Politics: Otis redux? 

Tractor-trailer trucks and buses rumbled by, adding to the noise of street work on Bay Street. Even so, Mayor Otis Johnson stood on the front steps of City Hall to announce that he’s seeking re-election.

He said he chose to hold his press conference outside City Hall because he didn’t want anyone to think he was using city property for his own political gain.

“This will be the last opportunity voters have to vote for me,” said the first-term mayor. “I want to make sure the voters understand what they will get for their vote, the same way I did last time.”

Johnson said he wants a second term to continue the work he and the present city council have begun. “I want to make a commitment to continue our efforts in economic empowerment and development,” he said. “I want to go back and lift them up again. We need a lot more citizens’ input.”

Savannah’s citizens deserve better pay, Johnson says, noting that the current median income in Savannah is lower than the state median income and the national median income.

“People come from around the globe because of what we have to offer,” Johnson says. “Some things are not being utilized the way they could to build jobs. We have to lift it up and make sure other people have the opportunity to succeed, as well.”

Johnson said he will continue to take an aggressive approach to reducing crime. He also said many city programs already in place will be continued. “We must ensure SPLOST funds are distributed fairly and give an account of how they are used,” he said.

The tourism and convention industry are growing, but Johnson said he wants to continue to keep them strong by supporting funding for cultural and recreational activities. He also wants to develop more cultural tourism in Savannah.

Johnson says he cannot be successful as mayor without the support of the city council. “We have family differences like everybody else, but I think we have served the community well,” he says.

To keep Savannah strong economically, Johnson said he would work with the Chatham County Commision and other municipalities in Chatam County, as well as adjoining counties in South Carolina.

After his announcement, Johnson said he expects city council members will step forward to announce their own re-election bids. “Hopefully, the voters will look at the record and judge us by what we have achieved,” he said.

“Will Savannah be better off in 2007 than it was in 2003?” Johnson asked. “Any objective analysis will come up with an affirmative answer to that question.”

But more work needs to be done. “We still have segments that need work,” Johnson says.

“My future is in the hands of the voters,” he says. “If I’m not unopposed, I’m going to war and win this campaign.”

As Johnson finished, his supporters began to chant, “Four more years! Four more years!”

After the news conference, Johnson said his health will not be a matter of concern for voters. He suffered a major heart attack about a year ago, and his recovery was lengthy, but Johnson says he and his doctors all say he’s “ready to go.”

“I’m feeling good,” Johnson said. “I don’t just say I’m doing well, I’m in good shape. I’m probably in better shape now than I was a year ago.”


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Linda Sickler

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