Columbia: Famously shoddy

07/29/2009

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For a city intent on making itself a destination location (see the millions of dollars spent in the past decade on EdVenture, Innovista, ridiculous city slogans, etc.), Columbia, SC, could benefit from a few lessons in basic marketing.

Indeed, Mayor Bob Coble and Co. remind one of spend-happy teenagers whose only thrill comes from purchasing shiny new gadgets, not what happens afterward.

Consider this from Jeffrey Day, who details on his Carolina Culture blog the ineptitude of the city of Columbia’s online arts promotion efforts:

If you click on the S.C. Shakespeare Company you will be spirited to a site for Scholarship, Criticism and Performance of the works of William Shakespeare” and a review of “Romeo and Juliet” in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Wish I had gotten that assignment.) You’ll also learn that the Historic Columbia Foundation is a music and dance organization. Does the guy at the left look familiar? (Editor’s note: photo of Nicholas Smith) He shouldn’t. Nicholas Smith hasn’t been conductor of the S.C. Philharmonic for two years, but the city doesn’t know that. They must have missed all those banners lining Gervais Street bearing the image of Morihiko Nakahara, who just completed his first year as music director. The biggest classical-music making organization in the city – the USC Music School – isn’t even listed. Trustus Theatre, according to the city, is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Math has never been my strong point, but the company was founded in 1985, which I believe makes it more than 10 years old.

This is a web site that was chosen late last year when the city mistakenly had two city web sites created at a cost of about $30,000. The city has known about the problems since February. The city public relations office said at that time they’d try to fix it. What is looks like now is the product of a city that doesn’t know and doesn’t care.

Should this really surprise anyone? After all, we’re talking about the city where a lack of oversight led to a years-long breakdown in accounting that left the city losing money on investments, paying bills multiple times, operating without written accounting guidelines and passing budgets without knowing how much money it had.

Did anyone really expect civil servants to be able to keep tabs on developments in the local arts community when no one seems to even know something as basic as how much money is in the city’s coffers?

Even more perplexing is the idea that the residents of Columbia would trust Coble and Co. to sink millions of their hard-earned dollars into such nebulous pie-in-the-sky schemes as hydrogen transportation research and Innovista.

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