'Tis the season to make wishes 

EVEN FOR those of us long past believing in Santa Claus or Harry the Hanukkah Man (who visited our Christian household every year when I was a kid), it’s hard to avoid making holiday wishes during December.

My personal holiday wish list includes just one item: an HD television delivered to my door by February, before the digital “big switch” deadline arrives, to replace the rabbit-eared, mid-1980’s era TV I inherited from my grandmother. But even if the TV doesn’t materialize, I’ll be contented with the gift cards for books, CD’s and clothing that my family and I usually swap like Pokemon cards for grown ups.

That’s not to say that I don’t have other things I’m wishing for this year. Here’s the rest of my holiday list, to be forwarded to Santa, Harry, or whoever might be best suited to make these wishes come true:

• I wish that the whole Savannah City Council, along with the City Manager, would circle up, hold hands and sing “Kumbayah,” making peace and putting behind them for good the dragged out discussion and finger pointing regarding this fall’s trip to China. It sounds as if a little bit of blame could be dished out onto everyone’s plate—insufficient communication by staff and elected officials; overreaction on all sides of the issue, bickering that seems to be mostly about the personalities involved, and now a three person committee of elected officials assigned to write a policy on how to spend two tenths of a percent of the annual city budget.

It makes sense that the mayor and council’s travel budget should have some guidelines for its use, but is it necessary or appropriate for one third of the council to work in committee for days to draft a policy affecting less than $100,000 of public funds?

The city’s proposed budget for 2009 is $330 million. Discussion and scrutiny of the entire budget is the lion’s share of City Council’s job. Their prolonged bickering over the approximately $70,000 in travel money is akin to haggling with the contractor of a $330,000 house over a $70 light fixture. With the crew bosses tied up in trivialities, the construction crew is left unsupervised, to do what it wishes. The crew might proceed as first directed, or they might gleefully build whatever they want to with the rest of the project money while the boss is distracted.

Hopefully in the new year, all involved will say, “Mistakes were made,” and then turn their sights toward statesmanlike governance of the larger issues afflicting our city, that come with larger price tags; crime, the collapse of the local indigent mental health system, and increasing unemployment come immediately to mind.

• I wish that as Chatham County continues its foresightedness in planning for stimulus funds from the new Obama administration, that they’ll make sure the road projects they have on their wish list, comprising $232 million of the $374 million in projects, will include abundant enhancements for bicycles and pedestrians.

Examples? A coordinated network of sidewalk and bike lane routes, including bike left-turn lanes, safe curbcuts, sensible crosswalks and a proliferation of end-of-ride bike parking facilities. Hopefully the county’s planning will also include coordination with the municipal governments and with the Metropolitan Planning Commission, to maximize the funds spent and to prevent turf battles and conflicting priorities.

• I wish that all of us in the city limits (myself included) who are already emotionally on board with the new curbside recycling plan (launching Jan. 5) will use the encouragement approach on our less “green” acquaintances instead of bombarding them with lectures.

Consider that for many, the act of recycling is a new habit, and new habits are hard to establish, even easy ones.

Suggest the one-item approach. Instead of overwhelming your boss or the drug store clerk with lectures on how to rinse the cat food cans (which can be icky, let’s face it), encourage them to start with just beer and wine bottles, or just newspapers.

In fact, start with recycling THIS newspaper, so that I can prove to my mom that my writing is doing some good -- beyond house training those new Christmas puppies on the spot where they should “go.” cs


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Robin Wright Gunn

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