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Forest Acres SC: Election Preview

Two city council seats up for grabs …

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As we noted in a piece last week Forest Acres, South Carolina is holding its municipal election today. The current mayor, Frank Brunson, is running unopposed for his fifth term in office while two at-large city council seats are up for election.

These seats are currently held by Curtis Rye (who is seeking his sixth term) and Ginger Dukes (who is seeking her fifth).

Challenging the incumbents are Thomas Andrews, a local attorney, and John Barnes, a local financial advisor.

Last week, the Forest Acres neighborhood association and the Forest Acres restaurant and merchants association co-hosted a candidate forum, which was attended by more than a hundred people. That attendance figure was pretty impressive for this type of event – as Forest Acres municipal elections are generally low key, low turnout affairs.

This nonpartisan election is shaping up to be a “new leadership” versus “old guard” affair – with the “old guard” seeming to enjoy a solid base of existing support.

“There is no doubt the leadership of the city has done a good job,” one resident told us. “Forest Acres is one of the most desirable places to live in
Richland County. The current council has kept taxes low, has a low crime rate and has made a major investments in parks, improving traffic flow on some of the most heavily traveled roads in the area, and providing a good quality of life for residents.”

Others believe the city is not doing enough to maintain its major thoroughfares. They also cited several recent high-profile crimes as evidence that violence from neighboring Columbia, S.C. is beginning to creep eastward into Forest Acres.

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At the forum, attendees were allowed to interact with candidates via written questions read aloud by the event moderator. Most of these questions centered around growth, traffic and a tax on prepared foods.

On the question of traffic, all of the candidates agreed the city is somewhat limited by budget constraints and by the fact that many of the busiest roads are owned and controlled by the state.

On the issue of the hospitality tax, the mayor explained that if council did not enact this tax – all of these funds would have gone to Richland County and the council and its citizens would have had no control over (and likely very little benefit from) taxes collected within the city.

That response seemed to resonate …

“The mismanagement of resources by Richland County has reached epic proportions,” one frustrated resident told us.

One of the most interesting ideas discussed at the forum was whether to sue the city of Columbia over water quality issues. Columbia is the water provider for Forest Acres, and thanks to years of mismanagement its water lines have not be replaced and maintained as needed. According to residents, this has resulted in discolored and bad-tasting water.

Our prediction for these races? Incumbents win approximately 90 percent of low-turnout municipal contests in South Carolina. Also, Rye and Dukes have blanketed key neighborhoods with their yard signs, according to residents.

And in elections like this one, yard signs matter.

The two city council challengers have been walking neighborhoods and educating voters, though, prompting some longtime city watchers to predict an upset of at least one of the incumbents.

Will that happen? We will find out tonight …

-FITSNews

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