I SPENT MUCH OF 2014 calling out and criticizing City government, City leaders, City departments, and those people around town of all backgrounds who sold the citizens and the taxpayers and themselves out to make a buck.
They were my words and ideas, but were really just a reflection of the vast dissatisfaction among our readers with the direction Savannah is moving in, even as the economy steadily improves. (For some, anyway.)
But 2015 is a new year and an entirely new animal. It's time to get to work.
It's safe to say that by now nearly every regular reader of this paper is in agreement that City leadership needs a major overhaul of some type in this election year.
We may disagree over the substance of the change necessary, but I suspect very few readers think the status quo is totally acceptable, and that is my premise moving forward into the new year.
In 2015 Connect Savannah will take a role in helping affect the positive change Savannah sorely needs—though as always it's up to the voters and taxpayers to decide what that change actually needs to look like.
In last week's column, I proposed that a great way to start is for all of us to put aside the old ways, the old divides, the old partisan tropes and bromides.
Conservatives need to understand and respect that some communities in Savannah have an entirely different relationship with law enforcement and the legal system than they do, or will ever have.
Liberals need to understand and respect that corruption is corruption and crime is crime no matter who does it, and the drive for social and racial justice isn't the same as two wrongs making a right.
Both sides—and the people in the middle—all have valid points to make and contributions to offer. No one is completely right, and no one is completely wrong.
We need to take what works from all philosophies, and leave behind what doesn't.
As part of our 2015 strategizing here, I've decided to begin using our popular Blotter feature as an information vector to better document the most pressing daily issue facing our community: out of control aggravated assaults using a firearm.
Among other tweaks, we will use the changing of the calendar as an opportunity to begin a running tally of 2015 homicides in the City of Savannah from Jan. 1, along with a similar tally on which cases have been solved and which still have suspects at large.
The intent is not to bash police, or sensationalize the crimes, or demonize responsible gun owners.
The intent is really the opposite: to put the shootings in perspective, to highlight efforts by police to solve the crimes, and to highlight the obstacles police face in getting criminals off the street and prosecuted and convicted by the legal system.
And yes, to highlight the constant and growing need for present and future leaders of Savannah to address the crime issue in whatever ways will get results.
Whenever a victim is protected, saved, or found unharmed, or whenever police make an arrest in a shooting, we will highlight those positive developments as well as the deaths and unsolved murders and suspects still at large.
Again: Our intent isn't to bash police for not doing enough to solve crime.
Savannah/Chatham Metropolitan Police have had a very rough few years, with a former chief facing federal prison time along with massive top-level corruption.
The department faces some more tough years if the likely breakup of the City/County police merger happens as expected.
There is no doubt in my mind that much of that police corruption directly enabled today's violent, lawless environment to thrive on the streets of Savannah.
But many of those corrupt officers are gone now. There's a new chief in town and a new direction in crimefighting.
Whether new Chief Joseph Lumpkin has what it takes to make things better remains to be seen, but the stakes are too high not to give him the full benefit of the doubt. And speaking for myself, I certainly like most everything I've seen so far.
In political news for 2015, there are several new-ish local groups seeking to organize for change at the ballot box this November. Expect to read more about them here in the coming months.
We've never explicitly endorsed political candidates at Connect, mostly because we trust our readers to come to their own individual conclusions as free citizens with intact critical thinking skills (and also because formal media endorsements are essentially obsolete, even counterproductive, in today's more empowered and egalitarian social media environment).
But rest assured: We support positive change and open, responsible government and will do everything we can within the bounds of journalistic objectivity and reasoned debate to keep those paths open for Savannah. cs
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.