WITH SCHOOL back in session (earlier and earlier every year!) and candidate filing deadlines fast approaching, it seems appropriate to turn once again to the looming City of Savannah elections happening this November.
The list of challengers was slow to build at first—worryingly slow, to be frank—but more names are being added each week. It looks like a number of seats will be competitive after all.
The rest will be up to the voters.
With the political season approaching in earnest, we’ll soon begin a series of extended interviews with some of those brave candidates who are challenging incumbent leadership on City Council.
Until then, let’s focus on some of the issues.
It’s funny: As much complaining as I and others have done about City government, when I stopped to think about it the other day I realized I didn’t have a quick one-or-two sentence summary on the tip of my tongue of what’s wrong and what needs to be done to fix it.
You can lose sight of the forest for the trees, and occasionally we get so bogged down in the ugly details of local news stories that we miss the larger point.
So with that in mind, I’d like to solicit your quick summary, your elevator pitch, your hot take, as to what’s wrong in the City of Savannah and what needs to be done about it.
Can you do it?
Can you come up with one or two sentences, maybe 100 words or so, or less, that sum up our problem and a way out?
Email email@example.com and I’ll publish some of the best.
In the meantime, here’s a laundry list of issues and controversies that happened on the watch of the current incumbents that pop into my mind when I think of what’s gone sideways in Savannah:
* Out of control gun violence
* 26 percent poverty rate unchanged
* Hiring of now-imprisoned former Police Chief Willie Lovett
* Hiring of disastrous former City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney (Mayor Jackson was then an Alderwoman)
* Slow pace of fully staffing police dept.
* Arrogant, unreasonable overreach in police merger re-negotiation
* Enormous cost overruns/delays and highly questionable bidding process for new Cultural Arts Center
* Questionable process and expense of destroying historic African American residences for new Central Precinct
* Questionable process and expense of purchase and redevelopment of Waters Avenue corridor parcel
* Millions spent on outside consultants
* $12,000 per month off-the-books payments to assistant city attorney to “oversee” Batson-Cook appeal
* Favoritism toward large developers in violating design/building guidelines
* Abuse of noise ordinances against long-established entertainment/nightlife venues
* More emphasis on low-wage tourism industry than manufacturing/tech sector, i.e. all the big companies pick Charleston instead of Savannah
* Unregulated proliferation of walking tours and tourism-oriented vehicles contributing to downtown congestion
* No clear policy on short-term rental, i.e. Airbnb and VRBO
* Cronyism in City departments
* Mismanagement of appeal in Shanta Greene/tree injury case
* Slashed funding for tree planting/preservation, i.e. no replacement for dying/cut tree canopy
* Potentially wrong kind of upgrades to Grayson Stadium, thus incentivizing Sand Gnats to leave town
* Continual unaddressed issues at Savannah Civic Center
* Lack of confidence, lack of vision in future Westside Arena plan
* Still no online payment options for water/sewer/trash bills
* No action on firefighter’s contract after years of neglect
* General sense of arrogant entitlement
And perhaps most key element of all:
* Astoundingly poor chemistry on the current City Council, i.e., they just can’t seem to work together.
This list is purely off the top of my head and I’m sure you’ll have no problem adding one or two or a dozen items of your own.
It obviously doesn’t include the many ongoing issues involving local public schools, local courts, the local sheriff’s department, and anything not expressly involving City government.
Got additions/comments? Let me know.
Together we can compile a hell of a list in time to help people decide who to vote for this November.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.