Walterboro

Will Folks

South Carolina’s Blue Crab Bill On Hold

Dylan Nolan


erneba May 28, 2015 at 2:50 pm

Tax money for a baseball park, a basketball arena.
If you want to piss away money, send it to me.

You Know My Name May 28, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Isn’t Columbia about due to drop another million bucks or more for another damn dog park?

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 3:32 pm

At least a dog park serves a purpose.

easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Pit Bulls and Paroles?

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Would you rather pay for a thug ball basketball court?

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 7:28 pm

I’d rather simply not pay for that crap! That is luxury, not necessity, but that is my opinion.

easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Both are equally dumb at this point. Fix the water system, man the FD and PD, and synchronize the damn traffic lights.

truthmonger May 29, 2015 at 2:54 am

No profit in actual services…. and no way to skim from it or steer contracts.

TroubleBaby May 28, 2015 at 5:13 pm

We all know you’re a dog humper and biased as a result.


easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 3:35 pm

The one North Main / River Drive was recently finished.

Scooter May 28, 2015 at 3:44 pm

or 3p million to an airline.

easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Damn. I thought AirSouth was going to make it. I was enthusiastic, and excited about CAE becoming a hub for an upstart airline that would grow and hopefully one day be a major player. Luckily I didn’t have any money to invest at the time or I would likely have been out a sizable amount of money. Of course this was all back before the city was totally corrupt.

erneba May 28, 2015 at 7:20 pm

AirSouth, I used to fly my son back and forth to Atlanta on this airline. Prices were as good or better than any other airline. The major problem I had with them, it seemed every flight whether I picked him up or sent him off was at least two hours late.

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 10:39 pm

Start ups are like football coaches in this city, you come here to die.

Original Good Old Boy May 28, 2015 at 4:12 pm

If we are gonna spend some tax money for sports, how about we improve our youth sports facilities. The soccer fields at Owens Field are a disgrace. Most of the fields are half dirt and rocks. It’s really eye opening when you travel to Lexington and Irmo (even Sumter) and see their facilties.

Just saying May 28, 2015 at 6:21 pm

And your water bill will go up!

TroubleBaby May 28, 2015 at 3:19 pm

If Charlotte can’t support the Hornets, who the hell thinks the Columbia market can support them?

The Hornets are using Columbia for leverage in negotiations with other locales…there’s no way in hell they are coming to Columbia.

easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 3:29 pm

They aren’t bidding to get the Hornets from Charlotte, they are bidding on a developmental league team for the Hornets. Much like a minor league baseball team is affiliated with a major league team.

Either way it’s non-sense. The fire and police departments are chronically understaffed and underpaid, the water and sewer systems are in disarray, etc. The last thing the city needs to spend money on is a d-league basketball team.

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 4:11 pm

I agree, either way it is non-sense. As far as police departments being understaffed, guess that depends on what pocket of the state you live in. I do agree most are underpaid.

easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 4:17 pm

CPD is 10 to 20 percent below their standard staffing levels and with a few exceptions have been for at least the last 10 years.

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 4:25 pm

That is Continued Professional Development? While professional development may be understaffed, in certain pockets of the state, those who need those CPD classes are running amuck in masses. Just my opinion.

easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 4:28 pm

LOL….Columbia Police Department. I speak in obscure TLAs, over exposed from Family and Work for years.

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 4:36 pm

(dying laughing) I had to look it up. I don’t know about Columbia, but I do know a little about Greenville and lesser degree Spartanburg, I am glad I moved from there. They have what I call road traps set up during my time there. I haven’t had a ticket of any kind in probably 15 years or so, but that is simply because I don’t drive a lot.

I recently visited Greenville and during the drive home, I witnessed police officers behind 2 young men pumping gas. How does one get pulled over at the gas pumps? I have no clue what happened, but they wrote the young men what appeared to be 3 tickets? I still ponder how someone gets 3 tickets at a gas pump?

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 7:26 pm

I hear the fire department has many shifts who are one man short on the four man crew. The pay is so shitty that people are getting their training here and bailing to cities where they’re hired because those cities don’t have to pay for training.

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 7:27 pm

I’m not sure if you are aware Squishy, but the pay for SC is based on the pay SC currently gets. I transferred into SC with another company. I had to take a pay cut to do the same job I was doing in another state, but not as much a pay cut if I had moved to my home state. Thus, another 17 years and I am still here.

easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Yeah but when Irmo and Lexington are paying firefighters more than the capital city that’s a serious issue.

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 8:16 pm

Awww….had no idea what they are being paid, only great benefits.

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 10:37 pm

What I’m being told by a retiree that several graduates are jumping ship and going to NC and GA units for a lot more pay. That firemen are still waiting on a raise promised to them several years ago.

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 10:50 pm

GA is somewhat a surprise, but I have to admit, I was strongly looking at a property in Union NC. It was best all around IMHO, but …. family is here, so here I am complaining with the rest.

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 10:52 pm

also noteworthy, when I landed in SC for my job transfer, I never intended to stay here. It was a career bounce to Charlotte, NC – but wasn’t really planning to get married at the time. So you still get to listen to me gripe – ha!

Squishy123 May 29, 2015 at 9:15 pm

Shotgun wedding?

Garbage May 30, 2015 at 10:12 am

haha! Not quite, took my husband and I YEARS to have a baby.

truthmonger May 29, 2015 at 3:06 am

Yep, everyone is. Not just the FD.

easterndumbfuckistan May 28, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Yeah, it’s bad. They are hiring 40+ at a time and doing that 3 or 4 times per year. Everyone that has their time in is bailing for retirement. It’s a sad state of affairs. What used to be the best paid, best trained, and best equipped fire department in SC and one of the best in the SE USA is rapidly falling apart due to mismanagement from city hall.

I know a bunch of Senior Officers that bailed out in the last 10 to 15 years, and a couple that are still there trying to fight a good fight, but it’s an uphill battle. Rumor is a new Chief of Department will be hired this year so hopefully that will help.

This is an example from April: Today there are 6 engines riding with only 3 people instead of 4. The short staffed engines are E8(Atlas Rd), E9(Shandon), E14(Dentsville), E16(Harbison), E31(Leesburg Rd), and E34 (Elders Pond/Hardscrabble).

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 10:29 pm

I know a retiree who receives monthly calls directly from “the big guy” asking him to come back, with his choice of unit and shift. He’s is biting.

truthmonger May 29, 2015 at 3:04 am

Lexington County is fixing to hire about 40 more, and most will come from CPD. More money, less work, and better treatment. Years back when CPD was well-paid, they had their pick of officers, and people stayed. Now, they staff mostly with rookies, and quality of service is down because of it. Oh, and quite a few of their specialist officers are being recruited by other agencies from across the state. Everyone else gets pay raises, low-level city employees get pay and benefit cuts. No wonder so many left. Heard lots of good about the new Chief, though.

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Ah retard, it’s not the Hornets coming, it’s their farm club… those who aren’t NBA cailiber but are out of college and have no other skills but to play basketball. Think the Columbia Inferno, but for black people.

TroubleBaby May 28, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Oh damn, well then, I’m officially retarded- serves me right for scanning instead of reading.

Garbage May 28, 2015 at 4:09 pm

It’s still the same thing in the context of who financially supports them. They are proposing a “NBA developmental league franchise to Columbia”

If The Hornets are so successful, why can’t they cough up the funds to support it? Why should taxpayers pay for a “NBA developmental league franchise to Columbia” while we are still debating how to get the roads fixed?

Someone has priorities horribly out of wack, but I guess when it’s the taxpayer footing the bills, then it’s ok?

TroubleBaby May 28, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Agree totally.

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 7:24 pm

The issue is those players in the D-League are about as likely to make the NBA as those in A-League ball are likely to make a MLB roster. With the NBA pulling as many foreign players as they are homegrown, if you’re in the D-League, you’ll probably retire in the D-League.

Scooter May 28, 2015 at 3:46 pm

They have to spend the money to get their kickbacks.

Ward 24 May 28, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Considering that columbia public works are chasing water main breaks up and down my block of Trenholm Rd every couple of weeks, this sounds like a horrible way to spend tax dollars. When are these fools going stop fiddle fucking around with boondoggle projects and fix the water system?!?!

Skimmer Scammer May 28, 2015 at 4:05 pm

It’s just to darn hard to skim a few bucks off of an existing water system. New projects are juicy. Besides, there just aren’t enough sporting events to attend in Columbia.

One Question May 28, 2015 at 3:59 pm

And what’s wrong with them playing in the Colonial Life Arena as long as they could schedule around the Carolina teams?

Mom May 28, 2015 at 4:10 pm

The problem is that it would not allow for Mayor Benni’s kickback $.

Keeping it Real May 28, 2015 at 11:37 pm

Mom’s know best!

GinormousTau May 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm

or the empty ass colliseum

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 7:22 pm

The colliseum is most likely slated to be torn down. Renovation costs are way too high compared to the cost to demo and new construction.

Superfly May 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

The Franchise Fee is not new, it’s always been there, just at 3%. He is proposing to increase it to 5%, and the fee is also on natural gas. So yea, anyone who lives in one of the old, shotgun houses lacking in energy efficiency, most prominently inhabited by the poor, will see a huge increase in their electric and natural gas bills.

TroubleBaby May 28, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Taxing the poor to subsidize toys for wealthy is fairly typical of government in general, because the wealthy control it.

See Tesla.

vicupstate May 28, 2015 at 4:38 pm

This team is being pitched to Greenville too. The city said ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’.

Elfego May 28, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Columbia will soon be like Cleveland and Chicago. Maybe om a smaller level but it will still be extreme.

Keeping it Real May 28, 2015 at 11:35 pm

You should see some of the crap I see over my sons shoulder on his Instagram. He’s a white baller, very approachable, so he’s literally acquainted with every walk of life at his high school. The stuff some of these 14 year old little hoodrat kids are pulling out in Columbia’s Starlite community and Gonzales Gardens is appalling. They’ll be old enough to vote in a few years. Benjamin is happy about that.

Taos May 28, 2015 at 6:46 pm

The funny thing is when all the white kids and families move back downtown – away from the Mungo induced suburban slums – the Benjamin’s of the world will go bye bye. Thus, I don’t see a long term Chicago or Cleveland here. Now Irmo and the Northeast? That’s a different story.

Squishy123 May 28, 2015 at 7:20 pm

When do you expect white families to move back downtown and send their kids to Eau Claire?

Serious May 28, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Just another example of how local governments tax and spend without any scrutiny from an objective media. If local politicians were serious about improving the quality of life in Columbia they would start by fixing the trains and traffic signal issues. Its also only a matter of time before the city’s infrastructure collapses with outdate gas, sewer, and water systems. And don’t forget that Columbia police officers and firefighters need raises.

Basketball Jones May 28, 2015 at 8:25 pm

The media’s love of Benjamin reminds me of the FITS post regarding National Jacking Off Day.

Asstounded May 29, 2015 at 7:33 am

He’s a lousy liar. Now he just makes Columbia voters look stupid. But hey, if that’s all they got…

Dennis Justice May 29, 2015 at 8:02 am

Let me give some context and I’ll give my disclosure upfront: I head up the fan group for the Asheville effort to land the Charlotte Hornets D-League team, “BEElieve In Asheville.” Our twitter address is

What I am about to say, I speak for nobody but myself.

I love Columbia. I actually camp nearby when I can. I hate to be the one to point out the terminal flaws, but you are looking at the issues without the background. As you understand the background, you’ll see more why Columbia may be in the wrong place and wrong time to get this team:

Greenville and Raleigh were two of the seven cities that were considered and just dropped out. That leaves Asheville, Columbia, Greensboro, Fayetteville, and Charleston.

Columbia is bidding. Greensboro is bidding. Fayeteville and Charleston haven’t announced yet. Neither has Asheville but everything I’m hearing hints of is we will bid.

Asheville has been the home for the Hornets training camp the last three preseasons and had a preseason game two years ago. They upgraded the arena (more right-sized for a D-League team) and have excellent training facilities the Hornets are familiar with. It also is close but just far enough away for local fans to appreciate the team. Something that cannot be said of larger cities except possibly Columbia.

Greensboro’s bid has the terminal flaw of needing three venues to share dates. There’s no way to sell season tickets, corporate sponsorships, etc. The biggest venue is way too big.

Raleigh and Greenville’s venues are way too big and busy. This led to them dropping out.

Charleston’s said nothing about the potential team and I have no idea if they even showed the initial interest required by mid-May. Fayetteville hasn’t said anything either but their venue would be too big, too.

Columbia’s biggest advantage is they would give South Carolina Hornets fans something to support. But it doesn’t come close to covering up the terminal flaw of needing a brand new venue. The old Coliseum is being used by USC’s tennis program. Even using them as a short-term answer is not going to be supported by USC athletics, I don’t think.

More importantly, how do you raise a tax for a building that nobody knows how much will cost, or where it would be exactly? Virtually any new building in a downtown is opposed by somebody. You can’t rush something like this.

As to potential costs, the Santa Cruz Warriors (the defending D-League champs) play in a building that “only” cost $4 million and seats just under 3,000. The Sioux Falls Skyforce play in the Sanford Pentagon, a wonderful facility with a fieldhouse feel that seats 3,250 but cost $19 million. That’s the cost for the building, not the land acquisition or parking preparation.

On top of that, on a 20-year bond, for every dollar you spend, you can add 50-70 cents per dollar. If the tax increase of $3 million plus a year was on a 10 year bond, they are looking at about $22 million I bet for a venue, unless they got other projects in mind. I don’t know.

Presuming Asheville enters, and again, I think they will, we are more “plug and play” for the D-League team. We are actually in a more central location for the Eastern Conference in the D-League as every NBA team in the south will eventually form or relocate a team to the southeast. What we would be asked to pay for is far more likely to be supported because frankly it’d be a lot less.

I said on message boards before Columbia announced officially they would bid that I thought if there was a pair of finalists it would be Asheville and Columbia. It seems like this may happen.

Had Columbia saw this coming like our local leaders did, maybe they could have had a plan to show people to at least get them excited.

If it wasn’t Asheville, I hope it’s Columbia, and I’m not kidding, but this is a cart before the horse scenario with Columbia. You can’t have a rational discussion about this without a PLAN with KNOWN COSTS. With the Hornets expected to decide by the end of this year, the only thing opponents of this idea have to do is make them delay the decision and the clock will run out.

Dennis Justice May 29, 2015 at 8:22 am

Your baseball stadium is already gone way over costs for A-level baseball, over $37 million I think. The Asheville Tourists team themselves are likely worth $6.5-7 million and they play in a 4,000 seat venue. Columbia shouldn’t be given a blank check on a basketball venue, one that will only host maybe 25 D-League games a year, given the cost overruns already on the baseball stadium. You’d have to look at a “small” (for a city your size) multipurpose arena. Can’t rush something like that.

Ray Finkle May 29, 2015 at 11:09 am

Building an NBA D-league arena with taxpayer money has to be one of the most asinine ideas I’ve heard of.

Since 2001, 36 cities have been home to D-League teams. 18 of those cities (50%) have subsequently lost those teams. To build a D-League arena with public money is an unnecessary and unwise risk.

The NBA D-League is not like minor league baseball. It’s not a viable minor league for the NBA, because very few NBA players actually play in the D-League. There are rare exceptions of course, but you aren’t going to be watching the future stars of the NBA playing in the D-League. Instead, it’s largely been a place for guys who aren’t tall enough, athletic enough, or gifted enough to make it to the NBA. The D-League also has none of the charm or romanticism of minor league baseball, so that’s not going to put “butts in the seats.” The D-league can sell itself as a minor league for the NBA all it wants, but fans will quickly realize (if they don’t already know) that its players won’t play in the NBA. Thus, I can’t fathom how a D-League team could attract enough fans to merit a new taxpayer-funded arena.

I’m not entirely opposed to seeing if a D-League franchise could make it in Columbia, but I am completely opposed to building a brand new arena for a D-League franchise. The city is already on the hook for a minor league baseball stadium, which may or not be a wise investment, but that investment would look brilliant compared to building a D-League arena.

T-Bone Benji May 29, 2015 at 2:12 pm

The Columbia “40s and A Blunt” will also support a Midnight Basketball League consisting of local “youth group leaders” in an effort to help our youts stay off the mean skreets.


Leave a Comment