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Mayor Benjamin Talks COVID-19 Response and the Booming City of Columbia

May 19, 2020

In Episode 5 of BOOM! The Southeastern Commerce Podcast, Mayor Steve Benjamin joins LaJoia Broughton and Chris Kane of Adams and Reese for a discussion about lessons learned from the City of Columbia during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as what’s next for the booming City of Columbia in regards to social and economic development projects. We also put Mayor Benjamin on the hot seat to learn more about him, the three I’s of city life (Infrastructure, Innovation and Inclusion), his time as Former President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and what’s next for him. 

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Transcript and Show Notes

Christopher Kane: Hello everyone. I’m Chris Kane with Adams and Reese in New Orleans. Welcome to this episode of Boom! The Southeastern Commerce Podcast where we talk trade, economic development and business issues affecting the region. Today we’ll be talking about the steps the City of Columbia is taking as business returns to work. With us we have the mayor of Columbia, Steve Benjamin and LaJoia Broughton, a Government Affairs advisor with us in our Columbia office.

We will focus on lessons learned from the City of Columbia, as well as what’s next in regards to social and economic development projects in your great city. Mayor, we are please to have you with us today. Your background is incredible, and going through your whole bio would probably take up the whole podcast. But anecdotally, I’ll tell you I was talking to a couple of colleagues here in the Greater New Orleans area about our podcast today. And you were defined as a rising star among mayors and have a very significant, bright future in terms of what you’re doing, and we look forward to hearing about what is going on in Columbia and how you guys are dealing with COVID and couldn’t be more please to have you. So thank you for that.

And of course LaJoia, my great colleague out of our Columbia office previously was a governmental affairs manager with JUUL Labs and also previously served as the executive director for the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus. So two awesome folks that we have today, and look forward to the topics and go ahead and jump right in. Mayor, as we sit here today, I was reflecting as we were preparing, I’m in New Orleans, in the Greater New Orleans area. And of course our viewpoint of this crisis, healthcare crisis and economic crisis has been perhaps skewed obviously. We really got hit hard in our region early on, and our trends are improving.

But just looking and reflecting at the numbers, we basically in our city have double the amount of total cases that the entire state of South Carolina has. Which was kind of mind boggling to me. So I’m interested to learn how you and your staff and the healthcare experts that you’re working with are going through this and get some lessons learned from probably a more normal environment, if there is a normal environment, right, in today’s day and age and hear what that experience is like.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Well, thanks Chris and thanks for the intro as well. It just means that you’ve been reading much of the stuff that I write. So I appreciate that and others have too.

LaJoia Broughton: All true Mayor Benjamin, it’s all true.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Yeah, it’s been a unique challenge for everyone I think in public sector, private sector and philanthropic leadership. I mean, this is a generational event. We’ve seen nothing like it, at least according to epidemiologists and historians since 1918. The world is a lot bigger now. It’s a lot more interconnected and interdependent. So the spread of the pandemic as a public health challenge is one thing. The impact it’s had on the economy is so much more precipitous. I mean, we’re looking at globally maybe a 5% drop in GDP so far. Record three trillion in borrowing and just from a local level, thinking about my friend LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans and other mayors and governors, we’re looking at probably a trillion dollar shortfall for state and local government.

So you’re looking at an economy that had some major challenges obviously. We can talk about income inequality and the like. But it was fundamentally sound. We were probably due for a recession, but we’ve had an economic crisis that was precipitated and caused by a public health crisis. We tried to be very thoughtful and deliberate in our approach. We started very early here calling together a Midlands Coronavirus taskforce. Pulled together all of our public sector and private sector partners, all the stakeholders here in Columbia and across the Midlands that could help us break down some of the barriers and silos that tend to exist and try to get as much intergovernmental and intersectoral participation as we possibly could.

And it’s allowed us to put together a strategy that’s literally put a lot more resources in the pockets of small businesses. That’s allowed us to really try and balance this major challenge we have where obviously we’re dealing with an unprecedented public health crisis. And we recognize the importance of social distancing. We’ve been investing there. We’ve been pushing for more social distancing and a mask and all those things. But also recognizing that the long-term effects of social distancing are obviously economically ruinous.

So how do you try to make sure that you’re building the type of capacity that allows you to do the things that we’ve been doing I think very well in Columbia over the last ten years, as Carl and others maybe in your Adams and Reese office here in Columbia will tell you. We’ve been very much pro-business. Trying to create an environment that attracts private capital investment. Treat it well and watch it grow. We’ve been good fiscal stewards. We finished eight of the last ten years with a budget surplus. We’ve never raised taxes. We’ve cut property taxes by over twelve mills here. Revitalized downtown, put about three quarters of a billion dollars in water, sewer, storm water infrastructure. Got three upgrades for Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. We’ve made the investments that you have to make to try and create a healthy, vibrant city of the new south.

And I think those investments, rebuilding our reserves, have helped us prepare to weather the storm that we all see coming as literally every single revenue stream starts to drop. And we’re going to have to obviously still make sure we render the services that make – that are the definition of a civilized society. So it’s been a heck of a balancing act. We decided we’re going to focus like a laser beam on data, data, data, data. Pushing for testing and contact tracing and supported isolation, the things that you need to do to get good data. Gives you good intelligence. Testing gives you data; data gives you intelligence. Intelligence allows you to make informed public policy decisions.

But it’s been a journey, and I can’t find one public official—I spend a lot of time with Republicans and Democrats and devoted independents—who have ever had to manage through this type of a storm. But folks are stepping up. I’m a big believer that leaders are – true leaders are developed in times of crisis. So our folks have stepped up in a very collaborative format. And I feel good about the direction we’re going in.

Christopher Kane: Yeah, and Mr. Mayor, you mentioned the locality of leadership and particularly at the mayoral level or county, in our case parish, president leadership, maybe unlike any other time before has got a burden on budget and on decision making to the most critical local level. Your role – previous role as a president of the US Conference of Mayors, I got familiar with that organization when our prior mayor and good friend Mayor Landrieu was very involved in the organization as well. Is that sort of organization and ability to work with mayors across the country helping in kind of sorting through things that are critical in terms of trying to determine the right Coronavirus restrictions and the right type of contact tracing programming? And how is that working in your experience?

Mayor Steve Benjamin: The leadership of the US Conference of Mayors, you may know that Mitch was actually my president. I served as vice-president under Mitch and finished out his unexpired term. The problem with Mitch is that Mitch is still convinced that I work for him. He thinks I’m still his vice-president {laughs}. So I miss him. But no, the Conference of Mayors, you know, was conceived and birthed during the Great Depression, when mayors of cities all across the country would go to Washington for help and then realized that the real leadership was happening on the local level. That the leadership closest to the people was where the answers were going to come from.

Founded in 1932 over the last several decades, has emerged into a force representing cities directly who are over 30,000 citizens. And I had the pleasure of serving as the president last year, as we were really spreading the message of cities. We’re focused on the three I’s, infrastructure, innovation and inclusion. Recognizing that American cities now serve at the center of metropolitan economies that now represent 85% of our citizens, 89% of jobs and literally 92% of America’s GDP, is created in cities in metropolitan economies.

So if you have healthy cities in metro areas, you have a healthy country, so it’s going to be curious to see how much of that changes. We actually have a call with the Conference of Mayors tomorrow. We’re going to be talking to some of the great minds on the growth of cities, like Richard Florida and others. Just trying to see how these major demographic shifts we’ve seen come to urban areas, how that might change as people in the wake of a COVID crisis start thinking about density. Do I want to live downtown? Or am I more comfortable maybe in the suburbs, a little bit more room to move around?

We’ve been talking about the power of inclusion and the arts and culture and tourism and creating places that people want to live. And you started off talking about the challenges that New Orleans has faced. And New Orleans, it’s kind of a perfect storm. I mean, it’s a great city that everyone in the world wants to come and visit. The problem is that everyone in the world comes to visit.

So you have massive events like a Mardi Gras, literally in the wake of the pandemic reaching the shores of the US. It turned into a major challenge for a great city like New Orleans and LaToya Cantrell has been doing as great a job as any mayor in the country in helping lead the charge. Always with a mind focused also on equity, as we’ve seen the disparate impact on different socioeconomic groups, on African-Americans and the like. She’s always been the big voice in those areas. So it’s prepared her even more so for a time like this.

So it’s going to be curious to see exactly what that means for the future of American cities as we continue to try and build places where – cities are supposed to be places that abound in creativity, where we are able to share the public square in meaningful ways and create that platform for true human potential. And we’re going to see how things change. I think we’re going to see some acceleration, obviously in some of the things we were already seeing. We’re telecommuting a lot more. We saw some changes coming with the future of work as it relates to automation and artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning. I can only imagine some of the clients that you guys have at Adams and Reese, world class clients who saw things changing over a period of time. I think a lot of those trends are going to be accelerated. And we’re going to see which cities and states and countries for that matter are going to be able to adjust quickly and make sure that we remain competitive for the rest of the 21st century.

Christopher Kane: Well Mr. Mayor, that’s informative and I think spot on, and is exactly what we’re dealing with here in New Orleans and seeing as well, and across our entire footprint as a firm. What I’d like to do now, LaJoia, I’d like for you to help us kick off our inaugural Boom! rapid fire Q and A session. It’s not a hot seat Mr. Mayor, I promise you. I think actually most of the questions will probably come back and be pointed at me somehow.

LaJoia Broughton: I don’t know. He’s setting it up. It may be.

Christopher Kane: So LaJoia, let him have it. 

LaJoia Broughton: Mayor Benjamin, thank you so much. I am so appreciative of you joining us today. And I’m very proud to call you my mayor, a dear friend and a mentor, and you’re very instrumental in my decision in joining Adams and Reese. And I have to tell you, it’s been a great decision. So thank you very much for all you’ve done for me and the city over the years.

LaJoia Broughton: But turn our attention to…

Mayor Steve Benjamin: It’s the but, the but, the but, the but, okay.

LaJoia Broughton: But now that we move on, absolutely, so we have Boom! rapid fire Q and A, to get to know Mayor Benjamin. So here’s the things, we know that you are a veteran in politics at this point, a decorated mayor and we know you politicians have a way of being real crafty with your words. But this is meant to be rapid fire and we hope that we make this a little get to know you session with Mayor Benjamin. Are you game?

Mayor Steve Benjamin: I am game. I’m game. I’ll be as rapid as I can.

LaJoia Broughton: Okay, here we go. We’ve got a total of 11 questions, so we won’t keep you too long here. First question, now Chris is a good Louisiana man. He understands humidity, good food. But I keep telling him he is missing out by not spending more time in South Carolina. Do me a favor, please sell him and our listeners on our great state of South Carolina and how – and our famously hot city Columbia.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Oh man, dynamic city in the new south. The food, the people, the culture, anchored by some good Gamecock football and a few other things. But it’s a state capital that enjoys a diverse and incredible population. But I think the people make this place someplace special. Come check us out. You won’t want to go home.

LaJoia Broughton:{Laughs} All right.

Christopher Kane: I’ll tell you, I’ve had a chance to spend some good time in your great city, and the food and the people are incredible. I will make more, whether they’re legit business excuses or just excuses, I’m going to commit to you that as soon as I can start traveling more, I’m going to come down and get some good time in for sure.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: I’ll buy you a glass of bourbon {laughs}.

LaJoia Broughton: All right, our next question, how did you get your start in politics?

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Wow, 17-year-old involved in civil rights issues. As a freshman at the University of South Carolina, I found a couple of mentors or they found me. Folks who saw some value or some strengths in me that I didn’t see in myself, and they pulled the very best out of me. And I’ve been trying to pay that forward for the last several years.

LaJoia Broughton: And that you have, many times over. You spoke a little earlier and you, over your time being mayor, you’ve spoken a great deal about the three I’s of city life, infrastructure, innovation and inclusion. Tell us what that means to Columbia.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Three I’s, well infrastructure is a defining characteristic of the western world. You’ve got to have working roads and water and sewer. We’ve put three quarters of a billion dollars in that space over the last several years here in Columbia. If you think about a city like a human body, the infrastructure are your bones. You got to have a good, strong bone structure.

Innovation is obviously your mind. How you’re constantly innovating and ideating and iterating. Sometimes you’ll fail, but you’re figuring things out. But how you continue to build your mind, preparing your city for the next big opportunities. The reality is the world is changing really rapidly. So how do you invest in your workforce? You think about future work as I mentioned, 1962 Eastman Kodak had 75,000 employees. The same revenue scale in 2013, Facebook had 6300 employees. So how do you innovate constantly to be prepared for that?

And obviously inclusion, if infrastructure is your bones, innovation is your brain and inclusion is your heart. How do you build a city in a state for all people? Recognizing that there are very few things, particularly as we think about the pandemic right now, there are very few things we can do on our own. As we build communities for all people, recognizing the value in each and every one of God’s creatures. That’s how you build an inclusive society. So it’s been my mantra, focusing on the three I’s, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time between now and when I go on to glory.

LaJoia Broughton: Very nice. All right, this next question here is a little serious. Most of our time and attention and focus has been on the fight against COVID-19. What are two other topics that keep you up at night?

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Obviously always – I’m a father with two young daughters. And while the Benjamin girls don’t have to worry about much, I worry about our children. Making sure that they are provided for, well fed, safe in streets that can sometimes be dangerous. So I worry about our babies. And then secondly I think I just worry about giving people an opportunity to live a good life. We sometimes get focused on America on red and blue, and we really ought to be focused on the red, white and the blue. And I’ve always believed that America is about opportunity. If you give people a real shot at providing for themselves and providing for their families, a real shot, then we’ll all do well.

So it’s been – the two things that keep me up at night are making sure our children are provided for and protected and then making sure that we continue to create a city, a state and a country that reeks of real opportunity for people.

LaJoia Broughton: All right, Chris mentioned earlier your presidency with the US Conference of Mayors. You had – or continue to work on a lot of exciting projects and put a lot of wheels in motion. Tell us a little bit about a few items, maybe one, that you’re extremely excited about.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Sure, well, a mentor of mine and Mayor Landrieu’s is Joe Riley, who served as mayor of Charleston, South Carolina for 40 years when Mayor Riley was…

                              {Crosstalk} 

Yeah, when Mayor Riley was the president of the Conference of Mayors in the ‘80s, he started the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, which I think is probably the great legacy project of any of my predecessors or presidents of the organization. So I decided to start two institutes while I was president of the Conference.

LaJoia Broughton: Not to try to outdo him {laughs}.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: No, of course not. But one based at NYU, focuses on the development of smart cities. Again, just recognizing that the world is changing very rapidly around us, and oftentimes adapting technology – our citizens are usually way ahead of government. So helping our mayors determine how you can run smarter, more technologically advanced, more efficient and effective cities has got to be a focus. So our Mayors Leadership Institute on Smart Cities, NYU started. And then obviously our center on building compassionate cities. Wonderful corporate support and philanthropic support.

But we started the year at the border, trying to make sure we were meeting the needs of the children who were being sequestered there at the border by the US government. Halfway through the year we found ourselves at Montgomery, Alabama trying to make sure that our leadership understood the history of America, particularly the racial challenges that we have. And we ended the year in Auschwitz, understanding the horrors of the Holocaust, the great Shoah that defined the last century and ways in which we could develop a more comprehensive understanding. That the conversation is not always about diversity, but it really is about inclusive thought. Understanding that, at least in my faith and tradition, that we are our brother’s keeper.

So how in fact we build cities, again for all people, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, demographic, that we’re all in this together. So founding those two institutes are probably the things I’m most proud of and also obviously in a world that can be as polarized as possible sometimes, working to bring D’s and R’s and I’m proud that my successor, who is our current president, Bryan Barnett, the mayor of Rochester Hills, Michigan, a Conservative Republican, that we decided to be a two year strategy. That the three I’s would be our focus for two years. Again, just to show folks maybe in DC who may not always get it right, that you can be of different backgrounds, different pedigrees, different parties, but also focus on things that bring people together. 

LaJoia Broughton: Fantastic. All right, we’re about halfway through our rapid fire segment here. Moving on to our next question. Now those who follow you on social media, see that you go from one end of the spectrum to the next. You can be a comedian to very serious in your topics. But you are extremely, extremely active on social media. Tell us why that’s important to your leadership, and tell us a little bit about your social media presence. 

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Well, I like to think I’m funny because my daughters don’t think I’m funny at all. In this age, no one laughs at my doggone jokes at home, so I got to be out in the community. No, I think it’s a – depending on the medium, if it’s Twitter or Instagram, I’m on Facebook a little bit, but usually it’s Twitter or Instagram. Twitter’s a bit more formal. Instagram is – you know, if someone tags me on Instagram and they want to talk politics, I almost always block it or delete it. It’s just – it’s a place to have fun. I think to show people your human side. So often we…

LaJoia Broughton: Or your cooking segment.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Exactly. I can do a little something on the grill. It keeps me married. But I think so often we come up on each other and we think we know someone. In reality we don’t know folks. We meet their representatives, and when you can ever take that veil off and actually show people that you’re human in all respects, that you have faults and shortcomings and everything else, I think it builds a healthier society. So yeah, I don’t mind going on Instagram and acting like a nut job every once in awhile. It helps us communicate with I think a ready, willing and able and needing constituency sometimes.

LaJoia Broughton: Very good.

Christopher Kane: Well Mr. Mayor, I got to chime in on that because it’s funny, I’ve got a nine-year-old daughter, so mine’s a couple of years younger than yours. But what this experience of work from home has meant for me is that my daughter who once thought I was kind of maybe cool and a little in, I’m coming out of this a different man. I’m a nerdy dad. My jokes aren’t funny. I can’t do much right. {Laughter} So I’m feeling you.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: I tell you man, in a couple of days my youngest turns 13. So I have two teenagers, and I’m sure I’ll be so not cool for so long. But I’m okay. But yeah, @SteveBenjaminSC is my handle on Twitter and Instagram. So you guys join me, and if you got something edifying and constructive, including constructive criticism, always wide open for that.

LaJoia Broughton: Strongly encourage you to check Mayor Benjamin out and to follow him. Always great content. And if you get a moment to check out Chris, he seems like he’s got some good stuff too going on. Mayor Benjamin, what matters the most to you about being in public service?

Mayor Steve Benjamin: You know, as I mentioned earlier, it really is all about paying it forward. I’ve been blessed with ten years to serve the city I love. That’s really given me every opportunity that I’ve had professionally since I was 17 years old when I arrived at the university. I take my job very seriously. But I’m a child of god, I’m a husband and a father, and then I’m mayor. And it’s amazing, that perspective helps me be a better mayor every single day.

My job is to make sure that every child in this city has the same opportunities that the Benjamin girls have. They want for nothing. Their grandparents and their parents make sure of that. So my job as the leader of the city is to try and create that very same opportunity for all these children who have amazing gifts and talents. So that’s my job. That’s what motivates me. If I can use my time in this office to create opportunities for so many of these kids to grow up and help change the world, then I would have felt that that’s time well spent.

LaJoia Broughton: Very nice. You have been mayor since 2010. This is a loaded question. I know that it is. And I have to say, before I ask this question, the night that you were elected the next mayor, there was an electricity in the air, in the city of Columbia that is something that people are still smiling about to this day. So my question, you’ve been mayor since 2010, have you thought about what’s next? Not that we’re pushing you out at all, but just want to know.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: I think about what’s next every single day because I’ll tell you this, George Washington, the father of our country had something right, and that was two terms, okay. The third time is for suckers. {Laughter} Third term is for suckers. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. And, you know, I am – if I ever run for something else again, which is a possibility, being frank 50/50, I’m not sure that I will. I’m a big believer that God gives you a few gifts and a few talents. If you’re a good steward of them, maybe he gives you more.

But before I became mayor I was chair elective of Chamber of Commerce here and served on some corporate boards, practiced law. I miss the private sector, I really do. So we’ll see. The priority obviously is making sure I can provide for my family, things the girls not only need but they want. My boss is a chief judge here in the circuit now, and she’s always working hard. So family decisions first and then we’ll see where we go. But keep a brother in prayer, and hopefully we’ll make some good decisions.

Christopher Kane: Yeah, and like yourself, I have that privilege of being married to a lawyer who’s better than me and makes a very different – I get challenged on a regular basis on how to craft my arguments. I could put it to you that way.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: I made the decision a long time ago, and I think you have too, do you want to be right or you want to be happy? And I have just decided I’d rather be happy. So I throw a bunch of arguments. She is a much smarter lawyer than I’ve ever been. But I throw a bunch of arguments because I just like to keep the peace sometimes too. {Laughs}

                              {Crosstalk}

LaJoia Broughton: And from the woman’s perspective, you guys are operating just right.

Christopher Kane: Yeah, I lead the league here at the house in withdrawing objections. That’s what I do {laughs}.

LaJoia Broughton: Mayor Benjamin, tell us what economic prosperity looks like in Columbia.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: It’s literally building a city for all people. So much of the narrative over the last several yeas in cities is, how do you become a city that attracts millennials? We’ve shown some great success in that regard the last couple of years. (Inaudible) to Seattle and Dallas maybe, we came in second one year and then fourth the next year in the net retention of millennials. So we’ve been doing a great job at attracting millennials. But also really focusing on perennials. I’ve spent a lot of time the last three weeks, three calls with the AARP, which is an incredible organization, talking about how you attract and invest in those who are 50 and 60-year-olds. Actually the most entrepreneurial cohort in the country. That 50 plus marketplace is a $7.6 trillion marketplace. If it was a country in terms of GDP, would only be smaller than the US and China.

So focusing on a world in which demography is destiny. How do you attract folks who have experience and assets to your community and continue to work to build innovative, age friendly communities? If you can do that and then also focus on the challenges of income inequality and building strong, healthy cities that allow folks who may not have been born into as fortunate situations as we have, to also find their way from the bottom quintile up to middle class or the top quintile in American life, then you’re really building a city that’s balanced and strong and healthy fundamentally. So that’s what we’re trying to do in terms of creating prosperity in the city. It’s got to be a really strategic plan focused on making sure we all succeed together.

LaJoia Broughton: Just one quick note to that question. BullStreet project, revitalization of downtown Columbia, speak real quickly on that. I’m sorry that I’m adding – tagging onto that question, but could you address that real quick?

Mayor Steve Benjamin: That’s all right. Great cities grow from the inside out. A good, strong, dynamic urban core where people are communing in public rights of way and eating and dining and drinking, strong arts and culture infrastructure, in those great cities in a few minutes you can be in suburbs and a few minutes past that you can be in the rural across the American South hunting for boar, fishing for bass. But starts at creating a vibrant urban core. And we made it a focus of ours to start with Main Street and the Vista and other parts of the city and then to migrate to BullStreet. BullStreet is a 181 acre development that represents the largest developable parcel of any downtown east of the Mississippi. Former mental health asylum that had full development. It’s a 20 year project. We expect it to be a $1.2 billion development that will help define the future of our city.

We’ve built, according to Baseball Digest, the stadium of the decade for our minor league Columbia Fireflies. It’s really some place very special. New development, historic preservation, beautiful Sylvan campus. It still has a number of the historic trees there. The largest parcel, they have the Babcock building is under development right now with the Clachan group out of Richmond, Virginia. I’m itching for baseball to come back guys. I grew up a Yankees fan. My Fireflies are a Mets affiliate. So I got to cheer for the Mets now too. And it’s really injected some exciting life into the city. REI has just built there, their new facility that will open up later this year when the COVID-19 crisis passes.

So some residential development already over there, seniors and condos. So some more to come. So we’re excited, but great cities start from the inside out. And a good focus on building up that infrastructure that allows for the development of a vibrant urban core is essential. We’ve made that commitment and the city is moving forward in that direction.

LaJoia Broughton: Fantastic. Last few questions of our Boom! rapid fire Q and A. Give us a quote that you live by.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Fortune favors the bold. Fortune favors the bold. I do believe that, and maybe in the old southern way of saying it, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. You’ve got to be bold and excited and really stepping out beyond the confines that sometimes define our world. Yeah, I believe that fortune truly does favor the bold.

LaJoia Broughton: All right, and our last question here. Chris is a LSU man. When I tell you an LSU man, he is an LSU man of men. And if the stars align and there is a college football season, would you please tell Chris who would take it, USC or LSU?

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Let me tell you what, Will Muschamp is a dear friend of mine. So I’m always going to go with my Gamecocks. LSU has been pretty doggone strong lately, so I’m always – I’ve always built my political career on being candid. I will tell you Chris, we had Josh Booty in town the other day. He’s helping lead the company now that provides some PPE. If I could put Josh in the line-up, I think we could take you guys all day long, all day long.

Christopher Kane: Well, look, I’ll make you this deal. If that game happens and look, we’re a long way from this fall and we’ll see what happens, but if we’re playing, I believe it’s November 14th in Baton Rouge, if we can be safe and social distance, I’ll promise you one thing, we will cook you the best food. If you come visit us before that game and the winners take the spoils, we’ll see what happens on the field, but we’ll have fun beforehand for sure.

Mayor Steve Benjamin: Virtual handshake on that brother. I appreciate it. I appreciate it.

Christopher Kane: Awesome. Well look Mayor Benjamin, LaJoia, thank you guys for joining us. A couple of takeaways, it sounds like I’m going to get a bourbon on Main Street next time I’m in town, and we’ll have some good boudin for you in Baton Rouge when we can get together soon. I appreciate your time. That’s a wrap on our episode of Boom! Until the next time, I want to thank everybody. See you then.