SPEAKING OF City Council members and what they say on Facebook:
First District Alderman Van Johnson recently posted a status critical of what he considers a double standard regarding public and media outcry about crime in Savannah:
“Just a few months ago, during election season, every loss was significant & a matter of national security,” Johnson wrote.
“Now the election is over, guns are still everywhere, the gunshots continue, but the outrage & righteous indignation is gone, the critics are silent & what was then is what is now, minus the rhetoric.”
To be fair, in the category of “I’ll take ‘Outrageously Offensive Things Aldermen Have Said On Social Media Recently’ for $800, Alex,” Johnson’s comments are FAR from the worst or most controversial thing he could have said.
He’s entitled to his opinion, and he isn’t alone in this particular one.
However, there’s a really easy response.
Here are just a few good reasons off the top of my head why, other than politics, some of the “outrage & righteous indignation” might have calmed lately:
• The City and County are now on speaking terms again about the police merger, which stands a good chance of being salvaged after Council's majority vote early this week to re-approve the merger and renew talks. That was a chance which was virtually nonexistent before the election.
• Hiring of new police officers is up and the once-disastrous officer shortage is improving monthly.
• Arrests of violent offenders are up with increased local and federal cooperation, and it seems word is reaching the street level that the Wild West days of lesser consequence and revolving-door sentences for gun crimes here are waning. For example, Aggravated Assaults With a Gun are down from this time last year, albeit slightly.
• Some of the high-ranking City officials who reportedly stood in the way of adequate hiring and competitive compensation of police are either out the door or packing their bags to leave.
• City Council members are being tasked by Mayor Eddie DeLoach to focus on areas of particular expertise. In the crime area, for example, former police spokesman Julian Miller is taking a lead role.
All of this happened after, and as a direct result of, the election that happened only a couple of months ago and whose results Alderman Johnson seems to be unhappy with. (The new Mayor and Council were actually sworn in just a little over a month ago.)
Maybe, just maybe, some of the outrage is gone because there is a sense that matters are at least beginning to get somewhat under control here?
It seems that not only did a majority of voters opt for change —they are getting what they voted for.
As I’ve written before, there is a certain amount of denial in some quarters about the results of the election, and a concerted effort to continue the divisiveness of the campaign long after the actual campaign is over.
The latest talking point from critics is that Mayor DeLoach is “too busy cutting grass,” a reference to the lawn care/landscaping business he owns.
He’s not accomplishing anything, the line goes, because “he must have some more grass to cut somewhere.”
Now, this would be a pretty funny go-to punchline if in fact the Mayor wasn’t accomplishing anything. But if anyone really thinks this is what a slow-moving administration looks like...
Well, let’s put it this way: The former administration spent four years looking at a food truck ordinance without taking action on it.
(As an aside, Savannah isn’t accustomed lately to Mayors with private sector experience; former Mayor Floyd Adams was the last to come from the business world.)
Not that all is rosy. As I write this, there is the expected spike in violence after the usual lull at the beginning of the year.
While aggravated assault with guns is down, aggravated assault without firearms is up.
Total violent crime is up significantly over this time last year, though property crime is down.
Shots-fired calls are also up significantly, though that is likely due to increased use of Shotspotter technology.
If history is any guide, violence will continue to rise through the spring and peak in the summer, as it almost always does.
And the DeLoach administration may or may not be up to the challenge. Time will tell if Alderman Johnson is correct in his assessment.
But if you told me six months ago that Savannah would see this much change in this short a time... I’d have said you’d been mowing your lawn out in the hot sun too long.
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