Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin talks about a bright 2018 in his “State of the City” address

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin spoke of topics ranging from 5G to Finlay Park,  Tuesday night, in his annual State of the City speech.  Hundreds attended the event at Columbia College’s Cottingham Theater to hear of his plans for Columbia in 2018.

Benjamin began by acknowledging some of the accomplishments and recognitions the city received last year. These included National Geographic naming Columbia one of the top 30 best small cities in America, and CALEA awarding the Columbia Police Department with advanced law enforcement accreditation. He then announced that Expedia recently named Columbia the best city in the country to visit in April 2018.

Then he began discussing the future plans for the city, many of which are already underway. He told the crowd, “This community is on the brink of a transformation year.” Some of the Mayor’s main points:

Columbia will soon be getting a more advanced technology network, that will include 5G internet speeds. “This is not just for tablets and computers, but it will allow more technology to be used within the city,” said Benjamin.

He posed the idea of public street lights dimming themselves automatically when no pedestrians or cars are present, and police deploying immediately when an alarm is discharged.

“This is the beginning of a technological revolution in Columbia,” he said.

Children in the Richland County school districts may soon have the potential to get their college paid for, upon graduating high school.

“Working with our friends in the Richland County Council, we want to make a promise to every child in our schools, that if they do what we know that they can, upon graduation, we will pay for their college,” said the Mayor.

The idea is based off of a program already existing in a few other states, where donors contribute to the payment of high school graduates’ college tuition.
There are also plans for

for Finlay Park, located in downtown Columbia. He told the crowd to keep their eyes open for changes that will soon be implemented to improve the park. This led into the discussion about Columbia’s homeless population. “We’ve got to make sure that we are indeed a city for everyone,” he said. “I believe we can leverage strong public and private partnerships to enhance the quality of life for all people in this city.”

He finished the address by thanking the crowd and acknowledging that there is work to be done in 2018. “To truly become a smart city, we must first be a seamless city, interconnected and unified in the most fundamental levels,” said the Mayor.