West Columbia, SC (WLTX) In just over a month, West Columbia residents will have the chance to vote on whether or not they want a strong mayor -- and two clear sides have emerged over a campaign sign surrounding the vote.
The signs show a picture of Mayor Joe Owens sandwiched between President Barack Obama and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin with the words "Want to have one vote controlling our government? Me neither. Vote No to strong Mayor. Unite our city."
Earlier Mayor Owens expressed distaste at the signs, but did not respond for an official comment.
Councilman Tem Miles has one of the signs in his front yard, but declined to go on camera saying "the signs speak for themselves."
One council member, however, has spoken up on the issue. Boyd J. Jones released a statement today saying he's dismayed that anyone could think such a sign was appropriate.
In the letter, Jones says, "This election is not about Mayor Owens, Mayor Benjamin or President Obama or any other personalities. The special election on September 30th is solely about what form of government the citizens of West Columbia will choose to be governed. To deviate from the importance of this crucial election by involving images of President Obama and Mayor Benjamin is disrespectful to both gentleman and certainly not in the best interest of the citizens of West Columbia, nor anyone for that matter."
Other critics have called the signs racist and offensive.
The signs were created by West Columbia United, a group who is very much against the idea of a strong mayor.
We spoke to Bruce Brutschy of West Columbia United and he says they are solely about politics and have nothing to do with color.
Brutschy says the group believes President Obama appointed the IRS director to become his political strong-arm and Mayor Benjamin wanted to become a strong mayor in Columbia, but it was voted down by the citizens.
The group tied Mayor Owens to this because they say the Mayor appointed an assistant police chief without the chief's approval -- something we have not been able to confirm.
Brutschy says this is how they connected the dots between the three and argue that you should vet and hire the best department heads to run things without political interference.
Signs or no signs, the decision is up to the voters in just over a month.
Only time will tell if West Columbia is looking for a change in how their government is run.