Wish lists 

Daniel Dodd

Age 36; Project Director, “Step Up Savannah,” a collaboration of over 70 private, non-profit and government organizations working to reduce poverty in Savannah.

I’d like to see Step Up continue to involve individuals in the community, particularly the people in neighborhoods affected by poverty, to become involved in the solutions to poverty. I’d like to see people get involved with the resident teams that make up the initiative.

If people give up then what’s the point? If we do, we are giving up on ourselves, on society. I wish for optimism, for people to remain optimistic.

I wish for people to continue to hold the initiative accountable, which is holding ourselves--the community—accountable. I would challenge them: What are you doing? They are just as responsible, it’s not up to one person to do that.

I’ve been involved with meditation for over ten years. I feel it puts me in a situation that as I develop patience with myself, I develop patience with other people. Mediation gives me the tools to be a lot more, much the same way that many people do with prayer.

Fitz Haile

Age 28, Project Manager for the Creative Coast Initiative (TCCI), a public/private partnership responsible for attracting and growing knowledge-based businesses in Savannah.

First of all, I wish for a high waged knowledge based economy for Savannah. Savannah has all these great assets, it’s beautiful, it has a low cost of living, an unbelievable amount of students, diversity, culture.

A technically and creatively focused economy would bolster the city, even more than it already is. The people that would come are educated, open minded progressive people, usually involved in the community, exactly the kind of people you want in the city.

In Savannah we have a technology confidence problem. A lot of the resistance we run into is that people don’t think Savannah is capable of being a knowledge-based center. Savannah should get over that, and be aware of its potential, the resources it has; start thinking of itself that way.

From my altruistic self, I come from a family that hasn’t had problems--my parents are together, I graduated from high school, college, there was no abuse, no drugs. The whole world of poverty is foreign to me.

I’ve seen a small amount of it working with Savannah’s Poverty Reduction Initiative. It opens your eyes to how people live, how tough it must be. I wish that wasn’t the case.

On the less altruistic side, I wish my electric bill was less than $200 a month. I love my apartment but I don’t love the electric bill, or the fact that my den is a toaster oven and my bedroom is a freezer. For Joe P. Poverty, that $200 is not doable. It’s a deal breaker.

Alloceia Hall

Director of Admissions, Bethesda Home for Boys and Day School.

I would like for my community to have a passion for educating our children. Through that, my community could become independently wealthy as a community.

This is not a wish that can be purchased or just provided. This requires that parents, teachers and educational systems start a process of taking kids from where they are to the best that they can be educationally.

Can I sprinkle some fairy dust that just gets them all together? If I could have fairy dust sprinkled over all the adults, I would take every child who’s performing below or at grade level and provide them with what they need to push them. Then the wealth would come.

I support working with kids where they are, and not punishing them because they’re not academically where they need to be.

I have no patience for excuses. The minute I hear ‘My child can’t read’ and then it’s followed by blaming someone else, I cringe, because when I was in fourth grade, when my mother found out I couldn’t read, that I was just regurgitating back what they told me in class, she made me read into a tape recorder until I could read perfectly and could comprehend it.

Now I love to read. Everyone who can read and comprehend has the opportunity to love reading.

We are depriving kids of the opportunity to enjoy books. There’s no such thing as kids that don’t like to read if they’re comprehending what they are reading. We have a book club at Bethesda now. When parents hear about the kids involved they’re in awe.

If I could start with just my family on the idea that our kids who show up for Christmas dinner are getting the best from their education, then it’s all the same thing, because it all starts at home.

I try to do my part. I buy books for any child in my family who wants them. I encourage them to pass the books on to share them with others, to tell their friends how much fun they had reading them.

Lowell Kronowitz

Age 42. President, Levy Jewelers, a 105 year-old family-owned business.

I want to see Savannah’s growth curve continue, to make sure that we have a community which welcomes well-educated, highly compensated, environmentally clean industries.

It’s nice to see major chains looking at Savannah, but what’s more important is that we continue to do business with Savannahians. We’ve had an enormous flight of corporate entities, which are no longer headquartered here. We need to be able to support Savannah businesses. They are part of the fabric of the city.

As far as community relations, unfortunately we are a community with many agendas, a lot of individual agendas. Our primary agenda should be moving our city forward. Primary should be building up our education, making sure our community is safe, making sure people can come to Savannah as tourists or neighbors and feel safe.

It’s wonderful to see the amazing reenergizing of Broughton Street in the last half dozen years. You see people on the street at all hours of the night on Broughton. That’s not all of Savannah of course but it’s a major portion of Savannah. People need to feel welcomed and comfortable.

Robyn Reeder

Age 30; co-owner and manager of Primary Art Supply on Broughton Street. Owner of Civvies, a new and recycled clothing store, on West Broughton Street, opening in mid-January.

I relate the holidays to downtown and Broughton specifically. Over the years I’ve seen so much growth and energy and literally the lighting up of downtown. From the day we opened in 1994 we were one of the pioneers on Broughton, and Christmas was really nothing for us. It was a ghost town. The students were gone and we took vacations.

That’s definitely changed, it’s a time of growth for us, to the point where we don’t rely on SCAD students; we rely on the community and other businesses.

My wish is for the continued growth of small business on Broughton Street. One thing I’ve noticed in opening a second business is the difficulty in finding a location that was affordable and within the downtown loop. Real estate has really skyrocketed. It’s become very difficult for people to move in.

There are still a lot of empty storefronts that are just very difficult to obtain. My wish is that these places can be affordable and can hopefully house new small businesses over the years.

For specific businesses, I’d like to see more ethnic restaurants, more clothing, more furniture, and more affordable restaurants. I’m in direct contact with the student body at SCAD, we need more things geared towards them.

When the higher end boutiques and restaurants open up, they leave out that whole group. A yoga studio! There is a gym but it would be nice to have a yoga studio on Broughton.

The corporate chains definitely serve as anchors on the west end. They gave other businesses the confidence that shoppers would be there, but I think that’s the problem, that some of the storefronts stay empty because they are waiting for corporations to come in, and are charging rental prices only they can afford.

James Holmes & Robert Bush

James Holmes, 38, left, is a Model at Savannah College of Art and Design. His partner, Robert Bush, 41, right, is a Project Attorney for HIV-AIDS Legal Project at Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc.

Robert: I wish for a regime change. I wish that we thought more in terms of values than in terms of profits. One of those values is that people should have healthcare.

I’ve been paying attention to this Medicaid thing that the government is trying to do. To sell it they are calling it “consumer choice” and “consumer responsibility.” They’re showing that behavior and lifestyle changes can make a difference in people’s health, but what are also lumped in there are things that people can’t control. If you live in an inner city neighborhood you can’t go for a three-mile walk after work, or you may work two jobs.

Then I wish we’d be home from Iraq, but honestly I wish it had never happened.

James: I wish the school district would go back to community schools and make every school work. Kids can live in a community, but because they go to a magnet school or a school across town, they don’t know the kids in their own neighborhood.

I wish the government, whether they be Democratic or Republican, would be more for the people and not for the party. If a politician does wrong, then rat that person out, don’t have laws to cover that person.

I wish they would start selling alcohol on Sundays, that law is overdue.

Robert: I wish that there was greater awareness of what the divisiveness of extreme politics has caused. Gay marriage was not the most important issue, but gay marriage became about whether gays are seen legitimately by society.

In a gay relationship, it’s like any other relationship. It’s about love and commitment. That stabilizes society; that raises healthy children. Society is healthier when you have people who are in healthy relationships, especially when they’re raising children.

James: I wish in Savannah that more black people would get involved in important issues. When I go to neighborhood meetings, there’s very few blacks. When I go to gay pride meetings, there’s very few blacks. The majority of the blacks that I see are usually in church.

Robert: I wish there would be another season of Six Feet Under. I wish we had a four day work week, that Tybee would stay the way it is and stop developing, that chocolate had no calories.

I wish that other people could have the level of love and joy in the community that we have because I think we are very fortunate in that, very fortunate.

Tommy Linstroth

Age 28. Head of Sustainable Initiatives at Melaver, Inc., a “third generation family business working to become a vertically integrated sustainable real estate firm.”

I’d love a curbside recycling program. Tybee’s seems to be going pretty well. They have such a transient population, I imagine that would make it harder.

On the other hand, a lot of those people are coming from places where they have recycling, so there’s no learning curve for them.

What will it take? Government buy-in. It has to fit into a strategic waste management plan.

I hope that recycling falls into the category of a logical decision based on future growth, as well as potential revenue. They are projecting that 50,000 more people are coming and they’ll be adding their waste here.

Right now it’s necessary to hire private recycling companies. For the two local companies that do it, we create a heavier demand than they’ve had before.

To those who say that there’s no market to sell the recycled materials, I would respectfully disagree. The third largest aluminum recycling factory in the U.S. is in Georgia; there are paper mills all over the place in Georgia.

The first steps to make it happen? The City is already analyzing their waste options, to find potential markets for it; and comparing it to the future costs for landfills.

For my neighborhood I’d wish for a little less crime. Not that it has impacted me directly, but it seems every time I open the paper, there’s a robbery or an assault or a shooting. In the Christmas spirit, why can’t we all get along?

Darrell Naylor-Johnson

Age 42. Vice President for SCAD e-Learning.

I think more than any time, what I wish for every year is always just peace. The need for harmony right now is so important, on every level of where we are. I think the word harmony is better.

And we can talk about balance. People see their world, they ask where is the balance in what they’re doing? With children, we’re always looking for harmony there. I think this time of year brings out a lot of very positive feelings.

I’ve been a bit disturbed by people who want to see their religious beliefs carried out in the malls. The magic of this holiday, Christmas and Hanukah, and the hope it gives us doesn’t lie in the malls. However those community places say their greeting to me doesn’t really matter. They are there for one thing. Spiritually, wherever your spirituality is, it’s not there.

The Hanukah menorah was hope out of nowhere. Christ was hope in a baby. Both are saying that in the smallest thing there can be greatness. If we start at that smallest point we can have it. Every year we have a chance to reengage in that hope, that harmony.

Ricardo Ochoa

33-year-old classical and jazz violinist. Production manager for the Savannah Music Festival. Former musician with the now-defunct Savannah Symphony Orchestra. Pictured with daughter Ronni Antonia Ochoa, age two months.

I always lived in a town that had at least one symphonic orchestra. I grew up understanding the importance of that. My father was a guitarist, not an orchestra member. He took me to the symphony every Sunday.

I am actually doing better than when I was working full time for the symphony. It’s not that I wish it so I could go back and have a full time job, but I see the influence a symphony has on a community.

Now, my child is going to grow up in a community that doesn’t have a symphony. I don’t want that to happen. That is my main wish.

The Savannah Symphony went into the schools on a regular basis, as wind quintets, brass quintets, so the kids could get interested in art, develop a different way of thinking, and enhance their cultural knowledge.

I honestly don’t think the old symphony model would be the best thing right now. It would be better to do fewer public concerts and more educational programs, something that can be adaptable to the amount of people that live in this town.

We are a small town but we do have a baseball team, it’s part of the culture. The musicians were getting paid about as much as the baseball players are getting paid, which is not much.

A lot of musicians have left Savannah, but the group that stayed is a fresh group of musicians that want to go in with new ideas. My wish is that they see this new group of young musicians that want to regroup the orchestra, and that they find a way to make that happen.

Susan Laney

Photographer and Director of Jack Leigh Gallery, a gallery of original prints by the late Jack Leigh and other artists. Age 32.

What I’ve been thinking about a lot this season is that people seem to lose sight of what the holiday is about. I’m trying to focus on spending time with family and friends and making that the most important thing. I’m trying to make it more about time with people than about gifts.

There are people in my neighborhood who take care of their elderly neighbor next door, I think if everybody was a little more like that Savannah would be a lot better for a lot of people.

I wish that when people want to buy something they will think about the origins of what they buy, what it means to be shopping locally, the small boutiques and galleries and the artists and artisans represented there.

Melody Ortiz

Hispanic Recruiter and Advisor, Armstrong Atlantic State University. Age 30. Part owner (with husband Temo Ortiz) of Rancho Alegre Cuban Restaurant.

I wish for federal immigration reform. Specifically, for visas or work permits for migrant workers that do not wish to reside in the country but want to pay taxes. Most are already paying taxes with fake Social Security numbers that they get in order to be employed, but they can’t claim Social Security benefits.

We have paraprofessional visas, but no visas for onion pickers or poultry workers. All these folks are working in Georgia industries and contributing to our economy.

If there was a line somewhere in Mexico for people to sign up for those visas, they would line up. Companies will continue to employ them; all they ask for is a Social Security number. They have a chance to check the numbers for legality and they don’t. They need the workers.

I also wish for immigration education reform so that undocumented minors who were brought into the U.S. following their parents’ orders, not knowing they were entering illegally, can be legal.

It’s morally right to give a chance to minors who have no fault in crossing the border illegally. If they came in before age 16 and have lived in the U.S. for five years or more, and if they have completed high school, they’re allowed to apply for temporary residency to go to college, join the military, or perform community service.

It’s a reward for those who have proved themselves to be productive citizens. They’re not eligible if they have a criminal record.

I wish for acceptance by Americans of Latino people. Americans love everything about Latino culture — Mexican food, Cuban food, Latin music, salsa and meringue dancing.

We love piñatas. We have them at almost every little blonde haired girl’s birthday party. Why not love and accept the people that produce these things and bring them into our legal system?

Tonya Ruffin

Age 36; program development consultant, Georgia Department of Corrections. Manages adult and juvenile substance abuse programs for Savannah Impact Program (SIP).

The holidays are a difficult time for people in alcohol and drug treatment. More people relapse from Thanksgiving to New Year’s than at other times. If I had a wish I would retain more people, have fewer relapses, fewer people using drugs and alcohol during the holidays.

To make that come to pass, I hope that the education and support we provide here helps them understand that this is to improve their lives, it’s not about us.

Most Savannah Impact participants are low-income. They have felony offenses, it makes it hard for them to get employment, it makes it difficult for them to take care of their families.

For the adolescents in the program, I hope the same for them as for the adults, that they continue to make the right choices through the holidays, not just related to drugs but also to lifestyle choices.

We’ve got so many kids getting in trouble, when it comes to obeying the law, juvenile crime has increased. We are seeing more young people at Savannah Impact as a result of that.

Education is an issue. When they get in trouble they get suspended and expelled. We are losing kids from the traditional school system, they have to go to alternative school system as a result of getting in trouble.

Through Richard Arnold High School we offer GED’s on site for juveniles and adults. Try to get as many people in as possible.

Clinton Powell

Age “mid 30’s”. Spoken word artist, poet and playwright. Cofounder of Spitfire Poetry Group.

I’m the oldest of five children. We’ve just lost both parents in a span of two years, one year since we lost our mother. It marks a different time, not having your parents to ask for advice. But we’re also celebrating a new family addition, the birth of my nephew.

The family is very close. We talk just about every day. It’s a testament to how we were raised, we stick together. It’s been pretty difficult, everyone has their moments. Being sort of into myself, it made me have to be out there a little more.

For Savannah as a city, I want to see us better off economically. Socially we have things to work on. Savannah needs to be more cohesive, some areas aren’t connecting; there is a gap between some things that are possible and things that are happening in Savannah.

I like the direction that Mayor Johnson has us going in, it probably takes more of us at the grassroots to implement our own plan.

For our kids [Spitfire Poetry Group participants] we are helping them to find their own voice. Not everyone is an athlete or a scholar. Whatever their niche is to keep them out of trouble, that’s what we want them to find.

Having lived here before, when you go away and come back, you see the beauty Savannah has to offer, the beach and how Savannah looks in the spring. If young people are taught to respect that, they aren’t going to trash their neighborhoods.

As a writer, I’m getting back into writing plays. The passing of [Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright] August Wilson makes me realize it’s something I’ve been putting off.

As a poetry community I wish for us to be a little closer. We hang out now but we could hang out more. By nature I’m pretty much a recluse. I’m cool with hanging out in the house, with Captain Crunch, watching cartoons or reading a book. If it’s me and Captain Crunch we’re alright.

Christian and Amy Sottile

Ages when added together: 62.

Christian is an architect and Design Principal at Sottile and Sottile Urban Design as well as an Adjunct Professor of Urban Design and Architecture at SCAD. Amy is an Urban Planner and Managing Principal at Sottile and Sottile. Pictured left to right: Amy Sottile; Michael Sottile, age 3; Isabella Sottile, age 5; Christian Sottile; and Vincent Sottile, age 2

Christian: I start with thinking about what we do. What we have available to us here in Savannah. It’s so different for Savannah than in other places, it’s hard to not dream of leveraging that into something of national significance. The way we plan for our future is to understand our past.

I wish we had a deeper understanding of an urbanism that is so authentic that it defies all other national models. I wish we didn’t have to succumb to the pressures of national models here, because we have better opportunities than that -- we have the opportunity to become leaders here.

Amy: I wish that we would strive for the excellence in design that we already have to build upon, and not accept anything less. There are so many projects going on, and many of them have merit, but we tend to lose the focus of the center, downtown. We need to acknowledge downtown as the nucleus and that it should always be the nucleus. That should continue to happen. If we develop in poor ways then we lose that. We need to go downtown to go to the theater, to find the best shopping.

Christian: You need to go downtown to go to work, not to a business park.

Amy: That’s not to take away from other projects, or that they shouldn’t happen, but they should acknowledge that they are part of something greater. The idea of these self-contained development projects are scary, and are detrimental to development of a city.

Christian: We are a small city but we have resources that are more powerful than in a larger city. We need understanding of the connections between urbanism architecture, people, philosophy, economics, power.

Amy: You don’t need to be a big city to have big ideas. I think history has proven that. We are on the threshold of proving big ideas if there is collective will in the community to be fearless about breaking the conventions, the national economic models.

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